Bay Area activists protest Wells Fargo before shareholder climate vote

About 30 climate activists demanding that Wells Fargo pass a shareholder resolution that would stop financing fossil fuel production could face trespassing charges following Monday's protest at the bank's San Francisco headquarters, according to police.

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Demonstrators said "dozens" of people protested in the museum at the bank's head office beginning on Monday morning, with some chaining themselves to the stagecoach exhibit. Activists said the San Francisco Police and Fire departments responded to the scene, claiming the former issued dispersal orders and said they would begin arresting protesters.

The San Francisco Police Department told KCBS Radio in an emailed statement that officers responded to reports of trespassing in the building just after 10 a.m. Officers then "developed probable cause to arrest approximately 30 adults for trespassing." It wasn't clear if each of the adults was actually arrested.

At 2:08 p.m., the climate advocacy group Diablo Rising Tide tweeted that the last of the demonstrators had left the Wells Fargo building.

Environmental groups argue that Wells Fargo isn't going far enough in combatting climate change.

Between 2016 and 2021, Wells Fargo invested nearly $272 billion in fossil fuels, according to a Rainforest Action Network report last month. The report identified Wells Fargo as the top spender on fracking last year, having increased its investment in fossil fuels by more than $20 billion from 2020 to 2021.

In December, the Sierra Club Foundation and other investors in the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility introduced shareholder resolutions at Wells Fargo and five other big American banks, calling on lending and underwriting divisions at each to stop contributing to new fossil fuel development. Citi and Bank of America will also vote on similar resolutions on Tuesday in their annual shareholder meetings.

Wells Fargo's board of directors has recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal, telling investors that it is committed to setting interim emissions targets for its oil and gas investments by the end of this year, as well as to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

A spokesperson for the bank echoed that language to KCBS Radio, writing in an email that “Wells Fargo has committed to aligning our activities to support the goals of the Paris Agreement and to work with our clients during their transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Wells Fargo’s virtual shareholder meeting begins Tuesday at 7 a.m.

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