A Victory for #OccupyWallStreet in the Most Unlikely of Places?

Please welcome Carol Smith, who is based in Austin and has considerable experience in financial services industry research and analysis. I’m pretty confident she’s also listened to more analyst conference calls than most Naked Capitalism readers have, and you’ll see her put her experience to good use.

By Carol Smith

A Financial Times article today showcased recent comments by bank executives and politicians (and even Erick Erickson of RedState.com!) sympathizing with the sentiments behind the Occupy Wall Street movement. John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo is quoted from the earnings call today, “I understand some of the angst and the anger. This downturn has been too long, unemployment is too high, and people are hurting. We get that.”

This comment came during the Q&A portion – more on that later – and doesn’t convey the extent to which the management of Wells Fargo seems deeply concerned and perhaps fearful about how the Occupy movement is turning public sentiment even further against Wall Street and the TBTF banks. Stumpf spent nearly the entirety of his opening statement making the case for Wells Fargo as a force for good the US economy. Some high(low?)lights:

“Wells Fargo has not wavered from our commitment to do all we can to help our customers and the overall economy.”

“Since 2009 we have hosted 40 home preservation workshops.”

“We are also lending, providing companies funds for growth and job creation.”

“Wells Fargo employs 1 in every 500 Americans and last year we contributed $219M to 19,000 non-profits across the US…”

But never fear! Nancy Bush of NAB Research LLC and SNL Financial rode to the rescue in the Q&A portion to assure the Wells Fargo management she had their back. She asked them a series of questions that were basically thinly veiled opportunities for her to praise management as “astute securities portfolio managers”, commiserate about what a pain in the neck it must be to have to deal with the CFPB, and encourage them to wage a PR campaign with the other banksters to convey that “the banking industry is not some evil behemoth out to crush the middle class.” With these kinds of probing questions one wonders how the TBTF banks developed the attitude that they can do no wrong.

Earnings calls have a certain tone that makes them generally pretty boring. No matter what happened in the quarter, there is usually an “everything’s fine and dandy” vibe coming from management and the questions are generally not particularly probing or pointed. The underlying defensiveness of management that came through from the long and almost melodramatic opening statement of John Stumpf and the protectiveness of Nancy Bush in her questioning says only one thing to me. Occupy Wall Street is getting to them.

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    1. Rex

      Personally, trying to watch that much of Cantor (the video) at one stretch is like swimming 500 yds of breast stroke through raw sewage, but I must say I did enjoy the review by the blogger.

      Oh, BTW, I’m pretty sure Cantor was already busy doing his thing in DC before the Teabaggers arrived to give him encouragement.

      Where’s Boner these days? Haven’t heard much crap from him lately. These two plus Michelle Clockwork were the big three for insane rantings during the health care debacle-ations.

      1. ReaderOfTeaLeaves

        You should be able to fast-forward through most of the clip till the end.
        And because I only watched the last section,, I summarize Cantor in part as saying, ” Please, please, please can’t Congress still be relevant? Pretty please, with sugar on top?”

        And I make that comment as a former Wells Fargo customer ( over 20 years, with business, household, and mortgage moved over to a credit union the past twelve months).

        Welcome Carol.
        If Stumpf happened to comment in any of his remarks as to why Wells Fargo started raising rates on business credit cards — even for long time customers who had perfect payment records, then I’m all eyes and ears. But their wankering about helping small business with loans is simply not credible from my perspective.

        True story: around 2002, I met a young WF “Business Banker”, whose contact info I received through my local branch, for coffee. His background? He’d worked at Best Buy as a sales clerk. I am not making this up.


  1. Foppe

    couple of typos (feel free to delete this)
    “waivered” -> wavered
    “road to the” -> rode to the

  2. HereYeGatherRound

    you’d be nervous too, if you were neck deep in fraud.

    i have a special place for wells fargo in my life. i’ll never forget talking to their representative. waited something like 75 days, faxed the same documents multiple times, etc., before I could talk to the “negotiator” who refused to tell me to whom i owed the money they wanted. she would only say “investors” i was told it was confidential.

    i wonder what they’re going to say in answer to my Qualified Written Request?

