Des Moines, IA —Today, a broad coalition of multi-racial activists, including People’s Action, the Action Center on Race and Economy (ACRE) and hundreds of community members and activists held a rally and march demanding that Wells Fargo end its blatant consumer abuses and that shareholders fire its leadership and adopt a consumer-focused agenda.
The actions coincided with Wells Fargo’s annual shareholder meeting and follows news that the nation’s third largest bank must pay an unprecedented $1 billion fine from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for forcing customers into car insurance and charging mortgage borrowers fees.
“Everyday people are with fed up with Wells Fargo’s long history of abusive and racially discriminatory consumer practices,” said Maurice BP-Weeks, the co-director of The Action Center on Race & the Economy (ACRE). “Wells Fargo repeatedly chooses big money at the expense of black and brown people. 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.”
“Time is up for Wells Fargo’s shady dealings,” said George Goehl, Director of People’s Action. “They have proven that they can’t do business without cheating, racism, and investing in violence. Removing leadership and adopting an agenda will finally put everyday people above bloated profits.”
“Wells Fargo is no good for anyone. Cities need to follow the example of Portland & Seattle and divest from Wells Fargo, that would be a step towards building Freedom Cities and reinvesting in our community,” said Amanda Aguilar-Shank, Enlace Deputy Director.
“The imperialist banking system that helped enforced the agenda of colonization was another tool used by the settler invaders of Turtle Island to oppress, ethnically cleanse and enslave millions of Indigenous and African people. The colonial, capitalist economy has never had the best interests of brown people on their minds and work especially for the corporate conglomerates who are backed by the government. The imperialist economy cares more about profits than people and Wells Fargo is by far the worst of the banks that perpetuate this system. One of the most recent and notorious examples of their white supremacist, manifest destiny agenda is the fact that they financially backed the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline despite the highly visible and massive protest that took place at the Standing Rock reservation. Indigenous people have been dealing with this exact issue for hundreds of years. The Banking system is set up to exploit Indigenous people through predatory economics in order to continue the extraction of all the resources on our territories, regardless of the sickness and death it causes,” said Christine Nobiss, a founder of Indigenous Iowa.
Organizers say that Wells Fargo represents everything that is bad for America, from fraud and discriminatory lending to providing financing for the gun industry and private prisons.
“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 (Iowa CCI), a People’s Action member organization. “We have the power to stand up against the greedy financial giants and corporate elites who rig the economy for their own benefit.”
Activists marched with a large stagecoach with arrows and signs hitting on Wells Fargo’s funding of the NRA, gun manufacturers, private prisons and oil pipelines, as well as its predatory lending practices, which resulted in the CFPB’s recent historic fine.
In the days leading up to the rally, the March coalition released a petition demanding Wells Fargo fire the entire board of directors and CEO Tim Sloan, break up the bank, pay restitution to their victims, and respect workers’ rights to unionize without retaliation.
Participating People’s Action member organizations included Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Native Organizers Alliance, Iowa Student Power, Student Action, Michigan United, VOCAL-NY, The People’s Lobby, Jane Addams Senior Caucus, and Reclaim Philly/215 People’s Alliance. Partner organizations included Indigenous Environmental Network, Indigenous Iowa, Communications Workers of America/Committee for Better Banks, BOLD Iowa, and Sierra Club.