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Stephen Poloz, the former Governor of the Bank of Canada, may have had to wait a few days before signing up with Enbridge Inc., the largest pipeline company in North America.
You know, for appearances, just in case the most cynical of us conclude that he was looking for No. 1 instead of focusing on the COVID-19 crisis.
Instead, Poloz, who turns 65 in October, joined the board of directors of Enbridge in Calgary on June 4, the second day of his retirement from the public service. Appointment pays US $ 285,000 per year, but comes with an obligation to hold US $ 855,000 in Enbridge shares within five years of taking office, according to the latest information circular of the management of the company.
“The Governor of the Bank of Canada joins the Enbridge Board of Directors 20 seconds after his last day as Governor. Banana Republic, ”tweeted Scott Terrio, a Toronto-based credit counselor and casual expert. “The optics are terrible,” he said in a second tweet.
Poloz is apparently not concerned about the optics, because on June 9 he joined the board of directors of CGI Inc., a position that comes with an annual provision of $ 225,000, according to the latest information on the remuneration of the Montreal information technology company.
In less than a week, Poloz rounded up a salary that exceeded his remuneration as central bank governor, which ranged from $ 463,100 to $ 544,800, according to the Bank of Canada. At this week’s exchange rate, Poloz would collect approximately $ 607,000 from Enbridge and CGI over the next year, with no changes or additional responsibilities.
“Stephen Poloz’s in-depth knowledge of the financial markets, the global economy and international trade will be a valuable asset to CGI as we continue to help global organizations grow their business,” said Serge Godin, founder and executive chairman from CGI, in a press release. And Greg Ebel, Chairman of the Board of Enbridge, said, “He has extensive business and financial experience, as well as expertise in global economics and public policy.”
In some ways, there is nothing to do here. I have followed Poloz closely for the seven years he has been governor and I am comfortable saying that there is nothing wrong with the appointments, which have been approved by the Commissioner of ethics.
If two of the largest companies in the country get advice from a Poloz quality manager, you could say we will all benefit, as Enbridge and CGI will make more informed decisions. At a minimum, their employees and shareholders should feel better about their prospects.
Yet the optics, as Terrio said, are terrible.
A year ago, we were still talking about the political scandal involving SNC Lavalin Group Inc., an episode that has absolutely nothing to do with Poloz’s decision to join a few boards of directors, other than that he generated a new level of public resentment as companies and Canada’s political elite tend to favor themselves.
The view of a Bank of Canada governor last leaving his Wellington Street office and almost directly on the board of directors of a company that generated adjusted revenues of more than $ 5 billion in 2019 transporting oil can only contribute to this feeling of mistrust. . But in case those of you who have taken up residence in this camp are open to more prosaic explanations why Poloz so quickly joined Corporate Canada, I asked Enbridge and CGI why they made their announcements when they l ‘did.
Sébastien Barangé, a CGI spokesperson, said the company wanted all of its directors to be in place in time for an annual meeting of its vice-presidents to discuss the strategy. “The ideas of our directors are very valuable and they actively participate in these discussions,” he said.
Tracie Kenyon, a spokesperson for Enbridge, said that Poloz’s departure date has been known for months and that the company had made sure there was no ethical tangle before recruiting him.
We carefully examined any potential conflicts with his role as governor and determined that there were none.
“The recruitment of directors takes place over a long period, often more than a year,” said Kenyon in an email. “We have carefully examined any potential conflicts with his role as governor and determined that there were none. We confirmed that there was no cooling-off period, as is the case with a financial institution, and his appointment to the Enbridge board of directors has been approved by the Federal Ethics Commissioner. ”
An audience distracted by COVID-19 may well decide that they are more angry than the retirement of a former central bank governor. If not, Poloz’s decisions could make life difficult for his successor, Tiff Macklem, who had to leave the board of directors of the Bank of Nova Scotia before moving to his new job.
The central bank’s battle against the COVID-19 recession forced it to sink into a quagmire of conflicts of interest. He paid $ 750,000 to BlackRock Financial Management, the advisory arm of BlackRock Inc., the New York-based financial giant who became infamous for his political connections, for advice on setting up various purchasing programs. bonds, according to the quarterly disclosure of the central bank. contracts.
TD Asset Management, which won the tender to manage the corporate bond portfolio that the Bank of Canada intends to purchase to maintain downward pressure on interest rates, has received a payment of $ 4 million. This was before the central bank started buying corporate bonds from an established list of companies on the secondary market. Policymakers insist that they are neutral, but they will have a hard time convincing everyone of this.
“It risks politicizing the bank,” said Angelo Melino, an economist at the University of Toronto, who worked at the central bank as an advisor in 2008 and 2009. “I’m not comfortable with the fact that the bank moved into this space. ”
To the credit of the Bank of Canada, the way it plans to buy corporate debt has been transparent. Most will give the institution the benefit of the doubt, but not all. It is a reflection of the times we live in, something Poloz could have considered more carefully when planning for his retirement.
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