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Wells Fargo Slams Sacked Employee's Lawsuit Claims as "Tenuous at Best"

By Miriam Rozen May 17, 2019

Notary fraud doesn’t necessarily carry criminal penalties, and that’s one reason a federal court should toss a former financial advisor’s lawsuit against Wells Fargo, the wirehouse argues in a motion filed in a Texas federal court.

The advisor, Jeff Eldridge, alleges in his lawsuit, initially filed against Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, that he was wrongfully discharged, subjected to retaliation, and harassed at work because he complained about co-workers’ alleged notary fraud.

In subsequent court filings, both Wells Fargo and Eldridge have stated Eldridge named the incorrect Wells Fargo entity as his employer. He was employed by Wells Fargo Clearing Services, not Finet, according to a footnote in Wells Fargo’s motion.

In his lawsuit, Eldridge also alleges he was subjected to more severe discipline than his colleagues, that a supervisor threatened him by telling him he carried a handgun in the office and had more firearms in his vehicle, and identified him as “tan” — a discriminatory reference to his Cherokee heritage, as previously reported by FA-IQ.

Wells Fargo “denies the claims in the lawsuit and we stand by arguments set forth in the motion to dismiss,” according to a corporate spokesperson.

Eldridge’s plaintiff lawyer, Alfonso Kennard of San Antonio’s Kennard Miller Hernandez, did not return a request for comment.

Under applicable Texas law, fired employees may claim successfully to a court that they were wrongfully discharged because their employer terminated them solely for their refusal to commit illegal acts. But the alleged illegal acts must be criminally punishable, and notary fraud is only criminally punished if committed in the context of immigration documentation, Wells Fargo’s lawyers argue in the company’s dismissal motion.

According to his lawsuit, Eldridge began as a loan officer for WFA’s parent bank in 2005 and became an advisor in San Antonio in 2010. The notary fraud took place in 2012, he alleges. He was “constructively” fired, meaning his employer set conditions that made it impossible for him to continue, because he reported the alleged notary fraud, Eldridge alleges.

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But the alleged link between his reporting of the alleged fraud and firing is “tenuous at best,” because of a five-year span between the incident and his termination, Wells Fargo lawyers also argue in their motion.

The court has yet to rule on Wells Fargo’s motion to dismiss. Most recently, Eldridge has asked the court if he may file an amended complaint to correctly name the Wells Fargo entity that employed him.