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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is no fan of private equity or private prisons, and Axios has learned that she wants answers from PE firms invested in prison services companies.

The big picture: Warren's goal is to determine if private equity ownership results in a lower standard of services, similar to an investigation she launched last month into PE-owned for-profit colleges.

Warren yesterday sent letters of inquiry to 5 firms. Co-sponsoring the letters were Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

  • Requested information includes revenue, profits, number of employees and number of incarcerated individuals related to the underlying investments.

None of the 5 targeted firms have a specific focus on prison services, but each has made at least 1 significant investment in the sector:

  • American Securities: GTL, one of the 2 largest providers of inmate calling and emailing services.
  • Apax Partners: Attenti, a provider of electronic monitoring products.
  • BlueMountain Capital: Corizon Health, the largest private provider of medical services to prisons, operating in 220 facilities in 17 states.
  • H.I.G. Capital: Trinity Services Group, a provider of food and commissary services to correctional facilities in 43 states. It also owns health care services provider Wellpath.
  • Platinum Equity: Securus, one of the 2 largest providers of inmate calling and emailing services.

The bottom line: Warren already has proposed legislation that would make private equity funds liable for debt obligations of their portfolio companies, including worker pension obligations. Now, she seems interested in expanding that liability to "consumers" of such portfolio companies, whether they be for-profit students or prisoners.

Go deeper: Axios' deep dive on the business of private prisons

Go deeper

Dems race to address, preempt stimulus fraud claims

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Biden officials are working to root out the systematic fraud in unemployment and Paycheck Protection Program claims that plagued the Trump administration’s efforts to boost the economy with coronavirus relief money, Gene Sperling told House committee chairmen privately this week.

Why it matters: President Biden just signed another $1.9 trillion of aid into law, with Sperling tapped to oversee its implementation. And the administration is asking Congress to approve another $2.2 trillion for the first phase of an infrastructure package.

1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden close to picking Nick Burns as China ambassador

Nicholas Burns. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat, is in the final stages of vetting to serve as President Biden’s ambassador to China, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Across the administration, there's a consensus the U.S. relationship with China will be the most critical — and consequential — of Biden's presidency. From trade to Taiwan, the stakes are high. Burns could be among the first batch of diplomatic nominees announced in the coming weeks.

Biden's Russian sanctions likely to achieve little

President Biden announces new sanctions against Russia. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Despite bold talk from top administration officials, there's little reason to think the Russia sanctions package President Biden announced Thursday will do anything to alter Russian President Vladimir Putin's behavior or calculus.

Why it matters: While it's true some elements of the package — namely, the targeting of Russia's sovereign debt — represent significant punitive measures against Moscow, it leaves plenty of wiggle room for the Russian president.