Julie Broderick had 15 years of experience as a securities regulator and a propensity for speaking her mind before joining Prudential Financial as an investigative supervisor in 2012. When she sought this year to learn more about possible sales abuses by one of the insurer’s business partners, she said, the message from her company was clear: “Don’t rock the boat, don’t speak up, toe the party line and your job will be safe.”
Then she was fired along with two colleagues. They responded with a whistleblower lawsuit containing allegations that led to state probes about whether Wells Fargo signed up people for Prudential’s MyTerm insurance without their permission. And even after the insurer halted sales through the bank last week, Broderick is calling out her former employer and saying the company let down customers.
Prudential had evidence of irregularities as early as January 2015 and should have acted more forcefully as evidence mounted this year, the Dec. 6 complaint claims. The lawsuit also raises questions about whether the insurer’s controls were adequate. Broderick said that her proposal to expand a probe was met by resistance from an executive who didn’t want to alienate Wells Fargo or draw attention to possible misdeeds.
“They wanted to preserve their image and stay out of the public limelight,” Broderick said of Newark, N.J.-based Prudential in a Dec. 14 interview, amplifying claims in the lawsuit. “They did not want to be associated with the conduct by Wells Fargo. They did not want to have to report anything to the regulators so there would be additional inquires of the company.”
The insurer disputed her account.
“The three former employees were terminated in response to an ethics complaint that was unrelated to the Wells Fargo review,” Scot Hoffman, a spokesman, said in an e-mail. “Prudential’s decision to examine sales of the MyTerm product was initiated by our individual life insurance business and our compliance department, not by the plaintiffs.”