Wells Fargo announces policy ‘pause’ that led to bogus job interviews

Wells Fargo is temporarily suspending a hiring policy that led some managers to fake interviews of non-white and female candidates, following a report by The New York Times highlighting the practice, bank CEO Charles W. Scharf said. to employees in a letter on Monday.

Instituted in 2020, the bank’s “diverse roster” policy stipulated that at least half of the candidates interviewed for open positions paying $100,000 or more in annual salary had to be “diverse,” an umbrella term for racial minorities, women, and members of other disadvantaged groups. .

Although a version of the policy was in place for years, Wells Fargo leaders spelled it out in writing in mid-2020 as part of a broader push to increase diversity at the bank. On Monday, Scharf told employees the policy would be suspended for several weeks to give bank leaders time to study its use and make changes.

The pause would allow the bank to gain confidence that “the guidelines deliver on their promise” and that “hiring managers, senior leaders and recruiters fully understand how the guidelines should work,” Scharf said in the letter.

The Times reported on May 19 that a former employee in the bank’s wealth management business had complained that his bosses forced him to interview people for jobs that had already been promised to others, just to meet the requirement of “diverse list”.

The man, Joe Bruno, was one of a dozen current and former Wells Fargo employees who said they witnessed or participated in bogus interviews. Some of the employees said fake interviews were also conducted for jobs paying less than $100,000. The purpose was to record the fact that “diverse” candidates had been interviewed in case bank regulators checked whether Wells Fargo was giving minorities a fair chance at employment, they said.

After The Times report was published, lawmakers, including Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat who heads the Senate Banking Committee, criticized the practice. Brown wrote to Scharf demanding that the bank fix its problems “once and for all.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, also a Democrat, cited the report in a May 20 tweet in which she called for Wells Fargo to be dissolved.

Mr. Bruno was fired last August after he complained to his bosses. Bank officials said in messages to employees after the Times report that if fake interviews had occurred, they represented isolated incidents not in accordance with bank policy.

In his letter, Scharf said the bank had reason to believe the “diverse roster” policy was working. In 2021, for example, 42 percent of people hired for jobs paying $100,000 or more were members of a racial or ethnic minority, an increase of five percentage points from two years earlier, before the law was implemented. “diverse list” policy.

But Scharf said in Monday’s letter that members of the bank’s operating committee, which includes top executives, had concluded there was “opportunity to improve our implementation around some of our activities.”

Mr. Scharf said the “diverse roster” policy would be put on hold for several weeks to give leaders a chance to “review our guidelines and processes and make improvements.” Once the review is complete, he added, Wells Fargo “will make adjustments to our various slate program where appropriate and relaunch it during the month of July.”

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