What You Need to Know
- Wells Fargo did nothing to help the plaintiff after she reported being raped by a managing director, according to a lawsuit.
- The plaintiff faced retaliation, according to her complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
- The plaintiff took a medical leave and eventually resigned, the complaint said.
A former Wells Fargo wealth advisor and senior vice president at the firm sued the company and four men who worked with her, alleging she was raped by one of the co-defendants and faced other sexual harassment while on a business trip and saying the company retaliated against her after she reported the rape.
In a complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday, the plaintiff, identified only as “Jane Doe,” alleged that Eric R. Pagel, a Wells Fargo managing director and senior investment strategist and one of the four named co-defendants, subjected her to “sexually explicit comments and inappropriate touching” after she joined Wells Fargo in April 2018.
On Jan. 28, 2020, while on an overnight business trip to Bakersfield, California, with the four male co-defendants and another female Wells Fargo executive to meet with high-net-worth clients and prospects, Pagel allegedly entered her room at the Padre Hotel while she was intoxicated and sexually assaulted and raped her, according to the complaint.
The plaintiff ended up resigning from Wells Fargo in or about July 2021 after the firm’s lack of action to help her, according to the complaint.
Also named in the suit were David Weitzel, regional private banking manager and senior vice president; Mark Peterson, senior wealth strategist and senior vice president; and Brian Ray, vice president and private banker.
In a statement provided to ThinkAdvisor on Monday, Wells Fargo said: “We take all allegations of misconduct very seriously and are reviewing the lawsuit.”
‘Embarrassed and Mortified’
On or around Feb. 27, 2020, the plaintiff complained to her manager, Weitzel, about Pagel’s “inappropriate comments,” stating it made her “feel uncomfortable.” In response, Weitzel “merely suggested that Plaintiff should not give Pagel a ‘window of opportunity’ to be inappropriate,” according to the complaint.
Because “no steps were taken to remedy Plaintiff’s complaint,” Pagel’s inappropriate behavior continued,” the complaint said.
“Specifically, on or around March 23, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was emerging, thus Plaintiff inquired about what would be the most appropriate way to come into work. Pagel responded to Plaintiff’s inquiry by stating that, ‘swim suite attire [would be] most appropriate,’” according to the complaint.
Then, in the ensuing months, the plaintiff was “emotionally distressed to the point of paralysis with the thought of her sexual assault and the cavalier attitude of Weitzel when Plaintiff pointed out inappropriate comments,” the complaint said.
She was “initially too embarrassed and mortified at the idea of making a complaint” via the firm’s “formal channels, catastrophizing scenarios in her head whether she would be believed, blamed, ridiculed, retaliated against and somehow further victimized for speaking up,” according to the complaint.