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Sodexo

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Sodexo Inc. is the fully-owned North American subsidiary of the French multi-national corporation Sodexo Group (formerly Sodexho Alliance). It has operations in the United States and Canada. Sodexo Group is publicly traded in France (EN Paris:SW), but not in the United States, and so is not required to submit filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).[1]

Sodexo Group is the largest food services and facilities management company in the world as of 2013.[2] Sodexo contracts to provide food services to private corporations, government agencies, schools and universities, military bases, hospitals, clinics, senior residential facilities, and correctional facilities, and is a primary driver of the privatization and outsourcing of these services.[3][1]

In 2000, Sodexo came under fire from university campuses in the U.S. for its investments in private prison company Corrections Corporation of America (from 1994-2001). It subsequently withdrew from the private prison industry in the United States. However, the company is still deeply invested in the European private prison industry.[4][5]

Sodexo has a lengthy record of paying workers poverty wages, overcharging clients, opposing unions, and violating food and safety standards.[6]

As of July 2014, Sodexo USA has over 427,000 employees worldwide.[7] Of those, it manages a "quarter million" people in over 150 U.S. government sites managing food service for public institutions including schools and universities, prisons, hospitals, elderly care facilities, government agencies, the military, and "remote" gas and oil expedition sites. The majority of Sodexo's U.S. operations encompass sourcing and managing cafeterias, concessions, and vending.[8] Sodexo USA is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and registered in Delaware.[9]

In 2013, Sodexo Group reported $24.8 billion in revenues, 38 percent of which came from operations in North America; and $1.3 billion in operating profits.[7]

PROFITS AND OWNERSHIP: In 2012, Sodexo Group reported $24.8 billion in revenues, 38 percent of which came from operations in North America; and $1.3 billion in operating profits.[7] Sodexo Inc. -- which consists of the divisions Sodexo Canada and Sodexo USA -- reported annual revenue of $8.8 billion in 2012.[10]

BUSINESS MODEL: Sodexo Group describes itself as having three lines of business: "on-site services," which range from construction to reception, sterilization of medical equipment, cleaning, food services, and prisoner rehabilitation, and account for 96 percent of revenues;[11] "benefits and rewards services," accounting for four percent of company revenues, in which it contracts with companies, local authorities, and governments to provide tailored employee benefits, "incentive and recognition programs," and "public benefits solutions";[12] and "personal and home services," which consists of "concierge services" for companies' employees and clients, in-home care for seniors and others with limited mobility, and childcare.[13] Many of the services under this last business line seem to overlap with "on-site services" in terms of segment revenue.[2]

FOUNDING: Sodexo was founded by Pierre Bellon in 1966 and is located in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France.

Controversies

British Horsemeat Scandal (2013)

Butcher Sean Basey works behind a "no horsemeat" sign at Bates Butchers in Market Harborough, central England, February 20, 2013. (Source: REUTERS/Darren Staples)

In February 2013, Sodexo -- which is Great Britain's biggest catering company and supplies 2,300 British schools, care facilities, military bases, prisons, office canteens, and sporting venues -- withdrew all frozen beef products from its catering operations in the United Kingdom when some tested positive for horse DNA.[14][15][16] According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Sodexo lines affected included beef burgers, minced beef, and halal minced beef.[17]

The company took weeks to test its products after it was announced that UK suppliers and distributers were required to test their supplies, or submit to testing. Mary Creagh, Member of Parliament (Wakefield-Labour Party) and Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said, "It is deeply worrying that it has taken Sodexo, who [sic] supply schools, hospitals and the armed forces, several weeks to test for and discover horse in its beef products."[17]

Local school districts were up in arms,[18] as was the Department for Education, which called the incident "a serious and unacceptable breach of trust."[17] Among the events the company had catered are the Royal Ascot -- the famous horse racing event that the Queen attends each year -- and the London Olympics in 2012.[19] The England Department of Health added, "It is unacceptable that anyone should have been eating meat that is not what it says on the label."[17]

Sodexo at first declined to name the supplier of the beef product that tested positive for horse DNA.[17] Three weeks later, Vestey Food Group, a business owned by the Queen's own Master of the Horse, Lord Vestey, admitted that it had supplied horsemeat to Sodexo.[20]

Thousands of School Children Sickened in Germany's Largest Food Poisoning Outbreak (2012)

Sodexo was implicated in Germany's biggest outbreak of food poisoning, in 2012, when at least 11,200[21] school children in almost 500 schools and daycares were sickened, and at least 32 were hospitalized. The outbreak was "very likely" caused by frozen strawberries that Sodexo imported from a subcontractor in China, according to Reuters.[22] Many of the patients were diagnosed with noroviruses, a major cause of human gastroenteritis.[23] Sodexo apologized and said it planned to compensate victims,[22] but whether compensation was forthcoming was not known as of September 2013.

