For Immediate Release:
November 23, 2020
Oakland, CA—Last week, impact investment firm Candide Group, and its founding partner Morgan Simon decisively won dismissal of a lawsuit from private prison company CoreCivic that tried to claim she had defamed them by saying they participated in family separation and lobbied for harsher policies. The suit was an attempt to suppress critique of companies making money off of broken immigration and criminal justice systems, and was outright rejected by the federal district court. Between their extreme financial challenges this year, President-elect Joe Biden pledging to end federal use of private prisons and family detention centers, and the dismissal of this outrageous lawsuit, private prisons may well be on their way to extinction.
“This lawsuit was a tactic to deflect and suppress public discussion of a business model that profits from misfortune. Quite simply, they make more money each time someone is locked up.” Simon said. “The for-profit motive to mass incarcerate and detain immigrants is holding us back from creating a truly fair justice system. And that’s why I’m glad President-elect Joe Biden has pledged numerous times to end federal use of private prisons and immigrant detention centers.”
Simon, an impact investor and activist, had written extensively about the company as a Senior Contributor to Forbes.com and in particular their participation in family separation, which CoreCivic vehemently denied, claiming that “family separation” only refers to detaining unaccompanied minors. Simon and Candide Group moved to dismiss the claims under California’s anti-SLAPP law, which is designed precisely for such frivolous attempts to silence activists. In its Nov. 19 ruling, U.S. District Judge William Alsup noted, “CoreCivic, Inc., did, in fact, operate detention facilities for parents separated from their children pursuant to the Border Patrol’s family separation policy. Thus, even though CoreCivic did not operate the detention facilities in which the children themselves were housed, CoreCivic did house the other half of the afflicted families or at l[e]ast some of them. Therefore, the allegedly defamatory statements were true enough under the First Amendment and under California defamation law.”
Matt Nelson, Presente.org’s executive director and Families Belong Together Corporate Accountability Committee member explained: “Anytime someone enters a prison or detention center, they are separated from their family. Period. America’s outrage at family separation shouldn’t stop with Trump’s policies — it’s an embarrassment that we lock up more people than any other nation, and this must be a top priority for the incoming Biden-Harris Administration.”
Since 2018, Presente, Candide Group and their Real Money Moves initiative has participated in the Families Belong Together Corporate Accountability Committee, a coalition of over 100 organizations who shone the light upon the industry’s practices and held the banks who finance the industry accountable. As a result, more than 500,000 people took action, and eight banks – among them JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, BNP Paribas – committed to stop funding the private prison industry, representing a massive string of victories for not only this committee, but for generations of activists addressing the harm of the private prison industry.
This spotlight on the industry has only enhanced their financial troubles. In the wake of such activism, Fitch downgraded CoreCivics’ credit from average to negative (junk bond status), and was downgraded from Mid Cap to Small Cap after its share prices fell a whopping 54% in one year. In a quarterly SEC report the CEO of peer prison company GEO Group noted: “if other banks or third parties that currently provide us with debt financing or that we do business with decide in the future to cease providing us with debt financing or doing business with us, such determinations could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.”
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director of MomsRising and Families Belong Together member, said, “We are heartened that President-Elect Joe Biden has committed to ending the federal government’s use of private prisons, as well as making the elimination of private prisons a requirement for his new state and local prevention grant program. We look forward to the day when America officially rejects the idea that profiting from incarceration is acceptable.”
Nadira Narine from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility noted: “Growing awareness of the money made off the backs of immigrants and incarcerated people, especially as the private prison sector faces scrutiny over its human rights violations, is part of an overall trend of people voting with their wallets, getting their money out of industries that cause harm.”
Simon said, “As people start asking, ‘where does my money spend the night?’ and wanting an answer inline with their social values, I expect we’ll continue to see a mass exodus from investments in companies that have demonstrated a clear disregard for human life. This is good news, however, for the next generation of entrepreneurs, in the wake of COVID, focused on empowering Americans rather than incarcerating them.”
Presente.org’s mission is to advance Latinx power and create winning campaigns that amplify Latinx voices; expand the political imagination and traditional boundaries; and foster inspiration for freedom, equity, and justice. With more than 500,000 member-activists, Presente.org is the nation’s largest online Latinx organizing group — and the nation’s premier Latinx digital organizing hub — advancing social justice with technology, media, and culture.
ABOUT MORGAN SIMON
Morgan Simon has close to two decades of experience making finance a tool for social justice. In that time she has influenced over $150B and is a regularly sought out expert on impact investing. Her book, Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change has been featured everywhere from Harvard Business School to the United Nations. She is a regular voice in media and active investor as Founding Partner of Candide Group, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor.
ABOUT CANDIDE GROUP
Candide Group helps families, foundations, athletes and influencers who want their money working for justice. They have over $120M in assets under management, and have supported over 80 investments in companies and funds over the past seven years that in turn are generating positive impact by helping bring solar to the Navajo Nation, healthy food to low-income communities, and diversify media, among other outcomes.
ABOUT FAMILIES BELONG TOGETHER
The Families Belong Together Corporate Accountability Committee, made up of more than 100 organizations, called on banks to stop their financial support for GEO Group and CoreCivic, private prisons that are profiting from mass incarceration and the criminalization of immigration.
ABOUT DAVIS WRIGHT TREMAINE
Candide and Simon were represented by the leading First Amendment law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, Abigail Everdell of New York and Thomas Burke of San Francisco. Davis Wright Tremaine’s media and First Amendment lawyers have defended the cause of free speech and newsgathering through decades of landmark actions