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'Despicable': Wells Fargo Bashed for Plans to Cash In on Global Climate Crisis

"Rather than scheming about how to make more money off of the climate crisis, Wells Fargo should stop making the problem worse and divest from the dirtiest fuels on the planet."

wells fargo protest

Protesters gather in front of Wells Fargo's San Francisco headquarters in May of 2018. (Photo: Jane Richey/Sierra Club, Bay Area Chapter/Facbook)

While most Americans are increasingly alarmed about the human-made climate crisis, Wells Fargo—the big bank known for "ripping off" college students and investing in "shady" industries—is under fire for approaching it as a way to make more money.

"It's despicable that Wells Fargo is seeking to profit from the destruction and suffering its own investments are helping to create."
—Ben Cushing,
Sierra Club

Citing disclosures provided to the British nonprofit CDP—which collects self-reported environmental impact data from companies, cities, states, and regions worldwide—Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Wells Fargo sees the crisis as potentially profitable.

"Preparation for and response to climate-change induced natural disasters result in greater construction, conservation, and other business activities," the bank reportedly noted in its disclosure, adding that it "has the opportunity to provide financing to support these efforts."

Sierra Club, which has pressured Wells Fargo to stop providing billions of dollars in financing for dirty energy projects like the widely contested the Dakota Access Pipeline, sharply condemned the bank's plans to cash in on the crisis.

"It's despicable that Wells Fargo is seeking to profit from the destruction and suffering its own investments are helping to create," Sierra Club campaign representative Ben Cushing said in a statement.

"Rather than scheming about how to make more money off of the climate crisis," Cushing declared, "Wells Fargo should stop making the problem worse and divest from the dirtiest fuels on the planet."

"From the bank that brought you 'stealing from its customers,' we give you 'natural disasters aren't good for America, but they're good for Wells Fargo.'"
—Lindsey Barrett, attorney

Wells Fargo received a D+ grade in the 2018 Banking on Climate Change (pdf) report card produced by environmental groups including Sierra Club—the second-lowest grade given to any U.S. bank. As one example of its bad behavior, the report pointed to Enbridge's Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

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"In October, Wells Fargo led a syndicate of more than a dozen banks in renewing a credit facility of $1.48 billion for the company," the report stated, "despite a coalition of 15 Indigenous and environmental groups detailing the human rights and environmental impacts of the Line 3 pipeline."

But Wells Fargo isn't just known for pouring billions into the fossil fuel industry—it also has garnered a bad reputation for raking in money from customers through a litany of ripoffs and scams.

Lindsey Barrett, a staff attorney and teaching fellow at Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Public Representation, responded to the Bloomberg report with a reference to the bank's track record of "stealing from its customers."

In perhaps the bank's most infamous scandal, for which it was hit with $185 million in fines in 2016, Wells Fargo employees were found to have secretly opened new accounts and made unauthorized transfers from customers' existing accounts so the bank could profit off of the fees.

This post has been updated to reflect that Wells Fargo received the second-lowest grade of any U.S. bank in the 2018 report from environmental groups.

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