Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is this Lawsuit about?

    This Lawsuit challenged Wells Fargo’s practice of requiring FA Trainees to sign agreements to pay up to $55,500 in purported “training costs” and asserted claims that FA Trainees worked hours for which they did not receive pay. Plaintiffs allege claims under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), claiming Wells Fargo failed to properly compensate FA Trainees for all the overtime hours they worked, and improperly attempted to recover training costs, resulting in improper deductions or payment of wages and/or unpaid minimum wages. For FA Trainees who worked in Illinois, New York, California, and Florida, the Lawsuit asserts similar unpaid wage claims under the laws of those states.

    Wells Fargo denies these allegations and believes it properly compensated FA Trainees for all of the hours they worked, and that they received all monies to which they were entitled.

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  2. Why is this a class/collective action?

    In a class action, one or more persons called “class representatives” or “named plaintiffs” sue on behalf of themselves and other people affected by the challenged practices. Those people affected are called “class members” and together are called a “class.” One court resolves the issues for everyone in the class, except for those who choose to exclude themselves.

    Similarly, in a collective action, one or more people can seek to represent and obtain relief and benefits for a “collective” of people with similar claims, but collective action members must choose to participate.

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  3. Why is there a Settlement?

    The parties have entered into this Settlement to avoid further disputes and litigation with the attendant inconvenience and expense. The Class Representatives and Class Counsel think the Settlement is in the best interests of the class members, given the risks of moving forward with the lawsuit. The Court has not made any ruling on the merits of the Plaintiffs’ claims, and no party has prevailed in this action.

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  4. Who can participate in the Settlement?

    You can participate if you are a member of the Settlement Class. The Settlement Class is comprised of an FLSA Collective and separate State Law Class Members, for New York, Illinois, Florida and California. You may be a member of the FLSA Collective and a member of a State Law Class.

    All Settlement class members must have worked as a Financial Advisor Trainee, which is a non-exempt, or hourly paid, position in the Private Client Group New Advisor Training Program. Generally, program participants are FA Trainees from hiring or the beginning of the program until becoming an “FA Grad” and receiving a production number from Wells Fargo.

    You are a member of the FLSA Collective and can participate in the Settlement if you worked as a Financial Advisor Trainee between November 4, 2011 and December 31, 2016.

    You are a member of the New York State Law Class and can participate in the Settlement if you worked as a Financial Advisor Trainee in New York between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2016.

    You are a member of the Illinois State Law Class and can participate in the Settlement if you worked as a Financial Advisor Trainee in Illinois between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2016.

    You are a member of the Florida State Law Class and can participate in the Settlement if you worked as a Financial Advisor Trainee in Florida between November 4, 2009 to December 31, 2016.

    You are a member of the California State Law Class and can participate in the Settlement if you worked as a Financial Advisor Trainee in California between November 4, 2010 to December 31, 2016.

    Settlement Class Location Dates Worked as FA Trainee
    FLSA Collective All States November 4, 2011 to December 31, 2016
    New York State Law Class New York January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2016
    Illinois State Law Class Illinois January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2016
    Florida State Law Class Florida November 4, 2009 to December 31, 2016
    California State Law Class California November 4, 2010 to December 31, 2016

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  5. What does the Settlement provide?

    If the Settlement is approved, Wells Fargo will pay a total of $3,500,000 into a Settlement Fund. The Settlement offers Settlement class members opportunities to obtain a share of that fund, including from a $300,000 portion of the Settlement Fund held in reserve (the “Training Costs Fund”).

    The proposed Settlement also includes important policy changes and a release:

    1. Wells Fargo will end its practice of requiring FA Trainees to pay training costs for at least four years;
    2. Wells Fargo will stop any ongoing efforts to collect training costs from FA Trainees;
    3. Wells Fargo will release any claims it may have to recover training costs from FA Trainees; and
    4. All individuals employed as FA Trainees will no longer be obligated to pay any training costs.

    The Court will determine the portion of the Settlement Fund that may be used for costs related to the Lawsuit or Settlement, including attorneys’ fees (up to 25% of the Settlement Fund), service awards for each of the four Plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit (up to a combined total of $50,000), costs advanced by the lawyers, and Settlement administration costs.

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  6. How will my share of the Settlement Fund be calculated and paid?

    You will receive your share of the fund based on the number of points you have as compared to other members of the Settlement Class. A formula awards one point for each week you worked as an hourly employee in the Private Client Group New Advisor Training Program in which overtime was not paid. All Settlement Class members who do not opt out will receive a check for at least $100.

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  7. When will I receive payments from the Settlement?

    The court granted final approval on December 1, 2017. Please check back in January for more information regarding administration of the Settlement.

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  8. Can I ask for additional money relating to training costs? How?

