Former Wells Fargo Advisors Sue the Company Over Cross-Selling - Kanebridge News
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Former Wells Fargo Advisors Sue the Company Over Cross-Selling

By KENNETH CORBIN
Sat, Mar 9, 2024 7:40amGrey Clock 3 min

Two former Wells Fargo advisors are suing the firm for breach of contract, unfair business practices, and retaliation after they say they resisted pressure from their supervisors to secretly transfer sensitive client information from the advisor and brokerage side of the company to the private bank.

The advisors, Karen Keusayan and Richard Green, are also alleging that Wells Fargo improperly withheld deferred compensation after they resigned in 2021 and joined Morgan Stanley , where they are still registered.

In their complaint, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the advisors describe themselves as high-producing employees who were loyal to the company even through the “nightmarish” years of 2015 to 2017, when Wells Fargo’s banking division was “publicly scorned” for the fake account scandal.

“This is not the ‘sour grapes’ case of a disgruntled employee(s) who sought a promotion and did not get one,” the advisors say in their complaint. “Neither Ms. Keusayan nor Mr. Green ever wanted to leave Wells Fargo. The goal for each had always been to retire at Wells Fargo.”

Wells Fargo declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The two advisors joined forces in 2015 to form a “production partnership,” according to the complaint, which says they grew their book of business to more than $1 billion by 2020.

In 2018, Wells Fargo introduced a new element to its advisor compensation plan, according to the complaint. Advisors were expected to complete forms called client discovery reviews, or CDRs, detailing information about advisory clients. The plaintiffs say they were directed by a compliance officer to keep the forms secret from the clients themselves.

Instead, the CDRs were intended for Wells Fargo’s private bank, “not the broker-dealer/financial services side where plaintiffs worked,” according to the complaint.

They contend that advisors were pressured to work with clients to complete CDRs, which would be secretly shared with Wells Fargo private bankers who could use them as sales leads.

Before submitting the forms to count toward a quota that resulted in additional compensation, the advisors had to check three boxes stating that they had discussed the information with the client, that the information was accurate, and that they had offered the client an opportunity to obtain a copy of the document. On that last item, the plaintiffs allege that Wells Fargo essentially instructed the advisors to lie, explaining that the document didn’t belong to the advisors, but the bank, even though the information came from their own clients.

“[H]igh-ranking compliance personnel at Wells Fargo Advisors repeatedly told plaintiffs to never deliver or present the CDR to the client since, as it was explained by compliance, the CDR was a bank document,” the complaint states. “Worse, plaintiffs were told not to inform the client that a CDR had been prepared.”

The plaintiffs say that these “dishonest instructions” put them in an “impossible position” and that they soon began raising concerns with their superiors. But each time they spoke out, they were told by their supervisors to continue submitting the forms as a requisite part of the company’s compensation plan.

The complaint describes the advisors’ growing unease with being pressured to falsify the CDR submission document, as well as concerns over the personal privacy of their clients, whose information was allegedly being shared internally without their knowledge or permission.

The advisors say that their bosses undertook a retaliatory campaign against them for continuing to raise objections to the CDR program, “including by failing to provide the banking support that plaintiffs and their clients had come to expect as a benefit of being associated with a large, full-service, retail bank,” according to the complaint.

They also say that the advisors felt their jobs were at risk, offering examples of a hostile or coercive work environment. “Mr. Green was berated by a yelling supervisor in front of fellow employees, and Ms. Keusayan was informed that the bank would not issue a routine credit card to her sister (a customer) if a CDR was not on file,” according to the complaint.

The advisors say the deteriorating work environment ultimately led them to resign around July 2021, after which they were informed that they were ineligible for large sums of deferred compensation—$662,000 for Keusayan and nearly $814,000 for Green.

The advisors are seeking to recoup the deferred comp they say they are owed, and are asking the court for additional damages, as well as an injunction barring Wells Fargo from engaging in the conduct alleged in the complaint, among other relief.



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I.M. Pei was the confident visionary behind such transformative structures as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, but he was also humble, and for years resisted a retrospective of his work.

Pei, a Chinese-American architect who died in 2019 at 102 , would always protest any suggestion of a major exhibition, saying, “why me,” noting, too, that he was still actively at work, recalls his youngest son, Li Chung “Sandi” Pei. A decade ago, when Pei was in his mid-to-late 90s, he relented, finally telling Aric Chen, a curator at the M+ museum in Hong Kong, “all right, if you want to do it, go ahead,” Sandi says.

