Fired Wells Fargo director claims racial bias in financial group

(Bloomberg) – A former director of Wells Fargo & Co.’s subscription finance group has sued the bank alleging he suffered racial bias in his personal relationships, client assignments, performance reviews, his bonus and, finally, his dismissal.

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Yomi Akinyemi, who is black, filed a lawsuit Friday in Manhattan federal court, claiming he was fired from Wells Fargo in March after complaining to his boss about discriminatory treatment. Akinyemi said the bank attributed his firing to staffing needs, but then promoted three white vice presidents to director.

Wells Fargo, while paying “lip service to diversity and inclusion externally, has internally allowed implicit and explicit racial bias to fester unchecked and poison the workplace. “, Akinyemi said in his lawsuit.

The bank declined to comment on Akinyemi’s lawsuit, but said Wells Fargo “takes allegations of racial discrimination seriously.”

Analyst training

According to his lawsuit, Wells Fargo recruited Akinyemi to its New York office in 2019 from Lloyds Banking Group, where he had worked for nine years as an investment banker in London and the United States. He said he was initially given substantial responsibility as the primary point of contact for a $9 billion portfolio of loan commitments.

But Akinyemi said he soon ran into hostility from his direct supervisor, Matthias Jahnke, who he said had “groundlessly questioned” his qualifications. According to the suit, Jahnke, a managing director, told Akinyemi that he saw him more as a vice president than a director and in 2021 asked him to take analyst training.

“The recommendation was insulting to Akinyemi because the training was for entry-level Wells Fargo employees, far below him,” the former manager said in his lawsuit. “As Jahnke was well aware, these were trainings that Akinyemi had not only previously attended, but had, in fact, taught.”

He also accused Jahnke of interfering in his dealings with his clients and telling him he would receive a negative mid-year review the day before Akinyemi’s wedding and honeymoon. According to Akinyemi, that exam was then essentially canceled.

In July 2022, Jahnke and other Wells Fargo executives executed a strategy to “cut or quit” his work for numerous clients that had a disproportionate impact on Akinyemi, he claims in his lawsuit. More than half of its customers have been targeted, according to Akinyemi.

Reduced bonus

“The reduction in his client base has significantly reduced Akinyemi’s chances of succeeding and growing in his role at the bank and has left him with limited work to do his job effectively,” he said.

He said he was reassured by a new boss, Michele Simons, that he had “nothing to worry about” in his 2022 review. But he was told afterwards that he would be considered to meet expectations in a way inconsistent. His bonus was also reduced by $50,000.

“As one of the few non-white employees in his 60-70 person division and the only black manager, the defendant always treated Akinyemi with animosity and contempt not shown to his white peers,” he said. -he declares.

Akinyemi is suing for damages, including compensation he would have received were it not for the allegedly discriminatory treatment, as well as humiliation and mental suffering.

The case is Akinyemi v. Wells Fargo, 23-cv-05624, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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