Tavis Smiley is distancing himself from Wells Fargo and & Co. over the company’s alleged discriminatory practices.
"I cut everything off with Wells Fargo," Tavis told Mije.org. The move was prompted by a lawsuit charging that the financial company’s Wealth Building seminars were nothing more than a front to sell risky subprime mortgages to minority customers, The Washington Independent reports.
The suit, filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, highlighted an often-overlooked explanation of the seminars that was in direct conflict with how the events had been advertised. Supposedly, the real aim had always been to lure Black and Latino borrowers into costly loans.
Tavis was frequently a featured speaker at the Wealth Building seminars that were often held in predominately Black neighborhoods in eight cities, including Baltimore and Chicago.
“According to a former Wells Fargo Home Mortgage employee, one of these ‘Wealth Building’ seminars held in Maryland was planned for an audience that would be virtually all African American,” the suit states. “The plan for the seminar was for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage employees to talk about subprime mortgages, although they were directed by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage to use the term ‘alternative lending’ when marketing these products.”
Beyond that, the suit also charges, White employees were discouraged from presenting at the seminars. One was even told that she was “too white” to speak at one of the events.
Tavis asserted that his part at the seminars was part of a package deal: Wells Fargo would help support his radio show, and he, in exchange, would speak at their events. “I was never a spokesman for Wells Fargo,” the commentator insisted. “I hate payday loans. My role in these seminars was about financial literacy and wealth building.”
He also noted that the decision cost him “a lot of money,” but that he didn’t know exactly how much. The financial company backed his show on Radio Public International and it underwrote his annual State of the Black Union conference
— Sonya Eskridge