From fake customer accounts to fake job interviews, Wells Fargo is just the worst

Laura Clawson

Wells Fargo is once again making headlines for being a terrible, unethical company even by the poor standards of the financial industry. Just over two years after the bank paid a $3 billion fine for opening millions of fake accounts in the names of actual customers, current and former employees are alleging that they were told to conduct fake interviews to fulfill Wells Fargo’s diversity policies.

Wells Fargo now has an official policy that for every open job paying more than $100,000, at least one “diverse” candidate—a woman or person of color—must be interviewed. But the company had apparently been doing what the NFL faces a lawsuit over: interviewing “diverse” candidates only after jobs had been promised to other (white, male) candidates.

From fake accounts to fake interviews, fake is very big at Wells Fargo.

Former Wells Fargo executive Joe Bruno says he was fired after telling superiors that the fake interview practice was “inappropriate, morally wrong, ethically wrong.” Wells Fargo says Bruno wasn’t the one retaliated against, but was fired for retaliating against a fellow employee. But whatever the reason for Bruno’s firing (and company claims that they didn’t retaliate against workers should always be viewed as suspect), The New York Times found seven current and former Wells Fargo employees who were instructed to carry out fake interviews and another five who were aware of the practice.

So the fact that a company spokeswoman told the Times, in an emailed statement, “To the extent that individual employees are engaging in the behavior as described by The New York Times, we do not tolerate it,” rings false. Because unless all seven current or former employees who had been told to conduct the fake interviews had the same superior telling them to do so, it’s not remotely a thing being done by “individual employees.” For that matter, if there’s one Wells Fargo executive senior enough to have multiple direct reports who are senior enough to be the ones conducting interviews, it’s also not an “individual employees” kind of problem.

The spokeswoman also said that maybe this had happened in the past, but not under current leadership, which came in following the fake accounts scandal. But three of the Times’ sources said they had conducted or been aware of the fake interviews happening this year.

Wells Fargo told the Times that 77% percent of the people hired in 2020 and 81% of the people hired last year were not white men, but refused to say what those percentages were for people being paid more than $100,000.

Discrimination is not a new issue at Wells Fargo, either. Twice in recent years, it has paid out millions of dollars over discrimination claims, once paying nearly $8 million in back wages and interest after a Department of Labor claim that it had discriminated against more than 30,000 Black job applicants, and once paying a $36 million settlement in a lawsuit by Black financial advisers who said they had been steered into poor neighborhoods and away from opportunities.

Wells Fargo’s credibility is low across the board. It sounds like they should be doing less issuing statements about how they did not do fake interviews and more assessing their exposure and getting ready to pay another fine or settlement. 

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on May 19, 2022. Reprinted with permission.

About the author: Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor. 

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.