On March 22nd, local residents and activists from Good Jobs Better Baltimore, 1199 SEIU, 32BJ SEIU, Occupy Baltimore, and Occupy Our Homes arrived with a moving van, foreclosure signs, caution tape, and a “sheriff” from Good Jobs Better Baltimore to “evict” the bank. We held this event to highlight the negative effects Wells Fargo has had in Baltimore and nationwide as a corporate tax dodger and a bad actor in the foreclosure crisis.
According to a recent Citizens for Tax Justice report, “Corporate Taxpayers & Corporate Tax Dodgers, 2008 – 10”, Wells Fargo was one of 249 corporations that paid less than their fair share in federal corporate income taxes in 2010. In fact, the bank did not pay anything in taxes, yet received a $17.9 billion tax subsidy between 2008 and 2010, money that could have gone towards job creation, health care or education.
Wells Fargo was also one of the worst actors in the housing market collapse, issuing subprime loans in Baltimore at a rate 2nd only to Countrywide from 2005 to 2009. While the bank chooses to characterize their shady lending practices as the rogue actions of a few low level employees, a report issued this March by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development concluded that managers at Wells Fargo and other big banks were aware of problems and “did nothing to correct them”, and that the banks “violated state laws governing the foreclosure process.” Wells Fargo is cited specifically throughout the report.
Last Friday, Good Jobs Better Baltimore and other activists staged a surprise “celebration” to commemorate Wells Fargo’s 160th birthday at a downtown bank branch.
Inside the bank, activists released balloons with messages like “Wells Fargo: Pay your fair share in taxes,” and “Wells Fargo: Received tax subsidy of $17.9 billion.” Outside, individuals dressed as big money bankers with fake money bulging from their briefcases greeted passersby and handed out special “thank you” cards to Baltimore residents. The cards thank Baltimore for “sitting by while we did not pay our fair share in taxes,” and “allowing us to celebrate in style.”
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