Between justifying layoffs, financializing businesses out of relevance, laundering money for corrupt politicians, and generally justifying unlimited stupidity and cruelty, the consultants at McKinsey & Company have been making the world a much worse place since 1926.
But they’ve outdone themselves this time.
They are consulting with the Trump administration about detaining and deporting illegal immigrants, and they are (not joking) suggesting that detainees be starved and provided inadequate medical care:
Just days after he took office in 2017, President Donald Trump set out to make good on his campaign pledge to halt illegal immigration. In a pair of executive orders, he ordered “all legally available resources” to be shifted to border detention facilities and called for hiring 10,000 new immigration officers.
The logistical challenges were daunting, but as luck would have it, Immigration and Customs Enforcement already had a partner on its payroll: McKinsey & Company, an international consulting firm brought on under the Obama administration to help engineer an “organizational transformation” in the ICE division charged with deporting migrants who are in the United States unlawfully.
The Obama administration brought in McKinsey. There is a whole bunch of stupidity and evil in that sentence.
ICE quickly redirected McKinsey toward helping the agency figure out how to execute the White House’s clampdown on illegal immigration. But the money-saving recommendations the consultants came up with made some career ICE staff uncomfortable. They proposed cuts in spending on food for migrants, as well as on medical care and supervision of detainees, according to interviews with people who worked on the project for both ICE and McKinsey and 1,500 pages of documents obtained from the agency after ProPublica filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.
McKinsey’s team also looked for ways to accelerate the deportation process, provoking worries among some ICE staff members that the recommendations risked short-circuiting due process protections for migrants fighting removal from the United States. The consultants, three people who worked on the project said, seemed focused solely on cutting costs and speeding up deportations — activities whose success could be measured in numbers — with little acknowledgment that these policies affected thousands of human beings.
In what one former official described as “heated meetings” with McKinsey consultants, agency staff members questioned whether saving pennies on food and medical care for detainees justified the potential human cost.
But the consulting firm’s sway at ICE grew to the point that McKinsey’s staff even ghostwrote a government contracting document that defined the consulting team’s own responsibilities and justified the firm’s retention, a contract extension worth $2.2 million. “Can they do that?” an ICE official wrote to a contracting officer in May 2017.
McKinsey has faced mounting scrutiny over the past two years, as reports by The New York Times, ProPublica and others have raised questions about whether the firm has crossed ethical and legal lines in pursuit of profit. The consultancy returned millions of dollars in fees after South African authorities implicated it in a profiteering scheme. The exposure of its history advising opioid makers on ways to bolster sales induced the usually secretive firm to declare publicly that its opioid work had ended. Last month, the Times reported that McKinsey’s bankruptcy practice is the subject of a federal criminal investigation. The firm has denied wrongdoing in each case, but it apologized for missteps in South Africa.
The consulting team became so driven to save money, people involved in the project said, that consultants sometimes ignored — and even complained to agency managers about — ICE staffers who objected that McKinsey’s cost-cutting proposals risked jeopardizing the health and safety of migrants.
McKinsey also looked to cut costs by lowering standards at ICE detention facilities, according to an internal ICE email and two former agency officials. McKinsey, an ICE supervisor wrote in an email dated March 30, 2017, was “looking for ways to cut or reduce standards because they are too costly,” albeit, the supervisor added, “without sacrificing quality, safety and mission.”
But the McKinsey recommendations remain on the books at ICE. The consultants analyzed how the agency could save money at detention centers beyond those where they helped renegotiate contracts — including several near the border, like ICE’s largest family detention facility, in Dilley, Texas — and Cox said these analyses remain reference points for future efforts to curb spending. A report issued this summer by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general raised concerns about food quality and upkeep at several ICE facilities, both categories on which McKinsey recommended ICE spend less.
One of the more prominent ex-employees of McKinsey & Company these days, is Pete Buttigieg, and he has refused to talk about what he did when working for them, claiming tht he is constrained by a non-disclosure agreement.