Stressing your system

December 8, 2007


He was a first generation Canadian and was deeply proud of his Scottish background. Whether saying a prayer, making a presentation or telling one of his many jokes, it all sounded better with his Scottish brogue. When I read letters or emails from him I still hear it. He seemed somehow to embody so much of Herman’s portrayal of his country as described in How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World & Everything in It. We were twenty years younger but we became lifetime friends inspite of physical distance and long lapses in communication. Not long ago we were there beside her hospital bed when his wife died of cancer. He was still involved in the local community and in masters’ athletics.

He worked for many years as mechanical engineer with mining companies in remote and northerly areas. His was the first story of the American-style firing I heard and perhaps for that reason I felt it so deeply. Perhaps it was how and where we learned about it that made it seem so ominous. In the 1980s we were living in a third-world country in a youthful self-imposed minimalist lifestyle that suited the idealism of those who experienced the 1960s. In comparison to where we were living, so much of the Canadian socio-economic, political structures seemed like a mirage, a goal towards which our adopted home could aspire to, perhaps 50 years in the future. When the letter arrived we read it together in disbelief. If he was vulnerable to being fired, to being almost cheated out of a pension, how could others survive? How could this happen in Canada? He talked about a colleague who arrived at work one day and without warning was met at the entrance by Security who accompanied him to his office and observed as he emptied his personal belongings from his desk into a cardboard box. The man left in a daze and was found hours later wandering off along the highway with his box in his hand unable to grasp what had happened to him.

During the 1990s when we were back in Canada, the American-style firing became common practice. Companies learned to use financial incentives to ensure the silence of people they fired. Our Scottish friend eventually landed on his feet, started a successful second career and rarely seemed to reveal any bitterness about the experience. Other friends and family members have not been so fortunate. Were we indeed acquiescing, as Uchitelle (2006 [2007]) suggests and therefore encouraging the counterproductive process of layoffs, mergers and acquisitions and outsourcing, that destroyed the notion of job security and dignity of work in North America?

So as I read synopses, excerpts and reviews from the book entitled The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences (2006 [2007]) by economist, journalist and professor, Louis Uchitelle, it brought me back to that 1980′s letter, like an old postcard that slipped from between the virtual pages of Uchitelle’s book making this story so intimate, personal and timeless.

Timeline of related social events

1950s and 1960s Economist, journalist and professor, Louis Uchitelle described this period as the heyday in the rise of job security in the United States (Uchitelle 2006; Uchitelle 2007).

1966-1988 Donald W. Davis was CEO of Stanley Works for twenty two years in New Britain, Connecticut, the city’s largest employer. These two decades spanned the city’s largest employer best days to the beginning of the layoffs (which he initiated) and plant closings in the 1980s. Like many chief executives of his era, he had been deeply involved in the life of the city that had supplied thousands of Stanley’s workers. The Davis children attended public school in New Britain where he served on the Board of Education including a stint as president of the Board (Uchitelle 2006; Uchitelle 2007).

1975 Foreign competition made its inroads into the North American economy. Corporations panicked with a knee-jerk reaction by implementing the first major layoffs which eventually spread and multiplied, in time destroying the notion of job security and the dignity of work in North America (Uchitelle 2006; Uchitelle 2007).

1987 Economist, journalist and professor, Louis Uchitelle covered economics for The New York Times since 1987, focusing on labor and business issues.

1988 Donald W. Davis retired on schedule, a wealthy man. He sold his bright yellow Dutch Colonial home in New Britain, Connecticut, and moved with his wife to Martha’s Vineyard, where their summer house on seven acres of rolling lawn became their main residence (Uchitelle 2006; Uchitelle 2007).

1996 Economist and journalist Louis Uchitelle shared a major award for its 1996 series “The Downsizing of America.” He also taught journalism at Columbia University’s School of General Studies.

2006 Former CEO of Stanley Works, 81-year-old Donald W. Davis was running a leadership seminar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This was his final public platform where he could present his explanation of the layoffs and plant closings at Stanley Works in the 1980s. Somewhere between 1988 and 2006 he became too uncomfortable to make the four hour trip between his comfortable home in Martha’s Vineyard to New Britain, Connecticut. His former employees had lost their jobs against their wishes. Although he admits to initiating the layoffs he maintains that no one blames him.

Category

Business & Economics >> Economic Conditions

Keywords, folksonomies:

Business, Economics, Economic Conditions, layoffs, job security, wasteful mergers, mergers and acquisitions, wage stagnation, outsourcing, Business Ethic, labour, labor, downsizing,

Webliography and Bibliography

Herman, Arthur. How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World & Everything in It.

