Wells Fargo, in a bid to appear more diverse, allegedly had staff interview Black and female candidates for jobs in the wealth management unit that had already been decided on for someone else, according to news reports.

Joe Bruno, who joined Wells Fargo in 2000 and most recently oversaw 14 wealth management branches as market leader for Wells Fargo Advisors in Jacksonville, Florida, tells The New York Times that he was told to interview Black candidates for lower-paying financial consultant roles even though in most cases he or his bosses had selected another person for the job already.

Bruno and six other current and former Wells Fargo staff say that human resources managers in the firm’s wealth management unit, or their own direct bosses, told them to interview “diverse” candidates — Wells Fargo parlance for people of color and women — for positions for which the firm already decided to hire another applicant, according to the publication.

Five other sources tell the Times that they knew about the arrangement or helped with it. Three current staff say they conducted bogus interviews, or knew of them, this year, according to the publication.

All but three spoke to the Times on the condition of anonymity because of concern for their job at Wells Fargo or their new company, the publication writes.

Bruno tells the Times that he told his superiors that the “fake interviews” were “inappropriate, morally wrong, ethically wrong” but was dismissed and then, last August, fired.

Wells Fargo says it dismissed Bruno for retaliating against a colleague, according to the Times.

Barry Sommers, the chief executive of Wells Fargo’s wealth and investment management business, tells the publication that there’s “absolutely no reason why anyone would conduct a fake interview” since the salaries for financial consultants were below the $100,000 threshold that argo Fargo set for requiring a diverse pool of candidates.

Bruno and five other current and former Wells Fargo staff, however, say the bogus interviews were for a variety of roles, according to the Times.

Raschelle Burton, a Wells Fargo spokesperson, tells the publication that the firm “does not tolerate” behavior by “individual employees” who engaged in what the Times described.

Burton also says that she knew about “informal directives” on bolstering the firm’s diversity but claims they date back to earlier times and that the firm’s top brass, most of whom came in since 2020 following the bogus account and other scandals, didn’t have anything to do with them, according to the publication.

That year, the company reached a settlement with the Department of Labor to pay $7.8 million over claims that it had discriminated against tens of thousands of Black and female job applicants, as reported.

The same year, Wells Fargo chief executive officer Charles Scharf put out a memo that the firm must double the number of Black executives, who at the time made up just 6% of senior management, adding that “[t] he unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from with this specific experience as our industry does not have enough diversity in most senior roles.”

Scharf later apologized “for making an insensitive comment reflecting my own unconscious bias,” as reported.

Burton tells the Times that 77% of the close to 26,000 people Wells Fargo hired in 2020 “were not white men,” as were 81% of the 30,000 hired last year.

Do you have a news tip you’d like to share with FA-IQ? Email us at editorial@financialadvisoriq.com.