MANHATTAN (CN) – A former vice president says J.P. Morgan Chase Bank fired her after she blew the whistle on fraud involving one of the bank’s long-term clients. In her federal complaint, Jennifer Sharkey says she was managing more than 75 “high net worth” clients with combined assets of $500 million when she found evidence that “a high-revenue-producing Israeli client” was involved in illegal activities.
Sharkey, a vice president and wealth manager since 2006, claims she was the second-highest producer in the bank’s private wealth management department. She says the Israeli client had been with the bank for more than 20 years.
“Mere days after Ms. Sharkey was assigned to the suspect client’s account, members of J.P. Morgan’s compliance and risk management team contacted Ms. Sharkey to express their concerns regarding [the] suspect client’s alleged involvement in illegal activities, including allegations of mail fraud, bank fraud and money laundering,” according to the complaint.
Sharkey says the bank has a “know your client” assessment process “to ensure that J.P. Morgan and its clients remain at all times in compliance with federal securities laws and regulations.” But when she audited the client’s account for suspicious activities, she says, her supervisors ignored her recommendations,.
In addition to the bank, Sharkey sued her supervisors in the wealth management department, CEO Joe Kenney, Northeast Regional Director Adam Green and Managing and Market Director Leslie Lassiter.
“Mr. Kenney, Mr. Green, and Ms. Lassiter downplayed the extent of Ms. Sharkey’s complaints and views because they directly contradicted their own and they believed Ms. Sharkey’s complaints would expose weaknesses in J.P. Morgan’s risk processing procedures, particularly since J.P. Morgan had continued a relationship with the suspect client for more than 20 years,” according to the complaint.
Sharkey says her bosses pressured her to overlook the evidence against the client, but “when she refused, they retaliated against Ms. Sharkey in a blatant attempt to silence her.”
Sharkey says the bank did not pay her a 2009 bonus, removed her from several client accounts to isolate her and stunt her professional growth, and excluded her from important meetings.
Sharkey says she recommended to her supervisors that the bank terminate its relationship with the client, but instead they fired her less than a week later.
“When Ms. Sharkey asked why she was being terminated, [a vice president of human resources] stated, ‘It was an abrupt decision that has nothing to do with your performance, but instead was made by Ms. Lassiter because she feels she cannot trust you anymore,'” according to the complaint.
Sharkey seeks reinstatement with back pay, lost bonuses and benefits, alleging retaliation and breach of employment contract. She also wants the bank ordered to expunge her termination and not to interfere with any applications she may send to prospective employers. She is represented by Douglas Wigdor with Thompson Wigdor & Gilly.