The sign outside of a Wells Fargo branch. Photo by Jim Young via Reuters

Activists calling on Los Angeles to divest its funds from Wells Fargo bank over its financial support of the Dakota Access pipeline called off a planned appearance at City Hall Monday after being told the issue will be taken up by a City Council committee later this month.

In March, members of Divest LA held a rally outside City Hall, attended by about 100 people, to urge the city to divest from Wells Fargo. About two weeks later, two City Council members introduced a motion in support of the idea.

Divest LA had planned to hold a news conference and have representatives speak during the public comment section of a meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee, which is now scheduled to vote on the motion on June 26.

The motion states that 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.”

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 Councilmen 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 when he introduced the motion.

In February, 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 and oil started flowing through the pipeline in March.

The pipeline cost an estimated $3.78 billion to build.

Wells Fargo executives 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.

–City News Service

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