Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) grilled Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan on Tuesday over the bank’s financing of private prisons.
“I’m interested in the human rights abuses and environmental disasters that some say are financed by your bank, Wells Fargo,” said the freshman lawmaker during Tuesday’s House Financial Services Committee hearing, pointing to Wells Fargo’s financial involvement with private prison companies GEO Group and CoreCivic.
“We made a decision two years ago to exit two relationships we had with two private prison firms. One has been exited and when the credit agreement with the other matures, we will no longer have a relationship,” responded Sloan, adding that he could not recall which of the two companies Wells Fargo had ended its business dealings with.
After highlighting three reports documenting CoreCivic and GEO Group’s construction of family detention centers, Ocasio-Cortez asked the Wells Fargo CEO why his bank was “involved in the caging of children.”
“I don’t know how to answer that question because we weren’t,” answered Sloan. “For a period of time, we were involved in financing one of the firms. We aren’t anymore. I’m not familiar with the specific assertions that you’re making, but we weren’t directly involved in that.”
Following the Trump administration’s crackdown of the controversial ‘zero tolerance’ policy, banks involved in the financing of family detention centers came under heavy criticism by immigration activist groups. Last week, JPMorgan Chase announced it would “no longer bank the private prison industry.”
“This is a deliberate lie driven by an agenda aimed at abolishing ICE, knowing that we have nothing to do with passing, setting, or advocating for or against immigration laws or policies. Our company has never managed facilities that house unaccompanied minors, and we have played no role with policies related to the separation of families,” a spokesperson for GEO Group told Observer in response to Ocasio-Cortez’s questioning. “The contractual services we provide for ICE today are no different than the services we provided for eight years under the Obama Administration.”