Entire Cities Are Cutting Ties With Wells Fargo For Its Support Of Dakota Pipeline

A sign held at an anti-Enbridge protest in Vancouver. (Photo: travis blanston/flickr/cc)

By Ilana Novick for AlterNet – Conservatives have long had a monopoly on the love of states’ rights and local government, but in Trump’s America, it’s the left that has seized the opportunities of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called “laboratories of democracy.” Even as the Dakota Access Pipeline inches toward completion, multiple cities including Seattle, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Raleigh, and Philadelphia have spoken with their wallets, severing ties with the oil pipeline-funding banks—in particular, Wells Fargo. On May 31, New York City became the latest city to join the effort, when Mayor Bill de Blasio and comptroller Scott Stringer announced that they will vote to stop New York City from entering into new contracts with Wells Fargo and strip the bank of its role as book-running manager for NYC’s General Obligation and Transitional Finance Authority bond sales. Seattle was at the forefront of the movement back in February, when a coalition of activists convinced the city council to pass an ordinance that, as the Nation explained, “would effectively bar the local government from doing business with or investing in Wells Fargo in the future.

Amid Divestment Protests, More Cities Explore Public Banks

Wells Fargo bank sign (Photo by Mike Mozart | Flickr CC 2.0)

By Oscar Perry Abello for Moyers and Company – Philadelphia City Council Member Cindy Bass was already thinking about how to cut the city’s ties with Wells Fargo when bank CEO John Stumpf testified last September before the US Senate. Questioning Stumpf about the bank’s fraudulent accounts scandal, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said, “So you haven’t resigned, you haven’t returned a single nickel of your personal earnings, you haven’t fired a single senior executive. Instead, your definition of accountable is to push the blame to your low-level employees who don’t have the money for a fancy PR firm to defend themselves.” Search the US Department of Justice website for “Wells Fargo” and “settlement” and you’ll get a litany of results: a $25 billion settlement for foreclosure abuse (a record), $1.2 billion for improper mortgage lending practices, and $184.3 million in compensation for steering black and Latino borrowers into predatory subprime mortgages. The 2016 hearing was the moment when the wheels fell off the stagecoach. Stumpf finally stepped down, about a month later, but he never returned a nickel of his pay. In fact, he left with a $133.1 million severance package. “Their lackluster responses, it was so outrageous, they just didn’t get it,” says Bass. “As a city, how could we be in bed with this company?

New York City Begins Divestment From Wells Fargo

Matt Remle (Lakota) is an editor and writer for Last Real Indians and LRInspire. @wakiyan7

By Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Matt Remle- Lakota) for Last Real Indians – NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott M. Stringer jointly announced today that they will vote to prohibit New York City from entering into new contracts for deposits with Wells Fargo, as well as suspend the bank’s role as a senior book-running manager for NYC General Obligation and Transactional Finance Authority bond sales. The New York City Banking Commission, which is scheduled to meet today, and of which the Mayor and the Comptroller are members, approves and oversees the banks that hold City deposits. Currently, Wells Fargo holds contracts with the City to provide banking services, including to operate “Lock Box” services that hold taxes and fees collected by the City. There is approximately $227 million of City dollars held in Wells Fargo accounts currently. Additionally, Wells Fargo acts as a trustee to the New York City Retiree Health Benefits Trust, which has current assets of approximately $2.6 billion. Recently, Wells Fargo received a Federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) rating of “needs improvement.” The ban will be revisited only when the bank’s rating is raised.

U.S. Bank Becomes First Major Bank To Stop Financing Pipeline Construction

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By Staff of 350.org for Eco Watch – U.S. Bank has become the first major bank in the U.S. to formally exclude gas and oil pipelines from their project financing. This groundbreaking change to their Environmental Responsibility Policy was publicly announced at the annual shareholders meeting in Nashville in April. In addition to no longer providing “project financing for the construction of oil or natural gas pipelines,” the bank has stated that relationships with their clients in the oil and gas industries will be subject to “enhanced due diligence processes.” As recently as March 2017, U.S. Bank has renewed commitments with Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline, and with Enbridge Energy, whose pipelines operate within Minnesota. However, advocates are hopeful that the bank’s newly released policy will limit other kinds of financing relationships with these industries. “U.S. Bank’s new policy is an important step in protecting the environment and moving towards a fossil free future,” said Wichahpi Otto, a volunteer with the climate justice group MN350, who travelled to Nashville for the shareholders meeting.

How To Contact 17 Banks Funding Tar Sands Pipeline Expansion (Including Keystone XL)

Individual divestment has moved more than $80 million from banks financing DAPL, and organizers would like to see similar effort directed at the tar sands financiers. Photo by Lori Panico.

