Petition calls for city to divest from Wells Fargo Bank

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Christine Lee/Staff

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A petition named “DIVE$T from Wells Fargo” on Change.org has been made, calling for the city to discontinue its financial affairs with Wells Fargo Bank.

The petition, started by the Economic Justice Team of Indivisible Berkeley, comes after the city council’s proposal to maintain its current banking service contract with Wells Fargo only until May 2018. The resolution will be discussed at the City Council meeting May 30.

The report of the resolution, sponsored by Mayor Jesse Arreguín, and councilmembers Linda Maio, Sophie Hahn and Ben Bartlett, cites various alleged malpractices of the bank such as the purported transferring of funds without clients’ knowledge or consent, opening of 1,534,280 potentially fraudulent deposit accounts and financing of the private prison industrial complex and the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“These practices are of great concern,” the report reads. “Since we learned of these practices, our banking services contract with Wells Fargo was reduced markedly, at Council request, and we are assured we will terminate as soon as possible.”

Hahn said if the resolution is passed, the city will look for a bank with conducts that meet the community’s standards. She added, however, that with increasing bank consolidations there are less local and regional banks, which narrow the city’s options.

The petition currently has 161 signatures since its launch four weeks ago, which is 39 supporters short of its goal of 200.

“Part of the reason for the petition was to really try to get the word out that this decision is coming up. We wanted people to show up at the city council meeting,” said David Peattie, a member of the Economic Justice Team of Indivisible Berkeley. “Severing relations (with Wells Fargo) sends a signal to everyone there are problems with doing business with a bank that doesn’t seem to care about the community and general ethical banking practices.”

Wells Fargo spokesperson Ruben Pulido, however, expressed hopeful sentiments about the bank’s prospect within the city.

“Wells Fargo welcomes that the City of Berkeley seeks to extend our current banking services contract to May 2018 so we can continue to save taxpayers and ratepayers money,” Pulido said in an email. “We look forward to demonstrating to City officials that Wells Fargo is a responsible bank for the City and the Berkeley community at-large.”

Pulido added that the bank has provided extensive services to the city in recent years, approving hundreds of home loans and thousands of business loans while investing in schools and nonprofits.

Maio said the bank was aware of the current circumstances and said two people from the bank’s management had visited the city regarding the issue.

She added that she believes the resolution will pass. City council members will discuss the resolution during its regular meeting on May 30 at 7 p.m. at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Christine Lee is an assistant news editor. Contact Christine Lee at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @christinejlee17.

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