The purpose of the Notice is to inform you about this lawsuit, the certification of the Settlement Class, and the steps you need to take to seek a share in the distribution of the Settlement Fund. The settlement provides a fund of $35.5 million for a class of African American Financial Advisors (“FAs”) and licensed Financial Advisor Trainees (“FA Trainees”), as well as programmatic relief to increase opportunities for current African American FAs and FA Trainees.
If you are a Settlement Class Member, your legal rights are affected whether you act or not. Click here and read the Notice carefully. For more information, contact Class Counsel or the Claims Administrator listed below.Top
In 2013, Lance W. Slaughter, an African American Financial Advisor employed by Wells Fargo, retained Class Counsel to investigate claims of firm-wide race discrimination in employment against African Americans. On September 5, 2013, Slaughter filed a lawsuit against Wells Fargo in federal court in Chicago. Additional Named Plaintiffs Erika Williams, Michael Smith, Lucien Philippe, Katrina Everett, and Keith Spelmon later joined the lawsuit. Together these individuals are called “Named Plaintiffs” because they brought the lawsuit seeking to represent a group or “class” of similarly situated African American FAs and FA Trainees. Plaintiffs allege that Wells Fargo maintained policies that had an unlawful disparate impact against African American Financial Advisors and Financial Advisor Trainees, and that Wells Fargo engaged in a pattern or practice of racial discrimination against African American Financial Advisors and Financial Advisor Trainees with respect to, among other things, Wells Fargo’s company-wide teaming, account distribution, and territory and banking support assignment policies and practices. You can read all of the Plaintiffs’ claims in the Plaintiffs’ Third Amended Complaint, which can be found by clicking here.
The Settlement resolves all claims of race employment discrimination and retaliation, including those brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. This Settlement also resolves any and all individual, non-class claims the Named Plaintiffs made or could have made in the Third Amended Complaint or in their EEOC charges. Wells Fargo denies that it discriminated against African American FAs and FA Trainees, that its policies had a discriminatory effect on African American FAs and FA Trainees, or that it otherwise did anything wrong. The Court has not made and will not make any finding or determination on the merits of this matter. By entering into the proposed Settlement, Wells Fargo does not admit any wrongdoing.
The Court has reviewed the Settlement and has approved it as being fair, adequate, and reasonable. The Court has authorized the Claims Administrator to distribute this Notice regarding this Settlement, and the settlement process described below will begin.Top
You are a member of the Settlement Class affected by the Settlement if you fit within this definition:
All African Americans who are or were employed as Financial Advisors or licensed Financial Advisor Trainees by Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, and who worked in the United States in the Private Client Group or in the Wells Fargo Advisors bank brokerage channel at any time between September 4, 2009 and December 31, 2016.
If you received the Notice in a mailing addressed to you, then Wells Fargo’s records show that you may be a Settlement Class Member, i.e., that you may fit the definition above. You have legal rights and options that you may exercise before the Court finally approves the Settlement.
The Settlement requires Wells Fargo to establish a Settlement Fund in the amount of $35.5 million and to implement changes to its policies and practices, which are called programmatic relief. The programmatic relief will last for four years following the Effective Date of this Settlement.
A portion of the Settlement Fund will be distributed to eligible Named Plaintiffs and Settlement Class Members who submit Claim Forms to compensate them for the claims asserted in this lawsuit. The remainder of the Settlement Fund will be used to reimburse costs and expenses of the litigation, to pay Class Counsel’s fee and Named Plaintiffs’ Service Awards as awarded by the Court, and to pay for the administration of the settlement process.Top
In addition to establishing a Settlement Fund of $35.5 million, Wells Fargo has agreed to implement various revisions to its policies and practices and to take action designed to enhance opportunities for employment, earnings, and advancement of African American Financial Advisors and Financial Advisor Trainees. This programmatic relief applies to all Settlement Class Members, even if they have opted out of the monetary portion of the Settlement.
Below is a summary of the actions Wells Fargo has agreed to take during the four-year period of this Settlement:
A. No Mandatory Arbitration or Class Action Waiver
For the duration of the Settlement, Wells Fargo will not seek to enforce any mandatory arbitration or class action waiver agreements against Settlement Class Members for claims of race discrimination in employment.
B. Elimination of PCG Financial Advisor Training Costs Obligations
Wells Fargo will end the practice of seeking to obligate “New Financial Advisors” or Financial Advisor Trainees for any cost of their training, a practice challenged in the lawsuit Williams v. Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, Case No. 14-cv-01981 (N.D. Ill.). Wells Fargo will end any efforts to collect such training costs.
Wells Fargo will appoint a person whose primary responsibility will be the recruitment of African American Financial Advisors and Financial Advisor Trainees. Wells Fargo will give such recruits the opportunity to speak with a current African American Financial Advisor.
D. Financial Advisor Coaches
Wells Fargo will create two Coach positions whose primary responsibility will be to work with African American Financial Advisors and Financial Advisor Trainees, to assist such Financial Advisors and Financial Advisor Trainees in the areas of networking and building relationships, maximizing resources to help increase productivity, and business and career development. The Coaches will periodically provide feedback to the Leadership Teams established by the Settlement.
