A former executive of Wells Fargo claims the bank held fake job interviews with minority candidates for positions that had already been promised to other applicants and was terminated after complaining about the process, the New York Times reports.
Joe Bruno, a former executive in the wealth management division of Wells Fargo said that the “fake interviews” were “inappropriate, morally wrong, ethically wrong.”
Bruno also said that he along with other current and former Wells Fargo employees were instructed by their superiors in the bank’s wealth management unit to interview a “diverse” group of applicants although it had already been decided that they would hire other candidates. Five others said they were aware of the practice or played a part in setting up the fraudulent interviews.
According to the reports, the interviews seemed to be designed to help Wells Fargo’s diversity efforts in the event of a regulatory audit, “rather than hiring more women or people of color.”
Raschelle Burton, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman, said the bank expected all employees to follow its hiring policies and guidelines in a 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 said.
In 2018, Tony Thorpe a senior manager for Wells Fargo Advisors in Nashville who led 60 advisers, said he was told by his boss and a human resources manager that "if he found a financial adviser worth recruiting, and that adviser wanted to bring a sales assistant along, it was permissible—but the assistant’s job had to be posted publicly.”
Thorpe, who retired from Wells Fargo in 2019, said he was instructed to reach out to colleges and business associations in the area so he could potentially meet non-white candidates for the assistant position. Thorpe claims he never conducted a fake interview but was required to document that he had tried to find a “diverse pool” of candidates, although he already knew who was being hired.
“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.”
Don Banks, a wealth manager from Monroe, Louisiana, was contacted by Wells Fargo twice before he was hired. A human resources rep told Banks that he had “advanced past an initial interview round for a financial adviser trainee positions and would be getting a call from a manager.” He never received a call.
Banks was hired in 2018 in a more junior position but was laid off during cutbacks in the pandemic two years later.
“It doesn’t sound like a great experience,” said Barry Sommers, the wealth management chief executive. “It shouldn’t have happened that way.”