UC Berkeley official bank’s parent company stops funding detention centers, continues facilitating investments in them

Ronnie Ghose/Staff

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BNP Paribas — the parent company of UC Berkeley’s official bank, Bank of the West — announced that it will be severing financial ties with for-profit prison corporations, including those contracted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to run what many have called concentration camps for undocumented migrants.

BNP Paribas, an investment bank that brought in almost $8.5 billion in net revenue last year, previously financed ICE-contracted prison corporations, such as the GEO Group, according to BNP Paribas spokesperson Ilias Catsaros. The GEO Group runs several detention centers, including one in Tacoma, Washington, where an activist attacking the facility was shot and killed July 13.

“BNP Paribas will no longer finance private prison companies going forward,” Catsaros said in a prepared statement Sunday. “Today, BNP Paribas has a limited exposure to this sector and following its latest decision, the bank will no longer commit to new financing facilities within this sector.”

Although BNP Paribas has severed its financing relationship with for-profit prison corporations, the company continues to facilitate investments in these companies from its clientele.

In the past year, Nasdaq has estimated that the stock purchases facilitated by BNP Paribas in the GEO Group and CoreCivic, two companies contracted to run facilities for ICE, have together more than doubled in value from roughly $1 million last year to nearly $2.4 million on March 31 of this year. These purchases, according to Catsaros, are made by clients though BNP Paribas who wish to invest in the Russell 2000 Index — an index that includes both the GEO Group and CoreCivic.

According to UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore, the campus has no plans to end its relationship with Bank of the West.

“Bank of the West remains a valued partner and, as with all partnerships, we are committed to ensuring that partner relationships align with the university’s values, standards and mission,” Gilmore said in an email. “The banking relationship is overseen by a campus working group, which is comprised of students, faculty and staff representatives.”

The ICE-run facilities have come under increasing fire in recent months, with protests occurring across the country — including one sponsored by the Berkeley City Council in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on July 13 and another in San Francisco on July 6.

Both CoreCivic and the GEO Group’s stock values have been on a steep decline for roughly a month as public backlash against the facilities has grown.

BNP Paribas’ announcement on severing ties with the GEO Group and other private prison corporations comes after similar announcements from several other banks. Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase both announced that they are ceasing to finance the facilities in the months leading up to BNP Paribas’ announcement.

Ben Klein is an assistant news editor. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @BenKlein_dc.

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