E. Leadership Teams
Wells Fargo will create a private client group (“PCG”) Leadership Team and a wealth brokerage services (“WBS”) Leadership Team, comprised of senior business leaders within the respective business channels, including African American leaders. The Leadership Teams will explore ideas and initiatives designed to increase the representation, productivity, retention, and teaming opportunities of African American Financial Advisors and to address the assignment of store locations for WBS Financial Advisors. The Leadership Teams will be provided a diversity presentation by a highly regarded expert, Professor Frank Dobbin, and will receive input and feedback from Financial Advisor Focus Groups and the Coaches established in this Settlement. The Leadership Teams will meet at least semi-annually and will review data, reports, and analysis regarding Financial Advisor diversity efforts, progress, and results.
F. Focus Groups
Wells Fargo will establish a PCG Focus Group and a WBS Focus Group consisting of African American Financial Advisors and Trainees which shall meet at least semi-annually for the purpose of providing feedback to and dialogue with the Leadership Teams in the areas described in Section E above. Each Focus Group will have no more than 15 members, with a cross-section of length of service, production, and geographic location. Financial Advisors who will serve as members of the Focus Groups will be selected by Wells Fargo senior management, including 3 or a maximum of 20% of the total members to be selected by a random selection process. Each Focus Group will include at least one Class Representative, so long as at least one remains employed as an FA and agrees to serve in this role.
G. Business Development Fund
Wells Fargo will establish a Business Development Fund that will be available to African American PCG and WBS Financial Advisors (“Eligible Financial Advisors”) to fund business development events or activities, which will be capped at $500,000 over the four years of the Settlement. Eligible Financial Advisors will submit business development proposals to their managers who, working with the Coaches, will determine whether the proposal satisfies the criteria established by Wells Fargo for use of the Business Development Fund.
Wells Fargo will encourage diverse teams and will develop and maintain a database or system that stores business profile information for Financial Advisors and Financial Advisor Trainees who are interested in joining or forming a Team. Participation in the database will be optional for Financial Advisors who are interested in teaming. The Team Database may also be utilized by the Teams Department within each channel to help facilitate teaming discussions and opportunities. Wells Fargo will inform Financial Advisors that the decision to team or not to team with particular Financial Advisors may not be made on the basis of the individual’s gender, race, national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation or gender identity, disability, marital status, veteran status, or any other legally protected characteristic.
I. New Manager Selection
Senior Management job opportunities will be posted on the Company’s internal job bank for a minimum of five business days, excluding selection decisions made as part of a restructuring, consolidation, or reorganization. Wells Fargo will commit to having a diverse pool of candidates for posted Senior Management positions, where possible. Wells Fargo will also maintain its Branch Manager Assessment Center Program, which gives participants a formal process for development toward becoming non-producing complex managers. Wells Fargo will encourage a diverse pool of applicants for the Program and a diverse slate of evaluators.
J. Assignment of WBS Financial Advisors to Banking Stores
The WBS Leadership Team, with consultation from the Focus Group, will establish a process for WBS Financial Advisors to have the opportunity to indicate on a periodic basis an interest in a select number of stores to which they would be interested in moving should a Financial Advisor position become vacant. Before making store assignments or filling store vacancies, WBS management will review the store interest selections and consider the Financial Advisors who have indicated interest in that particular store as part of the pool for the assignment or vacancy, provided that the Financial Advisor meets minimum criteria. WBS management will retain the discretion to make store assignments or fill store vacancies based on business needs and in the best interest of WBS’s clients. The Coaches also will have access to the database to assist in development discussions with Financial Advisors.
For experienced Financial Advisor recruits and Trainees, WBS will provide information on the number of affluent households for the particular store to which the Financial Advisor would be assigned, along with appropriate disclaimers that store assignments may change at the discretion of WBS management and/or in the best interests of clients.
K. Monitoring, Reporting and Meeting with Class Counsel
For the duration of the Settlement, Wells Fargo will meet with Class Counsel on an annual basis to discuss and confirm the Firm’s compliance with the programmatic relief. Wells Fargo will provide information demonstrating the progress made with regard to the programmatic relief and to otherwise discuss equal opportunities for African Americans. Wells Fargo will also set forth any new programs and policies that were implemented to increase the representation and success of African American Financial Advisors and Financial Advisor Trainees and available information regarding the efficacy of those programs.Top
Each Settlement Class Member who has not opted out of the monetary portion of the Settlement may be eligible for a monetary award from the Settlement Fund. In order to receive a monetary award, Settlement Class Members must fill out, sign, and submit to the Claims Administrator a Claim Form and IRS Forms W-4 and W-9.