  3. Rex

    Stumpf: “Wells Fargo employs 1 in every 500 American” [I assume that should have been Americans]

    But, really!? Can that be right? Then throw in all the TBTF banks and what percentage of the populace works for them? Sounds like it would be close to 1%. Are these number close?

    1. Carol Smith

      Good catch. If my numbers/calculations are accurate – WFC employs about 275K people and the employed civilian labor force is about 140M. So, if by Americans he meant ’employed civilian labor force’, then what he said is true.

    2. ReaderOfTeaLeaves

      With all due respect Rex, I suggest that NC commenters take a hint from Prof William Black, who was highlighted in a visor segment just yesterday at NC. He used the term SDI.

      Replace TBTF with SDI (Systemically Dangerous Institutions).
      Maybe TBTF-SDI for a transition period as people realize that SDI is a more desciptive, more accurate, more honest term.

      …Do I hear a ‘second’…?

      1. Francois T

        You do!
        SDI it shall be onward.
        BTW, we should demand from the media that they do likewise. I know that if I call during a NPR talk show, it will be the expression I use.

        1. readerOfTeaLeaves

          Yes, I think if enough of us start using the term SDI, it will help us all recognize more clearly what is going on.

          Glad you were able to read despite my typo : ‘visor’ should have been ‘video’.

          So now, we can keep an eye out to see which media, and which reporters, start to pick up on SDI ;^)

      2. alex

        A second, and a third!

        TBTF could actually be seen as admirable. “We’re so important we can’t be allowed to fail.” SDI get’s the point across much better. Yet more thanks to Bill Black.

  4. LucyLulu

    For those who haven’t seen this, this video is awesome (it has appeared on quite a few blogs apparently……

    Iraq War USMC vet dressing down 30 assorted NYPD
    over treatment of OWS protestors, who don’t appear to quite know how to respond.


    Here is Sgt. Shamar Thomas’s statement:
    I took an Oath that I live by.I am NOT anti-NYPD. I am anti- Police Brutality. I am no longer under contract with the USMC so I do NOT have to follow military uniform regulations. I DON’T affiliate myself with ANY GROUPS or POLITICAL ORG. I affiliate myself with the AMERICAN PEOPLE that’s it. I REFUSE to affiliate with anything that SEPERATES. There is an obvious problem in the country and PEACEFUL PEOPLE should be allowed to PROTEST without Brutality. I was involved in a RIOT in Rutbah, Iraq 2004 and we did NOT treat the Iraqi citizens like they are treating the unarmed civilians in our OWN Country. No one was brutalized because our mission was to “WIN the hearts and minds”, why should I expect anything less in my OWN Country.


    1. craazyman

      Holy cow.

      I wouldn’t want to tanlge with that dude.

      That’s what democracy looks like!!! Whoa.

      as for the banking execs, I’m sure their innner Gnostic Waves are boiling pretty hard right now. the dissonance must be hard to manage day to day. Probly a Pilot Wave migraine from the inner presssure.

      Wonder if a few may be primed for that Saul of Tarsus moment on the road to Damascus when the Gnostic Wave just breaks through like a Mind Explosion. Wonder what they’ll do then? My guess is they’ll start trembling and fall down and get taken to a hospital and probably given drugs. Not like in the old days when you had to lay on the road and let the G-wave flow.

    2. F. Fondrement

      Richard Seymour points out that in cases of regime challenge and collapse the military are more likely to break with the regime. The police tend to stick with it to the end, and you could see that in the Arab Spring movements.

  5. Richard Kline

    When and if the Federal Government decides to shut off power to the life support animating Wells Fargo, they are dead. Period. And four of the other To Foul to Fail Five. They have to many toxic blocs in their basement, to much misrepresentation in their past offer sheets on huge loss-taking MSBs, and far to much fraud in their non-documents. The only reason Wells exists since late 2007 is because malfeasant officials in NYC and DC want Wells to continue to exist. When and as those officials are replaced, or change their minds to keep their places. Wells is dead on that day.

    Yeah: Wells should be plenty worried.

    1. Brett

      Much too close to a classic Bill Hicks routine on people who work in Advertising…

      I’ve long suspected that Borowitz is a habitual borrower/thief of routines.

