Banks Face OECD Complaint for US Private Prison Shares    

Civil society groups BankTrack, Coalition for Immigrant Freedom, and Worth Rises have filed a complaint at the Swiss and UK National Contact Points (NCP) against Switzerland-based banks UBS and Swiss National Bank, and UK-based banks Barclays and HSBC. The complaint alleges that the banks’ financial involvement with private prison operators CoreCivic and GEO Group has contravened their responsibilities under the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct. The guidelines have been an important tool to inform investors’ approach to human rights and responsible investment issues. Although voluntary, they are widely perceived as a global standard and ‘soft law’ for responsible business conduct. The complaint alleges that the banks have breached the OECD principle to carry out adequate human rights due diligence with regards to their investments in CoreCivic and GEO Group, and that they have failed to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts to which they are directly linked. BankTrack and the other co-filers said that while public filings fail to disclose the banks’ full exposure to the two companies, each of them owns at least tens of thousands of shares in both, sometimes spread between various subsidiaries. Some shares are held outright, while others are held through index funds – primarily US small-cap ones. 

 

 

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