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Today I stood on the steps of San Francisco City Hall with Treasurer Jose Cisneros and Supervisors John Avalos and David Campos to support the introduction of a resolution ending any formal financial ties the city has with the hometown banking giant Wells Fargo. Here are my remarks:
My name is Emily Rusch and I am the executive director of the California Public Interest Research Group, or CALPIRG, a statewide consumer group that stands up to powerful interests when they threaten our economic security.
Wells Fargo’s actions were dishonest and so pervasive. Some 2 million credit card and bank accounts were opened that may not have been authorized by customers. Wronged consumers suffered economic damages beyond unfair fees, including damaged credit scores and higher mortgage interest rates, that will be challenging to fully correct. Our tax dollars shouldn’t support companies that engage in this type of deceitful behavior against consumers.
Now, Congress has preempted state and local governments from being able to regulate the banking industry’s practices. However, the city and county does have control over which banks we partner with for official business. We applaud Treasurer Jose Cisneros, and Supervisors John Avalos and David Campos, for thinking strategically about how to leverage San Francisco’s resources to hold Wells Fargo accountable. The Treasurer’s actions and the resolution introduced today send a clear message to Wells Fargo and its competitors that dishonest behavior will not be tolerated by any branch of government.
I also want to take this moment to underscore the importance of having a strong, independent federal regulator in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, who levied an $185 million dollar fine against Wells Fargo in September. In just five years it has recovered nearly $12 billion for over 25 million victims of unfair practices by wrongdoers ranging from big banks to small debt collectors. Sadly, some members of Congress seek to defund and defang the CFPB, even though it protects consumers and pays for itself, and so much more, each and every day. The idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.
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