D.C. Residents Rally and Testify at Budget Hearing to Demand Divestment from Pipeline- and Prison-Funding Wells Fargo

D.C. residents pressured Councilmember Jack Evans for holding up a widely-supported resolution that would recommend the nation’s capital follow Seattle, Los Angeles, and other cities in cutting ties with Wells Fargo over its wrongful investments and bad business practices.

Wilson Building Rally April 18 2018

For immediate release
April 18, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, after over a year of pressure, D.C.’s Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt testified that he was “not opposed” to moving District banking contracts away from Wells Fargo when the District’s current contract with the bank expires. His testimony came after dozens of D.C. residents rallied and testified at the Wilson Building to call on Councilmember Jack Evans, chair of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, to request a public hearing for the Sense of the Council Resolution Urging Reassessment of Relationship with Wells Fargo.

“Every year the District spends $4 million to do business with Wells Fargo as its bank of record. Call it a transaction, call it an investment, either way we enrich Wells Fargo, which for years has engaged in highly questionable sales practices, and financed private prisons, anti-environment, and anti-indigenous projects,” said Councilmember David Grosso (I-At large) in a statement. “I want to thank CFO Jeffrey DeWitt for agreeing that we should reassess our relationship with Wells Fargo at the conclusion of the contract.”

Last year, Councilmember David Grosso and five other Council co-introducers and co-sponsors introduced a resolution to urge the District to divest from Wells Fargo, where D.C. currently has a 5-year contract worth $330 million for cash and treasury management services. DC ReInvest, a diverse coalition of D.C.-based grassroots groups working to reinvest D.C.’s money in local communities, led the effort. Councilmember Evans has refused to hold a public hearing on the Sense of the Council resolution, stifling public debate and stonewalling the divestment process.

“It’s frustrating that a resolution with such strong support from Councilmembers and D.C. residents is being met with this level of obstruction and delay,” said Yari Greaney, a DC ReInvest organizer, who led a rally outside the hearing that brought in over 50 D.C. residents.

“At Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) meetings across the District, community members express deep concerns that taxpayer money is being funnelled into the dishonest and discriminatory bank Wells Fargo and that no hearing has been scheduled. Eight ANCs passed local resolutions advising the Council to support the Sense of the Council Resolution. D.C. law requires that the ‘issues and concerns raised in the recommendations of the Commission shall be given great weight,’” said Jodi Jones, an organizer with Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America.

Wells Fargo is strikingly unfit to be in partnership with the District of Columbia; it is the main investor in the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, which threaten the land rights of Indigenous Peoples and spell disaster for the climate. The bank is also a major investor in private prison facilities and the NRA. Wells Fargo has a documented history of racist lending practices, including in Washington, D.C., where a 2013 study found the bank was the least likely to lend to Black borrowers. Worse still, the bank is embroiled in scandals, including the creation of fraudulent accounts. These actions triggered the Federal Reserve to sanction the bank for “consumer abuses and compliance breakdowns.”

“It is the job of the Council and CFO to find solutions to problems, not throw their hands up and say it’s too hard. We need good faith partners in government to work with us to find alternatives to Wells Fargo. Holding a hearing is the first step, and we implore Councilmember Evans to hold a hearing as soon as possible,” said Zach Weinstein, a representative with DC for Democracy and the DC Reinvest Coalition.

View the livestream from Wednesday’s rally here.

Zach Weinstein, DC for Democracy, [email protected], 410-300-5087
Yari Greaney, 350 DC, [email protected], 530-646-9118
Rachel Goldstein, 350 DC, [email protected], 973-454-7304