When Measure 97 talks about holding corporations accountable to pay their fair share, we’re talking about companies like Wells Fargo. You might have missed it, but Wells Fargo just got caught ripping off millions of its customers. Wells Fargo employees created as many as 1.5 million accounts without customers’ knowledge, and funds transferred into those accounts — with no authorization — resulted in overdraft fees for customers. Wells Fargo also signed customers up for as many of 565,000 credit cards they didn’t ask for. Customers got stuck with annual fees and finance charges for credit cards they didn’t want.
And those illegal, dangerous practices added up. One long-time customer and Oregon resident, Tessa Stevens, inquired about a line of credit to expand her preschool, but ultimately couldn’t agree with bank employees about the terms of the loan. That didn’t stop Wells Fargo from opening a smaller line of credit for her anyway, putting Stevens in a tricky situation: The Wells Fargo loan was less than she needed, and having that line of credit open meant she couldn’t pursue the full amount elsewhere.
And we’re supposed to trust these guys with our money and our economy?
The $185 million in fines and penalties that Wells Fargo will pay for this behavior amounts to less than 1% of the $22.9 billion in profits Wells Fargo made in 2015. They can afford to play by the rules.
This isn’t the first time Wells Fargo broke the law to boost profits. Just a few months ago, Wells Fargo admitted to deceiving the U.S. government into insuring thousands of risky mortgages — they shelled out $1.2 billion to settle that case. The company has also been recently fined for rigging municipal bonds, defrauding pension plans, and discriminating against African American and Latino homebuyers. Overseeing this culture of systemic fraud is CEO John Stumpf, who was paid over $19 million last year.
You’d think that with this poor track record, we’d at least make them pay their taxes. But when Citizens for Tax Justice investigated corporate tax subsidies, Wells Fargo topped the list, with $21.6 billion in subsidies between 2008 and 2012.
Billions in profits and billions more in subsidies aren’t enough for Wells Fargo. Now the company is spending tens of thousands of dollars to avoid paying their fair share of taxes in Oregon.
Wells Fargo can still be profitable without cheating its customers, breaking the law, or dodging taxes. Measure 97 will make Wells Fargo pay its fair share for the privilege of doing business in Oregon.