Point-By-Point Commentary On:
Sodexho Marriott's "FAQs on issues raised by
the Prison Moratorium Project"
By Kevin Pranis of the Prison Moratorium
Project and National Organizer Grassroots Leadership.
Sodexho Marriott Services (SMS) released publicly its responses to
supposed claims made by the Prison Moratorium Project (PMP). The question and
answer sections were written by SMS, while the italicized commentary
was written by Kevin Pranis of the PMP.
Q: Sodexho Marriott Services has been the target of
protests organized by a group called Prison Moratorium Project. Can you
explain what this is all about?
A: Recently we have come under attack by an activist group
known as the Prison Moratorium Project (PMP), which is opposed to the
operation of prisons by privately run companies, comparing for-profit
prisons to slave labor camps.
- Comment: PMP is only one of the organizations
working to end the Sodexho-prison connection. Students for a
sensible drug policy, the Student Association of the State
University of New York and the U.S. Student Association helped
launch the campaign, and we have also been joined by the Canadian
Federation of Students, the Student Environmental Action Coalition
and the Young Democratic Socialists. On campus, the campaign has
been taken up by dozens of organizations with no previous
affiliation to PMP.
PMP alleges that Sodexho Marriott Services derives profits from
ownership and management of prisons. Sodexho Marriott Services is not in
the for-profit prison business. The PMP is making a questionable link to
this issue through one of our shareholders. As a publicly traded company,
Sodexho Marriott Services has more than 36,000 shareholders, including
Sodexho Alliance which owns a minor stake (less than 8%) in Corrections
Corporation of America (CCA), a private prison company. Sodexho Marriott
has no control over the investments and business dealings of any of our
shareholders, including Sodexho Alliance.
- Comment: The campaign has never alleged that
Sodexho Marriott Services owns or manages prisons. It is
Paris-based Sodexho Alliance, sms' parent company, that is
involved in the ownership and management of for-profit
prisons. while it's true that SMS has 36,000
shareholders, one of those shareholders owns 48% of the company,
while the other 35,999+ share the other 52% (meaning that the rest
of the shareholders own, on average, 0.14% of sms apiece). it is
widely acknowledged by the financial community and even Sodexho
Alliance chairman Pierre Bellon himself that Sodexho Marriott is a
subsidiary of Sodexho Alliance, and that SMS generates 52% of sa's
total revenues. By campaigning against Sodexho Alliance's North
American subsidiary, students have the potential to directly
influence SA business dealings, and Bellon has effectively
admitted as much by promising to divest. And it's not a minor
stake: Sodexho is the largest institutional investor in the
largest private prison company in the world.
However, Sodexho Alliance's Chairman Pierre Bellon has said publicly
that it is the company's intention to divest its stake in CCA.
- Comment: If true, this would go part of the way
toward meeting our demands. unfortunately, it looks like Sodexho
Alliance is actually headed in the opposite directions thanks to
its acquisition of U.K. Detention Services and Corrections
Corporation of Australia.
Q: What is the Prison Moratorium Project?
A: PMP is an activist organization, affiliated with the U.S.
chapter of Socialist International. Led by professional activist Kevin
Pranis, the organization was founded in 1995. PMP describes itself as
"a youth-led grassroots organization dedicated to halting prison
expansion, empowering youth and other constituencies affected by prison
expansion." PMP also seeks to stop the incarceration of non-violent
youth offenders, including those convicted of drug crimes.
- Comment: actually, pmp is an independent
organization not affiliated with the socialist international, and
Kevin Pranis is one of several board members (Kate Rhee is its
program director). Otherwise, it's a good description of PMP,
although it again suggests that PMP is solely responsible, when in
fact many organizations have made the campaign happen.
Our senior executive team held discussions with PMP earlier this year
to attempt to understand and respond to their issues and concerns,
explaining that we have no control over the business affairs of our
investors. Nonetheless, PMP officials have publicly stated that regardless
of the facts, they will continue to target our company to generate
publicity for their cause.
- Comment: No PMP "official" has ever
made such a comment, nor, as far as we know, has any member of the
campaign. Rather than ignoring the facts, "Not With Our
Money!" campaign representatives directly refuted all of the
Sodexho team's arguments about the company's
"independence," citing documents filed with the
securities exchange commission by the company itself. We pointed
out, among other things: that former Marriott CEO Charles O'Dell
had been replaced by longtime sodexho executive Michel
Landel; that SMS's bylaws, which provide for a classified board
and non-cumulative voting, effectively prevent anyone but Sodexho
from controlling the board; that Sodexho's 48% share gave them
complete control over the company; and that CCA founder
"Doc"Crantz was a member of the SMS board of
Q: PMP has compared for-profit prisons to slave
labor camps. What is your response?
A: We're in the food service and facilities management
business, not the prison business, and we have no official position
regarding the for-profit prison industry.
- Comment: Sodexho Alliance, unfortunately,
continues to go on record in support of the for-profit prison
Q: Does Sodexho Marriott Services operate
A: No. The company has no operational or ownership interest
in any part of the private or public prison industry. Sodexho Marriott
Services' business is providing food service and facilities management to
schools, colleges and universities, corporations and health care
- Comment: Unfortunately again, Sodexho Alliance
is the largest institutional investor in the largest prison
company in the world, and it also directly owns private prison
companies in Great Britain and Australia.
Q: I heard that Sodexho Marriott Services uses
prison labor on its campuses. Is that true?
A: That is absolutely false. We do not and have never
employed prisoners at any of our 5,000 locations in the U.S. and
- Comment: we're sure they're right. the
campaign has never accused SMS of using prison labor.
Q: Is Sodexho Marriott Services part of Sodexho
Alliance or Marriott? What's the company's history?
A: Sodexho Marriott Services was formed following the
spin-off of Marriott Management Services from Marriott International. In
March 1998, the former Marriott management Services merged with the North
American operations of Sodexho Alliance to create a new, independent
publicly-traded company that is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Sodexho Marriott Services pays an annual fee to each company for
independent license agreements for the use of the names Sodexho and
- Comment: Notice that they don't actually answer
the question about whether Sodexho Marriott is part of Sodexho
Alliance. SA chairman Pierre Bellon does, though, and here's his
answer "Today, Sodexho Alliance, including Sodexho Marriott
services, employs 270,000 people in 70
countries." hmmm.. looks like it's part of Sodexho Alliance
after all. as to the name, it is typical for franchises to pay a
license fee to the parent company for use of its name. on the
other hand, the lease on use of the Marriott name runs out in
March, and given all the bad publicity generated by Sodexho's
prison investments, you can guarantee that Marriott will not renew
Q: Does CCA's president serve on your Board of
A: No. Doctor Crants, the former president and CEO of
Corrections Corporation of America, officially resigned from Sodexho
Marriott's Board of Directors in April.
- Comment: hmmm again. Crants resigns from the
board just a month after our first meeting and days after our
first day of action. Coincidence or conspiracy?