By: Victor Epstein, Des Moines Register
Richard Eggers doesn't look like a mastermind of financial crime.
The former farm boy speaks deliberately, can't remember the last time he got a speeding ticket, and favors suspenders, horn-rimmed glasses and plaid shirts. But the 68-year-old Vietnam veteran is still too risky for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, which fired him on July 12 from his $29,795-a-year job as a customer service representative.
Egger's crime? Putting a cardboard cutout of a dime in a washing machine in Carlisle on Feb. 2, 1963.
"It was a stupid stunt and I'm not real proud of it, but to fire somebody for something like this after seven good years of employment is a dirty trick when you come right down to it," said Eggers of Des Moines. "And they're doing this kind of thing all across the country."
Big banks have been firing low-level employees like Eggers since the issuance of new federal banking employment guidelines in May 2011 and new mortgage employment guidelines in February.
The tougher standards are meant to weed out executives and mid-level bank employees guilty of transactional crimes, like identity fraud or mortgage fraud, but they are being applied across-the-board thanks to $1-million-a day fines for noncompliance.
Banks have fired thousands of workers nationally because of the rules, said Natasha Buchanan, an attorney with Higbee & Associates in Santa Ana, Calif., who has helped some of the banking workers regain their eligibility to be employed.
"Banks are afraid of the FDIC and the penalties they could face," Buchanan said.
The regulatory rules forbid the employment of anyone convicted of a crime involving dishonesty, breach of trust or money laundering. Before the guidelines were changed, banks widely interpreted the rules to exclude minor traffic offenses and some other misdemeanor arrests.
New rules have eliminated exceptions for expunged crimes and certain minor offenses and expanded the categories of employees covered, Buchanan said.