Wells Fargo Now Accused of Also Conducting Fake Job Interviews

2016: “Wells Fargo Fires 5,300 Employees For Creating Millions of Phony Accounts”
2017: “Up To 1.4M More Fake Wells Fargo Accounts Possible”

The headlines kept coming…. (“Wells Fargo Hit With ‘Unprecedented’ Punishment Over Fake Accounts…” “Wells Fargo Employee Informed the Bank of Fake Customer Accounts in 2006”)

But this week the New York Times reported a new allegation — involving fake job interviews:

Joe Bruno, a former executive in the wealth management division of Wells Fargo, had long been troubled by the way his unit handled certain job interviews. For many open positions, employees would interview a “diverse” candidate — the bank’s term for a woman or person of color — in keeping with the bank’s yearslong informal policy. But Mr. Bruno noticed that often, the so-called diverse candidate would be interviewed for a job that had already been promised to someone else. He complained to his bosses. They dismissed his claims. Last August, Mr. Bruno, 58, was fired. In an interview, he said Wells Fargo retaliated against him for telling his superiors that the “fake interviews” were “inappropriate, morally wrong, ethically wrong.” Wells Fargo said Mr. Bruno was dismissed for retaliating against a fellow employee.

Mr. Bruno is one of seven current and former Wells Fargo employees who said that they were instructed by their direct bosses or human resources managers in the bank’s wealth management unit to interview “diverse” candidates — even though the decision had already been made to give the job to another candidate.

Five others said they were aware of the practice, or helped to arrange it…

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Is Social Media Training Us to Please a Machine?

A remarkably literary critique of the internet appeared recently in Damage magazine — a project of the nonprofit Society for Psychoanalytic Inquiry funded by the American Psychoanalytic Foundation. “There are ways in which the internet really does seem to work like a possessing demon…” argues writer Sam Kriss.

“We tend to think that the internet is a communications network we use to speak to one another — but in a sense, we’re not doing anything of the sort. Instead, we are the ones being spoken through.”

Teens on TikTok all talk in the exact same tone, identical singsong smugness. Millennials on Twitter use the same shrinking vocabulary. My guy! Having a normal one! Even when you actually meet them in the sunlit world, they’ll say valid or based, or say y’all despite being British….

Everything you say online is subject to an instant system of rewards. Every platform comes with metrics; you can precisely quantify how well-received your thoughts are by how many likes or shares or retweets they receive. For almost everyone, the game is difficult to resist: they end up trying to say the things that the machine will like. For all the panic over online censorship, this stuff is far more destructive. You have no free speech — not because someone might ban your account, but because there’s a vast incentive structure in place that constantly channels your speech in certain directions. And unlike overt censorship, it’s not a policy that could ever be changed, but a pure function of the connectivity of the internet itself. This might be why so much writing that comes out of the internet is so unbearably dull, cycling between outrage and mockery, begging for clicks, speaking the machine back into its own bowels….

The internet is not a communications system. Instead of delivering messages between people, it simulates the experience of being among people, in a way that books or shopping lists or even the telephone do not. And there are things that a simulation will always fail to capture. In the philosophy of Emmanuel Lévinas, your ethical responsibility to other people emerges out of their face, the experience of looking directly into the face of another living subject. “The face is what prohibits us from killing….” But Facebook is a world without faces. Only images of faces; selfies, avatars: dead things. Or the moving image in a FaceTime chat: a haunted puppet. There is always something in the way. You are not talking to a person: the machine is talking, through you, to itself.

As more and more of your social life takes place online, you’re training yourself to believe that other people are not really people, and you have no duty towards them whatsoever. These effects don’t vanish once you look away from the screen…. many of the big conflicts within institutions in the last few years seem to be rooted in the expectation that the world should work like the internet. If you don’t like a person, you should be able to block them: simply push a button, and have them disappear forever.

The article revisits a 2011 meta-analysis that found massive declines in young people’s capacity for empathy, which the authors directly associated with the spread of social media. But then Kriss argues that “We are becoming less and less capable of actual intersubjective communication; more unhappy; more alone. Every year, surveys find that people have fewer and fewer friends; among millennials, 22% say they have none at all.

“For the first time in history, we can simply do without each other entirely. The machine supplies an approximation of everything you need for a bare biological existence: strangers come to deliver your food; AI chatbots deliver cognitive-behavioral therapy; social media simulates people to love and people to hate; and hidden inside the microcircuitry, the demons swarm…”

So while recent books look for historical antecedents, “I still think that the internet is a serious break from what we had before,” Kriss argues. “And as nice as Wikipedia is, as nice as it is to be able to walk around foreign cities on Google Maps or read early modern grimoires without a library card, I still think the internet is a poison.”

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Avoiding Sanctions with Cryptocurrency? US Govt Files First Criminal Charges

Last week America’s Justice Department “launched its first criminal prosecution involving the alleged use of cryptocurrency to evade U.S. economic sanctions,” reports the Washington Post. They cite a nine-page opinion from a federal judge approving the government’s criminal complaint against an American “accused of transmitting more than $10 million worth of bitcoin to a virtual currency exchange in one of a handful of countries comprehensively sanctioned by the U.S. government: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria or Russia.

“In the ruling, the judge called cryptocurrency’s reputation for providing anonymity to users a myth.”
He added that while some legal experts argue that virtual moneys such as bitcoin, ethereum or Tether are not subject to U.S. sanctions laws because they are created and move outside the traditional financial system, recent action taken by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control [OFAC] require federal courts to find otherwise.

“Issue One: virtual currency is untraceable? WRONG … Issue Two: sanctions do not apply to virtual currency? WRONG,” Faruqui wrote…

“The Department of Justice can and will criminally prosecute individuals and entities for failure to comply with OFAC’s regulations, including as to virtual currency,” Faruqui said. In the opinion, Faruqui wrote that he adopted guidance issued in October by OFAC, which stated that sanctions regulations apply equally to transactions involving virtual currencies as those involving the U.S. dollar or other traditional fiat currencies.

Ari Redbord, who served in 2019 and 2020 as a senior adviser to the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, called the case the first U.S. criminal prosecution targeting solely the use of cryptocurrency in a sanctions case. He said the ruling made clear such conduct is traceable and “immutable — in other words, transactions using cryptocurrency are forever…. What we are seeing is that the Department of Justice is going to actively go after actors that attempt to use cryptocurrency, but also that it is hard to use cryptocurrency to evade sanctions,” Redbord said. “It shows, in many respects, cryptocurrency is not a good tool for sanctions evasion or money laundering.”

In this case, The Register reports, “An unnamed American citizen allegedly used a US-based IP address to run an online payments platform” in a sanctioned country.

The service advertised itself as being “designed to evade US sanctions” and claimed its transactions were untraceable, it was alleged. We’re told the defendant bought and sold Bitcoin using a US-based online currency exchange using fiat currency from a US bank account.

The Post argues that this prosecution represents “a new U.S. criminal sanctions enforcement push targeting cryptocurrency transactions at a time of rising concern over the extent to which illicit actors can use or are using such methods to launder money or do business with countries the United States has cut off from the dollar…”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.