Wells Fargo Exec Gets a Mic Check

Wells Fargo chairman of the board and CEO John Stumpf was a few minutes into a boilerplate speech about the wonders of capitalism (particularly for people like him) over at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management when he got a mic check:

Minutes into Wells Fargo Chairman of the Board & CEO John Stumpf’s talk at the Carlson School of Management’s “First Tuesday” luncheon, a group of about 10 protesters at a table stood up and began yelling, waving a banner that said “Tales of Wells Fargo” decrying the bank’s lending policies.

Police escorted the group outside, where about 50 union members, students and community activists were staging a demonstration.SEIU Local 284, which co-sponsored the protest, represents school and child care workers.

Outside, students, educators, homeowners and labor activists rallied near the University of Minnesota’s McNamara Alumni Center to tell Wells Fargo CEO Jon Stumpf to change policies trapping Minnesotans under “chains of debt.”

“Many in our community and our country rightfully believe that Wells Fargo and the other powerful, dominant banks have done much harm to our economy, and our future and the future of our children. We suffer under staggering debt while the real wages of working families have been stagnant for a generation,” said Carol Neiters, Executive Director of SEIU Local 284.

Participants in the rally said that they and other community groups had attempted to schedule a meeting with Wells Fargo executives but been rebuffed. They want the bank to discuss proposals for the bank to adopt policies in the public interest including lower interest rates on student loans, underwrite interest and fee free on K-12 public education borrowing, stop home foreclosures, renegotiate under water mortgages.

Kira Downey, a student, told her story at the rally. Her parents, Macolm LeFever and Cheryl Downey both were laid off from their jobs and whose home is being foreclosed by Wells Fargo—as a minor she now can’t get a student loan and had to drop out of the University of Minnesota.

Mark Krey a paraprofessional and child care worker in the West Saint Paul school district, said “Wells Fargo’s Chief executive in Minnesota sits on top of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce which fought tooth and nail to protect the rich and corporations like Wells Fargo from paying their fair share for our schools. So instead of taxing the big banks bloated profits, and the richest among us we are taking money out of our children’s classrooms to pay bankers and investors for underwriting fees and interest.”
The rally was organized by SEIU Local 284 (a statewide association of education workers) and Minnesotans for a Fair Economy and attended by students, homeowners, and activists from Occupy Minnesota, Minnesota NOC, TakeAction Minnnesota, HealthCare Minnesota the UFCW and others.

The November 3rd New York Times reports “The company that recorded the biggest reduction in taxes was Wells Fargo Bank…The banking company reported a total of $49 billion in profits in 2008 through 2010, yet received a tax benefit of $651 million.”

In October Minnesotans for a Fair Economy and an array of allies marched under the banner “Don’t Foreclose on the American Dream” last week. Representatives of Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, TakeAction Minnesota, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, ISAIAH, HealthCare Minnesota, SEIU Local 26, CTUL, UFCW Local 1189, SEIU Local 284 have signed a letter to the CEOs of Wells Fargo, USBank and other financial institutions seeking a meeting over solutions to the jobs and foreclosures crisis.

Now, if you’d heard about this event from the local fishwrapper called the StarTribune, you’d have seen Stumpf’s version of events laid out thus:

Wells Fargo & Co. CEO John Stumpf said Tuesday that he “gets” the frustration of the anti-Wall Street movement and that the bank is “trying not to shrink from our responsibilities.”

Even as protesters chanted outside and interrupted him at one point, Stumpf made a call for unity during a Minneapolis appearance. Both political parties, as well as “the 1 percent and the 99 percent” need to come together to pull the country through the economic straits it’s in, he said.

Wow! Sounds like he was perfectly willing to converse with those naughty protesters, despite their rudeness.

Except, if you watched the video, you saw that rather than engage them, he high-tailed it out the back door and into his waiting limo, the poor dear.

Another place in the StarTribune piece where there was a wee bit of a departure from reality was here:

In addressing the lack of job growth, Stumpf said bank vaults are “overflowing with deposits.” But he said small businesses, a key engine for job creation, don’t have the confidence to invest.

What he’s not telling you is that small businesses are getting sick and tired of being denied loans and credit by big banks like Wells Fargo — which is why they’re moving their money to smaller community-based banks with all deliberate speed.

Luckily for us, we have cellphones and cameras and other ways to perform Truth Checks as well as Mic Checks.

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