Former Jacksonville Wells Fargo exec says company held fake job interviews for minority candidates

JACKSONVILLE — Wells Fargo is facing heat after a New York Times investigation published Thursday alleged the financial institution held bogus job interviews with minority candidates even though hiring managers had no intention of hiring them.

In the report, Joe Bruno, a former executive in the wealth management division of Wells Fargo in Jacksonville, as well as six other current and former employees, claimed that the company’s diversification efforts were just a show.

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While the bank would encourage interviews with “diverse” candidates, Bruno told Emily Flitter he noticed on one too many occasions the minority candidate would be interviewed for a job that had already been promised to someone else. Bruno said his claims were dismissed when he complained to his bosses.

Wells Fargo claims Bruno was dismissed for retaliating against a fellow employee.

The seven sources all say that they were instructed by their direct bosses or human resources managers in the bank’s wealth management unit to interview “diverse” candidates — even though the decision had already been made to give the job to another candidate. Five others said they were aware of the practice, or helped to arrange it.

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Wells Fargo spokesperson Raschelle Burton denied the claims, saying, “To the extent that individual employees are engaging in the behavior as described by The New York Times, we do not tolerate it.”

This is not the first time the banking giant has been in hot water. In 2020, most of its senior leaders were ousted after a scandal involving the creation of fraudulent accounts that ultimately Wells Fargo $4.5 billion in fines.

Read the full New York Times story here.

Bruno created the White Response Project which, according to his website, works to achieve positive racial change by “communicating the history of Black and Brown people in America”.

Action News Jax has reached out to Wells Fargo and received the following statement:

“Yesterday, The New York Times published a story alleging that a handful of Wells Fargo managers decided to hire a job candidate and then — after making this decision — interviewed diverse candidates knowing that the seat had already been filled. We researched all specific claims the reporter shared with us in advance of the story’s publication and could not corroborate the claims as factual.

“Since 2020, when we put in place guidelines requiring diverse candidate slates for the majority of jobs that pay more than $100,000 a year, we have seen significant improvements in diverse representation at the company, including:

  • In 2021, our overall U.S. external hiring volume went up by 17% compared to 2020.
  • Over the same time period in the U.S., external hiring of individuals from racially or ethnically diverse populations increased by 27%. This means that the pace of external diverse hiring was 10 percentage points higher than the pace of hiring overall from 2020-2021.
  • These numbers tell the story of our progress in a fact-based, quantitative way. They demonstrate clear, measurable outcomes. We believe in diverse slates, and the results show they are working.
  • Also between 2020 and 2021, female external hires in the U.S. increased 23% — 6 six percentage points higher than the pace of hiring overall.
  • This trend is continuing in 2022. In the first quarter of this year in the U.S., we have seen double-digit external hiring increases across a number of racially and ethnically diverse segments compared with the first quarter of 2021.

“At the same time, we take the nature of the allegations in the story seriously and, as a company, we do not tolerate the type of conduct alleged. We will continue our internal review and if we find evidence of inappropriate behavior or shortcomings in our guidelines or their implementation, we will take decisive action.”

Samantha Mathers

Samantha Mathers, Action News Jax

Samantha Mathers is a digital reporter and content creator for Action News Jax.