NEW BRUNSWICK — A Somerset County woman is suing Wells Fargo Bank alleging she was fired for refusing to participate in an alleged scheme similar to the bank’s widespread account scam that led to millions of dollars in federal fines.
Melinda Bini, a former assistant vice president and regional private banker at the Highland Park bank’s branch, says in a recent lawsuit that supervisors instructed her to manipulate accounts and sell banking products or investments that were not the customers’ best interest or without their knowledge.
The lawsuit, filed in Middlesex County Superior Court on April 5, names Wells Fargo and three local bank supervisors.
The Franklin Park woman accuses her former superiors in the suit of running or knowing about alleged banking and investment fraud scheme at the local branch.
A spokesman for Wells Fargo, Kevin Friedlander, said the three supervisors named in the lawsuit are still employed by the bank, but did not comment on the allegations.
“Since this is an ongoing legal matter, we are unable to comment any further on the lawsuit,” Friedlander said in an emailed statement.
Bini, who is a licensed financial advisor hired by the bank in 2002, refused to participate the “unlawful and unethical banking” and was harassed in retaliation, according to the suit.
In April 2016, Bini was fired, a move she said was manufactured by her supervisors for not joining the alleged scheme, according to the suit.
“Wells Fargo does not tolerate retaliation against team members who report their concerns,” Friedlander said. “Our non-retaliation policy makes clear that no team member may be retaliated against for providing information about suspected unethical or illegal activities or possible violations of any Wells Fargo policies.”
Wells Fargo, the second-largest banking institution in New Jersey, was fined $100 million in September 2016 by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for using fake emails to sign up current customers for additional accounts without their consent.
The bank eventually fired more than 5,000 employees for enrolling customers illegally as a way to meet their sales quotas.
The lawsuit seeks Bini’s reinstatement at the bank and damages.