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Clergy Members Ask Wells Fargo To Repent During SF Foreclosure Protest

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The exterior of an Oakland Wells Fargo Bank branch. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The exterior of an Oakland Wells Fargo Bank branch. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Dozens of clergy members and community activists rallied Wednesday outside the headquarters of Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco in protest of what they say is rampant foreclosure abuse.

The action comes after the release last week of a report by the city’s assessor-recorder’s office that found that 84 percent of foreclosures studied in an audit of 382 San Francisco homes from the past three years violated at least one state foreclosure law.

In light of the report, “we’re calling for a freeze on foreclosures,” said Geoff Nelson-Blake of the San Francisco Organizing Project, a coalition of religious and community groups that organized Tuesday’s action.

Nelson-Blake said the group targeted Wells Fargo because “they’re one of the megabanks that has refused time and time again to have widespread principal reduction.”

About 45 clergy members and another 45 community members gathered outside the bank’s headquarters at 464 California St. Thursday morning to speak about how foreclosures have affected the city and plans to move their money out of Wells Fargo accounts, Nelson-Blake said.

The group also sprinkled ashes in front of the bank as part of an Ash Wednesday ritual symbolizing a call for the bank to repent.

Wells Fargo spokesman Ruben Pulido defended the bank, saying less than 2 percent of homeowner-occupied loans in its portfolio have resulted in foreclosures in the past year.

Pulido said, “We understand that some of our customers are going through difficult times during this economic recovery” and encouraged customers to work with bank employees to determine which options are available to them.

However, he said, “The unfortunate reality is that some customers are in homes they cannot afford, even with substantially reduced payments.”

As part of the bank’s outreach to people dealing with housing issues, Wells Fargo on Thursday plans to unveil $1.2 million in grants to housing nonprofits around California, including $655,000 in the Bay Area, Pulido said.

The nonprofits, which include Mercy Housing California in San Francisco and The Unity Council in Oakland, will provide a variety of programs to low- to moderate-income residents, including homebuyer education and foreclosure prevention sessions.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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