Wells Fargo is under scrutiny over its diversity practices – again. This time, one of the country’s largest banks is accused of having staff conduct fake job interviews with Black candidates and other marginalized people to fill diversity quotas and avoid regulatory penalties.
Current and former employees went on record saying they were instructed by their superiors to interview Black people, people of color and women candidates for positions despite the job already being promised to someone else, The New York Times reported.
Jon Bruno, 58, said Wells Fargo fired him in retaliation after he spoke out against the practice, despite having been with the bank for over 20 years. Bruno told the NYT he confronted his supervisors, telling them “fake interviews” were “inappropriate, morally wrong, ethically wrong.”
He said he eventually refused to conduct the sham interviews. “I got a Black person on the other side of the table who has no shot at getting the job,” Bruno said he told his bosses. He was fired in August 2021, but Wells Fargo said it was because Bruno was the one who retaliated against a fellow employee.
However, Bruno isn’t alone in his claims. Five others went on record with similar stories in separate interviews, according to the Times. Some did so anonymously out of fear of retaliation as they still work either for the bank or in the financial industry, the Times report said.
Tony Thorpe, who retired as a senior manager at Wells Fargo Advisors in Nashville in 2019, echoed Bruno’s stories. He told the Times he’d never conducted a fake interview but was required to document his efforts in trying to find a “diverse pool” for sales assistant jobs that were filled.
“You did have to tell the story, send an email verifying what you’ve done,” Thorpe said. “You just had to show that you were trying.”
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Raschelle Burton refuted the allegations. “To the extent that individual employees are engaging in the behavior as described by The New York Times, we do not tolerate it,” Burton said. “There is absolutely no reason why anyone would conduct a fake interview.”
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Former and current employees say otherwise.
Central to the accusation is a directive from Wells CEO Charles Scharf in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. He promised to consider a wider pool of job applicants and said the bank had a hard time finding talented Black candidates.
Scharf apologized for the comments after receiving immense backlash. Wells Fargo has a history of racial discrimination lawsuits.
In August, the bank paid $7.8 million to settle after the Department of Labor accused it of hiring discrimination against 34,193 Black applicants for various positions.
The bank also settled a class-action lawsuit in 2017 bought by 320 Black financial advisers who accused it of racial discrimination that included relegating them to poor neighborhoods and failing to offer better opportunities.
In 2016, Wells Fargo was fined millions by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after creating millions of fraudulent checking and savings accounts without customers’ consent.
The bank has also been accused of rejecting 50 percent of Black mortgage applicants and was sued in 2020 by Baltimore-based developer Ernst Valery who said Wells Fargo refused to deposit his $3 million check because he is Black.
“Wells Fargo continues to prove it is the worst company in the world,” tweeted The Plug founder Sherell Dorsey.
At some point, we have to stop applying to be part of environments that clearly do not want us,” Dorsey added in a follow-up tweet. “I understand that’s a blanket statement, and often these corps are large employers in cities with few options. But sheesh…how many times do they have to tell you they hate you?”
Kairos founder Brain Brackeen also chimed in, responding, “It’s literally ALWAYS them.”
PHOTO: A Wells Fargo bank location in Philadelphia, Nov. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)