A sweeping retrospective, “I.M. Pei: Life Is Architecture,” will open June 29 at M+ in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The exhibition of more than 300 objects, including drawings, architectural models, photographs, films, and other archival documents, will feature Pei’s influential structures, but in dialogue with his “social, cultural, and biographical trajectories, showing architecture and life to be inseparable,” the museum said in a news release.

As a Chinese citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1935 to learn architecture, Pei—whose full first name was Ieoh Ming—brought a unique cultural perspective to his work.

“His life is what’s really interesting and separates him from many other architects,” Sandi says. “He brought with him so many sensibilities, cultural connections to China, and yet he was a man of America, the West.”

Facade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© South Ho Siu Nam

Pei’s architectural work was significant particularly because of its emphasis on cultural institutions—from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar—“buildings that have a major impact in their communities,” Sandi says. But he also did several urban redevelopment projects, including Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan and Society Hill in Philadelphia.

“These are all places for people,” Sandi says. “He believed in the importance of architecture as a way to bring and celebrate life. Whether it was a housing development or museum or a tall building or whatever—he really felt a responsibility to try to bring something to wherever he was working that would uplift people.”

A critical juncture in Pei’s career was 1948, when he was recruited from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he received a master’s degree in architecture) by New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf.

With Zeckendorf, Pei traveled across the country, meeting politicians and other “movers and shakers” from Denver and Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. “He became very adept at working in that environment, where you had to know how to persuade people,” Sandi says.

During the seven-year period Pei worked with Zeckendorf, the developer fostered the growth of his architecture practice, supporting an office that included urban, industrial, graphic, and interior designers, in addition to architects and other specialists, Sandi says.

When Pei started his own practice in 1955, “he had this wealth of a firm that could do anything almost anywhere,” Sandi says. “It was an incredible springboard for what became his own practice, which had no parallel in the profession.”

According to Sandi, Chinese culture, traditions, and art were inherent to his father’s life as he grew up, and “he brought that sensibility when he came into America and it always influenced his work.” This largely showed up in the way he thought of architecture as a “play of solids and voids,” or buildings and landscape.

“He always felt that they worked together in tandem—you can’t separate one from the other—and both of them are influenced by the play of light,” Sandi says.

View of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the mesa, in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© Naho Kubota

Pei also often said that “architecture follows art,” and was particularly influenced by cubism, an artistic movement exploring time and space that was practiced in the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, among others. This influence is apparent in the laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. “Those two buildings, if you look at them, have a play of solid and void, which are very cubistic,” Sandi says.

Yet Sandi argues that his father didn’t have a specific architectural style. Geometry may have been a consistent feature to his work, but his projects always were designed in response to their intended site. The resulting structure emerged as almost inevitable, he says. “It just was the right solution.”

Pei also intended his buildings “not only to be themselves a magnet for life,” but also to influence the area where they existed. “He never felt that a building stood alone,” Sandi says. “Urban design, urban planning, was a very important part of his approach to architecture, always.”

After he closed his own firm to supposedly “retire” in the early 1990s, Pei worked alongside Sandi and his older brother, Chien Chung (Didi) Pei, who died late last year, at PEI Architects, formerly Pei Partnership Architects. Pei would work on his own projects, with their assistance, and would guide his sons, too. The firm had substantial involvement in the Museum of Islamic Art, among other initiatives, for instance, Sandi says.

Working with his father was fun, he says. In starting a project, Pei was often deliberately vague about his intentions. The structure would coalesce “through a process of dialogue and sketches and sometimes just having lunch over a bottle of wine,” Sandi says. “He was able to draw from each of us who was working on the project our best efforts to help to guide [it] to some kind of form.”

The M+ retrospective, which will run through Jan. 5, is divided into six areas of focus, from Pei’s upbringing and education through to his work in real estate and urban redevelopment, art and civic projects, to how he reinterpreted history through design.

Sandi, who will participate in a free public discussion moderated by exhibition co-curator Shirley Surya on the day it opens, is interested “in the opportunity to look at my father anew and to see his work in a different light now that it’s over, his last buildings are complete. You can take a full assessment of his career.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for other people to become familiar with his life.”