Fired Wells Fargo Director Claims Racial Bias in Finance Group

(Bloomberg) — A former director in Wells Fargo & Co.’s subscription finance group sued the bank alleging he faced racial bias in personal dealings, client allocation, performance reviews, his bonus and, finally, his firing.

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Yomi Akinyemi, who is Black, filed suit Friday in Manhattan federal court, saying he was fired from Wells Fargo in March after he complained 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, internally allowed implicit and explicit racial bias to fester unchecked and poison the workplace,” Akinyemi said in his suit.

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

Analyst Training

According to his suit, 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 US. 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 quickly encountered hostility from his direct superviser, Matthias Jahnke, who he said “baselessly questioned” his qualifications. According to the suit, Jahnke, a managing director, told Akinyemi he saw him more as a vice president than a director and in 2021 instructed him to attend a training for analysts.

“The recommendation was insulting to Akinyemi, as the training was for entry-level Wells Fargo employees significantly junior to him,” the former director said in his suit. “As Jahnke well knew, these were trainings that Akinyemi not only had already attended but had, in fact, taught.”

He also accused of Jahnke of interfering in his client relationships and telling him he would receive a negative mid-year review the day before Akinyemi’s wedding and honeymoon. According to Akinyemi, that review was later essentially rescinded.

In July 2022, Jahnke and other Wells Fargo executives executed a strategy to “reduce or exit” its work for many clients that disproportionately impacted Akinyemi, he claims in his suit. More than half of his clients were targeted, according to Akinyemi.

Reduced Bonus

“The reduction in his client base significantly impaired Akinyemi’s opportunities to succeed and grow in his role at the bank and left him with limited work to effectively perform his job,” 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 subsequently told that he would be rated as inconsistently meeting expectations. His bonus was reduced by $50,000 as well.

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

Akinyemi is suing for damages, including compensation he would have received if not for the allegedly discriminatory treatment, and humiliation and mental anguish.

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

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