Banking

Wells Fargo employee who emailed CEO about pay resigns

Tyrel Oates, the Wells Fargo employee who last year called on CEO John Stumpf to give everyone in the company a $10,000 raise, resigned from the lender on Friday. Oates said the decision to leave the company was his own, as he pursues a career in the agriculture industry.
Tyrel Oates, the Wells Fargo employee who last year called on CEO John Stumpf to give everyone in the company a $10,000 raise, resigned from the lender on Friday. Oates said the decision to leave the company was his own, as he pursues a career in the agriculture industry. Photo courtesy Tyrel Oates

A Wells Fargo employee who made national news last year when he copied thousands of his co-workers on an email asking CEO John Stumpf to give all of them a raise is moving on.

Tyrel Oates, who worked in Oregon processing Wells Fargo customer requests to stop debt-collection calls, said he emailed Stumpf a letter of resignation on Friday. Oates, 31, told the Observer he is leaving the bank so he can devote more time to studying for a planned career in agriculture.

In his resignation letter, Oates criticizes the company for its “complacent stance” on his request last fall that the San Francisco-based bank give each of its employees a $10,000 raise. According to the resignation letter, about 5,000 people, including Wells Fargo employees and customers, signed a petition supporting his proposed raises.

“The only responses that have been provided thus far is the bank simply defending its compensation philosophy with no attempt to compromise, as well as limiting who we can and cannot email within the organization,” Oates says in his resignation letter. “These are not acceptable responses.”

Wells Fargo, which has roughly 23,000 employees in Charlotte, on Monday said it provides “market competitive” compensation and that last year about 60 percent of its noninterest expense went to compensation and benefits. In addition to merit-pay increases to an undisclosed number of employees last year, the company also said it gave 45,000 employees raises tied to promotions.

Stumpf defended the company’s pay practices at an internal meeting in October, according to news reports.

After an Observer story last fall, Oates’ plea for higher pay went viral, gaining attention from The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, CNN and other major news outlets at a time when income equality is a hot topic.

Oates sent his first letter to what he estimated was 200,000 employees – a big chunk of Wells Fargo’s total workforce. In the letter, Oates said $10,000 raises would put Wells at the forefront of helping reduce income inequality in the U.S., as well as give a boost to its employees who “struggle to make ends meet.”

Oates, who has worked for Wells for about seven years, said he has been making $15.41 an hour following a roughly 2 percent merit raise that took effect last month. In his resignation letter, he points out Stumpf’s $19.3 million in compensation for 2014, which was unchanged from the year before.

Even though Wells Fargo did not implement the raises he was seeking, Oates said the letter brought attention to his cause within the company and in the country. Recently, some major companies, including McDonald’s and Wal-Mart Stores, have announced raises for their workers.

In an era where details about a person’s past can be easily retrieved in a Google search, Oates said he is not worried about his letters getting him blacklisted by future employers because he doesn’t plan on working for a big company again.

In his resignation letter, he calls on his former co-workers to keep pushing for higher pay.

“I have done all that I can to help get this ball rolling,” the letter says. “It is now up to each of you to stand up and speak out.”

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Twitter: @DeonERoberts

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