Breaking: Senate’s Wells Fargo Appeal Fails, Trustee Resigns After Divestment Vote
In their February meeting, the Reed College Board of Trustees voted to maintain Reed’s relationship with operating bank Wells Fargo. This upholds their December 2017 decision, and rejects the appeal initiated by Reed’s student senate.
Wells Fargo, Reed’s operating bank, has investments in both GEO Group, which controls much of the United States’ private prison system, and the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Board’s initial decision to not divest from Wells Fargo followed a two month sit-in in Eliot Hall organized by the student group Reedies Against Racism (RAR) in protest of these investments and the bank’s discriminatory lending practices.
Prior to the vote, the ad-hoc committee on Wells Fargo, which was responsible for overseeing senate’s appeal, had presented their reports on divestment to the Board. According to committee member and former student senator Gabi Stonoha ‘21, the committee was split in favor of divestment from Wells Fargo, with three members for and two against divestment.
Stonoha told the Quest that the committee’s reports to the trustees “wasn’t unilaterally pushing divestment. It represented the split in the opinions of the committee members with a ‘majority’ opinion and a ‘minority’ opinion.” The majority and minority opinions were presented in separate reports.
Along with Stonoha, the committee was composed of trustees Matthew Bergman, Mo Copeland, and Rick Wollenberg, and former student body Vice President Natasha Baas-Thomas ‘19. Both Stonoha and Baas-Thomas favored divestment, but the Quest cannot confirm which trustees supported which side in the split.
Stonoha noted that the reports presented to the Board focused on Wells Fargo’s violations of legal banking practices above the bank’s involvement with private prisons. “The reasoning we ended up talking about in the reports ended up not having much to do with the prison industrial complex at all. It became more about the many illegal regulatory infractions committed by Wells Fargo,” he said.
Following the trustees’ vote, Bergman resigned from the Board. When asked about his choice to resign, Bergman declined to comment on his decision. He remarked, “I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment on Board discussions on Wells Fargo, or any other issue.” Bergman, who graduated from Reed in 1984 with a degree in sociology, is a senior partner at the law firm Bergman Draper Oslund in Seattle, WA, and served on the Board for eight years prior to his resignation.
Bergman emphasized his continued involvement in the Reed community, adding, “My eight years on the Reed Board was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I continue to be an active supporter of Reed financially, through my law firm’s summer internship program, and working with the Cooley Gallery.”
The ad-hoc committee on Wells Fargo concluded its work with their reports, according to Stonoha. Recognizing that the Wells Fargo committee will not continue, he said that “administrators have told us that the Board [of Trustees] itself will still be doing work and investigating vendor relationships in general.” According to Baas-Thomas, the trustees expressed concerns that the reports’ criteria for evaluating vendor relationships still need to be elaborated. Stonoha added that the committee hopes to “officially publish” its reports for the Reed community to read in the near future.