Tribal Council ends government's relationship with Wells Fargo

With the approval of two agreements during its Wednesday, Aug. 8, meeting, Tribal Council officially ended the Tribal government’s banking relationship with Wells Fargo.

Tribal Council voted in October 2017 to end the Tribal government’s financial relationship with the bank and Tribal staff in the Finance and Legal departments have been negotiating agreements with Columbia Bank ever since.

Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy cited three reasons for the Tribal government ending its financial relationship with the bank, including Wells Fargo’s involvement in the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project in North Dakota, creating millions of fake bank and credit card accounts for customers and forcing unnecessary auto collision insurance on more than 800,000 clients.

Columbia Bank, based in Tacoma, Wash., with more than 150 branches in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, becomes the Tribal government’s new banking partner with the approval of the banking services and depository pledge agreements.

The Tribal government’s accounts with Wells Fargo were used to hold money only for short periods of time, Tribal Finance Officer Chris Leno said.

The Tribal government first employed Wells Fargo for banking services from 1996 to 2005 and then rehired the bank starting in 2013. The Tribe started re-assessing its relationship with Wells Fargo in early 2017 when the Finance Department issued a request for proposals for banking services and Tribal members complained about the bank’s involvement in the pipeline project.

The loss of Tribal business will cost Wells Fargo less than $100,000 in processing fees, Leno said.

However, the statement is more important than the lost revenue. In late 2016 and early 2017, the Dakota Access Pipeline project galvanized Indian Country as the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and volunteer water protectors protested the installation of an oil pipeline near the Sioux Reservation. Wells Fargo provided investment funding for Energy Transfer Partners, the owner of the project.

Tribal Council Vice Chair Chris Mercier said the adoption of the two agreements concludes the Tribal government’s separation from Wells Fargo.

Spirit Mountain Casino continues to use Wells Fargo, but Tribal Attorney Rob Greene said that the casino is currently re-examining that relationship.

In other action, Tribal Council also approved an application to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration that would pay the Tribe $133,432 for two years to fund a program that would combat opioid use. The project would include program planning, staff time, drugs for medical assisted treatment, consultant services and project evaluation.

Tribal Council also approved the Tribe’s application to the Indian Health Service for $100,000 that would develop and implement an electronic dental records system at the Health & Wellness Center. The Tribe would provide $7,000 to the one-year project.

Cultural Resources Department Cultural Advisor Bobby Mercier made the cultural presentation to open the meeting, discussing the recent Canoe Journey to Puyallup, Wash.

Also included in the Aug. 8 Tribal Council packet were approved authorizations to proceed that:

  • Transferred $40,000 from contingency to the Publications Department budget to help fund Smoke Signals’ website development that would complement the new Tribal website;

  • Authorized an application to the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime’s Tribal Victims Services grant that would bring the Tribe $618,601 over three years;

  • Authorized a grant application to the Oregon Health Authority’s Opioid State Targeted Response that would bring the Tribe $125,767 over two years for prevention and treatment providers in opioid use disorder;

  • Approved a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the Lower Columbia River Dredged Material Management Plan outlining the Tribe’s history and interests in the area and requests cooperating agency status on the project;

  • Approved a letter to Metro regarding the Southwest Corridor Light Rail Project draft environmental impact statement outlining the Tribe’s history and interests in the area and requests government-to-government consultation on the project;

  • And agreed that an Interim Enrollment Guidance statement will inform the work of Tribal Council and staff on enrollment matters and Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez will provide the guidance to staff working on enrollment issues.

The entire meeting can be viewed by visiting the Tribal website at www.grandronde.org and clicking on the News tab and then Video.