San Francisco • Police were guarding the entrance to the annual meeting of Wells Fargo shareholders on Tuesday as protesters associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement geared up to crash the gathering.
Dozens of officers were stationed around the Merchant’s Exchange Building in the city’s Financial District in advance of the afternoon meeting. Bank stockholders were asked to show certificates or other proof of ownership before being corralled past gates erected in front of the doors.
Many of the early arrivals represented community groups from across the country that purchased Wells Fargo stock so they would have a say in the bank’s practices.
Shareholder Mark Richmond, a 59-year-old Portland member of the group We Are Oregon, said he hoped he could voice his concerns specifically about predatory lending and home foreclosures. He said he expected some raucousness inside and outside the meeting.
"Oh, there’s going to be some action all right. We’re very dissatisfied with Wells Fargo," said Richmond, who works as a janitor at the Portland International Airport. "This should be very interesting."
Angus Maguire, a spokesman for the Oregon group, said that hundreds of shareholders representing groups from throughout California and as far away as New York plan to express similar complaints.
"They have an actual legal requirement to hear us," Maguire said. "We will be heard."
A group calling itself 99 Percent Power said demonstrators want to address the meeting on issues such as home foreclosures, investment in private prison companies, and corporate taxes.
Hundreds of union members, activists and clergy members blocked the street in front of the building beforehand waving signs and chanting, "We are the 99 percent! Let us in!"
Wells Fargo spokesman Ruben Pulido said the company respects the protesters’ right to gather but would work to keep its customers, employees and shareholders safe.
Pulido also defended the bank’s foreclosure policies, saying that less than 2 percent of the loans Wells Fargo issued on owner-occupied properties had been foreclosed on.
"We work to keep people in their homes where there is affordability. Unfortunately some people have seen their incomes drastically reduced due to unemployment or underemployment," he said.
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