  6. rob

    Hmm. So the banks are finally paying attention. (or at least pretending to pay attention)

    Has anyone seen a poster, listing or other OWS display of which politicians took $ from TBTF banks and how they voted on the financial reform legislation? I think it is all public info. Now that they are getting attention from the media, it is probably a good time to turn up the heat. I have been looking, but can not find anything.

  7. curlydan

    OWS is out to camp out, stake out, and shake out the powers that be by finally saying, “write a law and take a position that can help the 99% directly”.

    Today, laws are written by and for the 1% who assure us that the benefits of the law will magically trickle down to the 99%. By maintaining the physical presence in the parks and streets of America, OWS can be the constant reminder that “we’re out here and watching you”.

    As Julian Assange noted in the London protests on Saturday, this movement is not about “the destruction of law, but the construction of law”–better laws that might actually benefit the populace for a change.

    Wells and the other banks are uncomfortable because as long as OWS is out there getting in the face of banks and politicians, they cannot play their usual lobbyist and revolving door games between Wall St and DC.

    1. alex

      not about “the destruction of law, but the construction of law”

      And the enforcement of existing law. Ask Bill Black, who did much to establish the case law on control fraud (based on existing statutes). And the PCA (Prompt Corrective Action) law, which not only permits, but _mandates_ that insolvent banks be taken into receivership.

  8. 1whoknu

    Whenever I see John Stumpf’s name I remember what a limp noodle he was back in the day before he ascended to the power circle. Yes, I used to work for him as a lowly middle manager. This was back when he was the president of one branch of a regional bank before they were swallowed by super-regional Norwest. He is only the CEO because he waited in line. Once he was taken into the Executive Borg I heard nothing of his accomplishments, probably because he had none.

    I saw a website that allowed you to be a pen pal with various board members and executives of the TBTF banks. I found his name and considered sending him a letter. Since I doubt he would pay any attention, I decided to not bother.

    As a side note, once Norwest was swallowed by Wells and then swallowed ITT Home Finance in the 90’s (if memory serves) to become Wells Fargo Mortgage of ill repute, the quarterly financial updates became dominated with how much profit their activities were bringing in. The slobbering over this units success was rather disgusting. To me, even at the time, it felt a little dirty. They also shifted to talking about fee income as the future of banking. Before that, the updates were all about growing deposits and lending to customers. Oh, those were the boring old days.

    1. Nathanael

      Oh, do it. Stumpf is enough of a middle manager type that he might actually cave under pressure. Unlike the ones with delusions of grandeur who believe that they’re “doing God’s work” stealing people’s homes.

  9. mad as hell.

    The sergeant’s statement to the police will be one of the defining moments of the movement.

    The logic of his statement spoken to his captive audience is numbing. Not since the Tienanmen square army tank vs citizen has there been such inspiring video.

    The sergeant speaks to ALL United States’ police departments. This message needs to repeated constantly.

  10. sdv

    “When protest arises, it’s a sign that government is not doing its job or not doing it in a way that serves the people. Elections are fine for gradual change but sometimes immediate change is called for when government fails the people utterly and repeatedly in important ways. Protests are a way to signal that change is needed now – not in the next election cycle. Such is the case with the Occupy Wall Street movement and its “Occupy” variations in cities around the country and around the world. Governments have failed to stop the concentration of wealth, the concentration of financial power, the proliferation of derivatives and the metastasizing of systemic risk facilitated by unethical, self-absorbed and shortsighted bankers. So the people respond.” – Jim Rickards, Sr Managing Director of Tangent Capital

    1. Nathanael

      The fact that this started (for the US) in the Autumn is in some ways astounding historically… in the colder climes both protests and revolutions are usually spring and summer affairs. Except for the really serious ones. This is, of course, one of the really serious ones. I have no idea where it’s going next; all I know is that the current kleptocratic collaboration between superrich corporate executive thieves and their paid agents in the government, for the purpose of impoverishing everyone else, is not sustainable and *will* end.

  11. Cocomaan

    Welcome, Carol! Look forward to reading more of your articles.

    Indeed, you can already see the direct results of the OWS movement.

