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Wells Fargo's CEO Apologized After Blaming The Bank's Lack Of Diversity On A "Limited Pool Of Black Talent"

"There is no question Wells Fargo has to make meaningful progress to increase diverse representation," Charles Scharf reportedly told employees in a memo.

Last updated on September 23, 2020, at 2:15 p.m. ET

Posted on September 23, 2020, at 1:58 p.m. ET

Alex Brandon / AP

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."

Perhaps it’s the CEO of Wells Fargo who lacks the talent to recruit Black workers. https://t.co/CI7CRriU3i

The CEO of #WellsFargo says there’s no diversity because there’s a very limited pool of black talent to draw from! However there’s an unlimited pool of black people to steal from! #TeamDl

The idea that Wells Fargo, a bank so incompetent it had to fire 5300 employees including former CEO & CFO for opening fake customer accounts hoping they wouldn’t find out, argues that they can’t find qualified minorities to work at their bank is laughable. https://t.co/rWqJR1RG0a

@NBCNews This CEO is just one of many corporations making an excuse to remain white elitist. Offer internships. Invest in black colleges. Mentor high school students in predominantly black communities. Or just take a friggin chance and open your employment bias. #wellsfargo #CEOs #BLM

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.

BuzzFeed News’ FinCEN Files investigation exposed massive financial corruption on a historic global scale. Want to support our journalism? Become a BuzzFeed News member.

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