A former employee has accused Wells Fargo of scheduling fake interviews with black and female candidates for roles that were already filled in order to boost the bank’s diversity statistics.
Former Wells Fargo wealth management executive Joe Bruno, 58, claims he was fired last August after he blew the whistle to his bosses about the bank’s alleged ‘fake interviews,’ which he described as ‘inappropriate, morally wrong, ethically wrong’ the New York Times reported.
Bruno says that he was instructed to conduct interviews with black candidates for the lower-paying financial adviser and financial consultant positions, despite the fact that he or his superiors had already picked someone for that job.
Bruno told the Times at a certain point he refused to conduct the interviews, telling his bosses: ‘I got a black person on the other side of the table who has no shot at getting the job,’ and says he was let go in retaliation for speaking up.
Bruno is one of seven current and former Wells Fargo employees that claim their bosses in the wealth management unit instructed them to interview so-called diverse candidates- which included women and people of color- for positions that had already been filled by another candidate.
Five other people also came forward and said they were aware of the practice, or took part in arranging the interviews, the Times reported.
According to the employees, some of which remained anonymous out of fear of losing their jobs, the interviews were a ploy to boost the bank’s diversity efforts in anticipation of possible regulatory audits instead of actually diversifying the bank’s workforce.
The claims come two years after CEO Charles W. Scharafter pledged to increase diversity following the murder of George Floyd in June 2020.
The bank adopted a formal policy that required diverse candidate be interviewed for any open positions that raked in over $100,000 a year.
Barry Sommers, the chief executive of Wells Fargo’s wealth and investment management business, told the Times that Bruno’s claims of fake interviews would not be necessary for the financial consultant position he was hiring for because their salary was below $100,000 threshold.
‘There is absolutely no reason why anyone would conduct a fake interview,’ Sommers said.
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Raschelle Burton also denied the fake interview claims, telling the Times in an emailed statement: ‘To the extent that individual employees are engaging in the behavior as described by The New York Times, we do not tolerate it’
Burton says that in 2020 the bank hired nearly 26,000 people and 77 percent of them were not white men, and that 81 percent of the 30,000 new hires in 2021 were not white men.
She did not specify what percentage of those new hires were for jobs that paid more than $100,000.
The bank has been in legal hot water regarding diversity before.