Uchitelle, Louis. 2007. “Le coût psychique du licenciement.” Le Monde diplomatique. Octobre.

Uchitelle, Louis. 2006. The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences. Random House. 2006-03-28. ISBN: 1400041171

Uchitelle, Louis. 2007. The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences. Knopf Publishing Group. Apr 2007. http://www.ereadable.com/scripts/browse.asp?ref=5551619605&source=P25

CC Flynn-Burhoe, 2007. Stressing your System. >> Speechless. December 7.

CC Flynn-Burhoe, 2007. Stressing your System. >> Google Docs. December 7.

http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddp3qxmz_420g988s8dt


Business Editor Charles Frank (2007) cites a FirstEnergy Capital Corp newsletter to clients comparing Alberta’s provincially-funded analysis “Our Fair Share” chaired by Bill Hunter on royalties, to the modus operandi of socialist governments Kazakhstan and Venezuela. Premier Ed Stelmach commissioned a full analysis of provincial royalties as the price of a barrel of oil soared. It is now c. $82.881 a barrel. (It has to be $50 a barrel to extraction of oil from the oil sands profitable.)

EnCana CEO Randall K. Eresman threatened to redirect a billion dollars of EnCana’s planned capital investment out of Alberta to other parts of Canada or the United States if Premier Stelmach adopt’s the “Our Fair Share” report proposals in their entirety.

2007-10-02 Saskatchewan politicians hope that companies like EnCana will act on their bluff and move at least part of their billion dollar threat out of Alberta and into Saskatchewan if royalties are raised too much. Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers industry vice-president David Pryce adds to the oil companies threats saying that if Alberta opts for their fair share of royalties the oil companies will shift activity to the other jurisdictions like Saskatchewan. However, even though Saskatchewan politicians might hold out for awhile, they would pay at the polls just like Stelmach if they continue to operate their energy sector as if the rules of the 1970s still apply. Alberta has lower corporate taxes, no provincial sales tax and no resource royalty surcharge so how much is Saskatchewan willing to give away to enjoy an Alberta boom? (Wood 2007-10-02). Do they really want the housing crisis, the long delays in service to drive their thriving economy even more? Are they willing to forego their fair share to entice fickle oil companies to their province.

CBC. 2007-10-05 ConocoPhillips President Kevin Meyers threatened Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach that ConocoPhillips will postpone $8 billion proposed oilsands projects. Meyers claimed that if royalties are raised as suggested in Our Fair Share and by the Alberta auditor ConocoPhillips would lose an oilsands project worth $500 million next year. They threaten to cut 30 to 40% of the $2.5 billion to $3 billion it plans to spend in 2008 on Alberta-based activity. It is estimated that if all the recommendations of Our Fair Share were implemented, the Alberta government would benefit by $2 billion a year. Alberta has a history of hospitality for oil and gas companies with the low energy royalties (based on oil at ?20 a barrel versus $80 and rising4), no provincial sales tax, no Alberta has lower corporate taxes, no provincial sales tax and no resource royalty surcharge. Oilsands developers have been allowed to use Alberta’s limited natural gas resources to extract their oil as quickly as possible instead of slower technology-intense methods. (Even the oil industry DOE report urges the need for patient money). Images of the Fort McMurray’s envirnomental nightmare landscape of Fort McMurray are courteously not shown around at dinner tables (although in quieter voices Albertans will ask, “Have you ever been to Fort McMurray?”).

Who’s Who

EnCana 10th place in Fortune Global 500′s Mining, Crude-oil production Industry: EnCana with an overall Fortune 500 rank of 431/500 (previously 396/500) and revenues of $17,081.0 millions. EnCana’s profits are $5,652.0 million; Assets: $35,106.0 Million; Stockholders’ Equity: $17,466.0 million. CEO Randall K. Eresman. It has 4,678 employees and is located at 855 2nd St. S.W., Calgary T2P 2S5, Canada, Phone: 403-645-2000
Website: www.encana.com
FirstEnergy Capital Corp. (started c. 1994) is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund. Its 79 employees including CEO Jim Davidson, Jill Angevine, Vice-President of institutional research, John

