Update, below: Wells Fargo will be the target of several actions this week by the Colorado Progressive Coalition, including plans to "move in" to a branch on Thursday with lamps, pillows and coffee pots to protest the bank's high number of foreclosures. Dubbed the Mile High Showdown, the actions are accompanied by specific demands (read them below), which differentiates it from Occupy Denver.
The actions start this afternoon. According to Ben Hanna, organizing director for the Colorado Progressive Coalition, a group of labor leaders, clergy and homeowners will deliver a letter detailing its demands to the Wells Fargo branch at 1700 Broadway around 12:30 p.m. The group will ask that the letter be faxed to Wells Fargo president John Stumpf, Hanna says, "so we're clear about what our concerns are."
The Mile High Showdown is associated with a national campaign "to restructure Wall Street" called The New Bottom Line, which is demanding reform from three major banks: Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase. Of the three, Wells Fargo has the biggest presence in Colorado, which Hanna says is why activists here plan to target it.
"If Wells Fargo fails to come to its senses this afternoon and do all those things (in our letter), our communities will send a clear message that they can no longer use our money to foreclose on families and support deportations," Hanna says.
Wells Fargo is responsible for more foreclosures in Colorado than any other bank, Hanna says, and is also a major shareholder in the GEO immigrant detention center in Aurora, which has been the subject of previous protests.
Update, 2:33 p.m. October 24: Look below for photos and captions by Stephanie DeCamp from today's rally. That's followed by a rundown of what's planned for this week, courtesy of Hanna.
On Tuesday, the Colorado Progressive Coalition plans to lead a contingent of Wells Fargo account holders in canceling their accounts and withdrawing their money.
On Wednesday, "a band of Robin Hoods" (in costume!) will deliver "messages from the 99 percent" collected on the website OccupyTheBoardRoom.org to an as-yet-determined member of Colorado's 1 percent.
Thursday is "move-in" day. The group plans to occupy a Wells Fargo branch -- it hasn't chosen which one -- until its members gets kicked out "to protest Wells Fargo's horrible record on foreclosures." If the members are booted before closing time, they plan to occupy "the space around that building," though Hanna says they won't stay overnight.
A rally to protest Wells Fargo's investment in GEO is planned for Friday at 4 p.m. in front of the Tivoli Student Union on the Auraria Campus. A march will follow and Hanna promises it will include "a big stagecoach and some great street theater that illustrates the unholy link between GEO and Wells Fargo."
On Saturday, the group will join Occupy Denver's weekly rally in a show of solidarity. Though there is no formal link between them, Hanna says they're after the same thing. The difference is in their tactics and their demands -- including the fact that they have any.
"We have a very clear sense of what's wrong and what needs to be fixed," Hanna says.
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SHOW ME HOW
Heres' a list of the Mile High Showdown's demands:
Pay the federally mandated 35 percent tax rate
Concerned by Wells Fargo's payment of $27.2 billion in bonuses and compensation to its bankers while paying only $1.4 billion in federal income tax in 2010, the delegation is calling on Colorado's biggest bank to pay back taxpayers. Delegation members are asking Wells Fargo to pay back the community before giving Stumpf another $17.5 million in total compensation, as they did in 2010, by paying their federally mandated 35 percent federal corporate income tax rate instead of an effective rate of 7.5 percent that it paid in 2010.
Over the last ten years, Wells Fargo had the lowest tax rate of the five largest world banks, paying only 24.8 percent on $110.9 billion in earnings while reportedly paying nothing in 2009 after writing off Wachovia debt. With Colorado forced to cut millions of dollars in vital resources to education, members of the community are concerned that Colorado children are being shortchanged in favor of bonuses to millionaires.
Reduce the principle of underwater loans
With an unemployment rate in Colorado still at historical highs, thousands of Colorado families simply can't pay their mortgages. In many cases buyers were victims of predatory lending practices that caught them in a trap of a high-interest subprime mortgage, while in others they simply saw the value of their houses decrease after the housing market crashed.
Bringing loan principles down to the true market value of homes would not only allow individuals to escape high-interest mortgages but would also infuse the national economy with over $71 billion every year; save families an average $543 per month on their mortgage payments; and help investors come out ahead to fix the foreclosure crisis once and for all. It would also be the right thing to do for a company that took the people's TARP dollars while using deceptive practices to lure buyers into high-interest sub-prime loans.
Wells Fargo recently settled its charge of dishonest lending practices for $85 million. Between 2004 and 2008 Wells Fargo conducted predatory lending practices that targeted minority communities and served to add to a worldwide economic crash. Though Wells Fargo received the largest fine ever levied by the Federal Reserve on a bank in a consumer lending case, the bank did not admit guilt. After the case was settled, Stumpf said the practice was only done by a relatively small group of employees. While the fine for predatory lending was a drop in the bucket for a bank that made a record net income of $12.4 billion in 2010, the practice cost thousands of people their homes and helped to feed the mortgage crisis.
At the end of 2009, Wells Fargo modified loans for only 22% of those eligible for modifications under the government program HAMP.
Though other banks have changed the process by which they sign off on foreclosures, Wells Fargo has been resolute that it employs the proper procedures to ensure mortgages are handled properly. This is in spite of being forced to re-file 55,0000 loans and the testimony Xee Moua, Wells Fargo vice president, who testified that she signed as many as 500 documents in two hours without having any idea of what she signed.
The process, known as "robo-signing" has been the cause of numerous unjustified foreclosures across the country. Though Wells Fargo has admitted to making errors in its mortgage foreclosures, and promised to fix those mistakes, it has not put foreclosure on hold. The delegation wants Wells Fargo to stop those foreclosures.
Coloradans don't want to be on the hook for the 140,000 homes expected to go into foreclosure by the end of next year. As a result, the delegation will be asking Wells Fargo to help save tax payers at least a portion of the 2.7 billion dollars Colorado tax payers are expected to pay to clean up the bank foreclosures.
Increase small business loan lending
Small businesses in Colorado give families jobs. According to the National Small Business Association 65 percent of net news jobs have been created through small businesses over the last 15 years. With Coloradoan still at historically high unemployment rates, our communities need the big banks to open their vaults to start-ups and aged business alike.
While Wells Fargo has been a recent leader in providing small business loans secured through the federal government's SBA (7) loan program amongst the big banks, by providing $1.2 billion in Small Business Administration loans, the Coalition is demanding that it and other banks continue to expand their loan programs.
A CNNMoney report showed that small business lending rose between 2006 and 2008 to $711.5 billion dollars but dropped off sharply after the recession began. Lending has continued to drop to nearly 611 billion in 2011.
While banks have loosened lending for large companies, many small businesses continue to find that draconian stipulations and a continued hesitance by banks to trust small business success are continuing to make it difficult for small business to start, expand and hire new employees.
Divest from private prisons, including GEO
Change your mutual fund strategies so as to divest from GEO Corp and Corrections Corporation of America.
In a July story in Westword, Cristie Drumm, spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, said that bank did not personally own stock but had made mutual fund purchases on behalf of their clients.
According to Yahoo Finance, Wells Fargo & Company is the 3rd largest institutional shareholder of the for-profit prison company Geo, Inc., which operates the Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in Aurora. The bank controls 5.54 percent of Geo through Wells Fargo & Company and 3.87 percent through Wells Fargo Advantage Small Cap Value Fund. Similarly they control significant shares in Corrections Corporation of America, another for profit prison that, according to a 2010 NPR report, has helped fashion immigration laws in Arizona.
Members of the delegation are asking that they change their mutual fund strategy.
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