Wells Fargo has been accused of many illegal and fraudulent activities over the past few years, but on Tuesday its chief executive came under fire on Capitol Hill for lending to legal projects unpopular with left-wing Democrats.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) grilled Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan over the bank’s financing of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“So, hypothetically, if there was a leak from the Dakota Access Pipeline, why shouldn’t WellsFargo pay for the cleanup of it, since it paid for the construction of the pipeline itself?” Ocasio-Cortez asked at a hearing of the House financial services committee.
“Because we don’t operate the pipeline. We provide financing to the company that is operating the company,” Sloan answered.
“Why did Wells Fargo finance this pipeline when it was widely seen to be environmentally unstable?” Cortez said without providing evidence that the pipeline is unstable.
“The reason we were one of the 17 or 19 banks that financed that is because our team reviewed the environmental impact and we concluded it was a risk we were willing to take,” Sloan said.
The Dakota Access Pipeline moves more than 500,000 barrels of oil a day. It was briefly blocked when the Obama administration denied it a key permit to operate but that decision was reversed by President Donald Trump a few months later.
Ocasio-Cortez also accused Wells Fargo of being “involved in the caging of children” by financing facilities operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Sloan said the bank was not involved in the caging of children although it had provided financing to a company that engaged in prison construction.