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In recent years, Wells Fargo has made headlines with scandals ranging from opening more than 2 million fake accounts to rejecting more than half of all black homeowners’ refinance requests. And if you thought all evil was rooted out in the institution, just wait ’til you hear that. According to The New York Times, the bank conducted fake job interviews in what appeared to be a bid to increase its pool of diversity employees. But while the candidate made it through the doors for the first evaluation, he was never heard from again about the job. Not because they were unqualified, but because the job had already been promised to someone else.
A former executive in Wells Fargo’s wealth management division was recently fired in what he says was an act of retaliation. Joe Bruno began to notice that a “diverse” candidate, usually a person of color or a woman, would be called to interview for a position that had already been filled. He complained to his superiors that the “fake interviews” were “inappropriate, morally wrong, ethically wrong.” He is one of seven former and current employees who have reported being asked by their managers to conduct these interviews.
Apparently the bank had no real intention of increasing its diversity efforts, but what actually worried them was the possibility of being audited. The fake interviews were supposed to create a paper trail.
Raschelle Burton, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, told The New York Times via email, “To the extent that individual employees engage in the behavior described by the New York Times, we will not tolerate it.” She added, that she was aware that there had been previous “informal policies” about diversity hiring across the bank, put in place by a leadership team that had long since left the institution.
Interesting, but perhaps not surprising, Wells Fargo led the call for more diversity in the workplace after the 2020 killing of George Floyd. In a widely shared quote, Charles W. Scharf, the institution’s chief executive officer, made the promise and then explained that the bank was “trying to find black candidates.” He later apologized for his statement.
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Bruno, who joined the company back in 2000, was responsible for hiring financial advisors and financial advisors. He says he was advised to hire black candidates for the financial advisor positions, which were the lower-paying of the two jobs. But most of the time, Bruno says, they had no intention of hiring these people either, since they usually already had someone else selected for those roles. He eventually reached a point where he refused to do the interviews. “I have a black person on the other side of the table who has no chance of getting the job,” he told his bosses.
However, Barry Sommers, the managing director of Wells Fargo’s wealth and investment management business, says Bruno’s claims are false.
“There’s absolutely no reason why anyone should do a fake interview,” Sommers said, adding that the bank doesn’t track candidates’ identities but “focuses on the numbers” and “the numbers just keep getting better.”
Tony Thorpe was a senior manager at Wells Fargo Advisors in Nashville. He was advised to approach local colleges and business organizations for a sales assistant position. Although he had to document his attempts to find a non-white employee, Thorpe said he had already been informed of who the job would go to.
“You had to tell the story, send an email to confirm what you did,” Mr Thorpe said. “You just had to show that you tried.”