Sunday, March 12, 2017

Looking for a killer investment?


Since the advent of Precedent Beetlefart, two of the more responsive corporate stocks have been in the private prison industry. Thanks to His Orangeness's inhuman immigration ideas and the irrepressible Republican lust for privatization, the dwindling populations of the prisons have been restocked to the point where they are looking a ultra profitable overpopulation of the cells.
Those two companies have bland names — the Geo Group and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) — that don’t signal their primary business: operating for-profit prisons and immigration detention centers for states and the federal government.

The worse the news for immigrants and their lawyers, the better it has been for the two companies. When a member of the Trump administration issues a memo or executive order, gives a speech or tweets about the crackdown on immigrants, shares of the two companies rise: Since the election, CoreCivic’s stock price has climbed 120 percent, and Geo’s has gained 80 percent.

Already in 2017, CoreCivic is up about 30 percent; Geo has gained about 20 percent. “We are strongly opposed to the Trump administration policies on immigration,” said Carl Takei, staff lawyer for the A.C.L.U.’s national prison project. “But those policies are great for these companies.”

It was only last summer that their entire business model seemed to be in danger. The Obama administration decided to phase out their use by the federal Bureau of Prisons, and the companies’ shares plummeted. But Mr. Trump’s election victory almost instantly pulled the two companies out of their market slump, as I wrote in early December. That was only the beginning.

Investor expectations that the actual business of incarceration and detention will expand under Mr. Trump have fueled their levitating share prices. “It looks as though Geo and CoreCivic have several years of sharp growth ahead of them,” said Michael Kodesch, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity. “Based on that, they still look undervalued.”

For one thing, Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump’s new attorney general, announced last month that the federal Bureau of Prisons will continue to rely on private prison companies. That reversed an August decision announced by Sally Q. Yates, then the deputy attorney general. (Ms. Yates stayed on as acting attorney general in the Trump administration’s first days, but the new president fired her on Jan. 30 when she refused to defend his executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees and people from certain predominantly Muslim countries.)

In her August memo, Ms. Yates said the private prisons “compare poorly to our own bureau facilities” on financial grounds, adding that they lagged in rehabilitative services like educational programs and job training. Ms. Yates also pointed out that the federal prison population had begun to decline, thanks to revised sentencing guidelines and other reforms.

But in a terse refutation of the Obama administration, Mr. Sessions said the Yates memo had “impaired the bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system. “Therefore,” he said, “I direct the Bureau to return to its previous approach.” That reversal helped bolster the prison stocks.
So they look to be a good investment for the years ahead. And the killer part? Well, it is well known that the private prisons are notoriously poorly run with staff hired at barely above minimum wage, forget about standards. And in the interest of maximizing profits, services like prison food and health are pared back to the absolute minimum, if not more. The result is a constant number of unnecessary deaths. All in all, a killer investment.

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