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This Bank Executive Told Employees to “put on their big girl panties.” Now He’s Being Forced Out

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An executive at Wells Fargo is being forced into retirement after discrimination complaints against him surfaced. Private bank head Jay Welker reportedly called women “girls” or instructed them to “put their big girl panties on.” Now, he is scheduled to retire on March 31, according to information in an internal memo.

The revelations about Welker were part of a larger internal investigation that focused on issues of discrimination in the Wells Fargo wealth management unit, according to a report by CBS News. Female executives within the unit originally made allegations of discrimination, including complaints of failure to promote as well as systemic belittling of female execs.

Wells Fargo’s head of Wealth and Investment Management Jon Weiss spoke with some managers last week. During the call, he asserted that “there is unequivocally no gender bias” in the unit.

Welker reported to Weiss.

When contacted by CBS MoneyWatch for comment, Wells Fargo did not directly speak to the specific allegations but did defend the company’s process.

“We take seriously any allegation raised by a team member, or against a team member. We ensure that concerns raised are thoroughly and objectively investigated, while taking measures to protect confidentiality,” said a spokesperson in an email. “Once an investigation is complete we are committed to taking any appropriate action.”

The spokesperson also added that Wells Fargo is “committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our business.”

Wells Fargo has struggled to recover its reputation after the scandal regarding the company’s sales tactics broke in 2016. John Stumpf was ousted as the CEO, and the financial institution incurred $185 million in fines.

In August, Wells Fargo also faced scrutiny after an incident – that the bank called a “calculation error” in the underwriting tool for mortgage modifications – resulted in 545 homeowners wrongly be subjected to foreclosure proceedings.

The bank was also listed in Stanford University finance professor Amit Seru’s research who, along with two co-authors, found that men in the financial industry are over twice as likely to engage in misconduct that females working in the field, but women are 20 percent more likely to be fired if an infraction is discovered.

The researchers said that Wells Fargo had the largest discrepancy of all of the studied financial companies, with female advisers facing discipline as a significantly higher rate than their male counterparts.