Bank of America Corporation

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One of the largest banks in the world. It has been one of the main financial backers of private prison companies. In 2019, it announced that it would no longer extend funding to these companies; however, it is unclear whether it has upheld this commitment. The bank is also one of the funders of Atlanta's Cop City.

Bank of America is a multinational bank and financial services company headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2022, the company served 68 million customers across the U.S. and 31 other countries and generated $94.9 billion in revenue. As of 2023, it is the sixth largest bank in the world based on total assets.

The bank was one of several major financiers of private prison and immigrant detention companies CoreCivic and GEO Group, having provided them with revolving lines of credit, term loans, and bond underwriting services. These loans were crucial for the companies' expansion over the years.

In 2019, following sustained campaigns targeting the major banks that finance CoreCivic and GEO Group, Bank of America announced that it would not extend new loans to the companies. Eight additional banks made similar declarations the same year.

As a result, both CoreCivic and GEO Group signed new credit agreements. Unlike in previous years, the companies' disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding these agreements only named the administrative agent, Alter Domus. While other lenders are also involved, they were not named. Therefore, it is unclear whether Bank of America is still involved.

Involvement in Cop City

Bank of America and its subsidiary Merrill Lynch are among the corporate backers of the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), the nonprofit arm of the Atlanta Police Department that, with the City of Atlanta, is constructing a militarized police training compound—known as Cop City—on protected forest land. As of August 2023, President and Co-head of Merrill Wealth Management, Eric Schimpf, serves on the APF's Board of Trustees. In 2022, Bank of America donated at least $120,000 to the APF for the operation of one of its At-Promise "youth crime diversion" facilities.

Past Financing of Private Prison Companies

For decades, Bank of America and other financial institutions have extended loans and other credit agreements to CoreCivic and GEO Group. The two companies relied on these loans to finance their growth and expansion within the criminal punishment system.

In 2018, CoreCivic entered into a $1 billion credit agreement with a syndicate of banks that included Bank of America. Replacing a previous $900 million credit agreement, this credit facility was originally set to expire in April 2023. Under the agreement, Bank of America provided a $112 million revolving line of credit and a $28 million term loan; it also served as CoreCivic's administrative agent, securing its loans and acting as a go-between for the company and its lenders. In 2018, Bank of America was replaced by Citizens Bank as administrative agent but remained a lender.

In 2019, GEO Group entered into a credit agreement that was initially set to expire in 2024. This agreement effectively replaced the company's 2014 credit facility of the same amount, consisting of a $900 million revolving line of credit and a $792 million term loan. As part of a syndicate of banks, Bank of America served as a lender, contributing an undisclosed amount of money to the deal.

Bank of America's investment and wealth management division, Merrill Lynch, has also served as an underwriter for the following CoreCivic and GEO Group bond offerings:

  • September 2015: CoreCivic issued $250 million of bonds, with a maturity date of 2022. As part of a syndicate of banks, Merrill Lynch underwrote $10 million worth of these bonds.
  • April 2013: CoreCivic issued two sets of bonds—one totaling $325 million, with a maturity date of 2020, and the other totaling $350 million, with a maturity date of 2023. As part of a syndicate of banks, Merrill Lynch underwrote undisclosed amounts of both sets of bonds.

Bank of America has also provided financing to Comprehensive Health Services—a subsidiary of private company Acuity International (formerly Caliburn International)—which operated the largest migrant youth detention center in the U.S. Acting as an administrative agent and lender, the bank helped finance a $455 million credit agreement with the company. This agreement was originally set to expire in September 2022.

In addition to financing private prison companies, Bank of America previously provided prisons with release cards: prepaid debit cards that formerly incarcerated individuals use to access remaining funds sent by loved ones or earned through prison labor. Unlike consumer credit cards, release cards subject cardholders to exorbitant transaction and maintenance fees and are "completely unregulated." Bank of America reportedly ended its prison release card operations some years ago.

Other Controversies

As of 2018, Bank of America was one of the largest commercial customers of G4S, a private prison operator and subsidiary of Allied Universal, the world's largest private security company. Under a contract that ended in 2020, G4S provided over 3,000 Bank of America branches with security guards, CCTV systems, and other security products and services.

Economic Activism Highlights
  • On April 26, 2017, University of Wisconsin-Madison students passed a resolution to call for the university's divestment from private prisons and corporations that build border walls, naming Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell, L-3 Communications, Boeing, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, BNP Paribas, Suntrust, US Bank Corp., and Wells Fargo.
Unless specified otherwise, the information in this page is valid as of
11 September 2023