Ocasio-Cortez Accuses Wells Fargo CEO of ‘Financing the Caging of Children’

By Miguel Moreno

CEO Tim Sloan of Wells Fargo was probed before a panel on March 12 about reported cases of fraud by the bank’s employees. During the hearing, Democratic Socialist Ocasio-Cortes accused the bank of financing the “caging of children.”

Sloan faced criticism by both parties for four hours. Currently, activists are seeking to cut off the cord between financial providers and politicians, thereby weakening political adversaries, according to Fox News. In the process, the Democratic Socialist erroneously accused Sloan with a leading question.

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

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

In 2016, a report was released that indicated that multiple banks, including Wells Fargo, loaned money to Geo Group Group Inc. (GEO) and CoreCivic of America (CCA) during the Obama Administration. Both are privatized correction companies. Sloan added that the bank did fund one of the firms for a period of time but they no longer were, and that the bank was not involved in “incarcerating children” regardless.

Statements from the Firms

House Financial Services Committee members Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (C) talks with Rep.
House Financial Services Committee members Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (C) talks with Rep. on March 12, 2019. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

However, GEO and CCA spokespersons gave Fox News statements regarding Ocasio-Cortez’s accusations.

CCA stated: “We don’t provide housing for any children who aren’t under the supervision of a parent. We also don’t operate shelters for unaccompanied minors, nor do we operate border patrol facilities.”

The firm called any accusations to the contrary as false.

GEO stated: “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.”

To sum up the statement, the firm said that the Karnes Family Residential Center is for families, and that it’s always operated that way since it was establishment by the Obama Administration in 2014.

Calculating Climate Change Damages

Afterward, Ocasio-Cortez asked Sloan if the bank was responsible for damages caused by climate change, whereby Sloan answered that he didn’t know how to measure that. She then transferred to the panel’s attention to the North Dakota pipeline, which leaked 104 gallons of oil back in March 2017.

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

Sloan answered: “Because we don’t operate the pipeline. We provide financing to the company that’s operating the pipeline.

“Our responsibility is to ensure that at the time we make that loan that that customer—and we have a group of people in Wells Fargo, including an environmental oversight group headed by one of my colleagues who used to be at the EPA.”

Sloan was then interrupted by Ocasio-Cortez who asked why Wells Fargo decided to lend money to a project that had been widely criticized based on environmental concerns.

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

House Financial Services Committee Maxine Waters ended by saying that Wells Fargo had “failed to clean up its act” because it was “too big to manage.”

“This hearing has revealed Wells Fargo has failed to clean up its act, it’s too big to manage and the steps regulators have taken to date are wholly inadequate,” Waters said. She suggested that the bank be broken up.

Republicans on the panel also questioned Sloan about the bank’s numerous recent scandals.

“Each time a new scandal breaks, Wells Fargo promises to get to the bottom of it. It promises to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but then a few months later, we hear about another case of dishonest sales practices or gross mismanagement,” North Carolina Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.) said.

“Every single member of this committee has constituents in their state who were impacted by Wells Fargo,” he said. “Our constituents should be able to trust their own bank.”