Humpday Hall of Shame: Jails Fargo

Welcome to The Hump Day Hall of Shame:  Every Wednesday we highlight the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.

National Peoples Action and Public Accountability Initiative have co-released the first in a series of reports on Wells Fargo’s connections to the private prison industry.  The report shows that more than any other banking institution, Wells Fargo has provided critical financing to the private prison industry’s top giants — Corrections Corporation of America, GEO, and MTC — by either investing in them or by lending them significant amounts of capital.    According to the report’s executive summary:

  • Wells Fargo is a major lender to Corrections Corp of America (CCA), acting as the syndication agent and issuing lender on CCAʼs $785
  • Wells Fargo is a major investor in GEO Group, with $95.5 million invested through its mutual funds, and serves as trustee for $300 million of the companyʼs corporate debt.
  • Wells Fargo is a lender to Management & Training Corp (MTC). MTC is a private company and so it is difficult to find data on its investors and lenders, but Wells Fargo is listed as a lender to MTC in a Utah UCC filing.

Despite community pressure to sever ties with these corporations, Wells Fargo defends its practices.  In a recent interview, a Wells Fargo spokesperson stated, “We are a bank. We don’t set U.S. immigration policy; we have nothing to do with the setting or enforcement of immigration laws; we don’t tell judges where to place people accused of violations; and we don’t tell the federal and state governments which companies should be awarded contracts.”

Yet in its “Vision and Values” statements, Wells Fargo claims that, “[Ethics] is the foundation of how we’re perceived as a socially responsible company. We want to go beyond what the law and industry standards require. We monitor and refine our business practices to help ensure all team members are performing ethically and with integrity,” and that they,  “[have a responsibility for] for being leaders to promote the long-term economic prosperity and quality of life for everyone in our communities.”

As the largest and most prosperous corporations in the private prison industry, CCA, GEO, and MTC play a major role in informing local, state, and federal policies surrounding incarceration, sentencing, corrections operations, and immigration detention.  Because of the nature of its affiliation with these companies, Wells Fargo is complicit in the injustices that are perpetuated by the private prison industry. Severing ties with these private prison companies could make it more difficult for the industry to leverage capital and therefore expand the for-profit prison system.  Furthermore, Wells Fargo profits handsomely from its relationship with these companies.  Wells Fargo’s shares in CCA alone total roughly $2.9 million, according to the report.

For more details about Wells Fargo’s relationship to the private prison industry, check out the NPA/PAI report here.