Inside the Wells Fargo Shareholder’s Meeting

posted by scott parkin

Yesterday, after weeks of preparation, organizing and outreach the big day came—the Wells Fargo shareholder’s meeting. Not only did Rainforest Action Network, ACORN and lots of other economic justice and environmental activists have a loud colorful protest on the streets of San Francisco, but a couple of us had shares and were able to enter the shareholder’s meeting. I’ll let the dozens who held the picket lines on the outside blog about their experiences there while I write on the atmosphere inside.

The meeting started promptly at 1:30. Ilyse Hogue (RAN’s Global Finance Campaign director) and I had gotten in only a few minutes before. We quickly sat down as CEO Dick Kovacevich began the meeting.

Among the 6 resolutions proposed to the board, the 6th dealt with housing. This was the main issue that folks from ACORN, the California Resettlement Committee and other economic justice groups had shown up to contest. “Predatory lending” (the act of lending money with unfair and abusive terms) has been a blight on low income and communities of color all over the country and ACORN has campaigned on it in the streets, the boardrooms and in the legislature since 2003. ACORN had brought in 17 representatives from these communities to speak to this issue, while only a few spoke to the meeting. They actively went back and forth with Kovacevich on Wells Fargo’s dealings in those communities. Many of the ACORN folks who had been on the street with us prior to meeting had entered wearing “Wells Fargo: Lootin’ and Pollutin” bandanas wrapped around their heads.

After the “debate” on the resolutions, Kovacevich reported on the state of the company to the shareholders. Part of this included their touting of their 10 point environmental program and their new Environmental Advisory Board. Both seem to be on the greenwashing side of things. Interestingly enough, Wells Fargo gave $95 million to non-profits last year, while giving much more to environmental bad actors such as Massey Energy and Burlington Resources (something I pointed out during my statement).

The resolution we had come to discuss, a resolution on climate change, had been voted down on a technicality. Regardless, we and a shareholder activist from SEIU brought up climate change, Well’s investments in environmentally destructive and socially abusive companies and their lack of internal will to actually make change. Ilyse discussed the greening of the global finance sector as a whole, while I brought up specifics about Massey Energy, Burlington Resources and the Pacific Legal Foundation. Massey and Burlington are both knee-deep in eco-system destruction and human rights abuses, while the Pacific Legal Foundation is an anti-environmental non-profit seeking to roll back the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act that Wells Fargo Alaska helped raise money for. On a final note, Kovacevich’s response to my statement asking why their actions don’t match their rhetoric was “We totally disagree!” It was an interesting experiance to say the least.

For a full rundown of recent events and actions in the campaign, check out our campaign website www.dirtymoney.org

We’re be doing lots more work in the Bay Area and in the states where Wells Fargo has a presence, so please contact me at sparkin@ran.org if you want to get involved!