Winner 2016

Wells Fargo Hurts Whistleblowers


While U.S. consumers and financial institutions were still reeling in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Wells Fargo reported record earnings only one year later, hailed as a rare upbeat tale by Fortune magazine. “Eight is great” was the corporate priority, meaning that every consumer should have eight Wells Fargo accounts open—and as it turned out in practice, whether they were real or not. NPR’s Wells Fargo Hurts Whistleblowers traces the systemic issues and indifferences of a ravenous sales culture that not only led to the creation of two million fake consumer banking accounts, but also the irrevocable blacklisting of employees who attempted to report unethical practices. The former employees detail the crippling pressures of working in a grindhouse atmosphere to meet daily quotas, all the while encountering confused customers in overdraft and upper management in denial. In an ironic twist, it is the records of the former employees themselves that are permanently damaged as their whistleblowing efforts result in a scarlet letter on their U5, a report card used—and run—by the banking industry to identify workers who are “bad apples.” Many now find themselves in bankruptcy or working for minimum wage, while Wells Fargo remains “disturbed” and “distressed” about accusations of retaliation. Correspondents Chris Arnold and Robert Smith let us hear directly from the traumatized former employees who might otherwise have been thrown in with the rest of the bad apples of the story. For thorough reporting that exposed the vulnerability of people on the inside of the scandal and helped lead to further Senate inquiry on bank self-regulation, NPR’s Wells Fargo Hurts Whistleblowers receives a Peabody Award.


Creators: Chris Arnold (NPR News), Robert Smith (Planet Money). Supervising Producer: Alex Goldmark (Planet Money). Producer: Elizabeth Kulas (Planet Money). Writers: Chris Arnold (NPR News), Robert Smith (Planet Money). Supervising Editor: Neal Carruth (NPR News). Senior Editor: Uri Berliner (NPR News). Senior Editor: Bryant Urstadt (Planet Money).