Wells Fargo CEO Angers Employees with Diversity Remarks

Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) CEO Charles Scharf exasperated some African-American employees in a Zoom meeting this summer when he reiterated that the bank had trouble reaching diversity goals because there was not enough qualified minority talent.

Scharf also made the assertion in a company-wide memo June 18 that announced diversity initiatives as nationwide protests broke out following the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man, in police custody.

"While it might sound like an excuse, the unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of black talent to recruit from," Scharf said in the memo.

Scharf spent more time listening than speaking during the 90-minute call which he initiated and has not been previously reported. His comments about black talent rubbed some attendees the wrong way. Two employees spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions.

Some of the participants, however, called the comments constructive. Said black activist Alex David, "I walked away being incredibly surprised at how genuine and sincere he is."

But several Black senior executives across corporate America said they are frustrated by claims of a talent shortage, and called the refrain a major reason that companies have struggled to add enough racial and ethnic diversity to leadership ranks, despite stated intentions to do so.

The CEO of the largest U.S. bank employer has pledged to double the number of black leaders over five years and tied executive compensation to reaching diversity goals.

WFC shares opened Wednesday up 29 cents, or 1.2%, to $23.94.