Wells Fargo and its Enablers are Whining

New Orleans     News reports, partially attributable to banking giant, Wells Fargo, indicate that they are about to face an additional fine of $1 billion dollars from a variety of governmental agencies including the largely de-fanged Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for their high crimes and misdeeds.  As everyone should be ceaselessly reminded in the case of this criminal enterprise, they were found to have opened accounts without permission for consumers and in other cases, jacked up interest rates for different consumers on auto loans, and a handful of other practices called mildly “customer abuse,” but really plain stealing from their customers.  This one billion is on top of more than four billion that they have also been fined by the Federal Reserve in addition to a public slap down administered by Janet Yellin, former head of the Federal Reserve, as she dropped the microphone in one of her final acts before surrendering the post to Trump’s appointed successor.

In my view Wells Fargo has long been a criminal and near criminal conspiracy that has permanently damaged countless neighborhoods and millions of families.  All of these penalties are past due recognition of the outrageous, litigate and coverup, money first before all things culture that has characterized the bank for years.  The fact that none of the executives were criminally charged is a testament to the coziness of class in America and the huge corporate legal shield built around banks and other businesses.  Real regulators would have seized the bank, taken away their charter, put them on permanent supervision, or any number of other steps that would have forced change rather than allowing them to pay some and charge off the rest of these billions of dollars’ worth of fines on their books and taxes.

Amazingly, a columnist in the New York Times, James Stewart, has summoned a bunch of business school professors for statements that maybe Wells Fargo has been “punished too much.”  He mentions that no executive was criminally charged.  I would have been all for that as well, but they were shielded by the corporation itself.  Liability exists for the corporation when the practices are systemic, which is why it is just that the corporation be fined for its front-to-back rip-off culture.

Stewart, with the professors, tries to plead for the poor shareholders, mainly big timers and institutions which dominate all of these markets, as being the ones punished.  Incredible!  Where were the shareholders, as they rubber stamped board and management practices annually while all of this abuse was happening?  Did the shareholders demand board changes and board resignations?  No, that was the Federal Reserve, not the shareholders.

Stewart and other bank apologists want to argue that the bank is taking great steps to change.  Another billion dollars fine seems like a good way to make them move even faster and more forcefully to change their culture.  Maybe even permanently.

The shareholders looked the other way when Wells Fargo was padding its books with these practices and enjoyed the good times.  There’s some justice in the shareholders having to also pay a price for the bank’s grand larceny in these times.

The business school professors might want to take some of the ethics classes at their colleges.  They can invite Stewart to audit those classes as well.

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Standing Rock and Veterans Stand

New Orleans      Standing Rock seems like yesterday though it was the fall and winter of 2016, when the Standing Rock Sioux were joined by representatives of tribes from throughout the nation and thousands of supporters in an encampment that tried to stop the completion of the Dakota Pipeline.  The fight inspired deep support.  A truck with clothing and supplies was loaded around our coffeehouse in New Orleans.  Appeals were wide spread and many counted their participation as a milestone in their lives.  I interviewed an organizer-participant on the top of a hillside overlooking the camp where he was able to get cell service and spoke with me on KABF’s Wade’s World for 30 minutes finally admitting that he was standing the whole time in freezing rain.  This was a serious fight.

One of the tactical surprises in the later stages of the resistance when the encampment was being threatened by the sheriff and others was the sudden announcement that a group of veterans being spearheaded by Wesley Clark, Jr., a former solider and son of General Wesley Clark a one-time presidential contender originally from Arkansas, was issuing a call for thousands of veterans to come stand in solidarity with the water keepers.  The fact that they had a GoFundMe site was widely publicized and the publicity helped the site blow up with donations that eventually, with various GoFundMe efforts, totaled more than $1.4 million dollars reportedly.  The notion that so many veterans might rally in this cause was very, very interesting and could have been strategically critical it seemed from an organizing perspective.  When the day came though the numbers were less than expected and the number of veterans reported was in the two-hundred range even as their organizers continue to claim that thousands were on the way but stranded by weather and logistics.  The story drifted as the courts moved increasingly against the tribe and the North Dakota winter became characteristically harsh and bitter for participants.

An amazingly well-reported story in the High Country News by Paige Blankenbuehler entitled “Cashing in on Standing Rock:  How Veterans Stand squandered $1.4 million raised around the #NoDAPL protests” fills in the blanks, and it makes a Dakota winter seem mild.  This is a story that freezes the soul.

The reporter is confused about charities and nonprofits, but she gets right the fact that for inexplicable and suspect reasons the GoFundMe donations were deposited in the personal account of one of the organizers, Michael Wood.  His handling, or rather mishandling, of the money is the lingering issue, but the total disorganization of everything else was the hot mess that meant the numbers at the action were weak, promised reimbursements were late to nonexistent, and logistics on the ground were virtually nonexistent for many veterans trying to support the indigenous efforts.

That’s a tragedy for all of us that no accounting or auditing can cure.  Wood is in a California condo paid for by these contributions. His take-the-money-and-run attitude about Veterans Stand is appalling, and his claim that these were personal donations is scandalous, but the real heartbreak underlying this story is the richness of an alliance between protestors and veterans that has been crippled by this Standing Rock scam and could shut the door on any a future alliance that mobilizes veterans for social justice for years, if not forever.

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Please enjoy this unreleased version of Nothing Compares 2 U by Prince.

Thanks to KABF.

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