New revelations of Wells Fargo’s fraud add to pressure on DC council to divest

After a failing community lending grade, unethical banking practices, and new scandals, D.C. organizers want to see the city reinvest in responsible banking

Jeremiah Lowery speaks at DC ReInvest rally about Wells Fargo divestment
Jeremiah Lowery, with DC ReInvest Coalition member Sierra Club DC, speaks at a rally urging DC to cut ties with Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo came under increased fire today after a discovery that the bank had created more than 3.5 million potentially fake bank and credit card accounts—a staggering addition to the earlier tally of 2.1 million fraudulent accounts. Not only is Wells Fargo guilty of making these fraudulent accounts, but their irresponsible banking behaviors such as racially discriminatory lending practices, funding of private prisons, redlining, and funding of dirty energy pipelines which contribute to climate injustices are harmful to our communities and a sustainable future.

Eight months ago, an Indigenous-led coalition of D.C. grassroots groups and community members launched the D.C. ReInvest Coalition, joining a growing nationwide movement of cities across the United States pushing local governments to cut ties with Wells Fargo over the bank’s investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline. Wells Fargo’s complicity in the atrocities committed against Indigenous people at Standing Rock in no way reflect D.C.’s values as a community—especially when added to its other unjust investments and history of defrauding customers with fake accounts. The news that Wells Fargo’s fraud reached over a million more people than previously thought should only make it more clear for both D.C. residents and members of the Council: it’s past time for our city to divest once and for all and move taxpayers’ money into more just, responsible alternatives.

Wells Fargo’s complicity in the atrocities committed against Indigenous people at Standing Rock in no way reflect D.C.’s values as a community.

Divesting from Wells Fargo is both the right thing to do and is logistically feasible: dozens of major cities, from Seattle to Philadelphia, have already severed their relationships with the bank. What’s more, D.C. Council has already taken two important steps toward divesting from Wells Fargo and reinvesting in our community. Six Councilmembers have already introduced a resolution that would recommend divestment—and in addition, D.C.’s upcoming budget includes $200,000 to complete a study that would lay the groundwork for establishing a community-controlled public bank in the District.

However, we believe the City Council must act swiftly in breaking its ties with a bank that continues to exploit people. Finance Committee chair Jack Evans has refused to give the resolution a hearing. But 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, clearly casting its qualification into doubt.

Now, D.C. must invest in efforts to end police brutality, pursue a just energy transition, and support justice and self-determination for our communities. We want to see the D.C. City Council remove city money from Wells Fargo and explore new fair and responsible banking options.

If you are interested in joining or learning more about our coalition of community members in the push for the D.C. City Council to divest from Wells Fargo and reinvest in its people, you can contact the D.C. ReInvest Coalition at [email protected], or send us a message on Facebook.