Katie Benner, CNN, June 2
NEW YORK — Wachovia Corporation has apologized for its ties to slavery after disclosing that two of its historical predecessors owned slaves and accepted them as payment.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Wachovia issued a 111-page report to comply with a Chicago ordinance that requires companies that do business with the city to disclose whether they profited from slavery, which ended in the United States in 1865.
“On behalf of Wachovia Corporation, I apologize to all Americans, and especially to African-Americans and people of African descent,” said Ken Thompson, Wachovia chairman and chief executive officer, in the statement released late Wednesday. “We are deeply saddened by these findings.”
Historians at the History Factory, a research firm specializing in corporate archival work, found that the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company and the Bank of Charleston — institutions that ultimately became part of Wachovia through acquisitions — owned slaves, Wachovia said in the statement.
The announcement comes as a handful of cities nationwide propose initiatives requiring banks and other large companies to investigate and disclose ties to slavery.
Lawsuits have also been filed over the past few years by descendents of slaves, who seek billions of dollars in reparations from companies for their ties to slavery. These companies include and Aetna.
Fellow banking giant J.P. Morgan released a similar disclosure in January, also in order to comply with Chicago’s slavery ordinance, bank spokesman Tom Kelly told CNN/Money.
Along with Chicago, Richmond, Va., Philadelphia and Los Angeles also require companies that do business within city limits to disclose financial ties with slavery. City council members in Berkeley, Calif., proposed an ordinance this week that would nullify city contracts with companies that do not acknowledge past practices that aided slavery.