Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slams Wells Fargo CEO for blaming ‘very limited pool of Black talent’ for the bank’s trouble hitting its diverse hiring goals

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks during the Climate Crisis Summit in Iowa in November 2019.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed the CEO of Wells Fargo on Tuesday for repeated claims that the bank’s difficulties in hiring diverse employees was due to a lack of Black talent.

“While it might sound like an excuse, the unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of black talent to recruit from,” Charlie Scharf, Wells Fargo CEO, wrote in a June memo to employees, according to Reuters. Scharf also repeated this claim in a Zoom meeting over the summer, exasperating Black employees, Reuters said.

In response, Ocasio-Cortez wrote, “Perhaps it’s the CEO of Wells Fargo who lacks the talent to recruit Black workers,” on Twitter Tuesday.

In recent months, companies like Wells Fargo, the fourth-largest bank in the US by assets, have faced calls to hire minority employees and address claims of discrimination. Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo have all released statements committing to change, but they have not released data on the racial diversity of their employees to the public, according to prior Business Insider reporting. 

On Wednesday, Scharf addressed the backlash.

“I apologize for making an insensitive comment reflecting my own unconscious bias,” Scharf wrote in a company-wide memo on Wednesday. “There are many talented diverse individuals working at Wells Fargo and throughout the financial services industry and I never meant to imply otherwise.”

Scharf pointed to Wells Fargo’s “early progress” in creating a more diverse and inclusive work environment, including a “returnship” program to help minority workers return to the workforce after an extended period out of the industry and requiring a diverse slate of candidates for roles with salaries of over $100,000. Wells Fargo is also building relationships with historically Black universities, and tying executive compensation to their progress in improving diversity and inclusion, the memo said. 

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