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Brian Chappatta

Barclays Has No Excuse for Private-Prison Drama

The bank risked reputational harm by trying to thread the needle between lending and underwriting.

Should have known better.

Should have known better.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Barclays Plc probably should have seen this coming.

For more than two weeks, the London-based bank has been embroiled in controversy after Bloomberg News was first to report that the bank was serving as lead underwriter of a municipal-bond deal that would raise hundreds of millions of dollars for two Alabama prisons owned by CoreCivic Inc., a giant in the private-prison industry. The saga ultimately came to a close on Monday, with Barclays withdrawing from the offering after becoming the first company ever to be kicked out of the American Sustainable Business Council and its partner organization Social Venture Circle, which combined represent some 250,000 businesses.