Actions in more than a dozen cities and letter from more than 75 organizations maintain pressure on Wells Fargo to change its behavior and make management and board changes
April 25, 2017: As Wells Fargo’s Annual Shareholder Meeting took place in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, community stakeholders with the ForgoWells Coalition engaged in more than a dozen actions at Wells Fargo branches in communities across the country, from New York to California, and North Dakota to Florida. As part of the actions, they delivered a letter that more than 75 organizations from across the country had signed onto demanding that shareholders oust 13 members of the Board of Directors, including CEO Timothy Sloan, and fully support all the shareholder resolutions for bank reform. Indigenous leaders, bank workers with the Committee for Better Banks, and policy advocates disrupted the meeting to voice support for these demands inside the meeting itself at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Forgo Wells also joined with the ReFund America Project to issue a new report called Down the Wells: Wells Fargo’s Payday Loans Have Left Puerto Rico Billions of Dollars in the Hole. The report highlights Wells Fargo’s role in contributing to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, by helping underwrite billions of dollars of predatory bonds that had an effective interest rate of 734%. That report can be found at www.refundproject.org/#puerto-rico.
“Whether it’s selling payday loans to the government of Puerto Rico or financing payday lenders that prey on communities in Black and Latino neighborhoods in the United States, Wells Fargo’s business model is built on extracting wealth from communities of color,” said Saqib Bhatti, a spokesperson for the Forgo Wells Coalition and the Director of the ReFund America Project. “From Standing Rock to San Juan, the communities that Wells Fargo has devastated are rising up and demanding change.”
Kilian Colin, a former Wells Fargo worker who traveled to Ponte Vedra Beach to make his voice heard at the shareholder meeting said: “We wore suits to work but many of my coworkers made as little as $12 an hour. We suffered trying to meet unreasonable sales goals, which forced some of my coworkers to sell customers financial products they didn’t need. Some Wells workers even made fake accounts just so they could keep their jobs and feed their families. We need to improve the banking industry for workers, customers and the communities we live in. In order to make that happened, Wells needs to start by treating its workers as partners, not by continuing to ignore us.”
“It is time that we hold those that financially back those who oppress the Indigenous People of the world accountable”, said Krystal Two Bulls, Oglala Lakota, Northern/Cheyenne, with the NoDAPL Global Solidarity Campaign. “Today we demand the Wells Fargo dismiss the Board of Directors and CEO Timothy Sloan and pass the shareholder resolutions as a first step towards that accountability.”
The Forgo Wells Coalition letter voiced support for a number of shareholder resolutions being voted on at the bank’s shareholder meeting, including:
Stockholder Proposal 5: The Board of Directors should commission a comprehensive report on the root causes of the fraudulent accounts scandal, which saw employees forced to open more than two million fraudulent accounts to meet unreasonable and unattainable sales goals. The scandal led to the resignation of former CEO John Stumpf.
Stockholder Proposal 7: The Board of Directors should study whether Wells Fargo should divest its non-core businesses, effectively breaking up the bank. The CEO and Board’s inability to head off the fraudulent accounts scandal shows that the bank is not only too big to fail, but also too big to manage.
Stockholder Proposal 8: Wells Fargo should prepare a report on its policies and goals to reduce the gender pay gap, whereby women are paid less than men for the same work.
Stockholder Proposal 9: Wells Fargo should fully disclose its direct and indirect lobbying activity.
Stockholder Proposal 10: Wells Fargo should adopt a global Indigenous rights policy that includes “respect for the free, prior and informed consent” of Indigenous communities that are impacted by projects that the company finances, like the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Today’s activity included a press conference in East Orange, NJ to announce that the city had divested of all of its money, bank branch takeovers in Philadelphia and New York City, and other actions throughout the State of Florida.
Media availabilities with affected consumers, bank workers, Indigenous rights protectors, striking University of Puerto Rico students, leaders who traveled to Ponte Vedra Beach for the shareholder meeting, and activists participating in actions in their home cities may be arranged.