Los Angeles City Council. Photo by MyNewsLA.com
Los Angeles City Council. Photo by MyNewsLA.com

Two Los Angeles City Council members introduced a motion Tuesday calling on the city to divest its $40 million in funds from Wells Fargo bank due to its financial support of the much-debated Dakota Access pipeline.

“The city has historically upheld strong principals protective of the environment and the health and welfare of its residents. Wells Fargo’s support of the Dakota Access Pipeline Project is at odds with these principals,” according to the motion.

The city holds more than $40 million in securities with Wells Fargo that have a one- to four-year maturity, according to the motion, which was introduced by council members Paul Koretz and Mitch O’Farrell, and seconded by Councilman Mike Bonin,

“The city should divest its holdings from Wells Fargo in a manner that protects taxpayers’ interests, and reinvest those funds in responsible financial institutions that respect the rights of all individuals to be treated fairly and equitably. Wells Fargo needs to change its business practices, or risk losing a customer in the city of Los Angeles,” O’Farrell said.

The motion came on the same day that representatives of a coalition that has been asking the city to cut its ties with Wells Fargo lined up and spoke during the general public comment section of the council meeting. The coalition, Divest LA, also held a protest outside of City Hall on March 10.

“I urge you to stand with indigenous people, with Standing Rock, and sever ties with Wells Fargo, minimally, and ensure that the fossil fuel industry stops profiting from the destruction of our land and water,” one group member, Veronica Wilson.

Last month, the Seattle City Council voted to end its banking contract with Wells Fargo when it expires in 2018 due to its financial support of the pipeline project.

The cities of Davis and Santa Monica have made similar moves.

The oil pipeline runs more than 1,100 miles from North Dakota to Illinois, and sparked a major protest that lasted for months near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Members of the tribe opposed the project because they said it passed over a sacred burial ground and would threaten their water source.

After pipeline construction was halted in November by the Army Corps of Engineers, President Donald Trump signed an executive order in January instructing the agency to finish the project.

Oil started flowing through parts of the pipeline Monday, and it is expected to be fully operational within three weeks.

The pipeline cost an estimated $3.78 billion dollars to build.

Wells Fargo officials said in a February statement that it is not the lead bank on the project, and is merely one of 17 financial institutions that made a loan to the developers of the pipeline. The company said it lent $120 million to the project.

On the day of the protest in March, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s press secretary, Carl Marziali, gave a non-committal answer when asked by City News Service if the mayor supported divesting from Wells Fargo.

“The mayor opposes the pipeline and has a long history of pushing for ethical investments of the city’s money,” Marziali said.

The City Council in 2016 adopted a resolution opposing the pipeline.

Los Angeles already has a somewhat contentious relationship with Wells Fargo. In September, the bank agreed to pay $50 million in penalties to the city and county of Los Angeles, and restitution to customers, as part of a settlement resolving litigation alleging the company opened bank accounts without customers’ permission.

—City News Service

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