It’s really not difficult to attack Wells Fargo bank. In 2016, the bank fired 2% of its workforce over a fraud scheme in which workers were opening millions of fake accounts in order to qualify for compensation incentives. The bank has been trying to rebuild its reputation ever since. But when CEO Timothy Sloan appeared today before the House Financial Services Committee, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was focused on something else: The Dakota Access Pipeline.
“Wells Fargo was also an investor, a major investor, in the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline,” she said. She continued, “They were prime investors and lenders to companies building these pipelines in defiance of Standing Rock Sioux’s treaty rights to protect its water and sacred lands.” AOC then pointed to a spill involving the Keystone XL pipeline and asked why Wells Fargo shouldn’t be required to clean it up.
“We were not involved in the financing of the Keystone XL pipeline,” CEO Timothy Sloan replied.
“So let’s focus on the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Ocasio-Cortez said. She asked, “Should Wells Fargo be held responsible for the damages incurred by climate change due to the financing of fossil fuels and these projects?”
“How do you calculate that, Congresswoman?” Sloan asked.
“Say from spills or when we have to reinvest in infrastructure from the erosion of infrastructure or clean-ups, wildfires, etc.” Ocasio-Cortez replied.
“Related to that pipeline? I’m not aware that there’s been any of what you described that’s occurred related to that pipeline,” Sloan said.
He’s right of course. She’s talking about potential future harm and trying to place the blame for that on infrastructure funding. Why not place the blame on people who used the gasoline or electricity generated from these fuels? After all, they’re the ones creating the demand.
AOC tried a different tack: “How about the clean-ups from the leaks of the Dakota Access Pipeline?”
“I’m not aware of the leaks associated with the Dakota Access Pipeline that you’re describing,” Sloan said.
So AOC tried again: “Hypothetically if there was a leak from the Dakota Access Pipeline, why shouldn’t Wells Fargo pay for the cleanup since it paid for the construction of the pipeline itself?”
Sloan stated the obvious, “Because we don’t operate the pipeline.” He continued to answer about the team at Wells Fargo that approved the loan and AOC cut him off with a new question.
“Why did Wells Fargo finance this pipeline when it was widely seen to be environmentally unstable?” she asked. In other words, why didn’t you give in to environmentalists’ national pressure campaign? You may recall that campaign included protesters blocking access to Wells Fargo banks and in some cases chaining themselves to the entrance.
AOC herself never did any of that, but before she ran for Congress, she did spend a few weeks at the Standing Rock protest camp in North Dakota, so this is a topic close to her heart. But the answers to her questions all seem pretty obvious. The bank isn’t responsible because it’s not their project. If you want to spread the responsibility to everyone involved you’d need to include all the people using these fossil fuels as well as the people creating the infrastructure. And that would certainly include the congresswoman from New York who uses fossil fuels and energy generated from them just like the rest of us.
Here’s the full exchange with starts with another claim, that Wells Fargo is responsible for “caging children.”
Update: This nails it.
AOC’s argument is so dumb and dishonest. Will anyone in the media press her to explain how she thought this made sense? Or are we about to see the following headline? Conservatives seize on AOC’s challenge to Wells Fargo CEO