CPPIB keeping stakes in U.S. prison firms amid illegal immigration controversy

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is holding firm on its U.S. prison investments, despite controversy over their role in immigration detention south of the border, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The Toronto-based fund, which manages about $368 billion (US$277 billion), holds small stakes of CoreCivic Inc. and Geo Group Inc., which had facilities that held people suspected of illegally entering the U.S. under a policy imposed this year by President Donald Trump.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System voted to divest their stakes in the two companies, citing the U.S. administration’s policy of splitting up families. Leadnow, a Toronto and Vancouver-based social just group and SumOfUs, a global consumer group that says it holds companies to account, said in a release Monday more than 50,000 people have signed a petition urging CPPIB to dump their shares.

CPPIB referred to public remarks made by its CEO last week when asked about possible divestment plans.

“From time to time we, like many investors, are challenged by people who put pressure on us to divest if they disagree with the policies or actions of a company we have chosen to invest in,” Mark Machin said in a speech in Toronto Nov. 20. “Divesting achieves little for CPPIB and all of our stakeholders. There is a large supply of capital in both public and private markets that can step in if we were to exit.”

CPPIB “believe the best way to positively influence corporate behaviour is through principled, constructive and collaborative engagement,” Machin added.

CPPIB held 67,800 shares of CoreCivic and 243,500 shares of Geo Group as of Sept. 30, which would put their combined investment at about US$7 million and both stakes of less than 1 per cent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Shares of CoreCivic have dropped 5.5 per cent in the past 12 months while Geo Group is down 12 per cent in the same span.

Bloomberg.com

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