Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Ocasio (D-NY) proved once again her verbal interrogation skills on Tuesday as she grilled Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan over the financial giant’s dubious investments and won applause for holding his feet to the fire.
The freshman congresswoman questioned bank CEO Timothy Sloan about two issues for which corporations are rarely directly held accountable—the bank’s financing of human rights abuses as well as environmental disasters.
On the issue of Wells Fargo’s relationship with the private prison industry and the Trump administration’s child detention policy, Ocasio-Cortez asked sharply: “Mr. Sloan, why was the bank involved in the caging of children?”
In his response, Sloan announced that the bank is in the process of cutting ties with one group and has already stopped financing another—information that wasn’t publicly known before the hearing.
The congresswoman refused to accept Sloan’s claim that despite Wells Fargo’s financing and debt-financing of GEO Group and CoreCivic, “we weren’t directly involved in that,” before moving on to the bank’s investments in fossil fuel-extracting companies which have worsened the climate crisis, trampled human rights, and endangered the country’s drinking water supply.
Questioning Sloan about its financing of companies that build pipelines including the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in South Dakota and the Keystone XL Pipeline, Ocasio-Cortez asked whether his bank should be held responsible for the environmental havoc wreaked by its investments.
Despite warnings from the Lakota Sioux about the danger of building DAPL, Ocasio-Cortez said, “it was built anyway, and has leaked at least five times.”
“The Keystone XL in particular had one leak that sent 210,000 gallons across South Dakota,” she added. “Why shouldn’t the bank be held responsible for the clean-up of disasters of these projects?”
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When Sloan attempted to deny that the leaks have happened—despite easily accessible information to the contrary—Ocasio-Cortez humored him.
“So hypothetically, if there was a leak from the Dakota Access Pipline, why shouldn’t Wells Fargo pay for the clean-up of it if it paid for the construction of the pipeline itself?” she asked.
On social media, the progressive lawmaker’s supporters wrote that Ocasio-Cortez’s work on the House Financial Services and Oversight Committees has helped bring the experiences and struggles of marginalized groups—like immigrants and the indigenous activists who led the fight against DAPL—to the forefront in Congress.
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