Published November 21, 2015
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage has fired a Des Moines worker over a 1963 incident at a Laundromat involving a fake dime in the wake of new employment guidelines.
Richard Eggers, 68, was fired in July from his job as a customer service representative for putting a cardboard cutout of a dime in a washing machine nearly 50 years ago in Carlisle, the Des Moines Register reported Monday.
Warren County court records show Eggers was convicted of operating a coin-changing machine by false means. Eggers called it a "stupid stunt," but questions his firing.
Big banks have been firing low-level employees like Eggers since new federal banking employment guidelines were enacted in May 2011 and new mortgage employment guidelines took hold in February, the newspaper said. The tougher standards are meant to clear out executives and mid-level bank employees guilty of transactional crimes — such as identity theft and money laundering — but are being applied across the board because of possible fines for noncompliance.
Banks have fired thousands of workers nationally, said Natasha Buchanan, an attorney in Santa Ana, Calif., who has helped some of the workers regain their eligibility to be employed.
"Banks are afraid of the FDIC and the penalties they could face," Buchanan said.
The regulatory rules forbid the employment of anyone convicted of a crime involving dishonesty, breach of trust or money laundering. Before the guidelines were changed, banks widely interpreted the rules to exclude minor traffic offenses and misdemeanors.
Wells Fargo confirmed Eggers' termination.
"The expectations that have been placed on us and all financial institutions have never been higher," said Wells Fargo spokeswoman Angela Kaipust.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. provides a waiver process employees can follow to show they're still fit to work at a bank despite a past criminal conviction, but it usually takes six months to a year to be approved. There is also a process for automatic waiver that works more quickly but is limited to people who were sentenced to less than year of jail time and never spent a day locked up.
Eggers, who was jailed two days, doesn't qualify.
American Bankers Association spokeswoman Carol Kaplan said the public clamor for tighter regulation also is responsible for the stricter interpretation of the rules. The safest route is to fire the employee and let them pursue an FDIC waiver.
"There's no question that there was an appetite for tighter bank regulation as a result of the global financial crisis," Kaplan said.
There is no government or industry data on the number of bank firings due to criminal background checks. The FDIC is on pace to grant 74 waivers, up from 21 waivers approved in 2009. The agency was not able to provide any information on annual waiver application data.
Des Moines attorney Leonard Bates is helping Eggers navigate the FDIC waiver application process.
"These guidelines are really meant for executives and people who can perpetuate widespread fraud," Bates said.