Wells Fargo & Co. may be holding its annual meetings outside its home turf in San Francisco of late, but the banking giant continues to attract controversy and protests no matter where it goes.
The bank's top brass were in San Antonio on Tuesday for the company's annual meeting, and although the event went smoothly, Wells Fargo still faced sharp questions over its mortgage practices.
About 40 people picketed outside a Wells Fargo branch a few miles away from the annual meeting. "Banks got bailed out; we got sold out," they chanted, holding "Stop Foreclosures" and "End Predatory Lending" signs.
"We're here because we want and demand accountability from Wells Fargo," said Lauren Rodriguez of the Texas Organizing Project, which she said fights for working families. "We won't accept anything less than an end to their predatory lending, abusive foreclosure practices and investments in private prisons."
Other groups behind the protest included the Committee for Better Banks, Occupy Our Homes and San Antonio's César E. Chávez Education & Legacy Fund.
At the annual meeting, CEO John Stumpf defended Wells Fargo's track record in helping homeowners. Over the last five years, the bank has helped 728,000 homeowners with mortgage modifications and reduced the principal on home loans by $8 billion.
"No other bank has forgiven $8 billion," said Stumpf, who received $19.3 million in compensation last year.
For the second consecutive year, shareholders voted on a proposal calling on Wells Fargo's directors to conduct an independent review to ensure the bank's mortgage servicing and foreclosure practices do not violate fair housing and fair lending laws.
Struggling homeowners continue to encounter problems with Wells Fargo, said Josh Zinner, co-director of the New Economy Project, one of the three groups that filed the stockholder proposal. Those problems include lost paperwork, endless delays and wrongful denials on loan modifications.
"We see these problems particularly in communities of color," Zinner said.
Wells Fargo spokesman Ancel Martinez said the bank strongly disagrees.
"We've worked tirelessly in the past few years to ensure homeowners remain in their homes (and) we are deeply invested in seeing their communities thrive," Martinez said. "Wells Fargo is in large part a part of the solution for peoples' financial needs."
The stockholder proposal, which Wells Fargo opposed, was soundly defeated, with 83 percent of the votes cast against it.
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