Photo by Jason Cato

Anti-private prison advocates have recently been calling on Wells Fargo bank to divest its holdings in both The GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, the two largest for-profit private prison companies in the United States. Wells Fargo owns 3.5 million shares of The GEO Group’s stock alone.

According to Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership, a group fighting for the abolition of private prisons, corporations like GEO and CCA, who take over and run existing local, state, and federal prisons — and sometimes build new ones — regularly lobby all levels of government for longer prison sentences “to ensure [for-profit prisons’] interests are met.”

Those interests, of course, are the 90-percent guaranteed prison-bed occupancy rates that the companies pretty regularly get from the government. To that end, for instance, both GEO and CCA pushed furiously for the current law that allows illegal immigrants to be jailed for up to five years prior to deportation — even if their only crime was being illegal.


Now in Wells Fargo’s case, things are particularly skewed. Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia on Dec. 31, 2008, while Wachovia was being prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department for knowingly and admittedly having illegally laundered $378 billion (give or take) from Mexican casas de cambio (money exchanges) between May 2004 and May 2007. Exactly how much of that money was from drug cartels, no one will ever know. Certainly, a good deal of it was, and Wachovia, in its 2010 settlement with the Justice Department — in which the bank forfeited $110 million and paid an additional $50 million fine — admitted purposefully ignoring U.S. money laundering laws.

So the way Static sees it: Wells Fargo purchased Wachovia and its illicit Mexican-cartel drug money and then invested heavily in the private prison industry, possibly using some of those cartel proceeds to lobby for longer prison sentences for illegal Mexicans. Wouldn’t you think that Wells Fargo would have a soft spot for illegal Mexicans after having such a soft spot for buying a bank that made its living off illegal Mexican money?

In a bizarro world, the irony of Wells Fargo’s fiscal moves might make sense. In a more reasonable, more compassionate world, though, everybody would take their money out of Wells Fargo until the bank cuts its ties with for-profit prisons.