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Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Wells Fargo shareholder meeting in Des Moines, Iowa on April 24. (Photo: People's Action)

Targeting Shareholders Meeting, Protesters Say 'Time Is Up for Wells Fargo's Shady Dealings'

At the bank's annual gathering in Des Moines, a coalition of progressive community organizations demanded divestment from fossil fuels, private prisons, and the gun industry

Jessica Corbett

Hundreds of progressive advocates gathered at Wells Fargo's annual shareholders meeting in Des Moines, Iowa on Tuesday to demand that the big bank clean up its investments and business practices.

"They have proven that they can't do business without cheating, racism, and investing in violence."
—George Goehl, People's Action

"Time is up for Wells Fargo's shady dealings," declared People's Action director George Goehl. "They have proven that they can't do business without cheating, racism, and investing in violence."

People's Action, a federation of grassroots groups that advocate for racial and economic justice, organized the demonstration. Activists called on the bank's chief executive and board to resign.

"Whether its backing private prisons and the gun industry, draining the wealth through foreclosure or investments in companies ravaging indigenous lands, Wells Fargo has been preying on communities across America for years, especially communities of color," noted Maurice BP-Weeks, co-director of the Action Center on Race & the Economy (ACRE).

"Everyday people are with fed up with Wells Fargo's long history of abusive and racially discriminatory consumer practices," he added.

The shareholders meeting comes on the heels of an "unprecedented" $1 billion fine that the bank is required to pay to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for its predatory mortage practices—though, as government watchdogs have pointed out, the penalty is far lower than billions the bank saved thanks to the GOP tax scam forced through Congress late last year.

Wells Fargo protest

"Wells Fargo is part of the 1% whose abusive actions hurt everyone from students and veterans to homeowners," said Cherie Mortice, board president of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. "We have the power to stand up against the greedy financial giants and corporate elites who rig the economy for their own benefit."

Among the bank's most controversial investments is its continued backing of fossil fuel projects, including the Dakota Access Pipeline, which Indigenous Iowa founder Christine Nobiss described as "one of the most recent and notorious examples of their white supremacist, manifest destiny agenda."

According to this year's Banking on Climate Change report (pdf), Wells Fargo poured more than $4.6 billion into tar sands oil, Arctic oil, ultra-deepwater oil, LNG, coal mining, and coal-fired power from 2015 to 2017 alone. 

With those investments in mind, Sierra Club campaigner Ben Cushing said Tuesday: "As long as Wells Fargo continues to fund tar sands and other extreme fossil fuel projects, they are complicit in the the destruction these projects do to our water, our communities, and our climate. The movement to hold them accountable for their investments in these dangerous practices isn't going anywhere."

Wells Fargo Climate protest

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