Days After Climate March, DC Residents Pack Budget Hearing to Demand City Divest from Wells Fargo Over Oil Pipeline Investments

DC ReInvest Coalition members pressured Finance Committee chair to schedule hearing for resolution that recommends DC join cities across the country in cutting ties with Wells Fargo

Washington, DC— Five days after 200,000 people from across the country marched in the streets of DC to demand a safe climate and just future for all, residents of the nation’s capital took the fight for climate justice to a DC Council budget hearing. On May 4, dozens of supporters of a campaign to end DC’s relationship with Wells Fargo—citing the bank’s investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline and private prisons, as well as its fraudulent and discriminatory banking practices—testified to urge the DC Council Committee on Finance and Revenue to schedule a hearing for a recently-introduced resolution that would recommend Wells Fargo divestment.

DC ReInvest supporters—who included local residents, teachers, 3rd-grade students, and advocates from several DC organizations—attended the budget meeting to urge Finance Committee chair Jack Evans to hold a hearing on the resolution, introduced on March 21 by Councilmembers David Grosso, Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, Charles Allen, Anita Bonds, and Vincent Gray.

DC ReInvest supporters after May 4 budget hearing
DC ReInvest supporters after testifying at the May 4 budget hearing

“The case for DC to divest from Wells Fargo is crystal clear. In addition to the moral argument, there’s a practical one: Wells Fargo actually fails the criteria that the DC Council has long laid out as requirements for DC city funds to be invested in,” testified Jordan Marie Daniel, founder of Rising Hearts—an Indigenous women-led group that organizes and advocates for Indigenous peoples’ rights, and is one of the groups in the DC ReInvest coalition.

According to the “Community Development Amendment Act of 2013” introduced by Evans himself, a financial institution must receive at least a “satisfactory” rating for its community lending practices to apply for a deposit services contract with the District government. Wells Fargo received a failing score on its most recent Community Reinvestment Act exam, potentially casting its qualification into doubt. DC’s current ties to the bank include a $2 billion investment portfolio and a 5-year contract for cash and treasury management services.  

Many American cities, including Seattle, San Francisco, and Philadelphia, have already cut ties with the bank for its investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has threatened the land rights and water of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

After hearing DC ReInvest supporters’ testimonies, Councilmembers Evans and Vincent Gray demonstrated interest in the divestment question by spending another fifteen minutes of the hearing discussing the feasibility of switching banks with DC Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWitt. “They do have challenges,” DeWitt acknowledged of Wells Fargo. “Some of the bad things they’ve done—shame on them.”

“From what we heard from Councilmember Evans and Chief Financial Officer DeWitt today, it’s clear they know the right thing to do is divest. It’s time for them to put their money where their mouth is and give this resolution a hearing,” said Jeremiah Lowery, one of the supporters who testified in favor of Wells Fargo divestment.

“We’re going to keep showing up and testifying at every hearing we can until this resolution moves forward. Standing Rock made warriors out of all of us, and right now, our battlefield is right here in Washington, DC,” said Sebi Medina-Tayac of Rising Hearts.

Rising Hearts and 3rd graders who testified
Sebi Medina-Tayac (left) and Jordan Marie Daniel (center) of Rising Hearts with the DC Public City Charter School 3rd-grade students who testified