In a bold move Tuesday, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to end its 18-year business relationship with Wells Fargo over concerns regarding the bank’s checkered history of unsavory business practices and its funding of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project.
The measure was passed to cheers from local advocates and supporters who aim to set an example for other cities and businesses that may do business with Wells Fargo. Under the measure, Seattle will end its contract with Wells Fargo when it expires next year and will not make new investments with the bank for three years. Wells Fargo currently handles over $3 billion of the city’s operating account, and processes its employee payroll, payments to vendors, and collection of taxes and fines.
While city officials will now be tasked with moving a large amount of funds away from Wells Fargo and to a more environmentally and socially responsible bank, the move is regarded widely as an example of local residents and activists compelling their local government to make sound, ethical decisions. In October of last year, Illinois joined California in announcing that the state would suspend a substantial amount of investment activity with Wells Fargo.
Seattle’s measure was sparked by Wells Fargo’s role as one of 17 lenders that will be funding the $2.5 billion Dakota Access Pipeline project, which has garnered widespread scrutiny for threading an oil pipeline under a reservoir in North Dakota, where it can creates the risk of polluting drinking water for the nearby Standing Rock Sioux reservation and other local residents.
In addition to funding the controversial pipeline, Wells Fargo has also received considerable backlash, and fines, for a series of highly publicized and unsavory business practices. This includes the recent scandal that led federal regulators to fine the bank $185 million for allowing employees to fraudulently open millions of customer accounts without their knowledge or consent. A major player in the subprime mortgage and foreclosure crisis, Well Fargo also agreed to a $1.2 billion settlement for false claims that home loans qualified to be insured by the FHA (Federal Housing Administration).
Wells Fargo, and other banks and lenders like it, have a history of making profits at the expense of people. As dedicated consumer law attorneys serving Chicago and the state of Illinois, we at Atlas Consumer Law have dedicated our practice to helping the little person who has suffered as a result of Big Business’ predatory, deceptive, and unfair practices – not only because our clients deserve help and financial freedom, but also because these companies need to be held accountable for their violations and the harm they cause consumers.