Several lawsuits against banking behemoth Wells Fargo are silently shaking the foundation of minority-banker relations that are not entirely due to their misguided business practices. One of the Nation’s largest mortgage lenders and key player in 2009’s great housing bust, Wells Fargo, is being accused of coercing members of the Black and Hispanic community into high-cost subprime mortgages. They are accused of disguising their underhanded deeds by parading “high ranking” minorities to conduct fake seminars on wealth building. Acclaimed author and television personality, Tavis Smiley, as well as Kelvin Boston of “Moneywise” fame are being called out as integral figures in the lender’s dastardly scheme.
Launched in eight cities, each seminar was more successful than the last, due mainly to heavy advertising on Black media outlets. The event was only made bigger with the presence of Tavis Smiley, who lectured at the seminars, often speaking of the lack of trust that he and most minorities have in America’s financial institutions. Kelvin Boston explained himself saying,
“My spiel was the financial planning process, how to be able to save and invest in the future, and to have a plan of action.
In one of many lawsuits against the lending giant, the city of Baltimore accuses loan officer at Wells Fargo of calling minority borrowers “mud people” while renaming subprime mortgages “ghetto loans”. A suit in Illinois targets the company for what it deems as deliberately targeting minorities for risky and high-rate subprime mortgage loans while giving white borrowers in similar financial positions loans with lower-costs. Also noted in the lawsuit is the story of one former Wells Fargo employee, who revealed how she was scheduled to speak at a “Wealth Building” seminar but was told by management that he was “too white” and that only Black employees were allowed to make presentations.
Smiley, who has had a relationship with the bank since 2005, maintains that he partnered with them due to their “commitment to increase financial literacy in the African American community,” also noting that his “partnership with Wells Fargo focused on building personal wealth, which for most Americans, begins with buying a house.” For his part, Boston said that he and Smiley were nothing more than hired speakers.
“We didn’t have any role or any control over what else happened.”
Both Smiley and Boston refuse to state how much they were paid for the 15 speaking engagements that they shared while speaking for the banking company.