In early February, Iowa CCI and National People’s Action members joined in the 99% Power movement to put the most abusive corporations on notice and delivered letters to let them know we were coming to their shareholder meetings. Wells Fargo reacted to the letter dropped off in Des Moines.
As a result, on Monday, April 2, NPA leaders Iowa CCI, Take Action Minnesota, Rights for All People, and Sunflower Community Action in partnership with Enlace International, SEIU, PICO and New Bottom Line met with Wells Fargo’s head of Social Responsibility, Jon Campbell and three other executives.
All four staff from Wells Fargo came into a full conference room smiling and ready to shake hands. They were met with thirty-two stern faces from across the country, ready to get down to business.
Iowa CCI leader Rosie Partridge moderated, setting a firm, no nonsense tone for the meeting. Fr. Richard Smith from the San Francisco Organizing Project led the opening prayer for all the victims of the current economic crisis and reminding us that this was the holiest of all weeks for many.
The community leaders put five issues on the table.The question of the day is whether or not Wells Fargo was serious about addressing issues around foreclosures, investments in private prisons and payday lending, money in politics and paying their fair share of taxes.
Overall, the conversation went something like this:
Leaders: Will you stop hurting our communities and be the financial industry leader in social responsibility?
Fr. Smith asked Mr. Campbell: Will you comprehensibly reduce the principal on all homes under water? Yes or No
Mr. Campbell: NO. We can’t.
PRIVATE PRISON DIVESTMENT:
After two testimonies were given by leaders from Washington and Colorado,Teresa Molina, a leader from Kansas, asked Mr. Campbell: Will Wells Fargo stop investing in private prisons and profiting off of people’s misery?
(This is the point where they were really fidgeting and looking uncomfortable.)
- Campbell: I am sorry I cannot commit to that, but I will deliver the message.
- Rosie: So that is a No.
At this point Teresa Molina held up a stack of hundreds of petitions and walk around the table to Mr. Campbell and said, “These are hundreds of petitions from customers that withdrew their accounts or others that swore never to so business with Wells if you continue to invest in private prisons.” Mr. Campbell reached for the stack, but Ms. Molina did not let go. As they both held the stack of papers, Ms. Molina looked him dead in the eye and asked one last time, “Mr. Campbell, Will you stop investing in private prisons?”
Mr. Campbell: No, I can’t.
Larry Ginter, a farmer from Iowa, then stood up and leaned over to Pepe, who had just given his heartbreaking story and reminded him that “Pontius Pilate also washed his hands of any wrong-doing.”
- Larry Ginter: Will you divest from and cease offering predatory payday loans?
- Mr. Campbell: No, we will continue.
MONEY AND POLITICS:
- James Cannon: Will you stop funding politicians that hurt our communities?
- Mr. Campbell: Wells Fargo has a committee of senior official and they contribute to candidates..as a company we want to be part of issues that affect what we do.
- James Cannon: So that is no?
- Mr. Campbell: I wouldn’t say it is a no.
- Rosie Partridge: That’s a no.
- Donna Cassutt. “I paid more in income tax last year as an individual than your entire company.” Wells accepted taxpayer money and you should pay your share. Will you pay your fair share?
- Campbell: We absolutely will. We pay what we are required to pay.
- Rosie Partridge: That’s a no.
At this point Mr. Campbell became a little defensive, “When do we get a chance to speak! I am not used to going into conversations that are one sided.”
Rosie Partridge: You will have a chance, but it looks like we have our answers:
- NO on Principal reduction
- NO on Prison divestment
- NO on Payday lending
- NO on Getting your money out of politics
- NO on Paying your real fair share
After thanking them for their time, the Wells Fargo staff all filed out a little quieter and less cheery.
Everyone regrouped and came to the consensus that Wells Fargo only responded to action and resolved to take the message to the shareholder meeting in a few weeks.
But, to let them know we’re not kidding about showing up at their shareholder’s meeting, everyone piled on a school bus, took over the lobby at a Wells Fargo downtown and held a practice shareholder meeting.
During the “meeting” resolutions in our communities favor were passed and everyone went home charged and ready for San Francisco on April 24.
(photo: leaders who met with Wells)
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