Wells Fargo is under investigation over allegations that it conducted sham job interviews in a bid to bolster its standing on diverse hires, according to news reports.

A newly created civil rights unit that’s part of the criminal division of the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office has launched a criminal investigation in response to a May 19 report in The New York Times, the publication writes, citing two people with knowledge of the inquiry who requested anonymity.

The Times’ article cited several current and former Wells Fargo employees saying the bank had staff interview Black and female candidates for jobs in the wealth management and other units despite those jobs being already spoken for.

The interviews allegedly took place as a result of a “diverse slate” policy Wells Fargo instituted in 2020 requiring that at least half of the candidates interviewed for open positions with a salary of $100,000 or more be “diverse.”

In August that year, Wells Fargo reached $7.8 million settlement with the Department of Labor over allegations that it had discriminated against tens of thousands of Black and female job applicants, as reported.

Last Monday, Wells Fargo chief executive officer Charles Scharf wrote a memo to staff saying Wells was pausing the policy for several weeks to give executives time to analyze and amend it.

Scharf also wrote that during “sessions” with employees in the wake of the Times story, some “described in deeply personal terms the career obstacles you've faced because of who [they] are.”

Since that report, another 10 current and former Wells employees have told the publication about how they conducted the allegedly bogus interviews, saw paperwork about the practice or were on the receiving end of such interviews, according to the Times.

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman declined comment to the publication.

The investigation is still at an early stage and it’s unclear whether any charges could result from it, according to the Times.

At the same time, however, how the probe is being conducted shows that federal authorities are more willing to seek criminal prosecutions of civil rights violations, the publication writes.

Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, set up the new civil rights unit in November, according to the Times.

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