Wells Fargo recently prompted City College of San Francisco’s special trustee to overturn a 2012 decision by the school’s elected board of trustees that could have cost the bank hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue because of its alleged irresponsible banking practices.
That process, its outcome and the reasoning behind it are now being questioned by trustees and city officials.
Some time after Special Trustee Robert Agrella was given full autonomy over CCSF affairs in July, he was contacted by the college’s bank with a few questions, according to CCSF interim general counsel Steve Bruckman.
Wells Fargo wanted to know about a resolution passed by trustees in April 2012 that called it out for irresponsible banking practices — specifically actions related to being responsible for 22 percent of all foreclosures in The City — and requested CCSF seek a more “socially responsible” financial institution.
Agrella had no idea about the resolution, said Bruckman, but told the bank he would look into it. When Agrella found that “nothing had happened since the board vote,” Bruckman said, he decided to repeal the resolution.
Bruckman was then told by Agrella to write the repeal that took effect Oct. 24.
“The fact that Wells Fargo put pressure on our special trustee really shows again that his values are not really in tune with what San Francisco had really asked for,” said Chris Jackson, the resolution’s author and now powerless trustee, who, along with the rest of the elected board, was stripped of his power by the state after CCSF’s accreditation loss was announced in July.
Board President John Rizzo, who was not privy to Agrella’s thinking on the matter and who still supports the resolution, said he was not surprised the bank contacted the school.
“I would have been surprised if Wells Fargo did not contact the school given what’s happening at The City” level, Rizzo said of the bidding for banking services.
The Office of the Treasurer told The San Francisco Examiner that City College’s request for a proposal for banking services, which was bundled with The City’s, is still underway and due for completion soon.
Holly Rockwood, a Wells Fargo representative, would not comment directly on any communication with Agrella, but she did say Wells Fargo has had a long history of actively supporting CCSF. The bank had, she said, “educated” the board of trustees on numerous occasions “about what we do for The City.”
As for the claims in the resolution, Rockwood said, “We stand by our record of responsible lending. We’re a very socially responsible bank.”
Wells Fargo, according to Rockwood, has over the years donated more than $1 million to various CCSF programs and initiatives, including most recently the Foundation of the City College of San Francisco’s Basic Skills Lunch in October.
The foundation — which has no formal ties with the school but whose board includes students, faculty, administrators and trustees from CCSF — applied for a $550,000 grant from Wells Fargo in early 2013. The purpose was for a financial education partnership with the school that would award students “Wells Fargo Certificates” at four financial literacy labs.
The program, according to the application, would be “fulfilling Wells’ corporate social responsibility commitment to Asian and Latino immigrants, African American and other needy students.”
It’s unclear if the grant has been awarded.