To Protest Dakota Pipeline, Seattle Severs Ties With Wells Fargo
By Lynda V. Mapes
Calling for a bank that reflects the city's values, the Seattle City Council voted 9-0 on Tuesday to eventually cut banking ties with Wells Fargo because of its role as a lender to the Dakota Access Pipeline project.
The bill asks Mayor Ed Murray to inform Wells Fargo the city will not be renewing its financial-services contract when it expires at the end of 2018 and will refrain from new cash investments in Wells Fargo securities for at least three years.
"People say, 'Money Talks,' " said Councilmember Debora Juarez. "We say, 'No, it doesn't. We do.' ''
The city cycles about $3 billion a year through the bank -- all the revenue the city receives, even from parking meters. The city's average daily balance in the bank has been about $10 million over the past six months, according to Wells Fargo.
The current contract with Wells Fargo began Jan. 1, 2013, and extends through Dec. 31, 2018, with the option of five additional one-year extensions. Wells Fargo was chosen by Seattle through competitive bidding.
While other jurisdictions have punished Wells Fargo for the scandal over its practice of creating millions of fraudulent bank and credit-card accounts, Seattle is the first to make the pipeline a major reason for severing ties with the bank.
The vote came after impassioned pleas from pipeline opponents.
"We are taking a bold policy step today that is what this movement wants to see and asks to see," Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez said.
Some council members declared their vote as a move to strike a blow against not only Wells Fargo, but "the billionaire class."
"Take our government back from the billionaires, back from [President] Trump and from the oil companies," Councilmember Kshama Sawant said.
Meanwhile, the Army told Congress on Tuesday it would allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under a Missouri River reservoir, clearing the way for crews to complete the $3.8 billion project.
Demonstrators against the pipeline have marched in the streets of Seattle and rallied at City Hall and Wells Fargo branch offices in Seattle to protest the company's participation in the pipeline project.
The is not the first time the city has taken action against Wells Fargo.
Under the direction of Murray and the council, Wells Fargo is no longer issuing bonds or brokering investments for the city after a national scandal in which Wells Fargo workers created millions of fake, unauthorized bank and credit-card accounts. The decision last October cost Wells Fargo a $100 million bond deal on behalf of Seattle City Light.
The bill that passed the City Council Tuesday also expands the use of socially responsible practices as a criterion for selection of contractors for most city contracts. The bill forbids city contractors from engaging in unfair business practices, and excludes any contractor running afoul of the law from bidding for five years.
Socially responsible practices would be worth at least 20 percent in the bidding process for selection of a financial institution to provide depository banking services.
Tim Brown, a vice president at Wells Fargo, said after the vote: "From our perspective we are always disappointed when a customer makes a decision to move business away from us. That is not an outcome we would seek."
For now, the ordinance doesn't change anything. "The contract remains in force through the end of 2018 and we will continue to support the city," Brown said. "What we are going to do to support them tomorrow is the same we are doing today."
Mayor Ed Murray supports the legislation and will sign it, said Benton Strong, communication director for the mayor.
Murray and Juarez also issued a statement against the decision by the Trump administration to cancel the ongoing environmental review of the pipeline, and issue an easement needed to complete construction.
Juarez, a lawyer and member of the Blackfeet Nation, predicted sustained resistance against the pipeline, beginning with a court fight to stop construction and continue the environmental review.
"We are a patient people," Juarez said, of native nations. "We are not going anywhere. And this is not bigger than us."
(c)2017 The Seattle Times