My "Dear John" Letter to Wells Fargo
Dear John Wells Fargo,
I don't think we can see each other any more. I've changed as I've grown older, and am not the same person I used to be. You never were a person, but you've been acting like one and that's become a problem for me.
You were a much smaller regional bank called Norwest when we first met in Boulder, almost 20 years ago. I never reminisce, but I recall a time when I used to. Do you remember when there was a tornado near Boulder Reservoir and your manager made all of the customers in the lobby go to the basement? I was late for a date that day, and worried about her. I resented you for detaining me at the time, but got over it pretty quickly. Thanks for looking out for me then.
In 1998 you became Wells Fargo and I didn't have any good reasons to stay or leave at the time. My next employer banked with you, and that made direct deposits happen quickly which I liked. Ever since then our relationship has been on auto-pilot.
The truth is, I'm seeing the Occupy Wall Street movement now. We've been dating on and off since October. I know I should have told you sooner. I'm not sure if it will work out with me and OWS, but I know it's over with you.
I joined a credit union a while back and have finished moving my things out of the old checking account. You can keep the dog. He always liked you better anyway.
I have a few reasons for leaving you that you should know about. You do things I don't consent to.
For example, In 2010 you spent a total of $5.4 million lobbying Congress and that number has been going up year after year. This diminishes the principle of "one person one vote" that our democracy is founded on, and I do not consent. Just last quarter you spent nearly $2 million lobbying on debit card fees, mortgage-related rules and other issues. After taking $25 billion in TARP funds you spent hundreds of thousands lobbying on related legislation.
This isn't just about you, of course. I don't consent to protecting money as a form of speech for anyone. I don't consent to recognizing the right to free speech for corporations either, because you aren't persons.
You've been accused of doing other things that I can't support and don't consent to. You paid an $85 million settlement earlier this year in one sub-prime mortgage scandal and you've been accused by the Justice Department of "reverse redlining" that targets black neighborhoods.
In Pennsylvania you made numerous mistakes dealing with Patrick Rodgers who achieved fame by foreclosing on your local office there last summer. I don't consent to how you treated him and imagine you treat other borrowers poorly too.
I also stand with the people in Minnesota who recently protested the $141 million you paid in executive bonuses since the 2008 bailouts. I think that's obscene and I don't consent. You doubled your CEO's pay at the same time you took a $2.5 billion Federal tax refund for your acquisition of Wachovia.
I suspect that the fundamental problem with our economy is one of scale, and you're too big to know or care about who I am anyway. That makes you too big, period.
I don't see how we can make it work out today and don't think we can be friends any more. If you break up into smaller regional banks, maybe I'll reconsider after watching how they treat their individual lenders and the communities where they do business.
I'm sure we'll pass in the street from time to time. I hope it won't be too awkward for you if I'm carrying a sign and yelling.
December 21, 2011
P.S. I hope it's clear that I don't hate you. I don't even mind that you're rich. But I do mind that you're using your wealth to undermine democracy.
This Occupy Love video explains that the 1% are suffering in our consumer culture too:
The system isn't working for the 1% either. You know if you were a CEO, you would be making the same choices they do. The institutions have their own logic. Life is pretty bleak at the top too - and all the baubles of the rich are this phoney compensation for the loss of what's really important. The loss of community, the loss of connection, the loss of intimacy. The loss of meaning.
This TED talk, How Economic Inequality Harms Societies, makes it even clearer: greater inequality means that the wealthiest have more to lose. We all suffer the effects of elevated cortisol levels as a result of social-evaluative threats, especially those at the top.
So if you're going to change, don't change for me. Change for you.