Wells Fargo received some birthday wishes it wasn’t planning for when it celebrated its 160th anniversary on March 19. Community members released birthday messages suspended from clusters of black balloons in the lobby of the banking giant’s Minneapolis regional headquarters. The cards read:
- To: Wells Fargo, From: The 99% $43 Billion Bailout
- To: Wells Fargo, From: The 99% $17.5 Billion Worth of Foreclosed Homes
- To: Wells Fargo, From: The 99% $17.96 Billion in dodged taxes
“With cuts to our schools and so many people struggling to get by, people are looking at corporate tax dodgers as the culprits, and bailed out banks more than anyone ought to be paying their fair share,” said Terri Buttleman, a paraprofessional in the West Saint Paul schools who attended the rally. “If corporations like Wells Fargo were paying their fair share, school boards would not have to make cuts that hurt the kids who need help to succeed.”
Wells Fargo has received $17.96 billion in tax breaks over the last three years, and even received $681 million in federal tax refunds, according to the social justice group Minnesotans for a Fair Economy.
The citizens gathered inside Wells lobby also had a birthday song for the banking giant. “Happy birthday to you/Happy birthday to you/You don’t pay your taxes/And foreclose on us, too,” they sang.
Monday’s event highlighted a list of complaints that local activists have leveled against the bank for more than a year: foreclosures practices, excessive CEO pay and profits in the wake of a bailout and a national economic crisis; unfair tax dodging; and executives’ support for politicians who undermine public services and won’t take action to create good jobs.
In October, hundreds of activists from a diverse range of community, faith and labor groups, Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, and Occupy Minnesota sat in the street in front of the downtown Wells Fargo building, after marching under the banner “Wells and Wall Street: Don’t Foreclosure on the American Dream.”