April 30, 2024
The Black Collective

Statement: 2024 Wells Fargo annual shareholders’ meeting

The following statement was delivered by Ann-Michelle Roberts, associate director of equity and major gifts and the Black Collective program director, at the Wells Fargo annual shareholders meeting. See page 143 for the resolution we are asking shareholders to support: 

Good morning. Thank you for this opportunity to introduce Item 11 on behalf of Harrington Investments, regarding the congruency of Wells Fargo’s stated policies and its political spending. My name is Ann-Michelle Roberts and I am with Corporate Accountability.

From past to present, Wells Fargo’s history leaves little room for investors to trust on faith in its political values alignment on race, especially focused on communities of color, and specifically, Black communities. Wells Fargo, through its acquisition of Wachovia, built wealth through institutions using slaves as collateral and business using convict labor.

More recently, the bank has been accused of perpetrating race and gender inequity in its business and political spending. In 2011, Wells Fargo became the second largest investor in GEO Group, a leading private prison corporation, with 4.3 million shares, profiting off of the disproportionate number of Black people incarcerated in the U.S. That same year, Wells Fargo agreed to pay $175 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against more than 30,000 Black and Hispanic borrowers.

As I speak, the corporation is seeking more time to respond to another national lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in the bank’s mortgage lending practices against Black, Hispanic, and Asian American homebuyers —a lawsuit that could potentially involve up to 750,000 class members. The Consumer Federal Protection Bureau found “statistically significant disparities” in the rates in which Black and female borrowers got fewer pricing exceptions compared with other customers.

These actions speak louder than any stated values–and it seems like Wells Fargo has only continued to profit from Black communities. Their history leaves little room for trust.

And with regard to its political spending, we see notable discrepancy between what Wells Fargo “says” to what it actually “does.”

In a leaked transparency report about Wells Fargo’s PAC, it stated it aims to support candidates who “are willing to work in a bipartisan manner… and support diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Immediately after January 6, 2021, Brian Smith, the head of Government Relations and Public Policy for Wells Fargo, stated the PAC would take into consideration the actions of elected officials who objected to the Electoral College vote during this critical period in our democracy.” Wells Fargo’s own report of its PAC spending for 2023 shows that it continues to donate to members of Congress who voted against certifying the Electoral College.

Wells Fargo continues to invest in the expansion and increased militarization of police departments, through supporting organizations called police foundations. Today, a staff member of Wells Fargo serves on the board of trustees of the Atlanta Police Foundation, which has been claimed to be funding the controversial police training facility dubbed “Cop City,” which would increase the policing of Black and Brown communities while disrupting an urban forest in Atlanta, and which the community and nation have loudly voiced their opposition to. We see Wells Fargo’s presence on the board of trustees as its potential support for Cop City. Is it so? If so, then it seems contradictory to the stated values of the corporation!

Shareholders and investors need to know the alignment between what the corporation says and what it does. Today we ask that you vote IN FAVOR of this Item 11 to produce an annual congruency analysis assessing the alignment between Wells Fargo’s stated values and political contributions around race, gender, and beyond. This is the very first step toward walking this walk.

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