By Kimberly Nelson
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – For the first time in more than decade California based Wells Fargo held its shareholder’s meeting out of state in Salt Lake City. Critics say they are trying to run from opposition, so the protestors followed them here to Utah.
They may be fewer in numbers, but their message is the same.
Monica Kenney with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment told ABC 4 News, “Last year we showed up with 3,000 folks and said we don’t want your dirty money in our city, well they came here because they thought they’d have a conservative backing to protect them. They’re no longer protected.”
Students, activists and homeowners from California, Colorado and Utah were in the crowd many hoping to speak to Wells Fargo’s CEO John Stumpf.
“I wanted to tell him, not attack him, and just tell him how I feel as a homeowner,”said Manuela Alvarez. Alvarez came to Salt Lake from California where she’s losing her home to foreclosure. She’s been trying to re-modify her home loan for years after she sold her previous home and moved into a new one she didn’t know she couldn’t afford.
“I qualified not because of my income, they qualified me because of my credit and I was not told that,” said Alvarez. “And they did that to all of us.”
It’s a practice Josh Zinner, from the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, has seen over and over again. He presented a resolution at the shareholder’s meeting asking for an independent audit into whether Wells Fargo is complying with federal fair lending and fair housing laws.
Zinner told ABC 4 News, “Over 20 % of shareholders voted in favor of the resolution which is very significant. There’s a big concern about Wells Fargo’s servicing practices around the country.”
Wells Fargo told ABC 4 News, despite its $175 million Justice Department settlement, their lending practices are not discriminatory.
Wells Fargo Spokesperson Oscar Suris said, “We categorically reject and object to assertions that we are a discriminatory lender.” Suris added, “Our lending practices are an open book already. We work with federal regulators, State Attorney Generals, we believe it’s important for us to be at the table and engaged win the overall efforts to ensure our housing markets are robust and fair.”
Wells Fargo says it’s modified more than 850,000 mortgages and forgave more than $6 billion in loan principles. Protestors say that’s not enough.
Zinner said, “They’re denying under federal modification programs almost two-thirds of the loan modifications that come in their door and the loans that they’re servicing is well over $1.5 trillion in home loans.”