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Ex-Wells Fargo Branch Manager Says She Was Fired for Not Meeting Aggressive Goals

Former Wells Fargo employee Julie Miller has traveled to Washington, D.C. to see the company's CEO, John Stumpf squirm on the hot seat.
Former Wells Fargo employee Julie Miller.
Former Wells Fargo employee Julie Miller.NBC News

Former Wells Fargo employee Julie Miller traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to see her former CEO, John Stumpf, testify before the House financial services committee.

She was happy to see Stumpf on the hot seat, questioned aggressively by Republicans and Democrats.

"We were led by fear and intimidation," Miller told NBC News.

Until 2013, Julie Miller was a branch manager in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She was recognized as an outstanding employee in 2012 by CEO John Stumpf. Yet as the bank's aggressive sales goals mounted, she was terminated in 2013. She says the bank cited her disappointing performance.

Related: $41 Million is Chicken Scratch Compared to What Stumpf Earned at Wells Fargo

"[We were told to open] seven checking accounts, 42 solutions a day. How can I do that?" Miller asked. "We begged and pleaded with people to open accounts so we didn’t lose our jobs."

Prior to her firing, Miller was recognized as an outstanding employee. She even personally shook Stumpf’s hand at an awards ceremony for top performers in 2012.

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"We would be grilled over the phone [by management] ... 'What are the bankers doing? Work them like dogs if you have too!'" she quoted supervisors instructing her. Miller said she suffered emotional anxiety during and after her tenure at the branch.

Wells Fargo confirmed Miler's employment and her subsequent departure in 2013, but declined to comment on personnel matters.

Former Wells Fargo employee Julie Miller.NBC News

Miller has watched Stumpf endure four hours of bipartisan grilling just weeks after the company paid a $185 million federal fine for creating as many as 2 million phony bank and credit card accounts without customer authorization.

In his second appearance on the hill in as many weeks, Stumpf repeatedly said he apologized for the company’s actions and that they did not reflect the broader culture within Wells Fargo.

Related: Wells Fargo Fined $185 Million on Phony Accounts, Fires 5,300 Staff

Stumpf also revealed he first learned of the fraudulent accounts in 2013. And he announced Wells Fargo is ending all product sales goals effective October 1, three months earlier than originally planned.

Wells Fargo revoked $41 million of Stumpf’s compensation package, along with holding back his bonus for 2016. The board recently launched an internal investigation, during which Stumpf will not be paid a salary.

"We should have realized earlier that product sales goals could elicit behavior that’s inconsistent with our culture," Stumpf said. "It’s simply not worth it."

More than an hour into the testimony, Rep. Sean Duffy, R-WI, asked Stumpf, "Did Wells Fargo employees steal from a million to two million other customers? Yes or no?"

Stumpf hesitated before saying, "Uh, in some cases, they did."

In a heated reply, Duffy said, “I don’t care if it’s 10 percent or 1 percent or half a percent of the people you do business with.. you’re stealing from people."

Related: Wells Fargo Customers May Never See Their Day in Court, Experts Say

In a boisterous question and answer session, Rep. Greg Meeks, D-N.Y., called for Stumpf to leave his position.

"If the buck stops with you ... then you should be fired, because the buck stops with you," Meeks said.

Miller, the former employee, said she agrees.

Meanwhile, consumer advocates say what happened at Wells Fargo could easily happen at any other bank.

"Check your bank transactions every couple of days. Check your credit card statements every month,” said Greg McBride of Bankrate. “This is the type of routine personal finance maintenance that needs to be second nature, like fastening your seat belt.”

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, before the House Financial Services Committee investigating Wells Fargo's opening of unauthorized customer accounts.Cliff Owen / AP