Quick Hit Brandon Campbell Tuesday November 13th, 2012, 3:23pm

Watchdog Praises Wells Fargo For Dropping 75 Percent of Prison Investments, Asks For More

Weeks after a watchdog group slammed the banking giant Wells Fargo for its financial ties to the private prison industry, that same group is praising the bank for backing off of some of those investments.

Citing information from the Securities Exchange Commission, The Public Accountability Initiative (PAI), a non-partisan corporate watchdog group said Wells Fargo divested nearly 75 percent of its holdings in the GEO Group, the nation’s second largest private prison company.

The PAI also published a second report detailing Wells Fargo’s targeting of the Latino community as a customer base, while simultaneously funding prison company’s whose populations are disproportionally filled with minority groups like Latinos.

In both reports, the group again blasted Wells Fargo for providing funding to the companies that “lobby aggressively for immigration policies that result in higher levels of detention.”

Meanwhile, the PAI asserts that Wells Fargo has a focused marketing strategy to position itself as a “bank of choice for the Latino community.”

At the time PAI’s first report was released, a spokesman for Wells Fargo said the bank does not make or enforce U.S. immigration policies.

“To believe that protesting against our bank will somehow change U.S. government policy is misguided, unfortunate and unrealistic,” Alan Elias, a spokesman for Wells Fargo, told Progress Illinois via email.

Kevin Connor, director of PAI and author of the report, countered by saying that the bank still had strong ties to three of the country’s top prison operators.

Having since dropped that large chunk of those investments, Wells Fargo got some kudos from the organization. But the group said that’s only the first step and is now calling on the bank to “divest the rest.”

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Enlace, which coordinated the Wells Fargo and Bank of America for-profit prison and "detention center" divestment campaigns issued the following statement: (Note that by reducing its holdings to just below the threshold for investment disclosure, it allows Wells Fargo to increase the secrecy of its business dealings with the industry.)

CORRECTION WELLS FARGO PRIVATE PRISON DIVESTMENT
November 2, 2012 — In a press release dated October 24, 2012, we erroneously stated that Wells Fargo divested 75% of its Geo stock. We regret the error.

The latest SEC filings reveal that Wells Fargo has divested 33% of its dispositive holdings in the Geo Group, the nation’s second largest private prison company, which reduces Wells Fargo’s holdings to 4.98% of Geo Group’s common stock.

The National Private Prison Divestment Campaign noted that by reducing its holdings to less than 5% of GEO’s stock, Wells Fargo will no longer be required to disclose some financial dealings with GEO. Other SEC filings have revealed that Wells Fargo is the creditors’ Trustee for a $300 million GEO senior bond debt.
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In other news, the Corrections Corporation of America, which was rebuffed in its attempt to site a speculative prison in Crete, Illinois where it found a backward but friendly city government, has shifted its target to Joliet.

At the same time residents of Crete ran CCA off, the corporation filed its own lawsuit and instituted another (at taxpayer expense) against Pembroke Pines, a southern Florida city, that had rebuffed its unwanted advances.

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