Chambers, Ruby Wallis, Bev Thompson, Sheila Kaiser, Margie Gal, and Angelique Cyr work long days beginning at 6:15 AM and engage in the high-pressure industry of investment dealing. These investment dealings and transactions individually involve multi-millions and even billions of dollars of financings2. It is located at 1100, 311 – 6 Avenue SW, Calgary Alberta T2P 3H2 (FirstEnergy Capital (USA) Corp. is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation.) The firm has raised $7 million for Calgary’s less fortunate. It now supports over 200 charities. (Every year, [they] allocate a minimum of 2.5 percent of our gross profits to charitable organizations and community groups. Often, [they] significantly exceed this minimum donation. These actions illustrate the strong sense of community that is part of [their] corporate culture.” For example a party they hosted during the rodeo with 1500 guests raised $200,000 for Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse (CCASA), Calgary Quest School and the Parks Foundation Calgary. In June 2006 CalgaryInc named them as the best place to work in Calgary. As well according to their own site “Canadian Business magazine ran a very complimentary article on FirstEnergy in the August 2007 edition covering the firm back to inception and including a mention of our expanded relationship with Société Générale.”

FirstEnergy Capital Corp FirstNews for investors tracks changes in the price of oil, gas through indicators such as unseasonable temperatures (for example in Toronto) or weather disturbances (such as hurricanes), consumer confidence, industry takeovers, bankruptcies, labour disputes, changes in interest rates, the housing market, oil and gas inventories and industry regulation. For example on September 25 they reported that “U.S. stocks fell on Monday, after news that Germany’s largest bank may take a hit from sub-prime mortgage investments. Citigroup and other banks fell after sources said the exposure could reduce Deutsche Bank’s profit by $2.4 billion. Furthermore, the first nation wide strike at General Motors in 37 years raised concerns about the economic outlook. Shares of auto parts suppliers fell, led by a 3% drop in Lear Corp. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 61.13 points to end at 13,759.06, while the NASDAQ fell 3.27 points to close at 2,667.95 (FirstNews 2007-09-25).”

Timeline

1992 Kazakhstan adopted among the world’s most open investment laws in order to encourage development.

2002 After the April 2002 aborted coup against Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez, many observers accused Washington of having been behind the attempted ouster. The Bush administration denied any U.S. involvement in the affair. However, one relatively clear connection emerged between the U.S. government and the anti-Chávez movement: millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money channeled through the IRI and other U.S. organizations that funded groups opposed to Chávez during the years preceding the April coup. Writer Mike Ceaser reported that in an April 12, 2002, fax sent to news media, IRI President George A. Folsom rejoiced over Chávez’s removal from power. “The Venezuelan people rose up to defend democracy in their country,” he wrote. “Venezuelans were provoked into action as a result of systematic repression by the government of Hugo Chávez.” With NED funding, IRI had been sponsoring political party-building workshops and other anti-Chávez activities in Venezuela. “IRI evidently began opposing Chávez even before his 1998 election,” wrote Ceaser. “Prior to that year’s congressional and presidential elections, the IRI worked with Venezuelan organizations critical of Chávez to run newspaper ads, TV, and radio spots that several observers characterize as anti-Chávez” (Ceaser 2002). (IRI 2007)

2007-09-25
Rumours circulate that Germany’s largest bank may take a hit from sub-prime mortgage investments (FirstNews 2007-09-25).

2007-09-25 The first nation wide strike at General Motors in 37 years raised concerns about the economic outlook. Shares of auto parts suppliers fell, led by a 3% drop in Lear Corp. (FirstNews 2007-09-25).

2007-09-28 The Global Energy Conference for members only was held in Toronto, Canada on September 28 and announced on FirstEnergy Capital Corp. website.

2007-09-28 “The Kazakh parliament unanimously approved a bill Sept. 26 that would allow the government to modify or break any contract unilaterally in which the “interests of Kazakhstan” are threatened (as defined by the government). They are demanding royalties of 40% up from 30%. Kazakhstan now produces 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, and if the projects currently signed are completed, within 10 years it hopes to be producing 3.5 million bpd [. . .] Royal Dutch/Shell, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips are part of the oil consortium developing Kazakhstan’s oil. [. . .] The best that Kazakhstan [might end up with a] Venezuela-like situation, in which foreigners freeze all expansion efforts and focus solely on inexpensive methods of maintaining existing output. In Venezuela output has fallen from 3.5 million bpd to 2.3 million bpd since government restrictions began 10 years ago. One of Kazakhstan’sfields is one of the most technically challenging in existence, boasting vertical and variable deposits loaded with high-pressure hydrogen sulfide. The field itself is in a high wind zone that freezes over in the winter. Kashagan will be the most technically challenging — and expensive — oil project ever attempted.” [China has the capital to invest in Kazakhstan but perhaps lacks the technology for now (Offnews.info 2007)."

