Opinion: Student argues that UP should cut ties with Wells Fargo

By Anthony Ng | March 7, 2017 9:51pm

The University of Portland should stop banking with Wells Fargo and divest all funds from the bank. Why you may ask? Wells Fargo is not a socially responsible bank.

Most recently, thanks to Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Wells Fargo was fined $100 million. According to CNN, 5,300 Wells Fargo employees and four senior executives were fired for signing customers up for fake accounts since 2011 due to a toxic sales culture and employee mistreatment.

Reported by the LA Times, Wells Fargo is one of 17 investors of the North Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) having loaned Energy Transfer Partners about $120 million. Many critics think this figure is much higher since additional Wells Fargo services are provided to them. From its inception, DAPL has been a very controversial pipeline. This 1,170-mile pipeline, which has received approval from President Trump, is planned to start transporting oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and Montana to Illinois between March 6th and April 1st.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribes, along with other Native American tribes and their allies, have been protesting against DAPL for more than a year. In a New York Times article, the tribe argued that "completing the pipeline would desecrate lands, threaten the water supply and unfairly burden the Stand Rock Sioux tribe.”

The North Dakota Access Pipeline is also a clear case of environmental racism due its movement from its original route going north of North Dakota’s populated capital, Bismarck, to just upstream of the Stand Rock Sioux Tribe.

However, as an environmentalist, the main reason why I believe the University should sever ties with Wells Fargo revolves around UP’s commitment to sustainability. On UP’s website it states, the “University of Portland is committed to living and acting sustainably. Attention to living sustainably requires us to actively be aware of the environmental, social and economic needs of our present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” Other entities have already taken the lead on this; the Seattle City Council voted to cut ties with Wells Fargo in protest of DAPL on February 7th, 2017.

Banking with an institution that supports the pipeline, which has the ability to transfer 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day, does not align with UP’s sustainability commitment. Bringing fossil fuels to the market will only increase greenhouse gas emissions, further contributing to and enhancing climate change. These further contributions of greenhouse gases from “so-called ‘cheap’ energy sources will have a high cost for future generations,” as stated in the U.S. Catholic Magazine.

In our Climate Action Plan, UP has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2040. This pledge follows our sustainability commitment but the University must also recognize that their

decisions, such as banking with Wells Fargo, both indirectly and directly affect others and the environment.

If the University is fully “committed to living and acting sustainably” and aspires to protect the “ability of future generations to meet their needs,” UP must divest funds and stop banking with Wells Fargo.

We may only be a small school, but I believe UP can make a big difference.

Anthony Ng is a senior environmental science major and can be reached at ng17@up.edu.