Wells Fargo is under criminal investigation after bank managers were accused of conducting mock interviews with minority applicants and women for previously filled positions to improve the diversity statistics of the bank.
The investigation is being led by the new Civil Rights Unit within the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan.
The new unit was started by Damian Williams, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The investigation comes a month after a New York Times report in which former bank workers came forward, saying they had been instructed by superiors to conduct interviews with black candidates despite the fact that someone one had already been chosen for the positions.
Former Wells Fargo wealth management chief Joe Bruno, 58, told The Times he was fired last August after speaking out against his bosses over the bank’s alleged ‘fake interviews’, which he described as “inappropriate, morally wrong, ethically wrong”.
Bruno claimed he was tasked with interviewing black candidates for the lowest-paying positions of financial adviser and financial consultant, despite the fact that he or his superiors had already selected someone for the position.
Bruno told The Times at one point that he refused to conduct the interviews, telling his bosses, “I have a black person on the other side of the table who has no chance of getting the job. ‘, and says he was fired in retaliation for speaking out.
Former Wells Fargo wealth management chief Joe Bruno, 58, (left) claims he was fired after speaking out against his bosses over the bank’s ‘fake talks’. The investigation is being led by the new Civil Rights Unit within the office launched by Damian Williams (right), the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Manhattan federal prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into Wells Fargo to determine whether the bank’s hiring practices broke the law
The New York Times reports that no apparent charges are being investigated at this point, but the investigation signals a federal willingness to use the criminal law to resolve issues that could have been treated as civil matters in the past.
Bruno is just one of seven current and former Wells Fargo employees who say their bosses in the wealth management unit asked them to interview so-called “diverse” candidates for positions that had already been filled. by another candidate.
Five other people also came forward and said they knew about the practice or had a hand in arranging the interviews, The Times reported last month.
According to the employees, some of whom remained anonymous for fear of losing their jobs, the interviews were a ploy to bolster 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. Scharf pledged to increase diversity following the June 2020 murder of George Floyd.
The bank adopted a formal policy that required diverse candidates to be interviewed for all vacancies earning more than $100,000 per year.
On Monday, the bank’s CEO, Charles W. Scharf, announced that Wells Fargo would put a pause on the diverse hiring policy in order to implement changes.
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Raschelle Burton also denied the false interview allegations, telling the Times in an emailed statement: “To the extent that individual employees engage in the behavior described by The New York Times, we don’t tolerate it”
Burton says that in 2020 the bank hired nearly 26,000 people and 77% of them were non-white men, and that 81% of the 30,000 new hires in 2021 were non-white men.
On Monday, the bank’s CEO, Charles W. Scharf (pictured), announced that Wells Fargo would pause its diversity hiring policy to implement changes.
She did not specify what percentage of those new hires were for jobs paying more than $100,000.
The bank has already been in legal hot water regarding diversity.
In August 2020, the bank paid an $8 million settlement to the Department of Labor for allegedly discriminating against more than 30,000 black applicants for banking, sales, and bank support positions.
Previously, the bank was forced to settle a class action lawsuit over racial discrimination in 2017, paying $36 million to 320 black financial advisers who said they weren’t given the opportunity to win new clients or partner with financial advisers. whites.
Following the settlement, the bank promised to “take steps to improve employment, income, and advancement opportunities for African-American financial advisors and financial advisory trainees,” as well as to adopt a unofficial policy of interviewing at least one woman or person of color for every open job, Burton said.
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