Opinion

Meeting with Wells Fargo prompts letter

Dear President Brian Rosenberg, David Wheaton, Doug Rosenberg, and Kate Walker:

Thank you for facilitating last week’s meeting with representatives from Wells Fargo, Macalester business services administrators and students representing Macalester’s Kick Wells Fargo Off Campus coalition.

Macalester College is a unique learning environment because of its emphasis on open discussion, so we appreciate your willingness to take us seriously and enable this important conversation. However, we want to explain why we were not satisfied with Wells Fargo’s explanations and excuses. In fact, we feel more urgently than ever that the Macalester College administration needs to make a choice: side with our community, or side with Wells Fargo.

Representatives from Wells Fargo graciously heard our criticisms of their banking practices in the Twin Cities. Their congeniality did not surprise us; we are not engaging in this campaign out of a belief that Wells Fargo employees are essentially evil. Rather, we see that Wells Fargo has unique power to heal our community from the devastation it is partially responsible for causing through its destructive actions during the ongoing housing crisis that began in 2008.
In our meeting, representatives demonstrated that Wells Fargo remains unwilling to take responsibility for its role in the foreclosure crisis or work with the community to implement common sense solutions. For example, representatives claimed Wells Fargo never originated or serviced predatory loans, and squirmed away from admitting a stake in manipulative practices by Wachovia and Wells Fargo Financial. We saw the bank representatives’ lukewarm attitudes as reflective of Wells Fargo’s general reluctance to fix the problems it caused, and this was profoundly disappointing.

When we talked about our friends who struggled to make good on their mortgages while Wells Fargo lost their documents and sent them contradictory information from multiple sources, they avoided taking responsibility by saying it took awhile to work out the kinks in Obama’s system and figure out the fax machine. Send us their names, they said, we want to make it right. But when we asked about a widespread solution for all Minnesota homeowners working to avoid foreclosure, representatives squirmed away from supporting the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights in the Minnesota State Legislature.

We asked Wells Fargo to implement widespread principal reduction on homes with negative equity in the Twin Cities. Representatives emphasized that their hands are tied on loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. When we described the states and communities where Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac allow principal reduction, representatives attributed that success to local political pressure from community groups and institutions.

We take this statement as a signal to keep doing what we’re doing. Macalester College needs to stand with the homeowners, workers, labor leaders, people of faith, and community groups of the Twin Cities in pressuring Wells Fargo to do the right thing.

If we don’t demand that Wells Fargo fix what it broke, then it never will.

Sincerely,

Leewana Thomas ‘14, Rebecca Hornstein ‘13, Maya Pisel ‘13, Emma Kalish ‘13 Kick Wells Fargo off Campus Coalition

March 8, 2013

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