Wells Fargo Closed My Account For Being A Porn Star—and It’s Time To Fight Back

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I recently learned that the longest relationship in my life was coming to an end. My bank, Wells Fargo, decided to break up with me via a typed-out letter delivered through the mail.

The plain white envelope marked with nothing more than the Wells Fargo logo may have normally gone unnoticed, blending in with junk mail. It was the lack of warning on the envelope that captured my attention. As I opened the letter and began reading, confusion took over. The letter stated that after reviewing our relationship in connection with the bank’s responsibilities to manage risk, they would be closing my bank accounts. After thirty years together, through thick and thin, my bank was dumping me because I’m somehow now labeled a risk. While this is not the first time an adult performer or business has been kicked out of a financial institution, it was the first time it had happened to me.

The first question that came to mind when reading this strange letter was whether it was fake. After all, I’ve never bounced a check, I’ve never overdrafted or had any type of issue in the past. There was absolutely nothing in my banking history to warrant my newfound risk factor, so I thought maybe the letter was a hoax. Instead of calling the number given in the letter, I called the customer service line to be sure it was Wells Fargo that I was speaking with. After a few moments, the service representative sadly informed me the letter was real. I patiently waited nearly thirty minutes to finally speak to a representative from what I believed was their risk-assessment team. As the agent went through a long list of identifying information, I was told my call was being recorded and monitored. For the first time, I proudly repeated the same statement to the rep, as she was being recorded on my behalf.

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Now that I had the risk agent on the line, and she knew she was being recorded, it was my opportunity to ask questions. When I asked why my account was being closed, the agent mistakenly said it was a random closure. There was nothing random about closing my account after nearly thirty years of service. As I pressed on, the rep said it was a business decision by Wells Fargo and it would be final. I asked to speak with a supervisor or a manager, only to be cut off and told by the agent that I could speak with a supervisor, but they would tell me the same thing! Imagine my anger and frustration. Wells Fargo refused to tell me what reason they had and that was the end of that—or so they thought.

Story continues

As a union leader, this breakup was beginning to feel more like discrimination than a simple business decision. As a performer and content creator, I receive deposits from online companies such as OnlyFans. My deposits create a direct link to online platforms where I post and share my adult content. Historically, as an adult film actress, my checks from production companies would often be the dead giveaway. The company name would automatically notify the teller who was cutting me that hefty check, sometimes with the name of the film listed in the subject line. This would cause bank tellers to mistreat us, often harassing workers who were simply trying to collect their pay. When we moved over to online work, direct deposits took that problem away. We didn’t have the snarling face of an upset, underpaid bank employee judging us anymore. While this was a short-term improvement, it may be one of the causes of this current problem.

Since millions of people are uploading and selling their content through OnlyFans, their parent company name, Fenix International, has become well-known. This isn’t an issue adult platforms usually face, as most fly under the radar with a different business name used to run their day-to-day operations such as payroll. Imagine being able to create a list of every worker on a platform by searching recipients of deposits from Fenix. In one fell swoop, a bank like Wells Fargo could identify which of their customers are involved in legal sex work and remove us all.

Like many people, I often use my social media pages as a platform to share issues or even vent. In my sadness and anger, I decided to film a video describing what had happened. As tears rolled down my face, I told my story. I soon learned that many other members of my adult community had also lost their accounts and received the exact same letter. My story became our story. Dozens of sex people began sharing their banking horror stories involving not only Wells Fargo, but other major banks such as Chase, Capital One, and more. Within the last year, it seems as if hundreds of legal sex workers were being flagged and losing their access to banking in the name of “risk assessment.”

The account closures and concerns of potential discrimination made their way to dozens of news outlets, showing an outstanding amount of support beyond the sex work community. One such supporter, a content creator with 4.9 million followers on TikTok named @TizzyEnt, created a video sharing our story to his audience. This video highlighted the fight against our community, labeling us spicy content creators—as many do to prevent their videos from being shadowbanned. Even mainstream content creators must censor their words when talking about our industry to protect their accounts. TizzyEnt’s video has been watched over 270,000 times on TikTok alone. The amount of support Tizzy pushed toward our cause was so incredible that the conversation transitioned from adult industry workers to everyday people. Men and women alike, many Wells Fargo customers, shared their dismay with the company over their actions and proclaimed that they would be closing their accounts in solidarity!