Nationwide Investigation for Overcharging Clients (2010-2013)

New York Investigation Leads to $20 Million Settlement Under False Claims Act:

(Source: In These Times)

In July 2010, Sodexo paid a $20 million settlement under the New York False Claims Act for overcharging 21 New York school districts as well as the State University of New York (SUNY) system between 2004 and 2009. Despite promising to provide goods at cost, former New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo's investigation found that the company failed to acknowledge -- let alone return -- rebates averaging 14 percent that suppliers issued to the schools. This practice violates state and federal laws as well as client contracts. Like many across the country, the 21 K-12 schools had contracted with Sodexo to provide food and facilities services, as part of the New York State Education Department’s Child Nutrition Programs and the National School Lunch Program, which require that rebates, credits, and discounts be credited to the schools. Federal law further requires that contractors include rebates in their invoices to ensure that federal agencies only pay for "net costs."[24][25]

The New York investigation was instigated by two former employees who were both fired for making internal complaints regarding Sodexo's rebate practices with numerous clients in Massachusetts. After losing their jobs, the brothers first filed a whistleblower lawsuit under the False Claims Act in Massachusetts, then in New York.[24][25]

The Investigative Fund, which was first to report on the Massachusetts whistleblowers, estimated that just within the New York school system, total kickbacks could amount to over $1 billion. In its report, The Investigative Fund expressed concern regarding the lack of media coverage and legal action following the discovery of such large-scale fraud.[26][27]

Former New York Attorney General Cuomo noted the frequency of large multi-national corporate providers seeking to expand profits by

"leverag[ing] their size and market dominance to obtain these rebates from vendors that supply food products, equipment, and supplies . . . This company cut sweetheart deals with suppliers and then denied taxpayer-supported schools the benefits. The state and federal regulations regarding such contracts exist to protect taxpayers”.[25]

Investigation Goes National:

The investigation grew to a national scale as school districts across the states discovered their food service contractors pocketing rebates. In May 2012, CBS News reported that "Hawaii and California have joined in the fraud investigation. And at a meeting earlier this week, New York's Attorney General briefed his counterparts from 15 more states." Former Sodexo employee, Rick Hughes, revealed that Sodexo even rewarded employees that followed this fraud procedure with bonuses. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in May 2012 that his office had "uncovered a nationwide pattern of public schools getting ripped off. He's fired off subpoenas to 10 more food industry companies."[28]

USDA Launches Audit and Investigation:

In June 2011, a spokesperson for the USDA's Office of Inspector General told Education Week that the department planned "to look closely at whether the food-service-management companies running many school cafeterias are passing along all the discounts and rebates they receive from their suppliers to the districts that hire them."[29] That audit was completed in January 2013, and concluded that "9 of the 12 SFAs [school food authorities] in our review with cost-reimbursable contracts did not ensure that the FSMCs [food service management companies] the SFAs contracted with provided sufficient rebates for purchases made on the SFAs behalf, as required by regulation and the signed contracts. . . . As a result, we found that seven SFAs could not provide any assurance that they received the full amount of purchase rebates to which they were entitled for SY 2011."[30]

Senate Committee Holds Hearing and Investigation:

In October 2011, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Contracting Oversight Subcommittee held a hearing about food service management companies' practice of overcharging the government. New York Assistant Attorney General John Carroll and USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong testified.[31]

Assistant Attorney General Carroll testified:[32]

"Rebating, by any reasonable view, is an intentionally opaque practice. It is a practice intended to obscure the actual costs incurred by food service companies, and also to obscure the relationship between food service companies and food distributors and vendors. . . . [R]ebates have the tendency to muddy the waters as to the true nutritional value which is being delivered to children. . . .
"The large food service companies earn hundreds of millions of dollars in rebates across all business lines. . . . [but] most school officials had little or no information about these rebate payments to food service companies or that they were retained by the food service companies.
"One of the ways food service companies seek to maximize rebate earnings, is to restrict the number of sources local site managers, the food service employee working in the school, can use to buy foods. . . . Food service company site managers . . . are strongly discouraged from making purchases from non rebate paying vendors. . . . I believe that this places local and smaller scale food producers, including local farmers and others, at a disadvantage. . . .
"[H]istorically, food cost reports did not report discounts and rebates to the schools, and the food service companies routinely kept the rebates which were being paid by food sellers. In other words, the schools bought the food, and the food service companies kept the discount payments from the food sellers. . . ."[32]

