A new report shows that the number of banks financing the industry has fallen since a treaty banning it was passed, but the four Spanish banks are still on the list.

By Yago Álvarez Barba/El Salto diario

Since the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) entered into force in 2021, the number of financial institutions financing companies that produce nuclear weapons has decreased. According to the latest Untenable Investments report by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and the Dutch organization PAX, as part of the Dont Bank on the Bomb campaign, between January 2021 and August 2023, 287 financial institutions have been identified as having significant financing or investment relationships with 24 companies involved in the production of nuclear weapons. This is slightly less than the 306 institutions that financed this industry a year ago and represents the fourth consecutive year of decline.

Despite this, Spain’s four largest banks continue to finance this dangerous and harmful industry by lending to or buying shares in it. According to the report, BBVA, Banco Santander, Banco Sabadell, and CaixaBank together finance companies in the nuclear weapons industry to the tune of $11,051 million.

However, there is a big difference between Santander and BBVA and the other two. According to the investigation, the company headed by Ana Patricia Botín has lent 6,524 million dollars to eight companies that produce nuclear weapons or participate in some way in the nuclear weapons business. This figure is all the more striking when we consider that Santander has lent 5,344 million euros to companies that manufacture this type of weapon between 2019 and 2021, as already published by El Salto. In other words, despite the entry into force of the NPT, Santander’s investment in these companies has increased.

BBVA, which is always one of the first to invest in the arms industry or finance companies involved in the Yemen conflict, is close behind. The bank has lent $4.406 billion to eight companies in the nuclear weapons sector.

The other banks have slightly lower figures but still appear on the list for another year. According to the report, Caixabank has $111 million in loans to such companies. Banco Sabadell appears as a borrower with $10 million to the US company Peraton Inc.

The Spanish state is also a shareholder

In addition to loans, the report highlights the entities that finance these companies by acquiring shares and even participating in their general meetings and thus in their decision-making.

This is the case of the Sociedad Española de Participaciones Industriales (SEPI), the financial arm of the state, through which it controls shares in companies such as Indra and Navantia. El Salto has published on several occasions how SEPI, through its large stake in Indra, has participated in the lucrative business of militarizing the borders.

According to this report, SEPI has shares worth $4.68 billion in Airbus, which is also involved in the nuclear weapons business. MBDA France, in which Airbus has a 37.5% stake, is the prime contractor for the ASMPA medium-range nuclear air-to-surface cruise missile, which is to form part of France’s nuclear arsenal.

The usual at the top

Looking at the top table of this ranking of financial institutions, we find the usual suspects from the usual country in the business of arms and whatever else. The top ten institutions with the most shares and money invested in these 24 companies are American. At the top of the list is the Vanguard fund. It is followed, in order, by Capital Group, State Street, the parsley of all sauces, BlackRock, Wellington Management, Fidelity Investments, Newport Group, Geode Capital Holdings, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley.

Six of these have increased their investments in the last year, with the second largest, Capital Group, increasing its investments in such companies by $11.256 billion to $62.548 billion, and BlackRock increasing its investments by $5.11 billion to reach a total investment of $53.161 billion in 2023, putting it in fourth place.

Looking at the largest lenders, the list and the countries of origin change somewhat. The largest lender is Citigroup of the US, followed by Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Mizuho Financial of Japan, BNP Paribas of France, SMBC Group of Japan, Goldman Sachs, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial of Japan and Deutsche Bank of Germany.