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OAKLAND — Some long-time customers of Wells Fargo Bank took drastic action Wednesday to show their anger over the bank’s foreclosure policies, pulling hundreds of thousands of dollars out of their accounts.
For a bank with billions in assets, a few hundred thousand dollars may not seem significant. But community leaders say this is just the beginning.
Wells Fargo security and Oakland police were on hand as members of Oakland community organizations entered a Wells Fargo branch on Franklin Street. Two at a time, they went in to close their accounts.
Father Jesus Nieto-Ruiz of St. Anthony’s Church told KTVU he withdrew all $125,000 of his parish’s funds.
“They said we’re doing a good job but the reality goes if they are doing a good job how come we continue to have all these people losing their homes,” said Father Nieto-Ruiz.
Wells Fargo and other banks got federal bailouts, but community leaders say the banks aren’t doing enough to work with homeowners whose mortgages are underwater.
Instead of modifying loans, homeowners say the banks are pushing them out.
“I have been in a several years battle with Wells Fargo trying to get them to give me a loan modification which would include a principal reduction,” said Oakland resident Marilyn Reynolds said.
Leaders of the Oakland Educator’s Association and church leaders are urging their thousands of members to also close their Wells Fargo accounts.
“We’re hoping there’s a ripple effect that … the power of everybody taking their money out together will show the banks that we have power,” said Father Aiden McAlleenen of St. Colombo Church.
A Wells Fargo spokeswoman said in a statement: “We make every attempt to avoid foreclosure. When that is not not possible, we work diligently to manage foreclosed properties in a manner that benefits the community until the home is sold to a new owner.”
But one activist said the bank didn’t seem concerned when she closed her account.
“They have a smirk on their face and what I was thinking was they don’t appreciate customers. And they say ‘You want to close the account? Let’s do it,” said Donna Vieira.
Some of those who closed their accounts plan to move their money to local community banks.