    You can ask to be awarded additional money from the Training Costs Fund for costs paid or incurred as a result of Wells Fargo’s attempts to enforce the training costs agreement.

    To request a share, you must complete, sign, and submit a Training Costs Claim Form by the date written on the Claim Form. Please check your Claim Form for the specific due date. Your Training Costs Claim form will be timely if received by the Settlement Administrator on November 6, 2017

    Submit the Training Costs Claim Form and any supporting documentation electronically here or mail to:

    Williams v. Wells Fargo Settlement Administrator
    P.O. Box 4655
    Portland, OR 97208-4655

    You should submit additional documentation to support your Training Costs Claim Form in the same way you submit your Training Costs Claim Form. Read it carefully, because it provides guidance on how and what to submit.

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  9. How will the Training Costs Fund be allocated?

    An independent Special Master appointed by the Court will allocate the Training Costs Fund among individuals who seek these types of awards, though not everyone who makes a request is guaranteed an award. The Special Master will make allocations based on the following criteria:

    1. The amount of training costs you repaid to Wells Fargo;
    2. The amount you paid that was reimbursed to you by a subsequent employer, including through any “upfront” money or promissory notes received from a subsequent employer;
    3. Whether Wells Fargo demanded repayment of training costs or initiated a legal action (arbitration or lawsuit) against you to recover training costs;
    4. Whether you left the securities industry because of Wells Fargo’s attempts to enforce the training costs agreement;
    5. Whether you paid any attorneys’ fees or forum fees (e.g., FINRA costs) as a result of Wells Fargo’s training cost repayment agreement or attempts to recover training costs;
    6. Information that the Special Master deems relevant; and
    7. Documentation corroborating your Training Costs Claim Form or supporting any of these criteria.

    The Special Master will evaluate all timely submitted Claim Forms and make a final determination as to what portion of the reserve fund you may receive (if any). Some individuals who submit Claim Forms may not receive money if the Special Master determines no award is appropriate.

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  10. What do I give up to get a payment from the Settlement?

    If you cash or deposit the Settlement Check you receive, you (on behalf of yourself, your family members, or any other beneficiaries) will give up and fully release Wells Fargo from: (1) federal, state, or local claims for unpaid wages and overtime relating to work as an hourly FA Trainee between November 4, 2011 and December 31, 2016; and (2) claims relating to obligations to pay training costs to Wells Fargo.

    The Notice describe the claims you are giving up in more detail.

    If you worked in Illinois, New York, California, or Florida, you will be bound by the Settlement and will not be able to pursue claims for unpaid wages and overtime during the time you were an hourly FA Trainee under these states’ laws or claims relating to obligations to pay training costs to Wells Fargo unless you exclude yourself, or opt out, by December 21, 2017 FAQ 12 describes how to do that. If you opt out, you will not receive any payment from the Settlement Fund based on work as an FA Trainee before November 4, 2011.

    Even if you opt out of the Settlement of the state law claims, you will still receive a check if you worked as an FA Trainee from November 4, 2011 through December 31, 2016. You will not be able to pursue on your own the released claims for that period if you deposit or cash the check you receive, even if you have opted out of the Settlement as to the state law claims.

    In Summary:

    1. If you cash the check you receive and do not opt out of the state law class, you give up your right to pursue federal, state, or local claims for unpaid wages and overtime during the time you were an hourly FA Trainee, and claims relating to obligations to pay training costs to Wells Fargo.
    2. If you cash the check and opt out of the state law class, you give up the same claims except for any state law claim you may have relating to work as an FA Trainee before November 4, 2011.
    3. If you do not cash the check, and do not opt out of the state law class, you give up your right to pursue: (a) state and local claims for unpaid wages and overtime during the time you were an hourly FA Trainee; and (b) claims relating to obligations to pay training costs to Wells Fargo.
    4. If you do not cash the check and opt out of the state law claims, you preserve any claims relating to your work as an FA Trainee and relating to obligations to pay training costs to Wells Fargo, but you will not receive any other payment from the Settlement Fund.

    If you cash or deposit the check, to the extent that you have brought any other cases or arbitrations seeking relief for these released claims, you will need to dismiss such cases or arbitrations with prejudice.

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  11. What are the terms of the release that will affect me?

    If you worked in Illinois, New York, California, or Florida, you will be releasing claims unless you exclude yourself (“opt out”) of the Settlement. The Notice explains the exact terms of the release in Section 12. Read it carefully.

    Regardless of where you worked, by depositing or cashing the check you receive based on the formula, you will be releasing any federal, state, or local wage and hour law claims, including claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act and claims relating to repayment of training costs, during the time you were an hourly FA Trainee between November 4, 2011 and December 31, 2016. The letter you will receive with your check will contain the exact terms of your release. Read it carefully.

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  12. What if I do not want to participate in the Settlement?

