Wells Fargo announces ‘pause’ from politics that led to fake job interviews

Wells Fargo is temporarily suspending a hiring policy that led some officials to conduct mock interviews with non-white and female candidates, following a New York Times report highlighting the practice, the bank’s chief executive said , Charles W. Scharf, to employees in a letter on Monday.

Instituted in 2020, the bank’s “diverse roster” policy stipulated that at least half of applicants interviewed for vacancies paying $100,000 or more in annual salaries must be “diverse” — a catch-all term for racial minorities, women and members of other disadvantaged groups.

Although a version of the policy has been in place for years, Wells Fargo executives clarified it in writing in mid-2020 as part of a broader campaign to increase diversity within the bank. . On Monday, Mr. Scharf told employees the policy would be suspended for several weeks to give bank executives time to study its use and make changes.

The pause would allow the bank to ensure that “the guidelines deliver what they promise” and that “hiring managers, senior managers and recruiters fully understand how the guidelines should work,” Scharf said in the letter.

The Times reported on May 19 that a former employee of the bank’s wealth management business complained that he was forced by his bosses to interview people for jobs that had already been promised to d ‘others, just to meet the requirement of ‘diversification of the list’.

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

After the publication of the Times report, lawmakers, including Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat who heads the Senate Banking Committee, criticized the practice. Mr. Brown wrote to Mr. Scharf asking him to settle his problems “once and for all”. Senator 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 complaining to his bosses. Bank officials said in messages to employees following the Times report that while the fake interviews took place, they represented isolated incidents that did not comply with bank policy.

In his letter, Mr Scharf said the bank had reason to believe the “diverse slate” policy was working. In 2021, for example, 42% 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 implementation. implementation of the “diversity of lists” policy.

But Mr Scharf said in Monday’s letter that members of the bank’s operating committee – which includes its most senior executives – concluded there was “an opportunity to improve our implementation around certain 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 diverse slate program as appropriate and relaunch it during the month of July.”

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