The Seattle City Council bill cites how the company “directed employees to fraudulently create more than 2,000,000 unauthorized bank and credit accounts during the past five years, negatively affecting the credit ratings of millions of customers,” and terminated 5,300 “of the corporation’s lowest-paid workers” without firing a single senior executive. As a result of that scandal, Seattle City Light in October ended its $100 million bond financing relationship with the bank.
Remle said that he has heard little opposition to the bill and is confident it will pass next month. In September, the city council issued a resolution in support of the water protectors. Remle said he hoped Seattle’s new bill would segue into further direct action against the banking giant. Minneapolis, which like Seattle has a sizable Native American population, is considering similar legislation to divest from Wells Fargo.
“My immediate goal after this is to work with some of our local gaming tribes, especially the ones in the Interstate 5 corridor,” Remle said, referring to tribes such as the Tulalip and Puyallup. “Some of those tribes near the major urban centers do pretty well, and I know of a few that are banking with Wells Fargo. I’d like to turn to them next.”
Meanwhile in downtown Seattle, activists organized by the local chapter of 350.org are staging daily demonstrations in support of the measure outside of the bank’s Seattle corporate office until January 5, when a group of deposit holders will one after another close their accounts and voice opposition to the bank’s investment in the pipeline.
“People seem very supportive of our attempts to move the needle on it,” said 350seattle.org organizer Alec Connon. “It’s really clear that banking with Wells Fargo is not aligned with the values of the city of Seattle.”
In a statement in response to Seattle’s proposal, the company said that it is “proud of the support it has diligently and professionally provided the city of Seattle as its operating bank since 1999.” In regard to the pipeline, it acknowledged that it is one of “17 financial institutions involved in the financing” of Dakota Access and that the “loans we have provided represent less than 5 percent of the total.” That does not include the credit lines given to Dakota Access’ parent companies.
Early this month, Wells Fargo reportedly reached out to Standing Rock tribal elders for discussions after a DAPL-related protest took place outside the bank’s Minneapolis corporate office.
Connon noted that while a resolution in support of Standing Rock was adopted by the city, Sawant’s bill was a necessary escalation. “We need to see them pass this ordinance, because we need to see actions and not just words.”