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Edelman, Public Relations Giant, Drops Client Over Border Detention Centers


Some employees asked to not be assigned to the GEO Group project, according to two people familiar with the requests. Others voiced their misgivings to supervisors.

In a recent all-hands meeting in Edelman’s Washington office, executives informed employees that the company was resigning the GEO Group project.

The executives “took the opportunity to basically shame us for ruining the work for the company because they couldn’t trust us not to leak it to the press,” one person wrote on Fishbowl. Other Edelman employees made the same point in the Fishbowl thread.

In a statement, Edelman said, “This is an inaccurate reflection of what happened at the meeting.”

The adjusted stock price for the GEO Group, a generous donor to President Trump, has gone down 28 percent in the past year.

The company, which for several years operated a migrant housing facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has been criticized by government officials. A surprise inspection of a GEO Group processing center in California last year by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security found bedsheets braided into nooses, inadequate medical care and detainees who were improperly segregated and shackled.

The GEO Group is also battling a lawsuit, filed in 2017 by Washington State’s attorney general, that accuses the company of paying thousands of immigrant detainee workers $1 a day since 2015 to prepare food, wash clothes and clean facilities. The state’s minimum wage is now $12 an hour.

In a conference call with analysts on Tuesday, the GEO Group’s chief executive, George C. Zoley, said the negative associations that had attached themselves to the GEO Group had resulted from a “deliberate mischaracterization of our longstanding role as a quality service provider to ICE.” He added that the GEO Group was “taking steps to more aggressively tell our story to members of Congress, state legislators and the general media.”

Mr. Zoley did not respond to a request for an interview.

On Tuesday, the GEO Group reported more than $82 million in net income for the year so far, a 14 percent jump from the same period in 2018. But in its annual report filed this year, the company said that “public resistance” could damage its business.


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