Wells Fargo is reinstating some recruiting guidelines in the wake of a New York Times story that the bank conducted “fake interviews” of job candidates to prop up diversity efforts.
In May, a story by the Times stated that Wells Fargo conducted job interviews with female applicants or candidates of color that improved the bank’s diversity initiatives on paper — even when those positions had already been promised to other candidates.
The bank paused the policy that led to those interviews in June, and announced Monday that it was reinstating the policy with some changes beginning Aug. 19.
In a news release, Wells Fargo said it would keep an expectation that 50% of the candidate pool for qualifying roles be diverse. But it’s reclassifying which kinds of roles must follow that guideline, the bank said, so it will be applied “more consistently across the entire company.”
For Wells Fargo, public scrutiny is nothing new.
Lawmakers and regulators have kept a close eye on the bank over the last several years. That traces back to the bank’s 2016 fake accounts scandal, when employees created millions of fraudulent accounts for customers without their knowledge.
Wells Fargo said that dimensions of diversity for candidates include gender, race, ethnicity, disabilities, veteran status, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The bank is also revising its review process that approves exceptions to the guidelines, and providing updated training for recruiters and managers.
‘Diverse candidate slates work’
The changes will help clarify and simplify the diverse candidate process, chief human resources officer Bei Ling said in the news release.
“We began this exercise knowing that diverse candidate slates work, and that they are a common, good practice across multiple industries,” Ling said.
Diverse candidate pools have had a noticeable impact in helping Wells Fargo foster diverse representation in its employee base, the bank said in the release. From 2020 to 2021, the bank’s external hiring of candidates from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups increased 27%.
Wells Fargo is headquartered in San Francisco but has its largest employment hub in Charlotte, with some 27,000 workers.
Wells Fargo in the spotlight
The bank has faced new criticisms this year.
In March, a Bloomberg investigation found that Wells Fargo approved fewer than half of Black homeowners’ mortgage refinancing applications in 2020, compared with 72% of white applicants. That led to a class-action lawsuit against the bank.
And 11 senators called for a review of the bank’s mortgage refinancing processes.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, cited the mortgage data and the Times’ hiring story in a May letter criticizing the bank.
Brown decried the bank’s “history of consumer abuses and gross mismanagement,” and called on Wells Fargo to testify before the senate’s Banking Committee, which he chairs, at its annual Wall Street oversight hearing.
In a letter to Wells CEO Charlie Scharf, Brown said he expected the bank to reform its internal structures so that it “rights past wrongs and lives up to the many promises that Wells Fargo has made to its customers and their communities.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that Wells Fargo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. The request was made Tuesday.
This story was originally published August 2, 2022 1:20 PM.