ACORN - Kristen Friend-Weaver05/05/03
The Association of Concerned Citizens for Reform Now, a national community organization of low and moderate-income families, began the public phase of their campaign against Wells Fargo today. ACORN is accusing Wells Fargo of participating in predatory lending practices, and is demanding that the corporation begin negotiations to change the way they do business with at-risk borrowers. In at least 10 communities across the country including Tampa, ACORN members and supporters took direct action against Wells Fargo. WMNFâ€™s Kristen Friend-Weaver has this reportâ€¦
About 20 people marched into a Wells Fargo office in North Tampa demanding to speak to a manager about the companyâ€™s alleged predatory lending practices. The group carried signs that read â€œcriminal offenderâ€? and chanted that they would not longer stand for Wells Fargoâ€™s targeting of low-income and vulnerable families. Wells Fargo employees refused to speak to the group, saying that they would only discuss loans with individual customers. Florida ACORN chairperson Louise Peterson assured the group that this action was just the first in many to come against Wells Fargoâ€¦
According to ACORN, Wells Fargo is the countryâ€™s tenth largest lender of subprime loans, loans that carry higher interest rates for at-risk consumers. And they say that Wells Fargo aggressively targets lower income communities for these loans, even though many members of these communities could qualify for prime loan rates. Brian Kettenring, a spokesperson for ACORN, says that the group has been working with Florida legislators in an attempt to make predatory lending practices illegal, and that Wells Fargo has led the way in opposing such laws. Kettering also says that ACORN has been investigating Wells Fargo for several months and is seeing some disturbing trendsâ€¦
This is not the first time ACORN has targeted a company for questionable lending practices. In 2001, they filed suit against Household Finance, and the company eventually had to pay $484 million dollars in damages, although as part of the settlement it would admit to no wrongdoing. Spokespeople for ACORN brought with them packets containing several examples of cases involving similar deceptive lending by Wells Fargo. Louise Peterson called on Wells Fargo to recognize these casesâ€¦
Lloyd Beason, an ACORN organizer, says that he has had first hand experience dealing with Wells Fargoâ€¦
And he emphasized that he believes Wells Fargo targets minoritiesâ€¦
ACORN is urging people who feel that they have been victims of questionable lending tactics to contact them through their website at www.acorn.org. The group also has a first time homebuyer program and can advise people on how to get the best loans on an individual basis.
Wells Fargo was contacted for comment, but failed to return our call by airtime.
For WMNF news, Iâ€™m Kristen Friend-Weaver.