Months after city activists petitioned the city’s Board of Alders in August to hold a public hearing about potentially divesting the city’s funds from Wells Fargo, the movement is picking up steam, with activists expecting a decision in the coming weeks.
The decision on whether to hold a hearing on Wells Fargo — which has faced criticism for helping fund the Dakota Access Pipeline — will be made by the Board of Alder’s Finance Committee. Gary Schulick MUS ’05, an Elm City resident and one of the co-signers of the August letter, told the News that although there is still uncertainty about when the decision will be released, he believes it will be in the next few weeks. Mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer said that on Jan. 12 his office released a statement acknowledging the residents’ request for a public hearing on this issue and Mayor Harp’s thoughts on it.
“Mayor Harp continues working with Controller Daryl Jones and the rest of her financial team to see how the city can distance itself from Wells Fargo with a competitive bank that’s suitably equipped to safeguard the city’s assets and handle the high volume and complex transactions the city requires,” Grotheer said.
Schulick, who has been petitioning on behalf of the organization New Haven Stands with the Standing Rock Sioux, said that while the mayor has been generally supportive of the cause, she has been misinterpreted as saying that she will defund Wells Fargo, when in fact she is only “considering it.”
Schulick said he wants a public hearing to be held in order to raise awareness about the need to defund Wells Fargo, which handles New Haven’s operational funds, and to garner more public support for the cause.
A number of cities have taken this approach toward the banks that helped fund the Dakota Access Pipeline, Schulick said. He also noted that Wells Fargo also faced scrutiny over the past year for investing in private prisons and immigration detention centers. And in an interview with the News this week, Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19 said he supports divestment from Wells Fargo.
Kevin Friedlander, a public relations official at Wells Fargo in Connecticut, did not respond to emails and phone calls requesting comment on Monday.
But Friedlander issued a statement on Jan 12., noting that Wells Fargo is one of 17 organizations that have funded the Dakota Access Pipeline. He also said that the bank has invested $70 billion in clean energy, according to the New Haven Register.
Still, Schulick said that Wells Fargo’s investments in renewable energy are not an “excuse” for funding the controversial pipeline.
The activists who wrote the letter want a formal public statement from the mayor saying that New Haven will defund Wells Fargo and a more specific timeline for carrying out the divestment, Schulick said. He added that that process may take a year — as it did when Seattle divested from Wells Fargo in response to the bank’s involvement with the pipeline project — but that New Haven Stands with Standing Rock will not be satisfied until the city issues a formal announcement.
Wells Fargo was founded in 1852.
Christina Carrafiell | firstname.lastname@example.org