Seattle votes to divests $3 billion from Wells Fargo over DAPL

Posted Feb 9, 2017 by Brett Wilkins
The Seattle City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to divest $3 billion from Wells Fargo bank over its role as a lender to the highly controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Seattle Times reports the council voted 9-0 to cut ties with the San Francisco-based banking giant when the city's financial services contract expires in 2018. There will be no new investments in the bank's securities for at least three years. Wells Fargo is one of 17 banks funding DAPL. It is providing $120 million to fund the $3.8 billion project.
“People say, ‘Money Talks,’ ” Councilwoman Debora Juarez said in support of the divestment measure. “We say, ‘No, it doesn’t. We do.’ ’’
“As a native woman, a mother, a tribal member and attorney, who has lived and fought for all these principals in my personal and professional life, I am proud of my city today,” Juarez added.
Wells Fargo expressed its disappointment in the council vote. “From our perspective we are always disappointed when a customer makes a decision to move business away from us," bank Vice President Tom Brown said, according to the Seattle Times. "That is not an outcome we would seek.”
The vote came on the same day the Army announced it would grant final approval for the 1,170-mile (1,885 km) Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which will transport crude oil from the shale fields of North Dakota to Illinois and then to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. On Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers issued the long-delayed easement allowing the project to move toward completion.
President Donald Trump, who last month signed executive orders reviving DAPL and the equally controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, says the projects will help the United States achieve energy independence and will boost the economy. Trump is also reportedly personally invested in Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind DAPL.
In addition to environmental concerns — DAPL’s original route was rejected because the mostly white residents of Bismarck, North Dakota feared the consequences of a spill, and the Missouri River is a drinking water source for around 17 million Americans, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says DAPL threatens sacred sites and violates treaty rights. Keystone XL, which would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries on the US Gulf Coast, is opposed by leading Native American and environmental groups because it would transport what the National Congress of American Indians calls “the world’s dirtiest and most environmentally destructive form of oil.”
Hundreds of Native American and allied protesters, who call themselves water protectors,” remain encamped at Standing Rock despite sub-zero temperatures and the threat of police violence. Water protectors have been beaten, shot with “less lethal” projectiles that resulted in horrific injuries and mauled with dogs — images of an attack dog with blood dripping from its teeth and snout shocked the conscience of the world and helped galvanize opposition to the pipeline.
The Seattle councilors also noted what it called "Wells Fargo's "deplorable" practices, including a massive scam in which low-level bank employees opened millions of checking and savings accounts for unwitting customers due to pressure to achieve sales targets. More than 5,300 lower-wage employees were fired in connection with the scandal, while the executive in charge of the banking unit where the scandal occurred retired with a $124.6 million "golden parachute." Wells Fargo was fined $185 million last September for fraudulently opening the accounts.
Socialist Councilwoman Kshama Sawant blasted the bank's role in financing the for-profit private prison industry and criticized the banking industry in general. "All of the big banks are terrible, and, as long as we have capitalism, our contracts will be with institutions that put corporate greed over human need," she said in a statement.
Following Seattle's vote, the city council in Davis, California, a university city of 66,000 residents located 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Sacramento, also voted unanimously to divest $124 million from Wells Fargo in protest of its DAPL funding. Yes! Magazine reports the entire University of California system is next in line to pull its investments from Wells Fargo, a move that would deprive the bank of $475 million in contracts. The divestment isn't solely due to DAPL; the Afrikan Black Coalition — an alliance of the black student unions from 15 University of California campuses — has waged a two-year campaign urging the UC system to cut ties with the bank over predatory lending practices targeting communities of color, as well as its private prison financing.