Over the past decade, Wells Fargo Bank has advertised to Latinos through community outreach, Spanish-language advertising and programs that allow immigrants, without U.S. identification, to open bank accounts.
However, Wells Fargo has also invested in the GEO Group, the nation’s second largest private prison company, which operates private prisons and immigration detention centers, reports Univision and Salon.com.
Mary Moreno, the communications director for the National People’s Action Campaign, told Univision: “They’re trying to win over all these Latino customers, but at the same time they’re promoting prisons for immigrants. Profits should never be a motive for incarcerating people.”
In its defense, Wells Fargo doesn't deny profiting from human warehousing, but tries to shift the spotlight to U.S. immigration policies.
Laura Fay, a spokesperson for Wells Fargo, said in a statement: “As a bank, we don’t set U.S. immigration policy and we don’t have anything to do with setting and enforcing of immigration policy. When it comes to private prisons, we don’t tell the federal government where to place people.”
While Wells Fargo did drop 36 percent of its holdings in GEO late last year, it still owns about 3 million shares, according to SEC filings.
The National Private Prison Divestment Campaign says that by reducing its holdings to less than 5% of GEO’s total stock, Wells Fargo no longer has to disclose some financial dealings with GEO.
GEO and the nation’s largest private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America, depend on Wells Fargo financing as they continue to get government contracts to build and manage immigrant detention centers and other private prisons.
Wells Fargo was also one of the leading subprime mortgage lenders prior to the 2008 crash and was later given a $37 billion from the U.S. government in the TARP bailout.