Wells Fargo's Scharf apologizes for 'insensitive' comments on Black talent

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Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf apologized Wednesday for earlier comments about workplace diversity that sparked a firestorm of criticism.

In a companywide memo in June, Scharf announced diversity initiatives but also wrote that “While it might sound like an excuse, the unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from,” according to a Reuters story published on Tuesday.

Those comments drew outrage on social media, including from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who wrote on Twitter: “Perhaps it’s the CEO of Wells Fargo who lacks the talent to recruit Black workers.”

Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf, seen here testifying before Congress in March, said the bank is taking steps to build engagement with historically Black colleges and universities.
Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf, seen here testifying before Congress in March, said the bank is taking steps to build engagement with historically Black colleges and universities.

Scharf said in a statement late Tuesday that he was sorry that his comments had been misinterpreted. But in a memo to Wells Fargo employees on Wednesday morning, he accepted blame.

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

“I’ve worked in the financial services industry for many years, and it’s clear to me that, across the industry, we have not done enough to improve diversity, especially at senior leadership levels. And there is no question Wells Fargo has to make meaningful progress to increase diverse representation.”

Since Black Lives Matter protests erupted over the summer, Wells Fargo has announced a series of initiatives meant to build greater workforce diversity. For example, the company has committed to doubling its Black leadership over the next five years, starting from a point where 6% of the firm’s senior leadership is African American.

The San Francisco company also said in June that year-end compensation decisions will be impacted by senior leaders’ progress in improving diverse representation.

In Wednesday’s memo, Scharf said that Wells Fargo is taking steps to build engagement with historically Black colleges and universities as well as Hispanic-serving educational institutions.

“This is an important moment in our firm and we will not let it go by without substantive changes,” Scharf wrote in the memo to employees. “I cannot do this alone, and I am asking for your help.”

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Diversity and equality Workplace culture Wells Fargo Charles Scharf
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