All Claim Forms, accompanying IRS Forms W-4 and W-9, and any supporting documents must be received by the Claims Administrator or filed electronically by June 29, 2017. The Claim Form must be completed in its entirety and in accordance with the procedures and requirements set forth on the Claim Form, including responses to questions about alleged race discrimination, financial losses, and emotional distress suffered. In order to seek financial recovery for any period after Wells Fargo employment, Claimants must submit documents or other supporting materials regarding post-Wells Fargo income and work history. In order to seek financial recovery for alleged emotional distress, Claimants must complete the section of the Claim Form regarding emotional distress and may submit any additional documentation they deem appropriate. The Claim Form may be submitted in writing or via secure electronic submission and must be signed or electronically affirmed, under penalty of perjury. The Claims Administrator address is:
Slaughter v. Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC Claims Administrator
P.O. Box 43434
Providence, RI 02940-3434
Settlement Class Members who timely submit completed Claim Forms will have their claims reviewed by an independent, qualified third-party Neutral and will have the opportunity to meet with a Neutral for an interview session of up to 75 minutes in order to present aspects of his or her claims and answer questions from the Neutral(s). Class Counsel will be available to assist Claimants in the claims resolution process and will ensure an attorney is present at all interviews. You may also retain your own attorney to assist you in this process, at your own expense.
The Neutral(s) will assess your claim and recommend a monetary award based on all available information and the individual facts and circumstances of your claim. All monetary awards will be reviewed and approved by a Special Master appointed by the Court to make sure they are fair and consistent. You will not have a right to challenge the allocation and distribution of the Settlement Fund determined by the claims resolution process and approved by the Special Master. All monetary awards are final, binding, and non-appealable.Top
Yes, any award you receive from the Settlement Fund will have tax consequences for you. The Special Master will be responsible for allocating any monetary payments appropriately between different types of income (e.g., wages, interest, emotional distress). The Claims Administrator will be responsible for withholding, remitting, and reporting each Claimant’s share of payroll tax withholding from the Settlement Fund, and for remitting Wells Fargo’s share of taxes and costs, including FICA, FUTA, SUTA, and Medicare. Class Counsel are not tax advisors and cannot give you advice on any tax matters. Class Counsel urge you to consult your tax advisor for answers to any questions you may have about the tax implications of any potential award.Top
If you do not request to be excluded, you will remain a part of the Settlement Class. The Court will hold the Settlement Fairness Hearing and you, as a Settlement Class Member, will be represented by Class Counsel at no cost to you. If the Court gives final approval to the Settlement, you will then have the opportunity to submit a Claim Form requesting a share of the Settlement Fund. In order to be eligible to receive a share of the Settlement Fund, you must fill out, sign, and submit a claim form, a Form W-4, and a Form W-9 to the Claims Administrator by the Claims Submission Deadline to be set by the Court after final approval of the Settlement.
Each Settlement Class Member will release his or her race and color employment discrimination claims against Wells Fargo under federal, state, and local laws, arising up to and including the date of Preliminary Approval, as set forth in the Settlement, January 17, 2017.
Whether or not you submit a Claim Form, and unless you opt out, all claims covered by this Settlement through January 17, 2017, will be barred by this Settlement. If you did not opt out, you remain eligible to object to the Settlement pursuant to Option C below, whether or not you submit a Claim Form.Top
Unless they timely opted out, all Settlement Class Members will release Wells Fargo from all claims of race discrimination in employment from September 4, 2009 until January 17, 2017, even if they do not submit a Claim Form for a monetary award. To “release” a claim means that you cannot sue Wells Fargo for any of the claims covered by the release.Top
If you are a Settlement Class Member and receive an award from the Settlement Fund, you will not owe any fees or expenses to the lawyers who have represented you as part of the Settlement Class. To compensate Class Counsel for their services and to reimburse them for the litigation expenses they incurred in this case, the Court has awarded attorneys’ fees and expenses to be paid from the Settlement Fund. If you hire your own attorney, however, you will have to pay him or her at your own expense. Note that the Neutral(s) may consider any attorneys’ fees you incurred in recommending the amount of your monetary award.Top
As a Class Member, you have also been represented in this litigation by Named Plaintiffs Lance Slaughter, Michael Smith, Erika Williams, Lucien Philippe, Katrina Everett, and Keith Spelmon. The Named Plaintiffs will participate in the Settlement claims process just like any other Settlement Class Member. In addition, the Court has granted service awards in the amount of $175,000 for each of the Named Plaintiffs. This recognizes the benefits the Named Plaintiffs achieved for the class, the risks they faced in bringing the case, and the time they spent pursuing it.Top
If you have further questions or still are not sure whether you are included in the Settlement Class, you can get free help at by calling the Claims Administrator at 1-844-510-5938, or by calling or writing to Class Counsel in this case at the contact number/addresses listed below.
Linda D. Friedman
Suzanne E. Bish
George S. Robot
STOWELL & FRIEDMAN, LTD.
303 W. Madison, 26th floor
Chicago, Illinois 60606
Telephone: (312) 431-0888
The notice contains only a summary of the terms of the Settlement and related matters. For further information, the Settlement Agreement (which includes the complete terms of the Settlement), and numerous other documents connected with the Settlement are available for review and/or downloading on this website. Please click here to be directed to the Court Documents page.
PLEASE DO NOT CALL OR CONTACT THE COURT, THE OFFICE OF THE CLERK OF COURT, OR DEFENDANTS WITH QUESTIONS REGARDING THIS NOTICETop