The protests continued this weekend to show discontent with the funding of the Dakota Access Pipeline. While it’s clear that divestment at large scale national and regional levels, like Seattle divesting in Well Fargo this week, will make the people at the headquarters take notice (and maybe do something), It’s hard to understand how demanding local people move their banking is going to actually help. What would be the consequences if the protests worked here? The banks would likely pull out of the town, and the middle class jobs of the tellers would be lost.
I don’t disagree that Chase and W.F., among others, divest from DAPL, but I’m not convinced that tactics like these do anything constructive.
The real issue that could be attacked is the millions of investors that pour their money into the stocks of these Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs). MLPs have been a special class of stocks that require the companies that qualify for them to divest their profits to shareholders, rather than retain them. They have been used heavily by the pipeline and fracking companies in the last ten years.
According to Fidelity, “An individual master limited partnership passes through income and any other distribution to shareholders untaxed, which makes them great yield vehicles.” These complex investments require tax professionals to help investors understand how to properly account for their distributions. The MLPs have been an enormously profitable investment over the last decade, and many people may have money in them without totally understanding their underlying products, such as the DAPL.
Getting investors to understand that MLPs are behind the pipelines crossing America and asking them to disinvest would be far more useful than protesting against local banks in the hopes that people would move their banking. And also, getting people to understand that using natural gas, while a valid alternative to coal to lower greenhouse emissions, also carries it’s own issues of greenhouse gases, and pollution to rivers and watersheds through fracking.
PORT TOWNSEND — More than 30 people protested along Sims Way in Port Townsend on Saturday, urging people to divest their money from Wells Fargo and Chase banks due to the banks’ connections to the recently revived Dakota Access Pipeline.
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