The Des Moines News-Register reported Monday the company confirmed it fired Richard Eggers July 12 from his $29,795-a-year customer service representative position. The 68-year-old Vietnam veteran from Des Moines had held the job for seven years.
The crime that did in Eggers occurred Feb. 2, 1963, in Carlisle. He used a cardboard cutout of a dime to run a pay washing machine, the newspaper said.
"It was a stupid stunt and I'm not real proud of it, but to fire somebody for something like this after seven good years of employment is a dirty trick when you come right down to it," Eggers said. "And they're doing this kind of thing all across the country."
California attorney Natasha Buchanan says there have been thousands of such firings of low-level workers since new federal banking employment guidelines took effect in May 2011, and new ones for mortgage companies took effect in February, the newspaper reported.
The stricter standards were enacted to rid the industry of executives and mid-level bank employees who commit major fraud, but are being invoked against banking's small fry, too, the report said. The new rules don't allow for instances where infractions are minor or have been expunged.
"Banks are afraid of the FDIC and the penalties they could face," said Buchanan, who works to get the fired workers their jobs back.
In an ironic coincidence, Eggers was fired the same day Wells Fargo & Co. paid $175 million to the U.S. Justice Department to settle allegations it had targeted black and Hispanic homeowners for sub-prime loans.
"On the face of it, these situations seem unfair," Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement. "The public is right to question why top executives aren't being held accountable, especially when banks themselves are using federal regulations to justify firing rank-and-file workers."
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Angela Kaipust cited the new rules and "heightened level of scrutiny on all our activities."
"The expectations that have been placed on us and all financial institutions have never been higher," she said.
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