Wells Fargo, the third largest American multinational financial services company and with almost $2 billion in assets, has been accused of conducting phony interviews with “diverse” candidates. According to a recent exposé in the New York Times, one of their former executives alleges he was dismissed from the organization for shining a light on the practice.
Joe Bruno, 58, joined the company in 2000 and worked out of Wells Fargo’s corporate offices in Jacksonville, Florida. Over the past two decades, he became one of the top executives in their wealth management division and oversaw 14 branches. Bruno says he got canned by the firm last August when he called out his superiors for holding “fake interviews.” He told the publication that Black and female job candidates were encouraged to apply for openings that were already filled. However, he says the bank kept up the act in order comply with compliance regulations with regard to diversity hiring. Bruno’s claims are reminiscent of those Brian Flores levied against the National Football league earlier this year.
Bruno felt the move was “inappropriate, morally wrong, ethically wrong.” Furthermore, seven current and former Wells Fargo employees have corroborated his story. But per the bank, Bruno himself was released for supposedly retaliating against another employee.
Raschelle Burton, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman, provided the NYT with a statement refuting his assertions, however. “To the extent that individual employees are engaging in the behavior as described by The New York Times, we do not tolerate it,” it read.
One of Bruno’s tasks was to hire financial advisers and financial consultants, who assist the advisers. The former executive says he was directed to steer minority applicants towards the consultant position, which pays less than the adviser role. However, Bruno stated that even the consultant positions had already been filled, unbeknownst to the applicants. He reportedly stopped following orders and refused to hold the sham interviews any longer.
However, Barry Sommers, the chief executive of Wells Fargo’s wealth and investment management business, told the Times that Bruno’s story is complete bunk. “There is absolutely no reason why anyone would conduct a fake interview,” he said. According to Sommers, the bank has monitored the results while upholding its “commitment to diversity and inclusion” — and “the numbers are getting better.”