Cartels and carcels: Reasons to protest Wells Fargo

As we reported earlier, a major protest is scheduled at the Well Fargo annual shareholders’ meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, sponsored by a coalition of activist groups including the International Forum on Globalization.

Protesters will gather near the Embarcardero BART Station where Market Street ends at Stuart Street before marching to the site of the meeting, the Merchants Exchange Building at 465 California Street.

A major beneficiary of the bankster bailout, Well Fargo is also the nation’s leading corporate tax dodger and tops the list of foreclosure profiteers.

But our favorite choice of reasons to target the financial giant is the bank’s role as the leading investor in for-profit prisons and a major beneficiary of the rivers of cash that flow from drug cartels.

That’s ironic, since the bank is also the owner of the assets of Wachovia Bank, which they purchased two years after federal investigators first learned that Wachovia has been making millions off laundering funds the the world’s largest drug cartel.

So, in effect, the bank same bank that profited from laundering the cash of Mexican drug cartels also profits from the private prisons built to house those arrested for selling or using the products of the cartels.

Nifty, huh?

Well Fargo bought Wachovia Bank in October. 2008, undoing merger plans carefully arranged by federal officials between Wachovia and CitiBank. The merger came two years after a plane loaded with cocaine was seized by Mexican police.

The plane, it turns out, was one of four bought by the Sinaloa Cartel with cash they’d laundered through Wachovia.

As Vulliamy of The Guardian reported last year:

The authorities uncovered billions of dollars in wire transfers, traveller’s cheques and cash shipments through Mexican exchanges into Wachovia accounts. Wachovia was put under immediate investigation for failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering programme. Of special significance was that the period concerned began in 2004, which coincided with the first escalation of violence along the US-Mexico border that ignited the current drugs war.

Criminal proceedings were brought against Wachovia, though not against any individual, but the case never came to court. In March 2010, Wachovia settled the biggest action brought under the US bank secrecy act, through the US district court in Miami. Now that the year’s “deferred prosecution” has expired, the bank is in effect in the clear. It paid federal authorities $110m in forfeiture, for allowing transactions later proved to be connected to drug smuggling, and incurred a $50m fine for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine.

More shocking, and more important, the bank was sanctioned for failing to apply the proper anti-laundering strictures to the transfer of $378.4bn – a sum equivalent to one-third of Mexico’s gross national product – into dollar accounts from so-called casas de cambio (CDCs) in Mexico, currency exchange houses with which the bank did business.

“Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations,” said Jeffrey Sloman, the federal prosecutor. Yet the total fine was less than 2% of the bank’s $12.3bn profit for 2009. On 24 March 2010, Wells Fargo stock traded at $30.86 – up 1% on the week of the court settlement.

Read the rest.

So nobody goes to jail and the bank only pays a trifling fine.

Here’s a September 2011 Bloomberg interview with Martin Woods, who quit Wachovia’s in-house money laundering investigation unit in disgust over the bank’s lax handling of cartel cash:

Making money behind bars

While no banksters had to go to the slammer, the bank itself is in prison: Or, rather, the bank is in prisons, as in owning them.

Nowadays Well’s Fargo is playing the other side of the law and order fence, raking in big profits from the private prison business,

Here’s Glenn Greenwald, writing at Salon:

A driving force behind the push for ever-tougher sentences is the for-profit prison industry, in which Wells Fargo is a major investor. Flush with billions in bailout money and an economic system designed to siphon wealth from the working class to the idle rich, Wells Fargo has been busy expanding its stake in the GEO Group, the second largest private jailer in America. At the end of 2011, Wells Fargo was the company’s second-largest investor, holding 4.3 million shares valued at more than $72 million. By March 2012, its stake had grown to more than 4.4 million shares worth $86.7 million.

Unfortunately, it’s a safe investment. While a 50 percent growth in the number of human beings our society cages in rape factories may sound impressive – or perhaps the word is “revolting” – a study released last year by the Justice Policy Institute found that the private prison industry grew by more than 350 percent over the last decade and a half. While other industries of course benefit from state-granted privileges, companies like GEO profit by the state literally kidnapping and handing them clientèle, particularly as of late about-to-be-deported immigrants, of which President Barack Obama has ensured there is a steady, record-breaking supply.

Read the rest.

And here’s a two-part report on the prison profiteers from RT. And note that when private prison corporations take over penal systems, the contracts governments sign require them to keep the prisons filled. But you cna rest assured, no banksters will be among those sent to fill the state quotas.

Call it a case of Too Big To Jail.

Part I:

Part II:


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