On Monday, shares of G4S, a company that most people have never have heard of, dropped as much as eight percent (nearly $300 million) in trading on the London Stock Exchange.
The company, which is the largest private security firm in the world, boasts over 600,000 employees, one of whom was Omar Mateen, the man who murdered 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando on Sunday morning. Mateen had been an employee of the company for nearly nine years, serving most recently as an armed security guard at a gated retirement community in Port St. Lucie, Florida. In the aftermath of the attack, authorities are trying to ascertain how it’s possible that Mateen cleared four background checks, two with the company and two with the FBI, without raising sufficient alarm.
G4S has an unfathomably broad reach. The largest in its industry, it operates across six continents and in hundreds of countries. Mateen was a low-level employee at G4S, but his company has lucrative contracts with countless clients, including the Department of Homeland Security. Profiling its work worldwide for Vanity Fair in 2014, William Langewische noted, “In recent years it has become the third-largest private employer in the world, after Walmart and the Taiwanese manufacturing conglomerate Foxconn. The fact that such a huge private entity is a security company is a symptom of our times.” G4S often provides its security services where industry needs them and where governments can’t or won’t.