Congresswoman Maxine Waters Requests Banking And Insurance Records Related To Chattel Slavery

Congresswoman Maxine Waters Requests Banking And Insurance Records Related To Chattel Slavery


Photo: Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

House Financial Services Chair, longtime Congresswoman Maxine Waters wants to know if major banks and insurance companies have studied their institution’s historic involvement in American chattel slavery.  And on June 7, she and the Democrats sent them letters requesting their records related to chattel slavery.

Chattel slavery, according to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, is the most common form of slavery known to Americans. Under this system people were considered legal property and could be bought, sold, and owned forever. Chattel slavery was supported by the U.S. and European powers from the 16th to 18th centuries.

Top Democrats on Waters’ committee, including Texas Rep. Al Green, who leads the subcommittee on oversight and investigations, sent the letters to a total of 20 financial institutions seeking details on whether these institutions had profited from the practice of U.S. slavery before it was outlawed in the 19th century. 

The banks included in Waters’ request include Bank of America, Capital One Financial, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, PNC Financial Services Group, Bank of New York Mellon, Truist Financial Corporation, U.S. Bancorp, and Wells Fargo, American Banker reported. 

“We are writing to inquire about what, if any, research and disclosure your bank has conducted with regard to its, or any of its predecessor institutions’, involvement in the financing of chattel slavery in the United States,” the lawmakers wrote, according to an example letter addressed to banks that was included in a press release

If the institution had not yet done an audit, Waters and her team want to know why.

The top five property and casualty insurance companies, as well as the top five life insurance companies in the U.S. also received letters.

Those included Berkshire Hathaway, Liberty Mutual Group, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, MetLife, New York Life Insurance Company, Prudential Financial, State Farm Insurance, the Allstate Corporation, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, and the Progressive Corporation.

The letter reminds the recipients of laws passed by some state and local legislatures, including the  2002 Chicago measure, where financial institutions have been required to disclose whether they had ever profited from slavery.

“Such compelled disclosures revealed clear historical connections to slavery, in the form of lending capital for the purchase of slaves, accepting enslaved people as collateral for loans, taking ownership of enslaved people in events of default on said loans, providing insurance policies to holders of enslaved persons, and executing payment on those policies in events of injury, fatality, and even liberation of those enslaved persons,” the letter stated. 

Photo: Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joins abortion-rights activists outside the Supreme Court following Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)