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Beyond Wells Fargo, City of Seattle's banking options unclear

Seattle's Department of Finance and Administrative Services has approved a new three year contract with Wells Fargo.
Flickr Photo/Mike Mozart (CC BY 2.0)/

Seattle lawmakers will take a final vote Tuesday on whether to stop banking with Wells Fargo over ethical concerns. The ordinance already received support from eight out of nine City Council members at the committee level.

Under the ordinance, the city could not work with any business, including banks, who engage in unethical business practices. The council wants to stop banking with Wells Fargo in part because the bank is a lender for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

It's not clear which financial institutions the city will work with in the future. For one, more than a dozen other banks are connected to the pipeline, including CitiBank, ING, Chase and Bank of America.

Councilmember Mike O'Brien shared one idea during the packed committee vote last week.

O'Brien: "I still think the best option is a public owned bank."

There's a proposed bill in Olympia to create a state-run, public bank in Washington. Senator Bob Hasegawa has proposed the idea. At the committee vote on Wells Fargo last week, O’Brien took advantage of the moment and encouraged people to lobby for the bill.

O'Brien: "I don't believe it's been scheduled for a hearing, but you can help. The chair of that committee is Jan Angel, a Republican out of Port Orchard."

O'Brien proceeded to give out Angel's contact information, encouraging people to call her about the bill.

Another option the City Council is interested in is working with a credit union or small, local bank. But that would also require a change to state law.

For now, Wells Fargo will remain the city's primary bank. The city's contract with Wells Fargo goes until the end of 2018.

Paige Browning can be reached at or @paigebpaige_.