From [HERE] Seattle’s political leaders are looking to shake free of Wells Fargo in protest of the bank’s financing of the Dakota Access Pipeline project that threatens to foul the water supply and sacred lands of North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux.
The city will be stuck with the megabank for at least another year. But under legislation introduced Monday by Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, it would take its business elsewhere once Wells Fargo’s current contract to manage $3 billion in city funds expires next December.
Wells Fargo is one of two American banking titans that is directly lending to Dakota Access LLC. It has given the companies involved in the project close to half a billion dollars in funding, much of it in the form of direct project loans for the pipeline. Citibank has chipped in another $527 million, according to Food & Water Watch.
Anti-pipeline protesters have been physically assaulted, attacked by private security guards’ dogs, and rushed by riot cops repeatedly over the past several months. One almost lost her arm after being injured in an explosion activists blame on police during a tense standoff in November, where police turned a water cannon on protesters with temperatures well below freezing. Mass arrests have gained national media attention, while the abusive treatment of imprisoned activists has received less coverage.
The protesters recently won a partial, temporary victory when the Army Corps of Engineers decided not to approve the next phase of the pipeline’s planned route earlier this month. But the fight in North Dakota is ongoing and protesters have not decamped. Seattle and other public institutions should support the protests with their dollars, Sawant said in a blog post announcing the legislation.
“Elected officials nationwide owe it to the activists to stand with them. One clear way this City Council can do that is by divesting the City of Seattle from Wells Fargo,” the outspoken socialist wrote. “The pipeline executives have arrogantly announced they intend to wait until Trump comes to power, with the hope that his new administration will reverse the Army Corps’ decision. By urgently taking steps to divest from Wells Fargo, starting today, our city will have taken an important step against Trump’s agenda.”
While Seattle can’t break the contract by which Wells Fargo manages its operating fund, the bill introduced Monday would prevent the city from giving the bank additional business in the final 12 months of that deal.
It’s not as severe a ding to the bank’s bottom line as California’s decision in September to cut Wells Fargo out of the state’s massive municipal bonds market, which is expected to cost the bank millions in fee income. But where California’s move was spurred by revelations that the bank had serially defrauded retail banking customers thanks to a corner-cutting sales culture, Seattle’s stiff-arm marks the first major attempt to rap the bank’s knuckles over its pipeline financing. [MORE]