Ocasio-Cortez questions Wells Fargo over involvement in ‘caging of children’ at border

WASHINGTON – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez demanded to know why Wells Fargo was “involved in the caging of children” at a House hearing with the bank’s CEO on Tuesday.

“I am interested in the human rights abuses and environmental disasters that some say are financed by your bank, Wells Fargo,” the 29-year-old congresswoman told CEO Tim Sloan during a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee, which was examining the bank’s practices.

She then cited an opinion piece which linked the bank to private prisons, for-profit immigration detention centers, loan shark payday lending schemes and accused Wells Fargo of “holding much of the bond debt strangling Puerto Rico’s efforts to lift itself out of its financial crisis.”

“Is it true Wells Fargo invested or financed in some of these industries?” the New York Democrat asked.

Sloan answered by saying that the bank was pulling out of relationships with two private prison companies – GEO Group and CoreCivic – with one exit finalized and the other still being completed.

The CEO couldn’t remember which separation was done. Both companies have been involved with immigration detention.

“Why was the bank involved in the caging of children, and financing the caging of children to begin with?” Ocasio-Cortez then asked.

A taken-aback Sloan didn’t answer her question directly.

“I don’t know how to answer that question because we weren’t,” he said. “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.”

Ocasio-Cortez tried to firm up the link. “OK, so these companies run private detention facilities run by ICE, which is involved in caging children, but I’ll move on,” she said.

She quickly pivoted to whether Wells Fargo should have to pay for environmental clean-up when one of the projects the bank financed, like the Dakota Access Pipeline, goes awry.

“So hypothetically, if there was a leak from the Dakota Access Pipeline, why shouldn’t Wells Fargo pay for the cleanup of it, since it paid for the construction of the pipeline itself?” she asked.

Sloan answered in the negative explaining that his bank does not operate the pipeline.

Ocasio-Cortez asked why Wells Fargo financed the pipeline “when it was widely seen to be environmentally unstable.”

“Again the reason we were one of the 17 or 19 banks that financed that is because our team reviewed the environmental impact and we concluded that it was a risk that we were willing to take,” Sloan answered.

And with that, Ocasio-Cortez ran out of time.

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