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Protesters Target Wells Fargo Shareholder Meeting in Des Moines

Protesters targeted a Wells Fargo shareholder meeting in Des Moines Tuesday and listed several complaints against the bank that was recently hit with a $1 billion fine for loan abuses.

“We’re gonna beat back the bank attack,” chanted protesters standing in a hotel lobby below the shareholder meeting. They cheered when they learned the people in the meeting above could hear them.

Lori Young of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement—one of the groups that organized the protest—said Wells Fargo is too big.

“They have abused their power with all these fake bank accounts they created,” Young said. “And every time they get caught, they pay the little fine, which is just a drop in the bucket for their profits.”

Young said she also opposes Wells Fargo’s “predatory lending practices.”

In 2016, regulators revealed Wells Fargo employees had created millions of fake accounts, including thousands in Iowa. Last week, federal regulators fined the bank $1 billion for loan abuses.

Protesters were asked to leave the Marriott hotel in downtown Des Moines, and they rallied in front of a nearby Wells Fargo branch and inside the lobby of the company’s corporate offices.

Wells Fargo is the Des Moines area’s largest employer and has about 16,000 employees across the state.

Protesters also highlighted the bank’s role in financing the Dakota Access Pipeline, the National Rifle Association and private prison companies.

Donielle Wanatee with Indigenous Iowa said she’s standing in solidarity with everyone protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“That’s why I came out here, to let Wells Fargo know that Meskwakis are still in this fight, and we’re still aware of what they’re doing,” Wanatee said.

According to Wells Fargo’s website, it is lending 4.8 percent of the project’s total financing as one of 17 banks that have made a loan to pipeline developers.

“We’ve failed to see any meaningful changes in the corporate behavior of Wells Fargo despite repeated attempts to hold this bank accountable,” read a protest leader from a letter to Wells Fargo, as other protesters repeated the words.

The protesters had four official demands. They asked for the firing of the Wells Fargo CEO and board of directors, they want the bank to be broken up, they want restitution for victims, and they want Wells Fargo employees to be allowed to unionize.

In an emailed statement, Wells Fargo spokesman Steve Carlson said the company welcomes “open and collaborative dialogue with our stakeholders.”

“While we have more work to do, we are making strong progress in our efforts to rebuild trust and build a better, stronger Wells Fargo,” Carlson said.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter