A former wealth management executive at Wells Fargo joins other former and current employees in claiming that the bank conducts fake interviews with female and minority applicants to boost diversity numbers, according to a Thursday report from The New York Times.
Joe Bruno is “one of seven current and former Wells Fargo employees who said that they were instructed by their direct bosses or human resources managers in the bank’s wealth management unit to interview ‘diverse’ candidates — even though the decision had already been made to give the job to another candidate,” the Times reported. “Five others said they were aware of the practice, or helped to arrange it.”
The individuals said that the interviews were meaningless attempts to support diversity goals — and to avoid regulatory audits. In August 2020, Wells Fargo agreed to pay $7.8 million to settle a Department of Labor claim alleging that the bank discriminated against more than 34,000 African-American applicants for banking, customer sales and service, and administrative support positions, as well as over 300 female applicants for administrative support positions.
Bruno told the Times that he complained to his superiors about the “fake interviews” — which he characterized as “inappropriate, morally wrong, ethically wrong.” Bruno was fired last summer after Wells Fargo “dismissed his claims,” the Times added; Wells Fargo says he was fired for retaliation against another employee.
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Raschelle Burton told the Times that “to the extent that individual employees are engaging in the behavior … we do not tolerate it.”
The bank also faced criticism in the summer of 2020 after Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf said in a memo that “the unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from with this specific experience.” He apologized for the “insensitive comment reflecting my own unconscious bias” later that year, affirming that “there are many talented diverse individuals working at Wells Fargo and throughout the financial services industry and I never meant to imply otherwise.”
The criticism came despite Wells Fargo joining other top investment banks in launching diversity pushes after the death of George Floyd.
“This is a painful time for our nation,” Scharf said. “As a white man, as much as I can try to understand what others are feeling, I know that I cannot really appreciate and understand what people of color experience and the impacts of discriminatory behavior others must live with … I can commit that our company will do all we can to support our diverse communities and foster a company culture that deeply values and respects diversity and inclusion.”
Beyond its potential fudging of diversity benchmarks, Wells Fargo agreed to pay $3 billion in February 2020 after it had pressured employees to “meet unrealistic sales goals that led thousands of employees to provide millions of accounts or products to customers under false pretenses or without consent, often by creating false records or misusing customers’ identities,” according to the Department of Justice.
“Our office is committed to bringing to justice those who deliberately falsify and fabricate bank records in order to deceive regulators and the public,” Inspector General Mark Bialek of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection said at the time.