Wells Fargo & Co. Chief Executive Officer Charlie Scharf has landed in hot water over comments he made three months ago that tied the struggle to find experienced Black executives to a limited talent pool.
After a news report Tuesday resurfaced the remarks, Scharf initially issued a statement on Twitter, saying his comments from June were “misinterpreted.”
After the ire intensified online overnight with critics ranging from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to comedian D.L. Hughley, Scharf delivered a mea culpa to all of the bank’s 266,000 employees.
“I apologize for making an insensitive comment reflecting my own unconscious bias,” Scharf said Wednesday in a statement. “There are many talented diverse individuals working at Wells Fargo and throughout the financial services industry and I never meant to imply otherwise.”
The tumult began with a memo from Scharf that set new diversity targets and tied executive pay to improving those metrics.
That statement, issued as leaders across corporate America rushed to denounce racism after an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis was killed in police custody, cautioned that change wouldn’t happen right away because of the industry’s failure to build a strong pipeline of minority candidates.
“While it might sound like an excuse, the 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 said in the June memo.
Scharf exasperated some Black employees this summer when he made similar comments in a virtual meeting, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing two people who attended.
Since taking over a year ago, Scharf has frustrated some in the firm’s ranks by adding mostly White men to his leadership team. A day after sending the June memo, the firm named Barry Sommers, another White man who had worked with Scharf at JPMorgan Chase & Co., to run its wealth and investment-management business.