In December 2012, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Chair of the subcommittee, said that the subcommittee investigation had "revealed systemic deficiencies in the transparency and oversight of contractors’ rebate and discount policies" and asked the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to "review the Subcommittee’s findings and issue guidance to federal agencies to address these deficiencies."[33]

Health Violations, Outbreaks, and Employee Safety Issues

Mouse Droppings, Moldy Milk, and Expired Food in Oregon School Cafeterias (2012): Oregon state health inspectors found serious violations in school districts in which Sodexo operates custodial and food service operations in 2012. Inspectors found mouse droppings, moldy milk machines, expired food, inadequate hand washing, broken dishwashers, and dangerous food temperatures.[34]

"Serious" Employee Safety Violations in New Jersey Schools (2010) and Elsewhere: Sodexo was cited for nine separate safety hazard violations in South Plainfield, New Jersey, in 2010. Each violation was classified as "serious," meaning there was a "substantial probability that death or serious injury could occur from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known." The citations included: improper labeling of information regarding dangerous chemicals, improper storage of flammable and combustible liquids, exposed "live parts" of electronics, lack of protective equipment for workers, lack of adequate training for employees, and requiring employees to operate industrial vehicles without passing necessary tests or training. The school district's repeated requests that Sodexo correct the hazards were ignored, forcing them to contact the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Sodexo employee who contacted OSHA was abruptly fired, and filed a complaint of unfair retaliation with OSHA.[35] According to the New York Times, OSHA "has carried out at least 132 enforcement inspections arising from incidents at or complaints about conditions at Sodexo or its units" since 2000.[36]

Wisconsin Students Settle with Sodexo over E. Coli Outbreak at Schools: At least nineteen school children fell ill[37] and four were hospitalized following an E. coli outbreak at Bethesda Elementary School in Waukesha in 2000. This bacteria can cause kidney failure and even death. The families of three children who became seriously ill agreed to a financial settlement with Sodexo, but the details were sealed under a confidentiality agreement. Another family, whose child suffered gastrointestinal issues but was not as harmed as the others, settled a lawsuit for $1,500 with the Waukesha School District and for $15,000 with Sodexo, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.[38]

Withdrawn Contract Leaves Columbus City School System in the Lurch (2012)

In May 2012, Sodexo pulled out of a $13 million-a-year food service contract a year early, leaving the Columbus City School system to purchase, prepare, and plan for about 60,000 daily meals on their own. Sodexo's operations had fed 70 percent of the student body, but when Sodexo's anticipated increase in lunch sales failed to come through, the company wasted no time where there was no profit. The contract, which required Sodexo to pay the district for "any money lost in the program," cost the company $1.7 million in 2009, prompting a renegotiation of the contract limiting Sodexo's loss liability to no more than $500,000 for the future. In return for the risk of a loss, Sodexo initially was to have collected up to 7.5 percent of any “profit” made on the district's food-service program, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) vetoed the plan.[39]

Contract Complications with U.S. Military

In 2002, Sodexo received the largest ever domestic military food service contract, worth about $1.2 billion total, for Marine Corps food services across the country.[40] Over the course of the contract, however, public records revealed numerous issues with Sodexo's service including cost overruns, food safety violations, and more than 80 heavily redacted audit reports. Sodexo's cost-plus contract, which promised to achieve 20 percent cost savings, ended up inflating costs by 36 percent.[41] In 2007, the company had to recall nearly 3,000 pounds of chicken products that risked Listeria contamination, but 69 cases of products still reached marine mess halls. Additionally, Sodexo was forced to shut down its "cook-chill" processing facility in 2008 after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) counted 70 health violations including rodent infestation.[42] The Service Employees International Union's campaign from 2009 to 2011, which exposed Sodexo's poor labor conduct, may have also influenced the military's ongoing relationship with the company.[43]

Sodexo's contract, which ended in January 2011 after a one-year extension, was only re-contracted to continue east coast operations. Sodexo's new contract is worth $926 million ad provides food services at 31 Marine Corps locations.[44]

Overcharging, Withholding Rebates, and Potentially Bypassing the Competitive Bidding Process: New Jersey (2007-2009)

