A controversial investment by one of Canada’s biggest pension funds in a company which operates private prisons in the United States is larger than initially thought, recent securities filings have revealed.
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The Guardian and Documented reported last month that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – which manages $366.6bn in pension funds on behalf of some 20 million Canadian retirees – holds stock in Geo Group.
But the most recent regulatory filings show the CPPIB has added to its holdings in Geo Group by 90,000 shares since June – an increase of nearly 50% – bringing the total investment value to $6.1m. It is not known if the fund still holds the shares; the investment board did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Facilities operated by Geo Group have been used in recent months to detain families in the United States, following Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” crackdown on immigration by the American government.
Meanwhile, the CPPIB decreased its holdings of CoreCivic, another private prison company, by 5,900 shares, valuing the investment at $1.65m at the time of filing.
The CPPIB is one of the largest funds in the world, and although the investments in American private prisons companies represent a narrow slice of the overall fund, they have prompted an angry reaction from campaign groups and politicians.
“I’m very surprised to hear that number is significantly higher than we had previously thought,” said Emma Pullman of SumOfUs, an advocacy group that started one of two online petitions calling on the fund to divest its holdings. Between them, the two petitions have received more than 45,000 signatures.
Selling the investment would mark a significant move for the CPPIB, which prides itself in resisting external lobbying attempts.
But public outcry appears to have rattled the board. On 14 November, the board convened a meeting with activists from two separate groups, both petitioning the investment board to divest its holdings.
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“I think the reason they’re looking into these options is because the writing is on the wall,” said Logan McIntosh, a campaigner with the Leadnow advocacy group, who attended the meeting. “It’s an unnecessary and shameful investment and it’s undermining the confidence of Canadians that they can manage our retirement savings responsibly.”
Every two years, the CPPIB hosts legally mandated presentations across the country to outline its investment strategy and allow the public to ask questions.
“I don’t think Canadians are interested in profiting from the abuse of humans and the caging of children,” said Darcie Lanthier, a former financial advisor who attended one such event in Charlottetown. “I know, with what little savings I have, I go out of my way to ensure my investments are doing no harm.”