As the days went by, I waited for word from Wells Fargo. It had been several days since I’d originally spoken with their agents and had been told I would receive a response. Wednesday afternoon, a letter arrived in my email that seemed strange. It was from a secure email service connected to Wells Fargo. After verifying its legitimacy, I logged into the system to see an update from Wells Fargo. To my shock and surprise, the letter was not what I expected. The letter described Wells Fargo as being an inclusive company that recognizes, respects, and understands differences among all people. They went on to tell me that the freeze had been lifted on my account as of September 7, 2022, and they would like to apologize for any inconvenience this had caused. I couldn’t believe my eyes. How was this real life?

My excitement lasted maybe an hour. Shortly thereafter, I received a phone call from an unrecognizable number in the Midwest. The voice on the other end informed me that she worked for Derek Flowers, the vice president of Wells Fargo. I sent a letter to Mr. Flower’s office about this issue and requested a meeting. This new rep was calling to deliver bad news, as she called it. I was told the letter sent to me was a mistake. I was sent that letter from a separate risk-management department that had originally cleared my account for reinstatement, but that Mr. Flowers was going to be reversing this decision. When I asked why, I was told that because I emailed Mr. Flowers, I escalated my complaint. By getting his office involved, they did their own “risk assessment” and deemed I was not going to be getting my account back. The man responsible for risk at Wells Fargo had decided I was now a risk when the other Wells Fargo risk-assessment agents cleared my account. How was this even possible?

The adult industry is labeled a high-risk industry, causing many banks to not want to do business with us. Usually, account removals revolve around actual risk—not assumed risk. This is an issue the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates banking, is aware of. On January 14, 2021, the OCC announced its finalized rule to ensure fair access to banking, and this could have changed the way that banks are allowed to treat legal sex workers. Adult workers have faced occupational discrimination from the banking industry since Operation Choke Point was put in place. This policy blocking banking access for high-risk accounts affected performers, even when those workers didn’t violate banking policies or accounting rules. Performers and adult businesses have famously lost bank accounts from institutions such as Bank of America, Citibank, PayPal, Square, and Chase.

“The rule codifies more than a decade of OCC guidance stating that banks should conduct risk assessment of individual customers, rather than make broad-based decisions affecting whole categories or classes of customers, when provisioning access to services, capital, and credit,” read the OCC ruling.

It continued: “As Comptrollers and staff in previous administrations have made clear in speeches, guidance, and testimony, banks should not terminate services to entire categories of customers without conducting individual risk assessments. It is inconsistent with basic principles of prudent risk management to make decisions based solely on conclusory or categorical assertions of risk without actual analysis. Moreover, elected officials should determine what is legal and illegal in our country.”

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That ruling was supposed to go into effect on April 1, 2021. Instead of it being put into action, preventing issues such as mine, the ruling was frozen, much like my bank accounts. Because a new president took office, and a new Comptroller of the Currency was put in charge, the matter was set aside until it could be reassessed and implemented. The current comptroller is Michael J. Hsu.

When speaking at the Women in Housing & Finance Public Policy Luncheon, Comptroller Hsu stated, “Banking rests on trust and trust rests on our values, our conception of what is fair and unfair, what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. Achieving diversity and inclusion speaks to those values, which can build and sustain trust.”

Wells Fargo’s actions do not align with the OCC’s statements. A decision to mass-remove legal sex workers would go against this idea of fair, right, and acceptable.

The Fair Access Rule, which has yet to be reviewed for a final ruling, would have codified more than a decade of OCC guidance stating that banks should conduct risk assessments of individual customers when providing access to services, capital, and credit. The notice from the OCC regarding the hold, dated January 28, 2021, also states, “ The OCC’s long-standing supervisory guidance stating that banks should avoid termination of broad categories of customers without assessing individual risk remains in effect.”

This could mean that Wells Fargo’s assumed action of removing legal sex workers based on their occupation, not individual risk, goes against current OCC guidelines.

While we search for better access to banking, it is clear our battle is headed to legislators. As we search for means to protect our access to safe and fair banking, pushing our representatives to fight for our marginalized community is key. As tax-paying workers, we deserve protection against the biases of big banks. Credit card giants like Mastercard and Visa have already buckled to pressure in refusing their business to adult companies like Pornhub. Now, the banks are focusing on the more vulnerable target: the workers just trying to survive. But I believe our strength has been proven time and time again. The fight for access to fair and safe banking will not end until we are victorious.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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