A federal judge on Thursday denied Wells Fargo’s request for a preliminary injunction against an attorney who represents the bank’s former chief executive officer, claiming that the lawyer’s arguments are “frivolous” and are likely to be “dismissed by a district court.”
In a motion filed Thursday, Wells Fargo argued that Michael Geist should be barred from appearing before a federal court and arguing that his attorney should not be allowed to represent the bank in the case.
Wells Fargo, a unit of Bank of America Corp., has said it is cooperating with the Justice Department investigation into the bank and its sales practices.
Geist, who has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges related to the Wells fraud, has previously said that he believes Wells Fargo has no business being in court.
The Justice Department has charged Wells Fargo executives with breaking federal law by failing to prevent the spread of deadly coronavirus and violating the law by making improper withdrawals from customers’ accounts and then hiding the transactions.
The bank has said that the criminal charges were “grossly overblown” and “inaccurate.”
In the motion filed by U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree, Geist argued that his attorneys should be allowed access to the court record to defend themselves and that he “will have the opportunity to demonstrate that his client is not liable for any criminal conduct” that occurred between 2009 and 2015.
In the filing, Geists attorneys wrote that Wells Fargo should be granted a preliminary restraining order because “there is no evidence that [Geist’s] conduct was criminal in nature.”
They argue that Geist has already been “held in contempt of court,” and that his case “must be litigated before the court.”
They also argue that the Wells breach of fiduciary duty case “is without merit.”
The motion said that “the court’s preliminary injunction would have the effect of blocking Geist from being able to represent himself and from representing Wells Fargo on his own behalf in the ongoing criminal investigation of its own employees.”
In addition, the filing notes that Geis attorneys are arguing that there is a “serious likelihood” that the contempt charge will be dropped if Geist’s case is not litigated.
Geists attorneys are also arguing that they are entitled to an “adversary hearing” in the criminal investigation.
“There is no ‘definitive evidence’ of criminal conduct or any other evidence of the misconduct alleged,” they wrote.
Geis attorneys have argued that their client is entitled to “adverse-contempt relief” from the Justice Dept. because “the conduct alleged by the plaintiffs is not a criminal offense, and the conduct alleged is not an act of misconduct, nor is it a violation of any of the Bank’s internal rules or procedures.”
The attorneys’ filing did not address whether Geist could represent himself in court, but did say that “if Wells Fargo does not prevail in this case, the plaintiffs’ request will be denied.”
The Justice Dept has declined to comment on the filing.
The lawsuit, filed last month by the American Bar Association, alleges that the bank failed to prevent or detect the spread and then concealed the transactions, including “false or misleading statements” about its procedures, which caused customers to lose hundreds of millions of dollars.
The complaint also alleges that Wells violated the Federal Deposit Insurance Act and the Bank Secrecy Act.