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Seattle breaking ties with Wells Fargo over business ethics

Wells Fargo's days as the city of Seattle's bank may be numbered.

The city council's finance committee has voted to disqualify Wells Fargo from doing business with the city. They cite ethical and environmental reasons.

Committee meetings are typically small, but on Wednesday all but one city council member showed up to the finance committee. All eight of those present voted yes on the ordinance. The ordinance heads to the full city council Monday with the majority already supporting it.

Hundreds of other people showed up Wednesday to rally against Wells Fargo. They held signs opposed to the bank, and marched down 4th Avenue outside the meeting. One of many who testified was Eli Crawford, of the environmental group 350 Seattle.

Crawford: "More than ever the city of Seattle needs to be a true environmental leader, aligning it's money with its values. Let us send a clear message today, and not just to Wells Fargo but to all big banks, that if you fund projects that destroy our climate and abuse our communities, we will not support you."

The bank has financial ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline (which the city council opposes), and it was the subject of a nationwide banking scandal last year.

City council member Kshama Sawant sponsored the ordinance. It would prohibit the city from working with businesses that engage in unethical practices. The city could break ties with Wells Fargo in 2019, once their contract expires.

A Wells Fargo spokesperson says the bank is legally obligated to financial agreements with the pipeline construction, but supports all forms of energy, including solar.

Wells Fargo has been the city's operating bank since 1999.

It's unclear which major banks would be qualified to do business with Seattle under the ordinance. Council members voiced interest in taking a new route, like a credit union, but Sawant reminded them:

Sawant: "There is a Washington state law that basically says that a city like Seattle may not deposit in a credit union."

That's another topic she's interested in fighting.

Paige Browning can be reached at or @paigebpaige_.