By James Trimarco for Yes! Magazine – Of the more than 60 banks helping to finance the expansion of tar sands infrastructure, the indigenous-led environmental campaign Mazaska Talks has identified 17 as worst offenders. These banks have either financed all four currently proposed tar sands pipelines or they’ve headed up major multi-bank loans to the companies building them. The proposed pipelines are the Keystone XL, Energy East, Trans Mountain, and Enbridge’s Line 3. All four begin in the tar sands of Alberta, Canada. “Our thought is to be proactive and stop the construction of Keystone now.” Back in November 2015, then-President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada’s application to build the Keystone XL pipeline, saying it would create only a few dozen permanent jobs, would have no significant effect on U.S. energy security, and would damage America’s leadership role on climate change. President Donald Trump reversed that decision in March. The indigenous-led Mazaska Talks campaign to stop the tar sands expansion is focusing on the financing of the pipelines.

US Bank To Stop Funding Pipelines As Divestment Movement Expands Worldwide

A child takes part in a Global Divestment Mobilisation (GDM) action in Davao, Philippines. (Photo: 350.org/flickr/cc)

By Nika Knight for Common Dreams – As a nearly ten-days-long global mobilization calling for divestment from fossil fuels comes to an end, climate campaigners are celebrating a major victory stateside: U.S. Bank has announced that it will no longer finance fossil fuel pipeline construction. “Move to a green economy and a future that does not profit off the destruction of Mother Earth and our communities.” —Tara Houska, Honor the EarthThe announcement came during the company’s April shareholder meeting, reported MN350, a state arm of international climate justice group 350.org, on Monday. As a result of the new policy, MN350 observes that the bank will no longer provide “project financing for the construction of oil or natural gas pipelines,” and will also apply “enhanced due diligence processes” to oil and gas industry clients. “U.S. Bank’s new policy is an important step in protecting the environment and moving towards a fossil free future,” said Wichahpi Otto, a MN350 volunteer, who attended the shareholder meeting in Nashville. “We applaud them for responding to the community and contributing to worldwide efforts to address climate change.”

UCSB Chancellor Backs Call To Divest From Fossil Fuel Companies

A crowd gathered in the cold near Wall Street on Friday to call for New York’s divestment from fossil fuels. (Flickr / 350)

By Staff for Pacific Coast Business Times – After a four-day sit-in, UC Santa Barbara students won the endorsement of Chancellor Henry Yang on the divestiture of the University of California’s $2.8 billion in its endowment from fossil fuel companies. Margaret Klawunn, vice president of student affairs, delivered the statement May 11 on behalf of the chancellor at Cheadle Hall, where around 400 students, faculty and staff took part in the sit-in. “In the coming week, I look forward to working with my fellow chancellors in support of a thorough and transparent discussion on divestment from fossil fuels as part of the UC’s approach to combating the climate crisis,” Yang’s statement said. Investments should instead go toward more sustainable companies, said Cassie Macy, a spokeswoman for the student group Fossil Free UCSB that organized the protest. The first step is to get out of fossil fuels, Macy said, but “we’ve shown them that investments in sustainable companies have almost no difference in financial results. So we think that it’s very important that we invest in these companies that will better our future.” The effects of climate change affect marginalized communities most strongly, said fellow spokeswoman Celeste Argueta, including air quality and coastal erosion.

Harvard ‘Pausing’ Investments In Some Fossil Fuels

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By Oliver Milman for The Guardian – Harvard University is “pausing” investments in some fossil fuel interests following a five-year campaign by some students and environment groups to pressure the university to divest itself from coal, oil and gas. The elite university has come under fire for investing its $36bn endowment in a portfolio that contains fossil fuel companies and has until now resisted a concerted divestment campaign that has also targeted other US universities. However, Colin Butterfield, head of natural resources at the Harvard Management Company, said that climate change is a “huge problem” and that “for now, we are pausing minerals and oil and gas.” Butterfield said that Harvard indirectly invests in fossil fuels through outside funds, although the management company has previously signalled that it is moving away from coal due to a lack of profitability. “What I can tell you is, from my area, I could honestly say that I doubt – I can’t say never, because never say never – but I doubt that we would ever make a direct investment with fossil fuels,” he said.

