(DES MOINES) — In 1963 a 19-year-old Richard Eggers committed a crime, putting a fake dime into a laundry machine in Carlisle, Iowa. Eggers was spotted by the local sheriff and was convicted of operating a coin-changing machine by false means. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail, of which he served two. He was released early to return to college, and fined $50. Case closed.
Well, not so much. Now, 49 years later, Eggers’ past offense is coming back to haunt him.
Eggers worked as a customer service representative at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Des Moines until he was fired in July. The reason given for his dismissal: the long-ago incident with the dime.
“We understand the outpouring of concern for Mr. Eggers and we want people to know that we take this matter very seriously,” the company said in a statement. “Wells Fargo is an insured depository institution, a global bank, bound by U.S. Federal law (Section 19 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act) to protect our customers and their personal financial information from someone who we know has committed an act of dishonesty or breach of trust — regardless of when the incidents occurred. It is uncomfortable, but it is a law that we have to follow. We have the responsibility to avoid hiring or continuing to employ someone who we know has a criminal record.”
Mr. Eggers’ lawyer, Leonard Bates, spoke with ABC News, disagreeing with the company’s decision. “In 1963 Mr. Eggers was young he did something stupid. He put a wood dime in laundry machine,” he said. “The spirit of the law was to prevent widespread mortgage fraud but does not apply to my client, who is a customer service representative.”
Mr. Bates did not lay all the blame on the company. “The FDIC’s regulation is overly broad,” Bates said, adding, “There are better, less harsh ways that Wells Fargo could do this without turning people’s lives upside down.”
Wells Fargo says it did everything in its power to keep Eggers working and in compliance with the law.
“When we found out about Mr. Eggers situation we began working with him immediately to help him learn about steps that he could take to make him eligible for reemployment at a financial institution. Specifically, he and any other workers in this situation can apply to the FDIC for written permission to work at a financial institution despite the existence of the disqualifying conviction,” Wells Fargo said in its statement.
The waiver process can take roughly six months and does not always result in reemployment. “Wells Fargo is touting the fact that employees can get waivers,” Bates said. “Some of my clients have obtained waivers but Wells Fargo has not yet hired them back.”
There is a faster, automatic waiver process, however. In order to qualify the waiver-seeker must have committed a crime more than 10 years ago, received a sentence of less than 365 days, received a fine of less than $1,000, and served no actual jail time. Because Mr. Eggers spent two days in jail in 1963, he does not qualify for the automatic waiver.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jill Disis, CNN
Matt Egan, CNN
Aaron Smith, CNN