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HRDC Private prison fact sheet - Federal Legislation 2015

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Human Rights Defense Center

Private Prison Strategies: Divestment
The nation’s two largest private prison companies, CCA and GEO Group, trade on the New
York Stock Exchange under the symbols CXW and GEO, respectively. As of October 2015,
CCA had issued approximately 117 million shares of stock with a market cap of $3.5 billion,
while GEO had issued around 75 million shares with a market cap of $2.38 billion.
Other private prison companies, including Management & Training Corporation, Community
Education Centers, LaSalle Southwest Corrections and Emerald Correctional Management, are
privately held and thus do not have publicly-traded stock.
There is a long history of divestment from private prison firms; Columbia University divested all
of its holdings in private prison stock in June 2015 following a student-led campaign, as did the
United Methodist Church in 2012. The company handling Yale University’s endowment fund
divested from private prisons in 2006, and early divestment efforts date back to the Not With
Our Money campaign in the early 2000s, targeting then-CCA investor Sodexho Marriott.
Currently, Enlace, an alliance of workers, unions and community organizations, is coordinating
the National Private Prison Divestment Campaign. One of their targets is Wells Fargo Bank,
which sold off most of its GEO Group stock but still owns over 1 million shares in CCA.
Color of Change, an activist civil rights group, has also championed divestment from private
prison firms, and in April 2014 was successful in pressuring three companies to divest: Scopia
Capital, DSM North America and Amica Mutual Insurance.
The goal of divestment campaigns is not to have a material financial impact on private prison
companies, as divestment means a lateral transfer of stock from one owner to another. Rather,
divestment campaigns that target private prisons are useful in terms of organizing, educating the
public on private prison issues, making a statement about the private prison industry, developing
media campaigns and publicity, and shaming the companies by putting their stock in the same
category as other undesirable or “toxic” investments such as the tobacco industry.
Around 90% of CCA and GEO Group stock is owned by institutional investors (banks, mutual
funds, private equity firms, etc.), not by individuals. A number of public employee retirement/
pension funds are invested in both companies, too – which is ironic, as private contractors pose
a threat to public service jobs by basing their for-profit business model on the employment of a
non-union work force.
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Public retirement systems in at least 18 states own stock in CCA and/or GEO Group, totaling
over 2.5 million shares in CCA and 1.11 million shares in GEO. At current stock prices as of
October 2015, those public retirement system holdings were worth $76.8 million and $35.6
million, respectively:

To the extent possible, organized labor groups should divest their own funds from private prison
companies, if for no other reason than to forestall claims of hypocrisy vis-à-vis unions opposing
private prisons while owning stock in those companies. Divestment should be accompanied by a
media campaign, and divestment by other organizations and groups should be supported.
Also to the extent possible, organized labor should pressure public employee retirement/pension
funds to divest from the private prison industry, again accompanied by media campaigns.
However, if divestment is not possible, then groups that continue to own private prison stock
should send representatives to annual shareholder meetings to raise concerns, or file shareholder
resolutions with private prison companies to expose their problems and abuses. One benefit of
efforts by activist shareholders is that the companies are forced to respond, such as by filing
objections with the SEC, which can provide useful information and negative publicity.