7 Awful Things the Human Rights Campaign Condones through its Partnership with Wells Fargo
Despite ample reasons to divest, HRC maintains its partnership with Wells Fargo at the expense of trans and queer communities of color and others on the margins.
Racism isn’t just a by-product of Wells Fargo’s actions — it is at the core of its practices across the board. From its financing of the private prison system, immigrant detention facilities and the Dakota Access Pipeline to its predatory lending practices that target communities of color, to the way it treats its own employees, Wells Fargo demonstrates a toxic disregard — if not outright disdain — for people of color, immigrants and Native communities.
In the current political climate, when people of color, trans folks, immigrants, and working class folks are under attack, HRC continues to celebrate and promote — of all possible corporate sponsors — Wells Fargo.
Here are just some of the things that apparently don’t bother the Human Rights Campaign enough to force them to reconsider their ongoing relationship with Wells Fargo.
1. Predatory lending that disproportionately targets communities of color
Wells Fargo has been one of the leading banks when it comes to mortgage discrimination. In cities across the country, Well Fargo disproportionately targets communities of color with predatory mortgages. The impact of these actions is staggering. In Ferguson, Missouri, for example, Wells Fargo has deliberately pushed non-White customers towards, “exotic and costly mortgages they did not fully understand and could not afford,” to the point that Ferguson’s current foreclosure rate is a whopping 50%.
In an affidavit that was part of a federal lawsuit filed by Baltimore officials against Wells Fargo, a loan officer stated that Wells Fargo employees had referred to the subprime loans sold to Black lenders as “ghetto loans,” and loans for “mud people.”
2. A reckless culture of creating fraudulent accounts to meet sales goals, at the expense of communities of color and working class folks
In a widely covered scandal, it was revealed that Wells Fargo employees created 3.5 million fake bank and credit card accounts. According to court documents, Wells Fargo aggressively targeted undocumented immigrants for these fraudulent accounts, promising to waive check-cashing fees in exchange for opening unnecessary credit card and checking accounts.
In July it was revealed that Wells Fargo charged as many as 570,000 customers for car insurance they didn’t need. An internal review by Wells Fargo showed that 20,000 of these customers were forced to default on their car loans as a result, and had their cars repossessed.
3. Police violence and the militarization of police departments
Wells Fargo is a major donor to Police Foundations across the country that provide supplementary funds to local police departments. Through these sizable donations, Wells Fargo has helped police departments in St. Louis, Baltimore, Charlotte and other cities across the country, pay for surveillance technologies, high-powered weapons, and street fighting training.
4. The Destruction of Native land and disregard for Native peoples
Wells Fargo contributed nearly $500 million dollars in loans to support the Dakota Access Pipeline, a direct attack on the Standing Rock Sioux’s ancestral water supply. As public outrage over the pipeline and the violence against water protectors grew, Wells Fargo did nothing to reduce its investment. HRC did nothing to weaken its relationship with Wells Fargo.
5. The debt crisis in Puerto Rico
Wells Fargo played a critical role in pushing Puerto Rico to take on unsustainable levels of debt, that has created the intense “assault of austerity,” faced by Puerto Rico today. Wells Fargo and Wachovia (now owned by Wells Fargo) underwrote seven large loans since 2007. Together, these loans have a combined effective interest rate of 734%.
6. Mass incarceration, immigrant detention and the expansion of the carceral state
Wells Fargo profits directly off of the private prison industry and funds its expansion. Nearly 90% of immigrant detention centers are run by private prison companies. As the Trump administration continues to attack immigrant communities, Wells Fargo is seeing dollar signs.
Below are some of the ways Wells Fargo is currently involved in financing and profiting from the two private prison industry leaders — GEO Group (GEO) and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA):
- Wells Fargo has extended to CCA a $132.5 million line of revolving credit, of which CCA has borrowed $65.4 million.
- Wells Fargo has provided a $14.3 million term loan to CCA.
- Wells Fargo is part of the syndicate of banks that has extended a $900 million line of revolving credit to GEO Group, of which GEO Group has borrowed $450 million.
- Wells Fargo is part of the syndicate of banks that has provided GEO Group with a $291 million term loan.
- Wells Fargo is the trustee for all four of GEO Group’s bond offerings.
Wells Fargo underwrote at least $144 million of CCA’s and GEO Group’s bonds.
- Wells Fargo owns 704,506 shares of CCA stock and 476,691 shares of GEO Group stock.
7. Discrimination in the workplace
For decades, HRC has rated Wells Fargo one of the top places for LGBT folks to work. But HRC hasn’t based this on the experiences of the employees, just Wells Fargo’s stated practices. Looking at some recent lawsuits filed against Wells Fargo by its employees shows a different story.
In December 2016, Wells Fargo paid a settlement of $35 million to a group of its black employees who were routinely passed over for promotions, denied lucrative accounts (which were awarded to white employees), and assigned to territories and branches that generated less money.
In June 2016, Wells Fargo paid an undisclosed amount to a transgender employee to settle a lawsuit that claimed the employee was wrongfully fired for her decision to transition. The trans employee claimed she was “harassed and mocked to the near point of suicide.”
A recent study found that Wells Fargo regularly punishes female employees at a “substantially higher rate relative to male advisers.” Female financial planners are 25% more likely to experience “job separation” after misconduct than male advisers.