Manhattan PNC branch shut down by Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council protest (7/10)
As the Abolish ICE movement erupts again, private prison corporations contracting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain migrants are feeling the heat. GEO Group and CoreCivic, who together exert near duopolistic power over the private prison sector, have been hit hard by a wave bank divestments. In just a few weeks, some of the industry’s leading lenders, Bank of America, SunTrust, BNP Paribas (parent company of Bank of the West) and Fifth Third all announced plans to cut ties with private prisons. They join JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, who agreed to cease further financing the companies in March 2019.
The majority of immigrant detainees (~70%) are imprisoned in detention centers operated by private prison companies like CoreCivic and GEO Group. These companies are structured as Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), which makes them particularly reliant on financing from large financial institutions and vulnerable to credit loss. Stocks in the industry are reeling, with CoreCivic down 27% and GEO down 22% over the last month. As GEO leadership admitted in May, divestment jeopardizes the industry’s future.
The divestments have roughly correlated with a groundswell of rebellion. Large swathes of U.S. society are recoiling in the face of the draconian xenophobia of the Trump administration, particularly after conditions detailing the mass detention of migrant children were revealed. Never Again Action and Movimiento Cosecha have revived the disruptive spirit of Occupy ICE from a year ago, launching new rounds of blockades at detention centers, ICE Field Offices and the offices of political leaders.
Bank of the West in Seattle picketed by Olympia Assembly and El Comite (7/11)
In mid-June Block the Wall Network and Olympia Assembly released a call for a week of action against ICE profiteers from July 8th-12th. Identifying private prisons as a weak link within the deportation and detention infrastructure, the call urged coordinated direct action to shut down bank branches of Bank of America, PNC Bank, SunTrust and Bank of the West. Before the week of action began, Bank of America divested, SunTrust divested on July 8th and Bank of the West followed suit on July 12th; PNC remains invested as of this writing.
During the week, Bank of the West branches were shuttered on multiple occasions in Seattle and Portland, anarchists and community groups took action against PNC in NYC, Asheville, Tampa, and Atlanta and ICE-tech collaborators Microsoft, Amazon and Palantir all faced protests. Phone zaps were also organized against PNC and Bank of the West branches. Although much credit must be extended to longstanding divestment campaigners, the intervention of anti-authoritarians advancing an explicit direct action strategy into the movement could have been the last straw for some financial firms.
PNC Bank protest in Atlanta (7/11)
Widespread and targeted disruption can also likely explain the failure of Trump’s promised mass ICE raids to materialize. Here, the heroic sabotage of transportation infrastructure at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA by Willem Van Spronsen warrants specific mention in most immediate terms, while the movement generally can be credited with producing a hostile environment for ICE and Border Patrol agents. The true tactical diversity of Abolish ICE – from blockades, sabotage and divestment to popular education, mass marches and mutual aid – has been its greatest strength. This fluid repertoire of action has permitted participation of various form and allowed Abolish ICE to evade capture by NGOs or the Democratic Party. Divestment has been but one, though crucial, component to this movement.
Although the #DivestfromICE movement has secured key victories recently, more work remains to be done. Other banks maintain investments in CoreCivic and GEO Group. CoreCivic and GEO also have large institutional shareholders who haven’t indicated they will relinquish their stock holdings. As leading financiers crumble under public pressure and exposure (or even the mere threat of pressure or exposure), now is the time to up the ante.
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Remaining Banks Invested in GEO Group and CoreCivic
According to financial data published in April 2019 (Bank of America, SunTrust and BNP have divested since), these are some of the banks continuing to issue term loans and revolving credit lines to GEO and CoreCivic or are underwriting bonds for the companies:
PNC Bank – CoreCivic.
Barclays – GEO Group and CoreCivic (bond underwriter)
Citizens Bank – CoreCivic.
Regions Bank – CoreCivic.
U.S. Bank – CoreCivic (bond trustee)
Pinnacle Bank –
A recent CBS News report compiled statements from the banks maintaining investments in the private prison industry. While many refused to comment or issued vague, meaningless statements, Pinnacle Bank was the only one to state definitively that they do not plan to exit financial relationships with GEO and CoreCivic. The report also reads: “Two additional banks told CBS MoneyWatch they have no plans to lend to the private prison industry in the future: Barclays and U.S. Bank.” While these are not formal divestment announcements, they do indicate that Barclays and U.S. Bank could be feeling the heat. (NOTE: The U.S. Bank statement is deceptive; U.S. Bank hasn’t issued loans to GEO or CoreCivic for many years, at least. However, they are the “bond trustee” for CoreCivic and have not announced intentions to exit this position. While bond trustees do not provide direct financing, they facilitate financing by assuming an important administrative role and by underwriting bonds, buying bonds from an issuer and re-selling them to individual bondholders.)
Major Institutional Shareholders of GEO and CoreCivic:
*This data was obtained through institutional holdings listings on NASDAQ and was last updated on 3/31/2019. To find exact holding values use the NASDAQ website for GEO or CoreCivic. Offices listed may or may not be accessible to the public.
Vanguard Group – CoreCivic and GEO Group
BlackRock – CoreCivic and GEO Group
Prudential Financial – CoreCivic and GEO Group
Already, #DivestfromICE organizers have begun to exert pressure on some of the aforementioned and lesser-known financiers. On July 26th, a rolling picket winding through downtown Seattle occupied HSBC and U.S. Bank branches and shut down the lobbies of investment firm offices, Prudential Financial, BlackRock and Barclays. In Tampa, another round of disruptions hit 3 PNC bank branches in one day.
Like blockades at detention centers or airports, financial streams are another artery within the deportation and detention infrastructure that can be clogged through direct action. With the divestment momentum growing, now is the time to intervene in this node.