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Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

Wed Apr 25, 2012, 07:39 AM

29. Wells Fargo, Terrified to Face Its Victims, Locks Shareholders Out of Annual Meeting

 

http://www.alternet.org/story/155141/wells_fargo%2C_terrified_to_face_victims_of_its_foreclosure_fraud_and_predatory_lending%2C_locks_shareholders_out_of_annual_meeting?page=entire

On March 24, Wells Fargo, assisted by dozens of Bay Area police, took the unprecedented step of locking more than 100 of its shareholders out of its annual meeting – a meeting they had every legal right to attend. These shareholders had a story to tell, and Wells' Chairman and CEO John Stumpf was not in a listening mood. They'd purchased stock in the bailed-out Wall Street giant, and then travelled from around the country to tell the board how its corporate citizenship had ruined lives and wrought profound economic pain on entire communities.

The previous day, about 150 people had gathered in a church to strategize the day's activities. When Wells foreclosure victims were asked to stand, about 50 people stood up. When victims of predatory lending were asked to stand, another 30 rose to their feet. One woman explained how, after losing her job, she'd fallen behind on her payments. She said Wells Fargo had offered her an agreement that would allow her to keep her home, but had then thrown her out anyway. The day of activism was organized by a broad coalition of groups working under the banner of the “99% Power Movement,” including the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), SEIU, Causa Justa, Jobs with Justice and Moveon.org. They were later joined by a rowdy crowd from Occupy San Francisco who filled the streets surrounding the Merchant Exchange Building, where the meeting took place, for several hours as the bankers hunkered down inside.

The shareholders' demands were simple: they called for a moratorium on foreclosures, principal reduction for homeowners who are deep under water and the end of the bank's predatory lending. (According to organizers, “Wells Fargo has operated revolving credit facilities since 2002 with payday lenders across the country such as First Cash Financial and Check into Cash [2002], as well as Dollar Financial and Ace Cash Express [2003]. Within the past 10 years, Wells Fargo has led the way in financing payday lenders, funding well over $1 billion.”) They also called on the bank to divest its 7 percent stake in the GEO Group – one of the nation's largest private prison corporations. Last year, about eight activists had attended the annual meeting. This year, more than 150, with shares in hand, descended on the bank's global headquarters in downtown San Francisco, only to be greeted by throngs of police manning barricades around the building's entrances.

What followed was, literally, a runaround that lasted several hours, as police at one barricade sent shareholders around the block to another, only to be told by officers there that the only way in was at the blocked entrance from which they came. Organizers said that some shareholders – not affiliated with the protests – continued to be let in, a move organizers said was illegal. About 25-30 community shareholders did manage to make it into the meeting before Wells executives declared the room full. But one woman who got in reported that the room was largely empty, and another said that many of those in attendance were Wells Fargo employees (this could not be independently confirmed). The woman also said that as soon as one of the community shareholders attempted to speak, they were immediately threatened with arrest and removed from the building.
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Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy: And Everything else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America. Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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IF I WERE JOHN STUMPF, I'D EXPECT TO SPEND THE REST OF MY DAYS IN ORANGE...

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