Whose Time (and Money) is Wells Fargo Wasting?

Written by Scott Parkin

Topics: Coal

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Today, Wells Fargo CEO Richard Kovacevich was a participant in a large Wall Street investor’s conference held at the San Francisco Ritz-Carlton today. The conference, lasting through the week, includes CEO’s from a number of companies meeting with and briefing institutional investors on their business plans.

As an organizer on RAN’s Global Finance campaign, we put together inside and outside strategies to raise the profile of Wells Fargo’s investments in Massey Energy, a notorious coal company using mountaintop removal to destroy eco-systems and communities for profit. Our outside strategy entailed organizing a lively protest and bit of street theater to raise the profile of Wells’ dirty investments to investors entering the conference. Our inside strategy entailed renting a room in the Ritz Carlton for better access to Kovacevich, other CEO’s and the investors.

These strategies led to an overreaction by Wells Fargo, hotel security and the SFPD. My name on the hotel guest list led to a constant security detail of police and hotel security following me and some friends around treating us like an unwelcome guests.

So this begs the question—Whose Time (and Money) is Wells Fargo Wasting?

-The San Francisco Police Department pulled over 30 police officers off the streets for some law abiding peaceful street theater and a legitimately attained hotel room. That’s taxpayer money serving the interests of Wells Fargo and Richard Kovacevich. I wonder how many of those public servants felt like they wasted their time.

-Along the same lines, the Ritz-Carlton deployed an array of security guards to follow us around. While Wells or the Conference’s sponsors probably paid the hotel’s overtime wages, it still seems like a huge waste of time and money to “watch” peaceful protestors legally renting a hotel room. If they were so worried about us, how about not renting us a room? Quite the exercise in futility on their part if you ask me.

-Coal impacted communities are having their lives disrupted everyday by Wells funded Massey Energy. It’s a waste of their time and money when they are fighting the coal companies’ everyday for their livelihoods, keeping toxic sludge out of their children’s schools and the highly destructive strip mining. Kovacevich and many of the other CEO’s at the conference have negative impact on the lives of everyday people. Often, I discover that these people are engaged in life and death struggles while the privileged and powerful only worry about their public image and bottom line.

On a final note, I don’t feel like I wasted my time or money. I helped raise the profile of Wells Fargo’s dirty investments to the conference’s investors and to the public at large. The issues of mountaintop removal and its impact on Appalachian communities is one of the most pressing of our time. As long as Wells invests in it, me, my friends here at Rainforest Action Network and people of conscious at large will continue to do something about it.

8 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. R Stubbs says:

    Good article. Keep up the good work. Much to be done. Thank you. R. Stubbs

  2. Greg Rasore says:

    I was present at the Ritz-Carlton when these events documented in this article were happening. For your info the hotel would not discriminate against a person who wanted to rent a room and had payment. The hotel name is spelled as listed above – I thought you would have seen that as you stood in front of the sign while demonstrating. Your facts are off in this article- I think you should be careful about writing statements of fact that you have not verified. While I support your right to convey your point of view – you also have a duty to present valid facts. How will anyone believe the facts you present about environmental impact if other facts are not correct. Overall I thought your group got their point across without having to disrupt meetings with public relations stunts. If you believe that protection of the rights of others is “futile” then I think you may want to rethink your position on freedom of speech.

  3. JT Patrick says:

    How is asking a corporate CEO questions in person, instead of from behind a line of police a violation of his rights? In fact, isn’t it a violation of all of our rights that he wields so much power and has the protection of tax payer funded public citizens?

  4. David Loudenback says:

    I am fortunate that I don’t do any business with Wells Fargo directly. Otherwise I’d be on my was to the local branch to close out my accounts.

  5. L Patotzka says:

    Thanks to your exposing WFB’s dirty practices, I pulled my checking/savings/IRA out of WFB late last year. The lady behind the desk seemed indifferent to what I was doing and why. I wrote the CEO about my quitting WFB after umpteen years, including describing that lady’s indifference towards her customers, and of course never got a response. Par for the course, sadly. Thanks for all you’re doing RAN!

  6. Sharon Kennedy says:

    What the Wells Fargo directors fail to understand is that there is no profit when a man sells his ethics and his conscience for the thrill of an extra buck.

  7. John Smith says:

    Big business is very fragmented and I have seen personally that Wells is not all bad. However I am contacting RAN to learn more on what can be improved.

    Here is some good that just was announced: Wells is the top US purchaser of clean power today –
    http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/partners/top25.htm

  8. John Smith says:

    Updated: I neglected to add the important “US commerical purchaser” part. No business can compete with the funds allocated to our armed forces (air force is #1 overall)…

    Also FYI and worth a browse:
    https://www.wellsfargo.com/about/csr/ea/
    Any member of WFB should talk to their branch/banker and ask what they are doing, and if they can do more…

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