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Wells Fargo Workers Called Female Client ‘Fat Pig,’ Suit Says (1)

March 10, 2022, 6:28 PMUpdated: March 10, 2022, 8:34 PM

A female Wells Fargo Securities LLC manager alleges she experienced widespread gender discrimination within the firm, including male employees calling a female client a “fat pig,” according to a lawsuit filed in state court in Los Angeles County.

Wells Fargo’s commitments to diversity and inclusion of women are “window dressing and hollow gestures,” the complaint on behalf of Vanessa Carney, who worked in Wells Fargo’s Asset Backed Finance Sales Group until she was moved to the Short Duration Sales Group, alleges. She claims the firm paid her less than her male colleagues, refused to promote her, and removed her from her business unit in retaliation for her complaints over allegedly biased behavior.

“Despite all of its virtue signaling, Wells Fargo’s insidious discriminatory conduct results in the sidelining of successful, long-term female employees, all while providing a ‘free pass’ to their male counterparts who engage in serious and substantial misconduct,” the complaint said. Carney filed the lawsuit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court on Thursday.

Carney also claims that the company only granted her request to relocate to Los Angeles from New York “on the condition that she accept a significant demotion that would only further inhibit her career prospects.” Carney has worked for Wells Fargo for more than 16 years, the complaint states.

A spokesperson for San Francisco-based Wells Fargo declined to comment on the allegations.

John Singer, partner and co-founder of Singer Deutsch LLP, is representing Carney and said there is still only a “paucity of women” in senior leadership roles at most investment banking institutions.

“Antiquated and fallacious stereotypes about women traders and salespeople are still harbored and fostered by a large swath of males in coveted positions of power on Wall Street and, to a large degree, despite theoretical advances in HR policies and statutory protection, women are still regrettably treated as second class citizens on Wall Street,” he said in an emailed statement. He said gender bias is particularly insidious, as evidenced by Carney’s lawsuit.

Carney also alleges that the firm’s human resources department turns a “blind eye” to claims of gender discrimination, and that racist comments “continue unfettered in the workplace.”

Causes of Action: Gender discrimination and disparate treatment; failure to pay equal wages; retaliation; failure to prevent discrimination and harassment, intentional discrimination, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Relief Sought: General and special damages, liquidated damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorneys’ fees, and costs.

Response: Wells Fargo representatives declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Attorneys: John Singer of Singer Deutsch LLP and Robert Girard II, Omar Bengali, and Steven Buha of Girard Bengali, APC represent Vanessa Carney. Attorneys haven’t yet entered an appearance for Wells Fargo.

The case is Carney v. Wells Fargo Securities LLC, Cal. Super. Ct., Docket Number Unknown, 3/10/22.

(Updated to add comment from Wells Fargo.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at psmith@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com, Melissa B. Robinson at mrobinson@bloomberglaw.com