Seattle commuters stuck in traffic this morning enjoyed a perfect view of a banner high above demanding “Wells Fargo-Pay Your Taxes.” The banner, hoisted up by 8’ weather balloons and anchored by local students’ sailboat, flew above Portage Bay to send a message to local Wells Fargo board member Judith Runstad as she departs for the company’s annual shareholders meeting in San Francisco.
Rundstad and other Wells Fargo board members will be greeted by hundreds of protestors on Tuesday, May 3. [Click here for more information on how to attend the San Francisco protest.]
Runstad, who lives in a houseboat on the shores of Portage Bay, has sat on the Wells Fargo board for the last 13 years. She should use her position on the board of Wells Fargo to make systemic changes to address toxic practices of the big banks.
While Runstad is seen as a prolific business leader in Seattle and beyond, it’s time that she is called out for her seemingly hypocritical behavior. Last year she authored a letter in opposition to the defeated Washington tax initiative 1098. The initiative would have taxed high-income earners specifically to fund public schools and access to higher education. The irony is that that Runstad sits on the board of local community groups such as the Alliance for Education and University of Washington Foundation.
Runstad and Wells Fargo’s actions are having a devastating effect on families, seniors, and students far and wide. Kevin Knutsen, a member of Washington CAN! has been tirelessly trying to get back to school to finish his bachelors degree but rising tuition has kept him at bay.
“In such dire times when people all over the state are tightening their belts, when funding for higher education is being slashed and as a result tuition rates are rising at an appalling rate, we are letting banks like Wells Fargo skip out on paying their fair share of taxes. We are letting banks like Wells Fargo steal our future so they have a little more money to gamble away on Wall Street. It is time to end tax loopholes for corporations and Wall Street banks,” says Knutsen.
While community members are struggling to get by, Wells Fargo just last week reported a 48% increase in first-quarter profits. Even after enjoying soaring profits made possible by taxpayer bailouts, Wells did not pay taxes in the state of Washington last year due to a tax loophole that they lobbied Olympia lawmakers furiously against closing. Federally, the company received a net tax refund of $3.5 billion in 2009.
The banner is a continuation of a series of events held by Washington CAN!, Backbone Campaign and other partners to close corporate tax loopholes in Olympia, and the first of a series of national actions against Wall Street banks demanding that they do their part to fix the economy that they devastated by defrauding millions of homeowners, investors, and taxpayers.
And if you haven't seen it yet, check out The New Bottom Line's faux Wells Fargo commercial.