Robert Trojan was the chief executive at a banking trade group when he found something concerning: The organization’s accounting firm had an undisclosed conflict of interest, according to a lawsuit he filed against his former employer and Wells Fargo last month in New York’s Southern District.
A day after he formally raised his concerns, he was fired.
The lawsuit says that while he was running the Commercial Finance Association, which represents lenders who make loans on companies’ assets and invoices, Trojan found that the group’s auditor, Freed Maxick, wasn’t fully independent. The suit details how Trojan raised the issue of Freed Maxick’s undisclosed business with CFA members to three of the organization’s former finance staffers. If an auditor was also working for one of the group’s members, it would effectively be working to audit itself. One of the people Trojan said he raised the issue with was CFA’s current president Andrea Petro. Petro’s full-time job is an executive vice president at Wells Fargo, where she runs the bank’s asset financing group. (Wells Fargo is one of the CFA’s biggest and most influential members.)
After raising the issue of its auditor’s lack of independence for three years with no results, Trojan complained in writing on Jan. 19. The next day, Petro called Trojan and fired him “effective immediately”, the lawsuit says, but not for cause.