Bank worker fired over cardboard dime 50 years ago

DES MOINES, Iowa — A 68-year-old Des Moines man fired from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage over a minor crime 50 years ago has stirred national interest.

Richard Eggers was fired in July when a background review sparked by new federal rules for banks revealed a 1963 conviction for putting a cardboard cutout of a dime in a laundromat’s washing machine. He has since received a waiver from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., or FDIC, and Wells Fargo offered to rehire him.

But Eggers says he won’t accept the bank’s offer to return to work unless Wells Fargo changes its background check policy, which he believes discriminates against low-level workers.

Banks have fired thousands of employees like Eggers since new federal banking guidelines were enacted in May 2011. The regulatory rules forbid the employment of anyone convicted of a crime involving dishonesty, breach of trust or money laundering. The tougher standards are meant to clear out executives and mid-level bank employees guilty of transactional crimes — such as identity theft and money laundering — but banks are applying them across the board because possible fines for noncompliance can total in the millions of dollars.

Before the guidelines were changed, banks widely interpreted the rules to exclude minor traffic offenses and misdemeanors.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo &Co. said this week that it’s disappointed that Eggers doesn’t recognize its “responsibility to apply the law equitably and fairly” for all employees.

Eggers was interviewed Wednesday for a November appearance on Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report.”

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