By Dan Freed
(Reuters) - Wells Fargo & Co <WFC.N> Chief Executive Officer Tim Sloan told workers on Thursday the bank was changing the handling of whistleblower complaints after allegations it retaliated against employees who called an ethics hotline to report sales abuses.
Sloan announced the change to a gathering of about 2,000 employees in Des Moines, Iowa, as part of a "conversations tour" he and other executives are making to try to restore employee morale following the bank's recent sales practices scandal.
Sloan, who took over as CEO of San Francisco-based Wells Fargo last month, did not detail how whistleblower complaints will now be handled, but said the bank was also reviewing allegations of retaliation against staff.
Wells Fargo agreed in September to pay $185 million in penalties and $5 million to customers after revelations its staff opened up to 2 million deposit and credit-card accounts in customers' names without their permission to meet internal sales goals.
Some former employees have said they were fired after they called an internal company ethics line to report the misconduct.
"We've found that the majority of cases were handled appropriately. However, there are some instances where we have questions so we are doing further investigation of those matters," Sloan said.
He also spoke of an effort to repair relationships with customers after the scandal, which has damaged Wells Fargo's reputation and put Wall Street under renewed scrutiny.
The effort includes contacting thousands of retail and small business customers, responding to "hundreds of inquiries" from elected officials and apologizing to hundreds of non-profit organizations that have partnered with Wells, according to prepared remarks from Sloan's presentation.
(Reporting by Dan Freed in New York Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Tom Brown)