Over the past several years, Wells Fargo has made headlines with scandals ranging from opening up more than 2 million fake accounts, to denying more than half of all refinancing applications from Black homeowners. And if you thought every evil within the institution had been eradicated, just wait until you hear this. According to The New York Times, the bank has been conducting fake job interviews to seemingly increase its diversity hiring pool. But while the candidate would make it through the doors for the initial evaluation, they would never hear back about the job. Not because they were unqualified, but because the job had already been promised to someone else.
A former executive in the wealth management division of Wells Fargo was recently fired in what he believes to be an act of retaliation. Joe Bruno began to take notice of the fact that a “diverse” candidate, typically a person of color or a woman, would be called in for an interview for a role 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 that have come forward to say they were asked to conduct these interviews by their higher ups.
Apparently, the bank had no real intention of increasing their diversity efforts, but what they were in fact concerned about, was the possibility of getting audited. The fake interviews were intended to create a paper trail.
Raschelle Burton, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman, told The New York Times via email that “To the extent that individual employees are engaging in the behavior as described by The New York Times, we do not tolerate it.” She added that she was aware that there were previous “informal directives” about diversity hiring throughout the bank, that they were put in place by a leadership team that had long been gone from the institution.
What’s also interesting but perhaps not surprising, is that in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020, Wells Fargo led the call for increasing diversity in the workplace. In a quote widely circulated, Charles W. Scharf, the institution’s chief executive made the pledge, and then stated that the bank “struggled to find Black candidates.” He later apologized for his statement.
Bruno, who joined the company back in 2000, was responsible for hiring financial advisers and financial consultants. He says that he was advised to hire Black candidates for the financial consultant positions, which were the lower paying of the two jobs. But most of the time, Bruno says that they had no intention of hiring these people either, as they typically had already selected someone else for these roles too. He eventually reached a point where he refused to conduct the interviews. “I got a Black person on the other side of the table who has no shot at getting the job,” he told his bosses.
However, Barry Sommers, the chief executive of Wells Fargo’s wealth and investment management business says that Bruno’s claims are false.
“There is absolutely no reason why anyone would conduct a fake interview,” Sommers said, adding that the bank did not track the identities of the candidates, but instead, “focused on the numbers,” and “the numbers are getting better.”
Tony Thorpe was a senior manager for Wells Fargo Advisors in Nashville. He was advised to reach out to local colleges and business associations to fill a sales assistant role. Although he had been required to document his attempts to find a non-white hire, Thorpe says he was already informed of who the job would go to.
“You did have to tell the story, send an email verifying what you’ve done,” Mr. Thorpe said. “You just had to show that you were trying.”