Citing a list of infractions, the National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) announced a nationwide boycott of Wells Fargo Bank on Aug. 23.
According to the Rev. Anthony Evans, NBCI president, the call to boycott stems from the institution’s targeting of the African American community and suppressing economic growth in Black neighborhoods.
Wells Fargo has made headlines over the past two years for questionable practices such as creating false banking accounts, charging unfair mortgages fees and assigning unneeded car insurance to customers. The bank’s activities led to $1 billion fine in April by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
“What we hold Wells responsible for, in our community, is taking out about $50 billion of wealth in terms of equity in our housing. That [equity] would have a direct impact on African American wealth and whether or not Blacks could afford college, have health insurance and being able to save for retirement,” explained Evans.
“By targeting the African American community and creating this economic false bottom with these empty mortgages, they actually took out about $100 billion of wealth in our community. We, as a community have not responded to that. We have seen what the regulators did by charging Wells Fargo only $1 billion,” he said.
“We are not going to allow Wells of getting away with raping and ravishing our community and tell us, ‘We’re sorry and let’s hit a restart button’ and offer us an apology. We say very clearly, in respect to our religious and cultural traditions, and we say this out of love, ‘Hell, no! That’s not going to happen!’”
Acknowledging that asking people to immediately withdraw their funds from the bank is not feasible, Evans instead recommended actions that people can do starting with being aware of “what Wells Fargo has done to the African American community.” Evans also suggested that Blacks avoid opening new checking or savings accounts at the bank.
NBCI, a coalition of 34,000 African American and Latino churches, plan to continue the boycott until Wells Fargo develops a “massive economic development program for the African American community,” said Evans.
He added that the organization hopes to initiate that action by presenting the bank with “a manifesto of what we think that they should do. We are prepared to stay in this boycott over the next five years,” insisted Evans.