    If you worked in Illinois, New York, California or Florida, you must do two things if you do not want to participate in the Settlement: (1) do not cash or deposit the Settlement Check you receive; and (2) take affirmative steps to exclude yourself from the Settlement of the state law claims. This is sometimes referred to as “opting out” of the Settlement.

    To opt out of the Settlement of state law claims, you must submit a written, signed Opt Out Statement to the Settlement Administrator that includes your name, address, telephone number, and the words “I elect to exclude myself from the State Law Class claims in Williams, et al. v. Wells Fargo Advisors and I understand that I am excluding myself only from the State Law Class claims and not from the FLSA Collective Action.”

    To be valid, all this information must be included for the Opt Out Statement and your Opt Out Statement must be received by the Settlement Administrator by the date written on your Notice. Please check your Notice for the specific due date. Your Opt Out Statement will be timely if received by the Settlement Administrator on or before November 6, 2017.

    Send it electronically here or to:

    Williams v. Wells Fargo Settlement Administrator
    P.O. Box 4655
    Portland, OR 97208-4655

    Please Note: If you worked as an FA Trainee between November 4, 2011 and December 31, 2016, you will receive a check if the Settlement is approved, even if you worked in Illinois, New York, California, or Florida, and you opt out.

    Do not cash that check if you wish to pursue: (1) federal, state or local claims for unpaid wages and overtime during that time period; or (2) claims relating to obligations to repay training costs to Wells Fargo.

    If you worked in states other than Illinois, New York, California or Florida, and you do not want to participate in the Settlement and/or you want to keep the right to sue Wells Fargo on your own for claims asserted in this lawsuit, simply do not cash or deposit the Settlement check you receive. If you cash or deposit the check, you will be bound by the release and obligations described above.

    If you have a pending lawsuit, speak to your lawyer in that case to see if this Settlement will affect your other case. If you exclude yourself, you will not receive any money from this lawsuit for state law claims.

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  13. What if I disapprove of the Settlement?

    If you worked as an FA Trainee in Illinois, New York, California, or Florida, and disapprove of the Settlement, you can object to it. You cannot object to the Settlement if you opt out or exclude yourself.

    Your written objections will be timely if received by the Settlement Administrator by the date written on your Notice. Please check your Notice for the specific due date. Your written objections will be timely if received by the Settlement Administrator on or before November 6, 2017.

    The written objection must include your name, job title, address, telephone numbers, and the reasons for the objection. Any reasons not included in the written objection will not be considered. Anyone who timely objects can appear at the Fairness Hearing in person at his or her own expense, but must state his or her intention to do so in the written objections.

    Submit objections either electronically here or at the address in FAQ 12.

    An objector may withdraw his/her objections at any time.

    If you worked elsewhere as an FA Trainee and disapprove of the Settlement, do not cash the check you receive. That will prevent you from being bound by the Settlement and you will be free to pursue your claims on your own.

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  14. Do I have a lawyer in this case?

    The Court has decided that the law firms of Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. and The Wood Law Office, LLC are qualified to represent you and all class and collective action members. These lawyers are called Class Counsel, and their contact information is provided here. You will not be charged for the services of these lawyers. The Court will determine what fees Class Counsel will receive from the Settlement Fund. You do not need to retain your own attorney in order to participate as a Class Member. You may, however, retain your own attorney, at your own expense, to advise you in connection with these matters.

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  15. How will the Court decide whether to finally approve the Settlement?

    The court granted final approval on December 1, 2017. Please check back in January for more information regarding administration of the Settlement.

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  16. What should I do if I have questions?

    For more information, or if you have any questions regarding the Settlement, you may contact us:

    phoneIcon Call Us:

    1-844-308-6910 (Toll-Free)
    Call Center Hours: 6 a.m. - 6 p.m. PST
    Monday - Friday except Holidays

    writeIcon Write Us:

    Williams v. Wells Fargo Settlement Administrator
    P.O. Box 4655
    Portland, OR 97208-4655


    Alternatively, you may contact the lawyers appointed by the Court to represent the class for purposes of the Settlement:

    Suzanne E. Bish
    George S. Robot
    Stowell & Friedman, Ltd.
    www.stowellfriedman.com
    1-312-431-0888
    sbish@sfltd.com
    grobot@sfltd.com
    J. Bryan Wood
    The Wood Law Office, LLC
    www.jbryanwoodlaw.com
    1-312-554-8600
    bryan@jbryanwoodlaw.com

    PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT THE COURT ABOUT THIS MATTER.

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Important Dates

  • November 6, 2017
    Deadline for optional Training Cost Claim Form and supporting documents to be received
  • November 6, 2017
    Deadline for objections to be received
  • November 6, 2017
    Deadline for your exclusion from the Settlement to be received
  • December 1, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. CST
    Fairness Hearing