A diverse coalition will protest outside a Wells Fargo shareholders meeting in San Francisco today as part of a national week of action by groups who say big banks are blocking financial reform.
Organizers say more than 1,000 people from faith, labor and community organizations will march through the Financial District before sending shareholder proxies into the meeting to ask Wells Fargo executives to change their corporate practices.
They accuse Wells Fargo of blocking reform and using racially discriminatory lending practices, and are asking, among other things, that the bank hold off on foreclosing owner-occupied homes.
“Wall Street tanked America’s economy, killed jobs, took $700 billion in taxpayer bailouts – then went right back to business as usual, choking off credit, handing out $145 billion in 2009 executive pay and bonuses and fighting meaningful financial reform,” AFL-CIO officials said in a statement. “We’re 11 million jobs in the hole, and it’s time for the financial industry to pay up to create them.”
Protest organizers say Wells Fargo has permanently modified only 7.9 percent of more than 378,000 loans that qualify for federal refinancing programs. They are therefore asking the bank to stop evicting residents until at least 50 percent of its eligible loans have been modified.
The group also wants the bank to invest $50 million in communities that have been devastated by the foreclosure crisis and pay a speculation tax to create millions of jobs.
Wells Fargo spokesman Chris Hammond said this morning the bank is “absolutely committed” to keeping customers in their homes and is finding many instances of customers who are not eligible for the national Home Affordable Modification Program.
“Wells Fargo is augmenting (HAMP) with our own modification programs,” Hammond said. “We’re focused on doing the right thing for our customers.”
Protesters plan to meet at Justin Herman Plaza at noon then march to the shareholders meeting on California Street.
Tram Nguyen, a spokeswoman for the California Reinvestment Coalition in San Francisco, said a number of other protests will take place throughout the country in the near future.
“We can’t get the attention of these huge institutions without banding together and really trying to escalate our tactics,” Nguyen said.
Protesters will converge on Wall Street on Thursday, and a national event in Washington, D.C., is scheduled for May, Nguyen said.
Organizers of today’s protest include the AFL-CIO, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, the California Reinvestment Coalition, and the Contra Costa County Interfaith Supporting Community Organization. Americans for Financial Reform is a national partner.