… they reply to your newspaper ad with a 700-word letter trying to debunk it.
Last week, top Wells Fargo official Marta Codina submitted a letter to El Enfoque newspaper saying that “Wells Fargo & Company does not hold shares in any of the two private prison companies mentioned by the activist groups” and “it is regrettable that groups that defend certain causes issue mistaken opinions about us to push a political or social agenda.”
We replied to set the facts straight, publicly, once and for all. Will Wells Fargo respond? Who knows, but its fun to have a little back and forth with one of the biggest banks in the country. In the meantime, we keep organizing and building power.
As readers of this newspaper have noticed, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has been working with our members and other community members to educate them on their financial options and encourage them to move their money to a bank or credit union that does not profit from the suffering of immigrant families, specifically moving their money from Wells Fargo.
Last week, Marta Codina from Wells Fargo tried to pacify those who are starting to realize that Wells Fargo profits from private prisons and does not have their best interests at heart. She accused us of using misleading facts and pushing a political and social agenda. Well, we do have an agenda. Our agenda is worker and immigrant rights and dignity for all people. Our agenda is a fair economy that works for everyone, not only the 1% and big banks that continue to get rich from the work of others. We know that many people in the community feel the same and we continue to unite the community and demand justice for everyone.
Now many people are probably wondering about the facts. Does Wells Fargo invest in the private prison company GEO Group or not? The answer is that Wells Fargo misled you in its response. Here is what we know:
According to documents that GEO Group filed on March 13, 2012 with the Securities and Exchange Commission: “Wells Fargo & Company reported that, as of December 31, 2011, it beneficially owned 4,446,026 shares with sole voting power over 4,398,614 of such shares, shared voting power over 794 of such shares, sole dispositive power over 4,300,251 of such shares and shared dispositive power over 80 of such shares.” On March 31, 2012, Wells Fargo reported they held 7.7% of all GEO shares, making them the third largest shareholder.
In addition to the stocks that Wells Fargo & Company own, Wells Fargo Advantage mutual funds separately controls over 2,815,200 shares in GEO Group. Wells Fargo Advantage administers those stocks for mutual fund holders, but the individuals don’t get to decide where they invest their money – Wells Fargo does. It is Wells Fargo’s decision to have the mutual funds invested in GEO Group.
What does this mean? It means that according to GEO Group, Wells Fargo has voting authority over the majority of its shares and the power to dispose of (or get rid of) the majority of its shares. So, when Wells Fargo says they do not own shares in GEO Group, or that “Wells Fargo Advantage” actually owns everything and administers these shares on behalf of invisible third parties, either they are confused or GEO Group is, or they are simply attempting to mislead all of us. Here’s what we say to Wells Fargo: It’s your name on the stock – get rid of it!
In addition to their investments in private prisons, Wells Fargo has discrimination problems. In 2011, Wells Fargo was fined $85 million by the Federal Reserve after the Fed determined that Wells Fargo had intentionally pushed people of color with good credit into expensive mortgages and falsified loan applications during the sub-prime mortgage boom. This is the largest consumer lending fine the Federal Reserve has ever issued. Wells Fargo is also under investigation by the Department of Justice, and was sued by the cities of Baltimore and Memphis. In all cases, Wells Fargo denies wrongdoing, preferring to settle out of court and sweep the wrongdoing under the rug.
Wells Fargo pushes products onto its customers, wanting to make as much money as possible through questionable insurance, unfair fees, and confusing charges for even having an account. A member of ours purchased insurance though their Wells Fargo account and paid $40 a month. When they needed to use the insurance they couldn’t because they did not have immigration documents. Why did Wells Fargo sell them that insurance in the first place?
Wells Fargo is not hurting – in fact they are making more money than ever before. In just January, February, and March of this year, they made $4.2 BILLION in profits. Their CEO John Stumpf made over $19 million in 2011. They can divest in private prisons, stop their predatory practices and still make gigantic profits.
We hope that this clears up any doubts you may have about the actions of Iowa CCI members in the past weeks. If you would like to close your Wells Fargo account we can help connect you with community banks and credit unions that accept Matricula ID, just call us at 515-282-0484.
We are not against friends and family who work at Wells Fargo, but we will continue to question the damaging policies that come from the CEO and other high ranking officials. We call on Wells Fargo to divest, dispose of their shares in GEO Group as a signal that they will listen to their clients and the community and do the right thing.
We thank everyone who has contacted us about this issue and we will continue to be a voice for immigrant and worker justice. We are not afraid. Join the cause!