Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf apologized to employees after he blamed the bank's lack of diversity on "a very limited pool of black talent to recruit from," according to a memo obtained by BuzzFeed News.
Scharf made the original comment during a Zoom meeting with employees in the summer and then again in a memo where the company announced a set of initiatives to increase diversity following protests across the country over the killing of Black people by police and a nationwide reckoning over racism.
In the memo, a portion that was obtained by BuzzFeed News, Scharf spoke about trying to increase diversity in the bank's senior positions. The memo and Scharf's comments were first reported by Reuters.
"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 memo.
Reuters reported the comment bothered and exasperated several Black employees. The comment was also met with furor online after it was reported by multiple news agencies.
Among those who responded to Scharf's comments was Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who quipped, "Perhaps it's the CEO of Wells Fargo who lacks the talent to recruit Black workers."
On Wednesday, Scharf apologized for his remark in a memo to employees, where he instead said that "across the industry, we have not done enough to improve diversity, especially at senior leadership levels."
"I apologize for making an insensitive comment reflecting my own unconscious bias," Scharf said in the memo. "There are many talented individuals working at Wells Fargo and throughout the financial services industry and I never meant to imply otherwise."
Reuters was first to report about the apology Wednesday.
Unlike his previous comments, the memo on Wednesday seemed to lay the blame on a lack of diversity on the company's own efforts, rather than on the number of available candidates.
"There is no question Wells Fargo has to make meaningful progress to increase diverse representation," the memo stated, according to CNN.