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Former Wells Fargo executive files defamation suit against firm

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2023 | Firm Transition

Wells Fargo has been hit with a defamation lawsuit by one of its former regional presidents, ThinkAdvisor reports. Shelley Freeman filed the suit in federal court for the Northern District of California, claiming she was “maliciously defamed” worldwide by the bank.

Freeman claims the bank falsely portrayed her as one of the parties responsible in a case involving illegal banking practices by Wells Fargo in Los Angeles. In 2016, the bank agreed to pay $185 million to settle what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau called the widespread practice of secretly opening unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts.

Freeman was the regional president for Wells Fargo in Los Angeles from 2002 to 2008. In her lawsuit, she said the sales practices involved in the scandal took place nearly five years after she left the city for a new position as lead regional president in Florida.

“In the days leading up to the settlements and Consent Orders, Plaintiff was considered one of the most trusted members of management at Wells Fargo,” the lawsuit states. “She was considered to be beyond reproach in regard to the scandals that were being addressed.”

Freeman was terminated by Wells Fargo in 2017 and the company said she was fired “for cause” based on its ongoing investigation into the improper sales practices. Freeman said she was discharged “without cause, to protect others”, saying the bank ignored massive amounts of information in its own records indicating she did not bear responsibility for the scandal. The suit added that she never had responsibility for Orange County.

Freeman is now seeking general, special and punitive damages in an amount according to proof at trial, saying the bank destroyed her reputation. Wells Fargo had no comment on the lawsuit.

Those who choose to work in the financial services industry face a range of complex rules and regulations. If you are under investigation by your firm, terminated for cause or considering voluntarily leaving your firm, it is imperative that you hire counsel to advise you properly and protect your record. The attorneys at Lewitas Hyman have years of experience advising both financial advisors and financial firms on various types of employment issues, including defamation and slander. For more information about our financial services employment practice, please contact Lewitas Hyman at (888) 655-6002 or through our online contact form.