Maybe 500 people turned out -- our reporters' best estimate -- for today's protest targeting the Wells Fargo shareholder meeting in San Francisco. Protesters were calling for a moratorium on all foreclosures, as well as principal reductions on mortgages for homes whose values have dropped.
Marching from Justin Herman Plaza, protesters arrived at the Merchants Exchange Building in time for the 1 p.m. meeting, with about 16 actually infiltrating and disrupting the proceedings before being escorted out. SFPD says 24 people total were arrested inside the meeting and on the streets.
Our updates throughout the day, including reporter Aarti Shahani's accounts of what went on inside the meeting...
6:47 p.m. Cy Musiker today interviewed Kirk Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, about what he thinks Wells Fargo's obligations are considering the bank bailout, and whether the company has done enough for its customers.
Hanson said that the bank benefited greatly from the bailout and that:
One would expect in response to that, the ethical argument would be, they ought to do whatever they can to soften the blow on those individuals who got these mortgages and went into foreclosure or got these mortgages and are suffering from the continuing stream of payments. There is clearly a bad record on the part of the banks in dealing with rewriting these mortgages, in marking down the total amounts that are owed.
Wells Fargo may have a marginally better record than Bank of America, which is often presented as the worst behavior in terms of managing this, but nonetheless they benefited greatly during the recession from the government steps to keep the banks whole, their executives are still paid very high salaries, and I think there's a reasonable expectation that they would have done more to help those normal citizens, middle class, who suffered during the recession.
4:10 p.m. After the meeting today, Shahani interviewed Oscar Suris, Wells Fargo's Executive Vice President for Corporate Communications. Edited transcript...
AARTI SHAHANI, KQED: This meeting ended quickly, is that right?
OSCAR SURIS, WELLS FARGO: It ended according to the rules of the proceeding and the agenda.
SHAHANI: [Wells CEO] John Stumpf was saying it was a little unusual for it to go so quickly.
SURIS: I don’t know I would call it unusual. I just think that the company has a good story and there's a high attendance of shareholders who are in support of the company's performance, so it's probably more a reflection of that than anything else.
SHAHANI: There was quite a bit of disruption during the meeting. What do you make of that?
SURIS: Shareholder meetings are in part an opportunity to have a dialogue. And we cetainly invited the opportunity…but we also wanted to conduct a meeting that would respect and honor all the participants and would also be in keeping with the rules of the meeting. We had some participants who wanted to not abide by those rules, and they interjected in a disruptive manner, and given our heightened focus on security today, we felt the best thing to do was escort them out of the meeting.
SHAHANI: Some protesters said they were put into a spillover room and intentionally filtered out of the main room, even though they're shareholders. Do you have a response to that?
SURIS: Our focus from the very beginning has been to conduct this meeting according to the rules and also with a focus on keeping it as safe as possible for all of the meeting's participants. We believe we had an obligation to do that and that was an obligation supported by the San Francisco Police Department.
But clearly we wanted to have all points of view in the room, all points of view were represented. But again, with a maximum capacity of 275 people, and protesters outside numbering more than 500, we weren't going to be able to have everybody in here.
SHAHANI: Do you think that the criticism of Wells Fargo around foreclosures is fair?
SURIS: We think the characterization that we are not committed to helping this housing market get on its feet again are unfair...We have a very deep commitment both to the housing market and to consumers in it who are our customers. As our chairman and CEO John Stumpf said today, we are conducting two mortgage modifications for every one we foreclose on...That's allowed us to modify mortgages for more than 740,000 homeowners since Jan 2009...We've forgiven more than $4 billion dollars of mortgage principal since Jan 2009.
However, minister Gloria Castillo, Vicar of El Buen Samaritano Episcopal Church in the San Francisco Mission district, said today that Wells Fargo refused her three requests for a loan modification.
"After banking with Wells Fargo for decades, and having a great credit score, I asked them three times for a loan modification so I could stay in my home. And Wells Fargo refused," she said. "Today, I stand here to pray, not only for those individually affected, but also for the congregations and communities that collaborate, feel the pain of this unethical practice."
