Whose Time (and Money) is Wells Fargo Wasting?

posted by scott parkin

Today, Wells Fargo CEO Richard Kovacevich was a participant in a large Wall Street investor’s conference held at the San Francisco Ritz-Carlton today. The conference, lasting through the week, includes CEO’s from a number of companies meeting with and briefing institutional investors on their business plans.

As an organizer on RAN’s Global Finance campaign, we put together inside and outside strategies to raise the profile of Wells Fargo’s investments in Massey Energy, a notorious coal company using mountaintop removal to destroy eco-systems and communities for profit. Our outside strategy entailed organizing a lively protest and bit of street theater to raise the profile of Wells’ dirty investments to investors entering the conference. Our inside strategy entailed renting a room in the Ritz Carlton for better access to Kovacevich, other CEO’s and the investors.

These strategies led to an overreaction by Wells Fargo, hotel security and the SFPD. My name on the hotel guest list led to a constant security detail of police and hotel security following me and some friends around treating us like an unwelcome guests.

So this begs the question—Whose Time (and Money) is Wells Fargo Wasting?

-The San Francisco Police Department pulled over 30 police officers off the streets for some law abiding peaceful street theater and a legitimately attained hotel room. That’s taxpayer money serving the interests of Wells Fargo and Richard Kovacevich. I wonder how many of those public servants felt like they wasted their time.

-Along the same lines, the Ritz-Carlton deployed an array of security guards to follow us around. While Wells or the Conference’s sponsors probably paid the hotel’s overtime wages, it still seems like a huge waste of time and money to “watch” peaceful protestors legally renting a hotel room. If they were so worried about us, how about not renting us a room? Quite the exercise in futility on their part if you ask me.

Coal impacted communities are having their lives disrupted everyday by Wells funded Massey Energy. It’s a waste of their time and money when they are fighting the coal companies’ everyday for their livelihoods, keeping toxic sludge out of their children’s schools and the highly destructive strip mining. Kovacevich and many of the other CEO’s at the conference have negative impact on the lives of everyday people. Often, I discover that these people are engaged in life and death struggles while the privileged and powerful only worry about their public image and bottom line.

On a final note, I don’t feel like I wasted my time or money. I helped raise the profile of Wells Fargo’s dirty investments to the conference’s investors and to the public at large. The issues of mountaintop removal and its impact on Appalachian communities is one of the most pressing of our time. As long as Wells invests in it, me, my friends here at Rainforest Action Network and people of conscious at large will continue to do something about it.