In a world where late-stage capitalism has begotten the deepest level of income inequality in living memory; where corporate “persons” categorically have more rights, benefits, and privileges than actual living, breathing humans; where a corrupt-beyond-measure real estate shell-game charlatan has stumbled headlong into the United States Presidency on the back of a hostile foreign power and is stripping the country and selling it for parts while a venal, craven Congress nods along—even in THAT world, Wells Fargo Bank stands out as a giant among corporate ghouls.
And that, as I will explain, is saying a lot.
Full disclosure: Wells Fargo holds the mortgage on my house, and they don’t make it easy to change that, as you might imagine. But that doesn’t stop me from hating this bank with every fiber of my being, except one. And that last fiber was frayed when I read James Brooks’ report in the Juneau Empire that Wells Fargo is forcing the closure of Steep Hill Alaska, one of Alaska’s three marijuana labs operating in Alaska’s nascent legal cannabis industry.
Reportedly, the landlord that holds the lease on the building where Steep Hill operates could not renew his tenant’s lease because Wells Fargo, which holds a loan on the property, claims it is “currently Wells Fargo’s policy not to knowingly bank marijuana businesses, based on federal laws under which the sale and use of marijuana is still illegal."
Who knew Wells Fargo was such a stickler for federal law? I ask this question, because if you’ll recall, Wells Fargo has done some pretty shady, destructive, amoral, ethically repugnant, and yes--VERY MUCH ILLEGAL--things. Things much shadier, destructive, amoral, and repugnant than being tangentially tied to a legal marijuana business.
If you Google Wells Fargo, what you get is a white collar rap sheet that could wrap around the world sixteen times.
Class action lawsuits alleging the bank hid billions in losses and defrauded the federal government during the 2008 housing crisis and unfairly hiked home-mortgage rates; unscrupulous self-dealing pay raises to the chief executive; tricking customers into paying exorbitant fees; $175M payouts for race discrimination; $1.2B payouts for improper lending; predatory lending and foreclosure practices; opening thousands of unauthorized fake accounts in people’s names.
And so on.
That Wells Fargo is picking this particular moment to become a model corporate citizen compliant with federal law is rich indeed. But credit where credit is due: props to Senator Murkowski for advocating for legislation that would allow banks to handle marijuana business in Alaska.
As for Wells Fargo, I'm not buying the bank's sudden turnaround to industry goody two-shoes.