Protester Wallace Hill of Oakland told KQED's Lisa Pickoff-White that his house went to auction in February after Wells Fargo denied him a loan modification as well. Now, he waits for the sheriff to evict him and his tenants.
"All we want is the basics: food, a roof over our head and a place for our kids to be. That's all we want," Hill said.
3:15 p.m. The Chronicle paints this picture of the proceedings today inside the shareholders meeting, the target of today's Wells Fargo protest.
The shareholders meeting was held in a room that has eight chandeliers hanging from an ornately carved wooden ceiling. It seats 250, and the seats were full by 12:15 p.m., meaning no more shareholders could come in.
To get into the room, participants went through at least three layers of security, which included showing proof of shareholder status and a walk through a metal detector.
2:50 p.m. KQED's Mina Kim reports the following arrest numbers, per SFPD:
- 14 arrested inside the Merchants Exchange Building and six outside, some for trespassing
- Four arrested by Sheriff's Department for resisting arrest
Aarti Shahani, reporting for KQED, was inside the shareholders meeting that was the target of today's protest. She reported the following...
2:02 p.m. The meeting has ended. CEO and employees remark that it was exceptionally fast. No one had any questions. CEO John Stumpf says 'that's a first!'
Resolution 7 to conduct internal investigation into foreclosure practices voted down. Only 6% vote in favor
1:29 p.m. Over a dozen stand up and chant 'mic check' repeatedly. Woman says 'Wells Fargo, stop investing in private prisons and immigrant detention.'
All are escorted out.
1:25 p.m. Wells CEO Stumpf: '2011 all in all was a terrific year for the company.'
Protester: 'Not a terrific year for all the families foreclosed on by Wells Fargo.'
CEO: 'You're out of order ma'am.'
She is escorted out.
1:20 p.m. 2nd protester inside meeting interrupts to condemn Wells Fargo's private prison investments. She's escorted out. CEO continues with agenda.
1:15 p.m. Seconds into CEO John Stumpf's intro remarks, a man got up and shouted 'point of order! point of order!...the 99% bailed out Wells fargo with its tax dollars.'
Officers escort him out.
Stumpf continues: 'People are hurting. They're upset. And we understand that...'
Activists are hoping to attract two thousand people from at least ten states to San Francisco today to protest Wells Fargo at the bank's annual shareholder meeting. Marching from Justin Herman Plaza, protesters will arrive at the California Merchant Exchange Building by noon. "Some people will be ready for arrest if the CEO does not come down and listen to the demands that are being put out by the Wells Fargo stakeholders," said Robbie Clark of Oakland-based Causa Justa.
Protesters want a moratorium on all foreclosures, and principal reductions on mortgages for homes whose values have dropped.
11:48 a.m. Latest from AP:
San Francisco police are guarding the entrance to the annual meeting of Wells Fargo shareholders in San Francisco.
Dozens of officers were stationed around the Financial District building where protesters associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement said they planned to crash the meeting that got underway Tuesday.
Bank stockholders were being asked to show certificates or other proof of ownership before being allowed past gates erected in front of the Merchants Exchange Building.
11:35 a.m. Photos from today...
11:15 a.m. KQED's Don Clyde spoke this morning to Father Richard Smith of The Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist in the Mission. He's with the San Francisco Organizing Project, a multifaith group that works on affordable housing and other issues.
"We're here because, especially as people of faith, we are outraged that even at this stage of the game Wells Fargo has still not taken responsibility for the damages they’ve caused to millions of people across the country, millions of families," he said, "including people right here in our city and in my own parish and community. This has got to stop. They've got to step up to the plate and assume responsibility. This is Ethics 101. It's far too late in the day; there's got to be a change now."
11:00 a.m. KQED's Don Clyde reports protesters at Justin Herman Plaza have started to march. He estimates maybe 400-500 people at this point.
Reporter Aarti Shahani says two women have been arrested after getting through the first layer of security at the shareholders' meeting. She says five more who entered with stock certificates are blocking the entrance by sitting down.
Twitter coverage from KQED News reporters and other local journalists. Click on the play button to activate the feed...