Under Activist Pressure, Portland Agrees To End All Corporate Investments

An activist calls for divestment at a Portland City Council meeting last week. The council's decision to divest from all corporations was a victory for activists organized along intersectional lines. (Photo: Doug Yarrow)

By Mike Ludwig for Truthout – In a sweeping move that follows a wave of divestment activism in Portland, Oregon, and across the country, the Portland City Council voted last week to pull all of the city’s investments in corporate bonds and securities. The decision was a major victory for a broad coalition of activists who have pushed for the city to end its investments in corporations that have questionable records on the environment and human rights, including ties to the Dakota Access pipeline, the private prison industry and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. “As their decision stands now, it’s permanent.… We can rest assured in Portland that our money won’t be funding prisons, pipelines and the occupation of Palestine,” said Amanda Aguilar Shank, an organizer with the racial justice group Enlace, in an interview with Truthout. Portland’s City Council had originally considered adding Caterpillar, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and six other companies identified by a volunteer committee on socially responsible investing to a so-called “Do Not Buy” list

Pipeline Protestors Shut Down Citizens Bank

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By The Fang Collective. Providence, RI – On Thursday morning three people with The FANG Collective blockaded the main entrance to the Citizens Bank global headquarters building in downtown Providence, RI to protest the Bank’s financing of Sunoco Logistics. Two people used a series of bike locks to lock their necks to two sets of doors, while another person used their body and several door stoppers to block a revolving door. The action follows the February launch of the “Shame On Citizens” campaign which calls attention to Citizens Bank’s role in a $2.5 billion line of credit to Sunoco Logistics, a pipeline company behind several controversial projects, including the Dakota Access Pipeline. Citizens contributed $72.5 million to this line of credit. Sunoco Logistics is in the process of fully merging with Energy Transfer Partners.

Seattle Just Divested Billions From Wells Fargo Over Dakota Access Pipeline

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By J. Gabriel WareJames Trimarco for Yes! Magazine – The movement to stop the controversial Dakota Access pipeline through financial activism took an important step forward today, as the Seattle City Council voted 9-0 to approve a bill that terminates a valuable city contract with Wells Fargo. The bank, one of the largest in the United States, has provided more than $450 million in credit to the companies building the pipeline. The move makes Seattle the first city to divest from a financial institution because of its role in the Dakota Access pipeline, a $3.8 billion project that would run from western North Dakota to Illinois, and is fiercely opposed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Wells Fargo is one of 17 banks directly financing the project.

Defund DAPL Spreads Across Indian Country As Tribes Divest

by Ethan Buckner

By Frances Madeson for Counter Punch – “Many people are, rightfully, afraid that executive support [President Trump’s] now means that the pipelines are full steam ahead,” said Melanie Yazzie, co-founder of The Red Nation, an activist coalition dedicated to the liberation of Native people from capitalism and colonialism. She views divestment as obstruction—the good kind—something akin to water protectors locking down on construction equipment and as a continuation of the widespread resistance that has united under the cry of #NoDAPL. “The investors and financiers will not move forward if the projects are deemed financially unfavorable,” Yazzie said.

Seattle City Council Committee Votes To Divest From Pro-DAPL Bank

The crowd outside Seattle City Hall on Wednesday. (Valerie Costa / Twitter)

By Emma Niles for Truth Dig – Council Bill 118883 was proposed by Kshama Sawant, the only socialist member currently sitting on Seattle’s City Council. “If Seattle divests from Wells Fargo, it will greatly fuel the inspiring nationwide struggle against the Dakota Access pipeline and the oil lobby,” Sawant said at a rally prior to Wednesday’s vote. “I urge council members to support this legislation as part of Seattle’s fightback against Trump and the billionaire class.” The legislation passed the finance committee Wednesday and, according to Sawant, will go to Seattle’s full City Council for a vote on Feb. 6. Still, many saw Wednesday’s vote as a decisive victory.

An ‘Undeniable Success’: Divestment From Fossil Fuels Passes $5 Trillion

The Paris climate agreement reached last year "bolstered the economic arguments underpinning divestment," the new report says. (Photo: Joe Brusky/flickr/cc)

By Andrea Germanos for Common Dreams – The value of funds making the commitment has doubled in size since September 2015. Marking the divestment movement’s “undeniable success,” a new report shows the value of funds controlled by individuals and institutions who have vowed to dump their fossil fuels assets now surpasses $5 trillion. 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben said the “news is mammoth.” The report (pdf) by Arabella Advisors for the Divest-Invest Network shows that the value of global funds making the commitment—now at about $5.2 trillion—has doubled in size since September 2015…

Portland Leads Way To Nationwide Divest From Dakota Pipeline And Private Prisons?

Protesters with Lifted Voices and The American Indian Center rally in solidarity with the Water Protectors at Standing Rock outside a CitiBank in Chicago, Illinois, during a national day of action last week. Activists across the country are closing accounts with banks financing the Dakota Access Pipeline and urging state and local governments to do the same. (Photo: Kelly Hayes / Lifted Voices)

By Mike Ludwig for Truthout – Not long after returning home from the Dakota Access pipeline protests at Standing Rock, Oregon resident Ali Pullen was testifying before the Portland City Council in an effort to dump several large corporations from the city’s list of contractors and investment interests. Pullen, who had traveled to Standing Rock with a delegation of people of color from Portland, specifically testified about Caterpillar, a major construction contractor for Dakota Access, and Wells Fargo, one of 17 banks financing a pipeline that activists are now risking life and limb to stop.