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Seattle splits from Wells Fargo over Dakota Access pipeline

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Olivia One Feather, right, and Paul Cheoketen cheered with other audience members after the Seattle City Council voted to divest from Wells Fargo, Tuesday, in Seattle.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Seattle City Council member Debora Juarez, right, was embraced by Rachel Heaton, a Muckleshoot tribal member, as Council member Kshama Sawant stood nearby after Heaton gave both women gifts from the Native American community before a Council meeting, Tuesday, in Seattle.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Olivia One Feather, center, of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, held her fist up and cried tears of happiness after the Seattle City Council voted to divest from Wells Fargo over its role as a lender to the Dakota Access pipeline project and other business practices, Tuesday, in Seattle. Wells Fargo manages more than $3 billion of Seattle’s operating account.

SEATTLE >> Seattle leaders voted to cut ties with banking giant Wells Fargo over its role as a lender to the Dakota Access pipeline project as well as other business practices.

The crowd erupted in cheers Tuesday and chanted “water is life” when the City Council unanimously passed the measure, which directs officials to end the city’s contract with the San Francisco-based bank once it expires in 2018 and not to make new investments in Wells Fargo securities for three years.

“The example that we have set today can become a beacon of hope” for activists across the country, said council member Kshama Sawant, who co-sponsored the measure.

It came the same day that the Army told Congress that it will allow the $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline to cross under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota, completing the disputed four-state project. The stretch is the final big chunk of work on the 1,200-mile pipeline that would carry North Dakota oil through the Dakotas and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois.

The Standing Rock Sioux, whose reservation is just downstream from the pipeline’s crossing, fears a leak would pollute the tribe’s drinking water. The tribe has led protests that drew hundreds and at times thousands of people who dubbed themselves “water protectors” to an encampment near the crossing.

Wells Fargo has said it is one of 17 involved in financing the pipeline and that it is obligated by carry out its credit agreement. The bank is providing $120 million of the $2.5 billion.

“While we are disappointed that the city has decided to end our 18-year relationship, we stand ready to support Seattle with its financial services needs in the future,” said Tim Brown, Wells Fargo middle market banking regional manager.

Tribal members urged the Seattle council to send a broader message to oppose the pipeline and stand with indigenous people.

“You have been a city setting the example to the world, and I look to you to do that now,” said Olivia One Feather of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. “When big cities such as this do the right thing, it sparks hope in the world.”

Environmental activists across the country have called on a number of banks to stop financing the construction of the oil pipeline as well as on individuals to pull their money out of those banks.

Wells Fargo had managed more than $3 billion of Seattle’s operating account, processing everything from payroll and vendor payments to revenue collected from city business taxes to city fines.

The measure passed Tuesday calls out Wells Fargo for a number of enforcement orders issued against it in recent years. Regulators fined the bank $185 million after employees opened millions of customer accounts fraudulently to meet sales goals.

In the wake of that scandal, California and Illinois announced they would suspend some business relationships with the bank. Also in response, Seattle officials last October ended negotiations with Wells Fargo over a $100 million bond deal for the city’s electric utility.

Some who spoke Tuesday urged the council to look for a nonprofit bank, credit union or other financial institution that aligns with the city’s social values when it seeks to replace Wells Fargo.

Associated Press writers Manuel Valdes in Seattle and Blake Nicholson in Bismarck, North Dakota, contributed to this report.

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  • Shouldn’t municipalities choose business entities that are the best for them, and not let politics to mix in? Seattle, a most liberal city, is willing to pay a premium in order to make a political statement. Politicians always assume regular people are willing to pay more taxes to glorify the politician’s pet positions, when what they should be doing is the people’s business.

    • This is like our local babooze politicians telling the ERS to divest from fossil fuel & tobacco companies while running a huge unfunded pension liability. There’s only 2 things local governments should do when it comes to their finances: 1) find the financial institution with the lowest costs/fees and 2) maximize return on assets. Grandstanding and meddling by politicians for the newest hippest moral outrage only costs the taxpayers more money.

    • IRT to Maipono: I strongly disagree with you, because “the people’s business” DOES INCLUDE moral, ethical, environmental, and other non-cash-based issues and principles. Seattle’s City Council took exactly the correct step in recognizing that the city’s individuals AND the city itself live in a complex, intertwined environment in which a corporation’s decisions in one area may affect the quality of life in a lot of other areas. Saving a few cents or dollars per person on taxes is NOT an over-riding concern for many when placed against the larger issues raised by this decision.

      It’s also a pretty huge stretch to assume that all other vendors/providers of banking & investment services — even those with better histories of supporting pro-environmental and pro-ethical practices — will automatically cost Seattle more than the cheating, lying, greedy Wells Fargo has. If the city leaders look, they’ll likely find several service providers to choose from that have a corporate history of caring about the same things most of the people in the “most liberal” stronghold of Seattle do.

      It’s an even bigger stretch to claim that leaving the City’s money with Wells Fargo isn’t a “political” decision – EVERY dollar spent is a vote in some way or other!

      If the Native people of N. Dakota lose their clean water to corporate profit, greed,and a refusal to respect & protect the environment, then ALL of us EVERYWHERE are made poorer. Imua!

    • Liberals just love spending “other” people’s money (you know, from those of us who actually pay taxes and contribute to society). This is NOTHING more than political grandstanding. One thing’s for sure; these Sore Losers aren’t satisfied with 8 years of stagnation and loss of progress. Instead, they aim to double-down on their failed policies. And they are so full of HATE they can’t bring themselves to acknowledge their ruinous agenda.

  • Lets get this pipeline done so we don’t need to be held hostage by foreign oil. All the negative things said about the Alaskan pipeline were never founded, in fact the wildlife goes near the pipeline to keep warm. Enough of the delays.DO IT!

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