    I get the feeling everyone is holding their breath. It’s going to be a read cold winter.

  12. Gil Gamesh

    Like water torture. Someday, and probably sooner than later, US oligarchs will see justice come down on their heads. Only the State stands between their obscene wealth and the only-yesterday ignored (if thought of at all, as fish in a barrel, too dumb to know how much they’ve been had)commoner. Well, they can shoot thousands of us, but not millions. They can imprison 10s of thousands of us, but not millions. Geithner should get his tiny head out of Dimon’s ass and read up on the fates of Russian oligarchs, the boys who profited so handsomely from Summers/Sachs neoliberal, privatization rackets. A billion dollars don’t mean much if you can’t retrieve it.

  13. DocG

    The powers that be may be paying lip service to the OWS movement for now, but you can be sure they’ll be doing everything in their power to undermine it behind the scenes every chance they get. The weather is getting colder and their hopes are getting higher with every passing day, you can be sure of that. But the protestors may have a bargaining chip the “masters of the universe” may not be aware of. Which is the topic of my latest blog post. It’s a bit disturbing I admit, and maybe a little too far out, but is nevertheless a possibility that has to be acknowledged, if not necessarily acted upon: http://amoleintheground.blogspot.com/2011/10/ows-do-they-know-their-own-strength.html

  14. Curtis

    It’s a wonderful world, and the bankers should have someone in a wheel chair be their spokesperson.

    It seems that the banks are running scared.

  15. Rick Cass

    Moving my last money from a bank to credit union this week. With automatic payment of bills it’s a pain, which I have been avoiding for about a year. But now I am motivated, and the phone and computer exercises are freeing. Occupy the world. Buy some ownership in a credit union (usual fee $5.00), cancel your contracts with the phone/cable/auto corpses and negotiate from strength. Reclaim our rights to a trial by jury. Get yourself free.

  16. Fiver

    OWS is no more “getting to them” than I am. These guys (the Wall Street/Washington complex)have leveled half the Islamic world, and are in the process of bleeding Europe’s future dry. They are not sweating this thing. Not this time around.

    Obama AND Reps are both tacking “left” of the current Cro Magnon position – enough that:

    1) There will be a hefty amount of money pumped into the economy over the next 12 months both fiscal and monetary – a trillion dollars would not surprise, with Bernanke making up whatever shortfall there is fiscally.

    2) Obama wins. He may even get the House back.

    3) The entire election was run on jobs, jobs, jobs and there are plans upon plans “on the table” for 2013.

    4) None of the plans indicates even a remote understanding of the true scope and scale of the real problems. In fact, there really is no problem – so long as someone else is paying for it.

    5) Stim 2 hits the ground just as Plan 2012 is tailing. Interest rates still at zero.

    6) We have lift-off for the next global stock/commodity bubble.

    7) The entire establishment denies it.

    8) China rolls over. Kaboom all around.

    9) Bailout anyone? How about some Stim?

    I in no way intend to denigrate those fine, fine people and their courageous actions. But they are up against both the most powerful and the most morally bankrupt people on the planet. We are going to be “managed”, via whatever means are required, from one disaster to the next for decades to come.

    1. Nathanael

      On the contrary; the elites will either reform, or there will be revolution. It’s really their choice. They don’t even have to reform very much, but a large percentage of them seem either unwilling or unable to even consider basic honesty or following their own laws, let alone actual fairness or justice.

      They have created something unsustainable, and the reaction cannot be “managed”. Greece’s government will probably be the pretender government within 12 months; the forces calling the general strike just now are clearly more powerful than the official government of Greece *already*.

      The US and Spain movements — OWS and the indignados — are giving their governments substantially more of a chance to respond, so it may take longer before the mood turns to revolution, but because the elites do not have the sense to keep the peasants content, it will happen pretty much inevitably. Unless some better elites manage to oust the STUPID elites currently running things, which is always a possibility (and probably the most peaceful one).

  17. ipsedixie

    Blergh. This is the same stuff the management of the Stagecoach and Horsies Bank sent out over a week ago to the team members/employees/unwashed peasants. The only interesting thing about it was the bank acknowledging there was a problem. The rest, meh.

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