Wells Fargo held their annual shareholders meeting today in San Francisco. Betty, a stock holder and grandmother who lives in Portland, took a vacation day from work to travel down for this meeting. Her goal: to communicate with John Stumpf, Chairman of Wells Fargo, to let him know that as a Wells Fargo shareholder she wants a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions, an end to predatory lending, a re-evaluation of their immigration policy and a divestment from private prisons and immigrant detention, and tax fairness.
I encounter Betty as she walks along the sidewalk with one of our local television reporters. She is out of the shareholders meeting, though the meeting is not over. Betty had just finished addressing the demonstration, which continues in the background as she talks.
Betty is telling the reporter that she observed a lot of police waiting outside to enter the building. Later she will say “at least a hundred and fifty in the building and surrounding that meeting.”
Betty says they were “San Francisco police, police in riot gear, helmets, a lot of zip ties on their belt.” For a shareholders meeting.
“All very kind, though,” Betty adds.
Like all the shareholders in the group she is standing with, Betty’s Wells Fargo stock certificate is scrutinized to confirm that, line by line, her government ID address matches exactly the address on the certificate. If the address was a Street, one address could not read as ‘Boulevard.’ “They were just looking for a way to exclude us.”
During the screening process, Betty overhears that “We’re only going to let about thirty of those protesters” into the meeting. When Betty is escorted into the meeting room, she says she sees seating for 400, but about 350 of the seats are taken up by people “who all had the exact same suit on . They must shop at the same store!” she laughs. “They were wired, with earbuds.”
“Security,” the reporter says.
Betty says she knew of 200 stockholders who were planning to attend this meeting. With a cap on thirty allowed in, Betty says, “that means there were a hundred and seventy people who had legitimate stockholder shares that they purchased, who were not allowed into the building.”
John Stumpf begins the meeting. Betty tells us that as he offers data on foreclosure policies, the first stock holder stands to speak of the horrific foreclosure issue in the past two years with about eleven million foreclosures and how difficult it has been to modify a loan. At the same time as Wells Fargo was involved in foreclosures, they were also involved in predatory lending practices. The shareholder is escorted out by police. This happens again and again. Betty says she is the tenth person to stand and speak, told by police she needed to be escorted out, that she was under arrest, and was cited the penal code. Like everyone before her, she says she is a shareholder. She is escorted out of the shareholders meeting.
“It was immediate. It was a snap of the finger.”
I ask her if she was nervous.
“Oh, absolutely,” she tells me. “We were expecting one hundred and seventy more people with us. We were expecting to be in the majority because shareholder meetings, as we understand it, are sleeper affairs. It was very nerve-wracking.”
The reporter asks if she is satisfied with her action today. “I am satisfied, sir,” Betty says. “You could hear everybody in the streets.” Speaking of Chairman John Stumpf and his colleagues, Betty says: “They knew people were upset. Each time one of us spoke, everybody did get a little flustered. And just to probably pricked their conscience, if nothing else. I think that happened today.”
This was Betty’s first time at a shareholder’s meeting. She proudly shows her ENTERED stamp on the back of her hand to the cameraman while holding up her Wells Fargo stock certificate.
Betty tells us that tomorrow is her birthday. She says her granddaughter is planning a birthday party for her. “To me,” Betty says, “this is the legacy for my granddaughter. I saw my grandfather support unions and be a union member. This is my legacy for my granddaughter.”
“Are you in a union?” the reporter wonders.
“Yes, absolutely. And while I am not at work today, I did take vacation days,” Betty says proudly. “So my supervisor knew where I was coming. She said if I needed bail money she’d send it to me.”
A woman adjacent to me adds: “Thanks to the union you get vacation.”
Betty is part of the 99 percent.
Listen to Betty tell her story with the sounds of protest in the background at: http://redroom.com/member/jane-p-perry/media/audio/stockholder-and-grand...