Wells Fargo exec was raped by colleague, punished: lawsuit
A senior vice president at Wells Fargo was raped by her colleague who barged into her hotel room and assaulted her while she was intoxicated during a business trip in Southern California, according to a bombshell lawsuit.
The unidentified married woman filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday alleging that the bank retaliated against her after she reported the alleged rape to management by excluding her from important meetings and reassigning some of her clients.
She is suing the bank and four Wells Fargo workers for unspecified damages.
The lawsuit names Eric R. Pagel, a senior investment strategist and managing director at a branch of Wells Fargo in the El Segundo section of Los Angeles, as the bank executive who allegedly raped her in a Bakersfield, Calif. hotel room in late January 2020.
Pagel and Jane Doe were among a group of six Wells Fargo employees who drove to Bakersfield for a series of meetings with high-end clients at the Padre Hotel on Jan. 28, 2020.
The Post has reached out to the hotel seeking comment.
In the early evening hours, the six employees met for drinks in the hotel lobby before heading to dinner, the lawsuit says.
When Jane Doe and another Wells Fargo employee, Meena Kotak, stepped away to go to the bathroom, she “inadvertently left her purse, phone and drink unattended at the table.”
Jane Doe alleges that she returned only to find that Pagel, David Weitzel, Mark Peterson, and Brian Ray, who remained at the table, had rummaged through her purse and stole her credit card and hotel room key.
Weitzel, who is named in the lawsuit alongside Pagel, Peterson, and Ray, left Wells Fargo in December 2020, according to his LinkedIn page. A month after his departure, he took an executive position at First Republic Bank in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
The Post has sought comment from Weitzel and First Republic Bank. Calls to Pagel’s phone went unanswered. The Post has also left messages on Pagel’s social media accounts.
At around 9:30 p.m. that night, the six Wells Fargo executives proceeded to a bar, where they drank more alcoholic beverages. As the night went on, Jane Doe “became increasingly intoxicated” and “her memory became increasingly blurred,” according to the lawsuit.
Jane Doe alleges she “recalled walking back to her hotel room” with her manager, Weitzel, who at the time was also a senior vice president and the manager of regional private banking for Wells Fargo.
Weitzel “opened [her] hotel room door and left her inside,” according to court documents. Jane Doe “subsequently received a knock on the door.”
When she opened the door, Pagel “barged in and began kissing” her, it was alleged. He then “proceeded to sexually assault and rape” Jane Doe “while she was intoxicated,” according to court papers.
The next morning, Jane Doe “recalled Pagel being in her hotel room” though her memory of what took place hours before was “blurry,” the court documents state.
As the day went on, the “memory of the rape came back to her in fragments,” according to the lawsuit. She then recalled seeing Pagel “remove his belt buckle” before “feeling Pagel kiss her lips and her hip, then grab [her] breasts and her entire body,” it was alleged.
Two days later, Jane Doe “confronted Pagel for an explanation on what had happened,” according to the court filing.
Pagel “admitted to [Jane Doe] that they had sex multiple times without contraceptives,” it was alleged. Pagel was also “aware” that she was intoxicated, according to court documents.
On Feb. 3 — six days after the alleged rape — Jane Doe consulted with her gynecologist about obtaining a rape kit and being tested to see whether she was drugged on the night of Jan. 28, according to court papers.
But the gynecologist told Jane Doe that any drug that she ingested nearly a week earlier would have been flushed out of her system by then, according to court papers.
The doctor also told her that a rape kit would be “invalid” because she had already showered and had been sexually active with her husband since the alleged rape, the lawsuit states.
The woman also alleges in the court filing that she was subjected to repeated instances of sexual harassment, including vulgar remarks and crude innuendos about her appearance.
Pagel is alleged to have repeatedly suggested that Jane Doe “exchange sex for money” by divorcing her husband and “getting into bed with a wealthy client’s son,” according to the lawsuit.
Just weeks after the alleged rape, Pagel allegedly told Jane Doe she would be a “great match” for their “wealthy client” because the client “is attracted to beautiful women and is having a sexual relationship with his secretary.”
When Jane Doe complained to Weitzel about Pagel’s “inappropriate comments,” Weitzel “merely suggested that Plaintiff should not give Pagel a ‘window of opportunity’ to be inappropriate,” according to the court filing.
In November of 2020, Jane Doe “built up the courage” to file a formal complaint with Wells Fargo’s “Ethics Hotline,” according to the lawsuit. She also filed a complaint with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in Lomitas.
Her lawyer, Ronaldo Zambrano, said police did not pursue the case because it was a “he- said/she-said” situation.
The Post reached out to the sheriff’s department for comment.
After filing the Wells Fargo complaint, Jane Doe alleges that she was “subjected to adverse actions regarding her employment” — including having her clients reassigned to another employee without her input and being excluded from important client communications, the lawsuit alleges.
Wells Fargo “did close to nothing to actually investigate” the rape allegation, the lawsuit alleges. The bank also failed to probe her complains of sexual harassment, it was alleged.
After Jane Doe filed a report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April 2021, the bank finally launched an internal investigation, the lawsuit states.
Right around the time she filed her complaint to the EEOC, Jane Doe “began a medical leave for stress, anxiety and depression stemming from both the trauma from the sexual assault but also the utter lack of care by Wells Fargo” to investigate the incident, according to the lawsuit.
Jane Doe’s attorneys blasted Wells Fargo as “incompetent” for dragging the investigation along for some eight months.
In July 2021, Jane Doe resigned from Wells Fargo as her continued employment at the bank was “intolerable for her mental well-being,” the lawsuit states.
Pagel is also alleged to have groped Jane Doe on a number of occasions, the suit claimed.
He allegedly made frequent comments on her appearance, saying that she “age[d] like fine wine” and complimented her on how she looked while wearing “skinny jeans” that “made her butt look good.”
Calls to Pagel’s cell phone seeking a response went unanswered.
A Wells Fargo spokesperson told The Post: “We take all allegations of misconduct very seriously and are reviewing the lawsuit.”
A source close to the situation told The Post that Pagel was a “colleague” and a “peer” of Jane Doe, and that she did not directly report to him at the time of the alleged incident.
The bank also conducted its own investigation into the matter, but the results of the probe are unknown, according to the source.
Ronald Zambrano, the Los Angeles-based attorney for Jane Doe, acknowledged to The Post that Pagel was not Jane Doe’s boss.
But under California law, Pagel meets the legal definition of a “supervisor” who had authority over others within the company hierarchy — even though she may not have directly reported to him, according to Zambrano.
“The idea that Mr. Pagel, in his capacity as Managing Director and Senior Investment Strategist did not have authority as defined [by law] is quixotic, if not out right farcical on Wells Fargo’s behalf,” Zambrano told The Post, citing the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
“Wells Fargo may not like FEHA’s definition, but they will eventually have to deal with it,” the attorney said.
Ray was a private banker and vice president of Wells Fargo at the time of the incident. Peterson was senior wealth strategist and a senior vice president at the bank.
Attempts to reach Ray and Peterson were not successful.