“We are calling on you and this office to end your partnership with Invesco as just one of several investment firms that Rhode Island currently uses for the College Bound 529 plan. We believe it would be an assuredly easy cut to make in order for this office to honor its ethical commitment: Putting people over profit.“
Activists from AMOR (Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance) today interrupted a meeting of the Rhode Island State Investment Commission to deliver a message to Rhode Island State Treasurer Seth Magaziner about Rhode Island’s business dealings with the bondholders of the Wyatt Detention Facility, specifically the largest bondholder, Invesco. Invesco, is that largest investor in the Wyatt, and with other investors grouped together by UMB Bank in Kansas City, Missouri, is suing the City of Central Falls, Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, members of the Central Falls City Council, and the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation (CFDFC) board for $130M.
The lawsuit has already caused the CFDFC board to essentially cede its control over Wyatt operations to UMB Bank. UMB Bank sued because the CFDFC board revoked its agreement to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees.
The group of six activists held signs and read a letter to Treasurer Magaziner, who paused the meeting with out of state investment firms seeking to do business in Rhode Island to listen.
The letter reads:
“Dear Mr Magaziner, we are writing you today because as General Treasurer of Rhode Island, you have the power and responsibility to ensure the ethical management of the State’s finances. It has come to our attention that the State is in partnership with Invesco Ltd through the Rhode Island College Bound 529 plan. Invesco is the largest bond holder for the Wyatt Detention Facility, a quasi-public institution that inhumanely imprisons detained immigrants, facilitates the separation of families and encourages state violence on the United States southern border.
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“We are calling on you and this office to end your partnership with Invesco as just one of several investment firms that Rhode Island currently uses for the College Bound 529 plan. We believe it would be an assuredly easy cut to make in order for this office to honor its ethical commitment: Putting people over profit.
“We are sure you have heard about what is going on at the Wyatt Detention Facility. Earlier this year, despite overwhelming protest against the renewal of the partnership with immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), bondholders such as Invesco sued the City of Central Falls to ensure the continued incarceration of federal detainees at the Wyatt. By partnering with Invesco, the Rhode Island Office of the General Treasurer gives Invesco a reputation they can use to sanction and legitimatize their other actions. Through this partnership, the Rhode Island Office of the General Treasurer also supports the continued existence of the Wyatt and the ongoing incarceration of people seeking asylum from violence and torture.
“We’ve been calling on these firms to divest from the Wyatt Detention Facility and cancel the debts. Now we are calling on you, Mr Magaziner, and your office, to reconsider the ethical investment practices you stand by and end your partnership with Invesco. We’re here today to ask you whether you will meet with us to see how we can best do this effectively and to contact Invesco today to bring this up and raise this issue.“
“Thank you very much for coming and I thank you for your activism and for speaking out on a very important issue,” said Magaziner in response. “I, and I think many Rhode Islanders, are disturbed by the stories that have been coming out of the Wyatt. Thank you all for getting involved, being engaged, and making your voices heard. I would be very happy to meet with you… We’ll have to find a time in the next couple of weeks that we can get together, but I will absolutely do that.”
“Would you be able to contact Invesco today and just raise this concern with them? They’re the top investor of the Wyatt…” pressed one of the activists.
“I’m certainly open to that. But let me take a look at the information that you have and we’ll figure out what the right next step is,” said Magaziner.
The activists left the room chanting “Shut down the Wyatt!”
Thanks to some research by AMOR we now know what investment companies own the Wyatt Bonds.
The bondholders are:
- Invesco Ltd $49,155,000
- T Rowe Price Group Inc $17,200,000
- Eaton Vance Corp $10,825,000
- Credit Agricole Group $9,320,000
- BlackRock Inc $8,345,000
- Legg Mason Inc $980,000
The figure following the name of the bondholders is how much the bondholder has invested. These are, obviously, some of the biggest investment companies in the world. If you have retirement funds, chances are that at least one of these companies is in charge. Some people reading this may be utterly opposed to the Wyatt and private prisons in general, but are betting their retirement on the success of this industry.
The State of Rhode Island does business with three of these companies, according to Evan England, Magaziner’s Senior Advisor & Director of Communications. Invesco runs Rhode Island’s CollegeBound 529 plans. The company is credited with turning around the ailing program.
The T Rowe Price and BlackRock funds are investment options in the state’s 457 plans. They don’t maintain the plans. The plans are actually run by Fidelity and Voya. Fidelity and Voya have to bid for that business and the state is required by statute to offer three and only three 457 plans. (The third 457 provider is TIAA.) The state has no money invested in the Wyatt bonds, at least not directly.
Of the companies invested, BlackRock is perhaps the most overtly evil. According to Wikipedia:
“[O]ne report shows that BlackRock is the world’s largest investor in coal plant developers, holding shares worth $11 billion among 56 coal plant developers. Another report shows that BlackRock owns more oil, gas, and thermal coal reserves than any other investor with total reserves amounting to 9.5 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions – or 30 percent of total energy-related emissions from 2017.“
BlackRock is also “the largest investor in weapon manufacturers through its iShares U.S. Aerospace and Defense ETF,” notes Wikipedia.
CNN writes that BlackRock, along with Vanguard, are the two largest investors in private prisons.
On Monday members of AMOR and allies from delivered letters to Eaton Vance and Invesco in Boston, Credit Agricole and BlackRock in New York, and Invesco HQ in Atlanta. Watch the video of the Boston deliveries here.
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