War profiteer of the month: Providence Equity Partners
Providence Equity Partners is a global private equity firm focused on media, communications, education and information investments. Providence Equity Partners have a history of profiteering from war, including owning the company U.S.Investigation Services, which trained the violent and secretive 'Emergency Response Unit', an Iraqi paramilitary security organisation. However, Providence are our particular focus this month because the company has just bought an events company called Clarion Events.
Clarion – which has itself featured as a 'war profiteer of the month' in August 2011 - organises trade shows and exhibitions all over the world, and many of these are focused on 'defence and security' - arms fairs. Clarion's portfolio of 'defence' events includes Dimdex in Qatar, the Sea-Air-Space Exhibition in the USA, LAAD Defence and Security in Brazil, ITEC in Czech Republic, Maritime and Coastal Security Africa (MCSA) in South Africa, and the DSEi and Counter Terror Expo in the UK. Many of these events are taking place again this year – LAAD and ITEC are taking place in April, DSEi will be returning to the Excel Centre in London in September, and MCSA is planned to take place in November.
Providence Equity bought Clarion Events on 9th January 2015, in a deal worth £200m. The purchase was protested by the Stop the Arms Fair coalition in London. When news came that Clarion's previous owner Veronis Suhler Stevenson was struggling to sell the company, activists occupied their offices to put potential buyers off even more. The occupation, which took place in December 2014 was themed 'buy Clarion, get us free', and was followed up by a demonstration at an address for Providence Equity when news came of the purchase.
War Profiteering – What have Provience Equity bought into?
By purchasing Clarion, Providence Equity will be profiting from war all over the world; the different fairs that the company now profits from facilitate the sale of arms that will be used in conflicts across the globe. However, many of these fairs have been met with resistance from anti-militarists.
In 2009, WRI affiliate Vredesactie infiltrated the International Training and Education Conference (ITEC), and revealed simulators and software being sold that are used by the Israeli military. Commenting on software developed by Cubic Defense Applications for the MATBAT-B Israeli military training base, an Israeli officer said the training “proves its added value every single day in ongoing operations along the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.” The exhibition is due to take place again in April 2015.
The Undersea Defence Technology (UDT) expo changes location every year, and is attended by the world's biggest arms companies and top-ranking military officers. In 2012, activists in Alicante, Spain, held banners and performed a die-in during the opening of the fair. When the fair took place in Liverpool, UK, in 2014, it was also met with resistance by local peace campaigners. UDT will next take place in the Netherlands, from 3rd-5th June 2015.
Defence and Security Exhibition International (DSEi) is one of the biggest arms fair in the world. It last took place in London, in 2013, and is due to take place again in September 2015. The fair has a protracted history of facilitating the sale of arms all over the world, and has also routinely to be found marketing weapons that could be used to repress political dissent, and equipment that could be used for torture. In 2013, the UK government invited 67 countries to attend, including nine countries identified by the UK Home Office as having “the most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns”, and six countries at war: Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan and Turkey.
In 2013, after being arrested for blocking access to one of the entrances of the fair, a group of activists began private prosecution proceedings against two companies – Magforce International and Tianjin MyWay - who attended the fair in 2013 and were found to be promoting the sale of leg irons, electric stun batons, and electric stun guns. These items are illegal to sell in the UK because they are likely to be used to commit acts of torture. In July 2014, the proceedings were discontinued by the British Crown Prosecution Service. Amnesty International uncovered evidence that similar items were being advertised by a different company – CTSThompson – at the fair in 2011, and said that similar items were being promoted in 2007, when the fair was organised by the company Reed Elsevier.