While the CEO of Wells Fargo, the more than 100 year-old bank which admitted recently to defrauding its customers by opening up more than 2 million phony accounts, was in Washington D.C today being questioned for a second time by members of Congress, a Philadelphia lawmaker called for the City of Philadelphia to follow in the footsteps of the State of California, where the international financial institution is headquartered, and divest its dollars.
Characterizing the business practices of Wells Fargo as horrible and criminal, 8th District Philadelphia City Councilwoman Mrs. Cindy Bass this afternoon said if the State of California, the nation’s largest issuer of municipal bonds, can suspend major parts of its relationship with the shady bank – Wells Fargo has been banned from underwriting state debt and the state won’t buy anymore of their debt securities – than, so, too, should Philadelphia.
Wells Fargo, which earned unwarranted bank fees as a result of the scam, is “unworthy of having $3 billion of the City’s money running through its hands,” said Councilwoman Bass in an exclusive interview with Techbook Online.
“Why is the City of Philadelphia still doing business with a bank that has admitted to committing fraud?,” asked the Councilwoman during the last minutes of Thursday’s City Council meeting.
A hearing at City Hall appears to be impending, and the Councilwoman, who desires to know how many Philadelphians were among those affected by the scandal, wants to hear from Wells Fargo executives directly.
“You owe us, the City of Philadelphia, an explanation,” the Councilwoman asserted.
In order for a divestment to occur, the City Council and the Mayor must approve. Philadelphia Mayor Mr. Jim Kenney, who called the business practices of Wells Fargo “obnoxious,” today told Techbook Online that he’s supported divestments before and that the Councilwoman’s call is “certainly something we can talk about.”
Mayor Kenney, regarding the scandal, was more reserved in his commentary than Councilwoman Bass, who said we should hold Wells Fargo, the world’s second largest bank, to a criminal standard because a crime has, indeed, occurred. The Mayor, usually outspoken, said only that Wells Fargo’s business practices should be reexamined.
Senator Elizabeth Warren last week said that the bank’s CEO, who hasn’t resigned but who has had his salary suspended while the internal investigation is underway, should be investigated by both the Department of Justice and the Securities Exchange Commission. Mr. Stumpf, as a consequence, will forgo his 2016 bonus and Wells Fargo has rescinded their compensation of $41 million.
Over the years, Wells Fargo has fired over 5,000 employees for their participation in this scandal. Councilwoman Bass wants to know how many of those fired were Philadelphians.
Councilwoman Bass today became the first Philadelphia lawmaker to publicly voice displeasure with the banking scandal, which also included employees submitting applications for 565,443 credit card accounts without their customers’ knowledge or consent. According to CNN Money, “roughly 14,000 of those accounts incurred over $400,000 in fees, including annual fees, interest charges and overdraft-protection fees.”
“At what point will we decide that we’ll make a difference with these big companies who operate in ways that are unacceptable,” the Councilwoman asked of her colleagues.
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Photos courtesy of the author.