2007-10-02 Saskatchewan politicians hope that companies like EnCana will act on their bluff and move at least part of their billion dollar threat out of Alberta and into Saskatchewan if royalties are raised too much. Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers industry vice-president David Pryce adds to the oil companies threats saying that if Alberta opts for their fair share of royalties the oil companies will shift activity to the other jurisdictions like Saskatchewan. However, even though Saskatchewan politicians might hold out for awhile, they would pay at the polls just like Stelmach if they continue to operate their energy sector as if the rules of the 1970s still apply. Alberta has lower corporate taxes, no provincial sales tax and no resource royalty surcharge so how much is Saskatchewan willing to give away to enjoy an Alberta boom? (Wood 2007-10-02). Do they really want the housing crisis, the long delays in service to drive their thriving economy even more? Are they willing to forego their fair share to entice fickle oil companies to their province.

CBC. 2007-10-05 ConocoPhillips President Kevin Meyers threatened Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach that ConocoPhillips will postpone $8 billion proposed oilsands projects. Meyers claimed that if royalties are raised as suggested in Our Fair Share and by the Alberta auditor ConocoPhillips would lose an oilsands project worth $500 million next year. They threaten to cut 30 to 40% of the $2.5 billion to $3 billion it plans to spend in 2008 on Alberta-based activity. It is estimated that if all the recommendations of Our Fair Share were implemented, the Alberta government would benefit by $2 billion a year. Alberta has a history of hospitality for oil and gas companies with the low energy royalties (based on oil at ?20 a barrel versus $80 and rising4), no provincial sales tax, no Alberta has lower corporate taxes, no provincial sales tax and no resource royalty surcharge. Oilsands developers have been allowed to use Alberta's limited natural gas resources to extract their oil as quickly as possible instead of slower technology-intense methods. (Even the oil industry DOE report urges the need for patient money). Images of the Fort McMurray's envirnomental nightmare landscape of Fort McMurray are courteously not shown around at dinner tables (although in quieter voices Albertans will ask, "Have you ever been to Fort McMurray?").

Footnotes

1. "Crude oil prices posted big gains on the day. The continued decline of the U.S. dollar and concerns that supply may not be able to meet demand this coming winter, fuelled the price increase. NYMEX light sweet crude for November delivery gained $2.58 to end at $82.88 per barrel [. . .] Canadian stocks continued their five day rally closing higher on strong commodity prices. The government also reported a $13.8 billion budget surplus for fiscal 2006-07, which will be used to pay down debt. Suncor Energy was the biggest weighted gainer, up $2.17 or 2.3% to $95.71. The S&P/TSX Composite Index gained 94.76 points to close at 14,129.73. [. . .] U.S. stocks ended higher on Thursday, as energy shares were elevated by higher oil prices. However, a report released earlier in the day showed a plunge in new home sales and the sharpest year-over-year drop in prices in nearly 37 years. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 34.79 points to 13,912.94, while the NASDAQ gained 10.56 points to close at 2,709.59. (FirstNews 2007-09-28).”

2. In an online summary FirstEnergy includes in their recent report on their 800 financings and over 200 M&A assignments that they has participated in since c. 1994.$701,000,000 disposition by EnCana Corporation of its Interest in Petrovera Resources LimitedPartnership in January 2004. Others are: $495,000,000: the Sale of Sound Energy Trust to Advantage Energy Income Fund in September 2007; $3,500,000,000: of CCS Income Trust as Formal Valuator and Advisor to the Independent Committee September 2007; $508,000,000: Sale of Capitol Energy Resources Ltd. to Provident Energy Trust. June 2007; $91,000,000 Compton Petroleum Corporation Acquisition of Stylus Energy Inc.August 2007; $980,000,000 for TriStar Oil & Gas Merger with Real Resources Inc. August 2007; $440,000,000 Sale of Find Energy Ltd. to Shiningbank Energy Income Fund September 2006; $431,000,000 True Energy Trust Acquisition of Prairie Schooner Petroleum Ltd. September 2006; $1,500,000,000 Savanna Energy Services Corp. Merger with Western Lakota Energy Services Inc. August 2006; $320,000,000 Highpine Oil & Gas Limited Acquisition of Kick Energy Corp. August 2006; $4,000,000,000 Viking Energy Royalty Trust Merger with Harvest Energy Trust February 2006; $4,400,000,000 Precision Drilling Corporation Reorganization into an Income Trust November 2005; $350,000,000 UTS Energy Corporation Partnership and Asset Sale to Teck Cominco Limited December 2005; $1,400,000,000 Cequel Energy Inc. and Progress Energy Ltd. Merger and Reorganization into a Trust and Spinout of ProEx Energy Ltd. and Cyries Energy Inc. April 2004.

