NOTE: As the Spring heats up, this weekend’s Occupy the Farm action (previous post) is followed by today’s outpouring of protest in San Francisco’s financial district, to blockade Wells Fargo’s annual shareholders meeting. The San Jose Mercury News has a nice spread of photos, here, and below we post two current corporate news articles from the scene. – GJEP
April 24 (Bloomberg) – Wells Fargo Co. shareholders needed police help to enter today’s annual meeting in San Francisco as about 500 people gathered to protest the bank’s lending and foreclosures.
Sounds from the street wafted up to the 15th-floor meeting hall, where Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf was interrupted at least four times by people shouting objections. Earlier, six protesters chained themselves together to block an entrance, and about five to 10 were inside chanting as police cleared paths for attendees at the Merchants Exchange Building in the city’s financial district, across from Wells Fargo’s headquarters.
Members of Occupy Wall Street are among groups seeking to revive last year’s protests against the nation’s biggest banks for their role in causing the financial crisis and gaps between the incomes of the nation’s richest and poorest citizens. Wells Fargo is the largest provider of U.S. home loans and runs the biggest servicing operation, which handles billings, collections and foreclosures for banks and investors who own mortgages.
“We are here to put stories to the numbers and faces to the bottom line,” said Sarah Lombardo, 29, of Oakland, who said her parents’ house in Southern California was foreclosed two years ago. The foreclosure wrecked her family’s credit and prevented her from getting a college loan, forcing her to work two jobs in college, she said in an interview.
Lombardo said she didn’t know the names of the four banks that held the mortgage. The lenders foreclosed after her father was disabled in an accident and her mother got cancer, making it tough for them to make payments, she said.
Inside the hall, Stumpf was interrupted less than a minute into his presentation by a person shouting that the bank should pay its fair share of taxes, followed by at least two more such protests and a disruption by several people at once. Stumpf, 58, told the people they were out of order, and security personnel and San Francisco police escorted them out.
“There has to be a desire on both sides to have a true dialogue,” said Oscar Suris, a Wells Fargo spokesman. “We have been working with the San Francisco Police Department to do our best to ensure the meeting can proceed in the safest manner possible.”
No one asked questions of Stumpf during the customary question-and-answer period, and the CEO ended the meeting after shareholders voted to approve the management compensation plan and the slate of directors.
Marching and Chanting
Protesters who had set up a makeshift stage on the back of a truck chanted “let us in” as the start of the meeting approached. Others marching in a circle in front of a side entrance performed a call-and-response saying, “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.” Some held signs saying, “Occupy Wells Fargo, stop predatory loans,” and some brought a posterized mockup of the company’s stagecoach logo festooned with protest slogans.
Greg Latus, an officer with the San Francisco police, said 15 people were arrested inside the meeting, with about 10 more escorted out of the building. Six were arrested at Wells Fargo headquarters for trespassing as of 12:45 p.m. local time, said Albie Esparza, a police spokesman. He declined to give an official estimate for the size of the crowd, citing department policy.
Occupy Wall Street protesters, taking aim at what they called Wall Street West, were arrested Jan. 20 as they sought to shut the company’s headquarters. Wells Fargo was one of the few banks to acknowledge the movement in its annual report and list the protests as a risk factor that could harm the business.
SF police monitor Wells Fargo shareholder meeting
By TERRY COLLINS, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Police were guarding the entrance to the annual meeting of Wells Fargo shareholders on Tuesday as protesters associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement geared up to crash the gathering.
Dozens of officers were stationed around the Merchant’s Exchange Building in the city’s Financial District in advance of the 1 p.m. meeting. Bank stockholders were asked to show certificates or other proof of ownership before being corralled past gates erected in front of the doors.
Many of the early arrivals represented community groups from across the country that purchased Wells Fargo stock so they would have a say in the bank’s practices.
Shareholder Mark Richmond, a 59-year-old Portland member of the group We Are Oregon, said he hoped he could voice his concerns specifically about predatory lending and home foreclosures. He said he expected some raucousness inside and outside the meeting.
“Oh, there’s going to be some action all right. We’re very dissatisfied with Wells Fargo,” said Richmond, who works as a janitor at the Portland International Airport. “This should be very interesting.”
Angus Maguire, a spokesman for the Oregon group, said that hundreds of shareholders representing groups from throughout California and as far away as New York plan to express similar complaints.
“They have an actual legal requirement to hear us,” Maguire said. “We will be heard.”
A group calling itself 99 Percent Power said demonstrators want to address the meeting on issues such as home foreclosures, investment in private prison companies, and corporate taxes.
Hundreds of union members, activists and clergy members blocked the street in front of the building beforehand waving signs and chanting, “We are the 99 percent! Let us in!”
Wells Fargo spokesman Ruben Pulido said the company respects the protesters’ right to gather but would work to keep its customers, employees and shareholders safe.
Pulido also defended the bank’s foreclosure policies, saying that less than 2 percent of the loans Wells Fargo issued on owner-occupied properties had been foreclosed on.
“We work to keep people in their homes where there is affordability. Unfortunately some people have seen their incomes drastically reduced due to unemployment or underemployment,” he said.
Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog