California’s Public Employee Pension Faces Increasing Pressure from Stakeholders to Cut Investments in For-Profit Prisons Tied to Migrant Abuse

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 18, 2019 Contact: Emily Claire Goldman at emily@esg-transparency.org or (202) 922-6415

California’s Public Employee Pension Faces Increasing Pressure from Stakeholders to Cut Investments in For-Profit Prisons Tied to Migrant Abuse

Sacramento, CA - Hundreds of California public employees are calling on the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) to cut its investments in for-profit prison companies CoreCivic and GEO Group over their systemic human rights abuses. CalPERS began engaging with four companies tied to the ongoing migrant abuse crisis in response to outrage from its members, whose demands have grown stronger in the wake of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS’) vote to divest from for-profit prison companies in November.

In accordance with CalPERS’ divestment policy, the country’s largest pension system must engage with companies prior to divesting, and while CalPERS officials have confirmed their engagement with all four companies (CoreCivic, GEO Group, General Dynamics, and United Rentals) is ongoing, CalPERS’ investment team will not be providing the board with an update on the engagement process when the Investment Committee meets in closed-door sessions on Monday, March 18.   

Amidst these growing calls for CalPERS  to end its complicity in the egregious human rights abuses of migrants, including the ongoing family separation and detention crisis, CalPERS’ board is expected to oppose a California State Assembly bill that would require them to divest. In justifying its recommendation for CalPERS’ board to oppose the legislation, CalPERS investment team appears to have copied and pasted sections of the CalPERS’ divestment policy rather than identifying specific risks and benefits divestment would pose to pensioners’ retirement security.  

Supporting material for the agenda item makes broad, unsubstantiated conclusions that divestment will increase benchmark tracking error and jeopardize investment return; and this stands in marked contrast to CalSTRS’ conclusion that “owning private prison companies is de minimis to the overall portfolio return and tracking error.” Compared to CalPERS, which oversees $360 billion and currently has $11.4 million invested in CoreCivic and GEO Group, CalSTRS oversees just $219 billion and privately referred to its $13.7 million investments in CoreCivic and GEO Group as a “drop in the bucket” and a “rounding error.”       

“CalPERS is a recognized leader in responsible investing and the fact that CalPERS’ investment team is providing its board with information that directly contradicts reports from numerous financial analysts is incredibly concerning,” said Emily Claire Goldman, the Founder and Director of Educators for Migrant Justice. “CalPERS is not only tarnishing its reputation, but jeopardizing the retirement security of public employees across California in the process.”

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Educators for Migrant Justice is a grassroots advocacy campaign to end pension fund complicity in the migrant abuse crisis. Contact Emily Claire Goldman for more information.

Emily Goldman