Wells Fargo Accidentally Admits the Truth: The Republican Tax Bill Has No Connection to its $15 Minimum Wage

Richard B. Levine/Levine Roberts/Newscom via ZUMA

Sucking up to Donald Trump is tricky business. On Wednesday Wells Fargo announced that it was raising its minimum wage thanks to the passage of the Republican tax bill:

Wells Fargo to Raise Minimum Hourly Pay Rate to $15, Target $400 Million in 2018 Philanthropic Contributions, Including Expanded Support for Small Businesses and Homeownership

Company announces initial actions to support economic growth with tax reform

“We believe tax reform is good for our U.S. economy and are pleased to take these immediate steps to invest in our team members, communities, small businesses, and homeowners,” said President and CEO Tim Sloan.

That press release is a little vague. Was Wells really doing all this because of the tax bill? A pair of LA Times reporters called the press office to find out:¹

Asked by the Times to clarify the connection Wednesday, Wells Fargo spokesman Peter Gilchrist said there was none….Asked directly to confirm that the pay raises were not a result of the tax bill, Gilchrist said, “That is correct.”

But wait:

On Thursday, Gilchrist backtracked. “We believe tax reform is good for our U.S. economy and are pleased to raise our minimum hourly pay to $15 as a result.” …He would not comment on the reason for the earlier statement.

Needless to say, Wells Fargo is in a heap of trouble these days over a series of scandals that never seems to stop, so flattering the president is just good business. Maybe it won’t help, but it can’t hurt.

In any case, I think we can take this as a case study in what’s really going on with all those companies announcing new initiatives thanks to the tax bill: they have nothing to do with the tax bill at all. It’s just business as usual. But they’re certainly eager to say it’s because of the tax bill. I suppose I would be too if I had a lot of business with the Justice Department or the SEC or the Pentagon.

¹Originally I had no link for this story, but now I do. After intense investigation, it appears that the latimes.com site automatically redirects me to beta.latimes.com, which doesn’t quite work yet and didn’t have this story available. That’s why I couldn’t find it. It’s not surprising for a beta site to have bugs, but it’s not clear why I’m unable to access the regular site.

Oh, and this is only on Firefox. It works fine on Chrome and Edge. I deleted all my latimes.com cookies, but that didn’t help. The investigation continues.

Later: I went in and removed all site-specific data for both latimes.com and beta.latimes.com. That did the trick.