Between 2007-2009, the SEIU commissioned the Clarion Group, a consulting firm focused in food service issues, to investigate the efficiency of New Jersey Public School District's (NJ PSD) outsourced food services. At the time, NJ PSD had the second highest rate (64 percent) of privately contracted food service in the nation. Five of these districts contracted with Sodexo. The Clarion Group found that Sodexo overcharged the schools for workers pay and insurance, withheld rebates due to districts by exploiting loopholes in the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service requirements, and repeatedly retained contracts, raising questions about the competitive bidding process.[6]

Investment in the Private Prison Industry and Corrections Corporation of America

In 1994, Sodexo acquired a significant stock investment in the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a multi-national for-profit prison company infamous for insufficient and inexperienced staff and insufficient security, facilities, and medical care (due to efforts to save money and increase profits).[4] CCA's poor management has been cited as the reason for frequent violence between inmates and a high record of escapes. By 2000, Sodexho Alliance (the name has since changed to Sodexo Group) was the largest investor in the company. In March 2000, the Prison Moratorium Project organized universities across the country to expose Sodexo's connection to the CCA. In the campaign, "Not With Our Money," students pressured schools to cut contracts with Sodexho Marriott (now Sodexo Inc.), the university food service subsidiary of Sodexho Alliance, if it did not divest from CCA's operations. After losing contracts with six universities, Sodexo announced in 2001 that it would sell all investments in CCA, but at the same time it increased ownership of private prisons in the UK and Australia. In 2000, CCA sold Sodexo a 50 percent share of UK Detention Services. Sodexo already owned the other half of the company, so Sodexo gained sole ownership of the UK prison company.[45]

As of 2012, Sodexo Group is still heavily invested in the private prison industry, managing 115 prisons across Europe and five in Chile.[3] "Justice Services" accounted for two percent of the company's total revenue in 2012.[1]

Eleven Universities Cut Sodexo Contracts Following Release of Human Rights Watch Report (2011)

In 2011, five universities and athletics departments, where students are often required to pay for a meal plan supplied by Sodexo, across the nation ended their contracts with Sodexo Services in response to a campaign by United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) pressuring Sodexo directly to improve their human rights on a local, national, and international level.[46] The five dropped contracts -- at Western Washington University, Northeastern University, Regis University, Pomona College, and University of Washington[47] -- came a year after Human Rights Watch (HRW), a non-governmental advocacy group, released a 2010 report detailing Sodexo Services' violations of workers' rights to unionize on several occasions in the United States. The HRW report found that, "despite claims of adherence to international standards on workers' freedom of association, Sodexo has launched aggressive campaigns against some of its U.S. employees' efforts to form unions and bargain collectively." In a response to Human Rights Watch, Sodexo disclosed that it had 330 collective bargaining agreements in the United States covering 18,000 employees[48] out of the over 100,000 employed by Sodexo in North America as of 2012.[1]

In an earlier campaign, American University, SUNY-Albany, Goucher College, Evergreen State, James Madison University, and Oberlin College had all severed contracts with Sodexo because of the company's poor management of private prisons,[46] for a total of eleven universities that have cut ties.

TransAfrica Documents Global Human Rights Complaints Against Sodexo

In the beginning of 2011, the non-profit human rights advocacy group TransAfrica released a report -- "Voices for Change: Sodexo Workers from Five Countries Speak Out" -- accusing Sodexo of "paying sub-par wages, denying employees breaks, and withholding overtime pay," all of which Sodexo denied. TransAfrica's report included interviews with Sodexo employees in the United States, the Dominican Republic, Guinea, Morocco, and Colombia. The report revealed Sodexo's aggressive discouragement of unions and even the firing of organizing workers across countries. One interviewee, a Tulane University employee, still made $7.42 an hour after 40 years of employment. TransAfrica's report came out as part of an ongoing campaign against Sodexo.[49][50]

Class Action Lawsuit for Racial Discrimination Settled for $80 Million (2005)

Sodexo's North American subsidiary Sodexho Inc. (a name that reflects the company's former spelling) paid $80 million in April of 2005 to settle a lawsuit brought by the company's thousands of black employees, who claimed that they were "routinely barred from promotions and segregated within the company." The settlement also outlined a plan to increase company diversity. At the time of the settlement, manager positions were held by one black employee for every seven white employees, and only 18 of the 700 upper management jobs were filled by black employees. It was further alleged that most of these higher positions were only staffed at historically black colleges and universities, and that promotions outside these locations were rare. The money was split between employees depending on how long they had been with the company and was used to "set up monitoring, training, and other diversity initiatives."[51]

