[JURIST] Wachovia Corp. [corporate website], the fourth largest bank in the US, acknowledged Wednesday that two of its predecessor banks owned slaves prior to the Civil War and apologized for the practice. Wachovia had contracted with historical research firm The History Factory [company website] to look into the pasts of acquired banks, an increasingly common practice as legislative initiatives in a variety of the US states have pushed financial institutions to investigate possible links to slavery. The researchers found that the Bank of Charleston and the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company had both owned slaves or used them as collateral in transactions. Wachovia Chairman Ken Thompson [company profile] said in a statement [Wachovia press release] that he was "deeply saddened" by the findings, adding that the company plans to work with community organizations to further understanding of black history. AP has more.