Consistent Pattern of Denying Worker Rights

In the United States, Sodexo has been criticized for a consistent pattern of interfering with worker rights in many states, including the right to organize. These controversies include: Louisiana in 2011,[52] Georgia in 2010,[53] Pennsylvania in 2010,[48][54][55] New Jersey in 2009,[48][56] and Arizona from 2003 to 2009.[48][57][58]

Connections/Associations

Sodexo Inc. is the primary funder of the non-profit Sodexo Foundation, which it started in 1999. The Sodexo Foundation runs Sodexo's STOP Hunger campaign and gives grants to a variety of hunger programs across the country. But the Sodexo Foundation only receives a minuscule percentage of the company's revenue.[59] As of 2008 Sodexo had given a total of $12.7 million to the Foundation since its creation, averaging about one million per year.[60][61] In 2011, Sodexo Foundation reported receiving $982,569 from Sodexo Inc., only 0.01 percent of Sodexo Inc.'s total revenue of nearly $8 billion that year.[62][63] Meanwhile, Sodexo continues to resist increasing wages, which according to the New York Times are "so low that some workers are required to turn to government assistance, including anti-hunger programs."[36]

Political Activity

The company spent over $9 million on lobbying at the federal level from 2000 to 2013, according to Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) data compiled by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).[64][65][66]

The company hired 25 lobbyists in five states from 2003 to 2012, according to National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP) data compiled by CMD.[67][68]

"Risk Factors"

In its 2012 annual report, Sodexo Group cites several aspects related to government funding and "labor law, antitrust law, corporate law, and health, safety, and environmental law" as “risk factors” that may affect its business and future prospects. These risk factors often show the incentives the company has to influence public policy and the direction their advocacy would take.[1]

Essentially, Sodexo's profits are dependent on limiting protection of workers' rights and environmental and health safety, crop and other subsidies, the success of the oil and gas industry, and loose regulation of laws relating to outsourcing.

Corporate Subsidies

According to Subsidy Tracker, a database published by Good Jobs First that consolidates information on economic development subsidies, Sodexo received $538,980 in government subsidies between 2004 and 2012. These subsidies have taken the form of property tax abatements, training reimbursements, grants, tax credits, and enterprise zone designation. These subsidies were distributed to the following Sodexo subsidiaries (many under former names): Sodexho, Sodexho America LLC, Sodexho Inc., Sodexho Laundry Services Inc., Sodexo Magic LLC, and Operations LLC.[69][70]

Personnel

CEO

Michel Landel, CEO

Michel Landel has been Sodexo's CEO since September 2005, with his current term to expire in 2014. In 2012, Landel received a salary of $1,153,770 in addition to a 100 percent bonus and fringe benefits totaling to a compensation of $2,310,477. Factoring in the fair market value of stock options granted, Landel received an additional $1,849,833, amounting to a total compensation of $4,160,310 in the year 2012.[9][71]

In 2011, Michel Landel received a total of $4,348,400 in compensation.[72][71]

Executive Management

As of August 2012:[1]

  • Michel Landel: Chief Executive Officer, Member of Board, President of Executive Committee
  • Élisabeth Carpentier: Group Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer
  • George Chavel: Group Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive Officer of North America On-site Services
  • Pierre Henry: Group Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive Officer of Europe On-site Services, President of Benefits and Rewards Services, President Personal and Home Services
  • Siân Herbert-Jones: Group Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer
  • Nicolas Japy: Group Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive Officer of Remote Sites, Chief Executive Officer of Asia/Australia On-site Services
  • Aurélien Sonet: Group Executive Vice President, Strategic Planning and Group Communications
  • Damien Verdier, Group Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer responsible for Client Retention, Offer Marketing, Supply Chain and Sustainable Development

Board of Directors

As of August 2012:[1]

Contact Information

Sodexo Group International Headquarters
255 quai de la Bataille de Stalingrad
92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux
FRANCE
Tel: +33 (0)1 57 75 84 28

Sodexo U.S. Headquarters
9801 Washingtonian Boulevard
Gaithersburg, Maryland 20878
USA
Phone: +1-800-763-3946[73]

Website: http://www.sodexo.com/en/default.aspx
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sodexomain and https://www.facebook.com/SodexoUKIreland
Twitter: @sodexoUSA and @SodexoUK_IRE

Resources and Articles

Key Reports

Related SourceWatch Articles

Related PRWatch Articles

External Articles and Reports

References

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