 

3. 1st place in Fortune Global 500′s Mining, Crude-oil production Industry: Anglo American with an overall Fortune 500 rank of 195/500 and revenues of $33,072.0 million; 2nd place in Fortune Global 500′s Mining, Crude-oil production Industry: BHP Billiton with an overall Fortune 500 rank of 205/500 and revenues:$32,153.0 millions; 3rd place in Fortune Global 500′s Mining, Crude-oil production Industry: Rio Tinto Group with an overall Fortune 500 rank of 313/500 and revenues:$22,465.0 millions; 4th place in Fortune Global 500′s Mining, Crude-oil production Industry: RAG with an overall Fortune 500 rank of 345/500 and revenues:$20,365.0 millions; 5th place in Fortune Global 500′s Mining, Crude-oil production Industry: CVRD with an overall Fortune 500 rank of 359/500 and revenues:$19,651.0 millions; 6th place in Fortune Global 500′s Mining, Crude-oil production Industry: Oil & Natural Gas with an overall Fortune 500 rank of 369/500 and revenues:$19,237.4 millions; 7th place in Fortune Global 500′s Mining, Crude-oil production Industry: Occidental Petroleum with an overall Fortune 500 rank of 377/500 and revenues:$19,029.0 millions; 8th place in Fortune Global 500′s Mining, Crude-oil production Industry: Surgutneftegas with an overall Fortune 500 rank of 392/500 and revenues:$18,413.1 millions; 9th place in Fortune Global 500′s Mining, Crude-oil production Industry: Xstrata with an overall Fortune 500 rank of 414/500 and revenues:$17,632.0 millions; 10th place in Fortune Global 500′s Mining, Crude-oil production Industry: EnCana with an overall Fortune 500 rank of 431/500 and revenues:$17,081.0 millions; 11th place in Fortune Global 500′s Mining, Crude-oil production Industry: China National Offshore Oil with an overall Fortune 500 rank of 469/500 and revenues:$16,038.9 millions.

4. Not to mention Tertzakian’s $100 a barrel peak!


Webliography and Bibliography

2007. “EnCana.” Snapshots. Fortune Global 500. September 30. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/global500/2007/snapshots/11155.html

CBC. 2007-10-05 “Energy giant rages against plan to hike Alberta royalties.” http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2007/10/05/royalties-protests.html

Ceaser, Mike. 2002. “As Turmoil Deepens in Venezuela, Questions Regarding NED Activities Remain Unanswered,” Americas Program, December 9.

FirstNews. 2007. FirstEnergy Capital Corp. September 28. http://firstenergy.com/research/news/News-2007-09-25.pdf

FirstNews. 2007. FirstEnergy Capital Corp. September 28. http://firstenergy.com/research/news/News-2007-09-28.pdf

Frank, Charles. 2007. “Tough Talk Just the Start to Ugly Royalty Fight.” Calgary Business. Calgary Herald. September 29. C1 & c14.

(IRI) International Republican Institute. 2007. Right Web Profile. Silver City, NM: International Relations Center, July 19.

Offnews.info. 2007. “Kazakhstan – End of an Era.” Offnews.info. Buenos Aires, Argentina. September 30. http://www.offnews.info/verArticulo.php?contenidoID=9429

Wood, James. 2007. “Politicians in no mood to alter Sask. energy royalties system.” The StarPhoenix. Saskatoon.


Creative Commons License 2.5 Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Fear Industry marries Oil Industry: Albertastan? Canazuela? Who’s Afraid of Social[ism] Capital?” http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddp3qxmz_380dvhvz9 September 30. Creative Commons License 2.5 Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Fear Industry marries Oil Industry: Albertastan? Canazuela? Who’s Afraid of Social[ism] Capital?” >> Speechless. September 30.


In his May 10, 2007 Address to Shareholders, Paul Desmarais Jr. CEO of the Power Corporation of Canada compared and contrasted his corporation with private equity and hedge funds.

In recent years private equity funds have grown at a phenomenal pace. Collectively they have brought about the privatization of public companies worldwide worth $900 billion! In 2006 alone, the 10 largest private equity funds raised $120 billion in new money destined for privatizations. At first an American phenomenon, private equity funds spread to Canada, the U.K., continental Europe and even Japan. Today in the U.K., 19% of private sector employees, or 3.3 million people, work for businesses owned by private equity firms. In Germany the number is 800,000.

In their early years, private equity funds often brought an added value and better governance to the companies they privatized by replacing ineffective and complacent boards of directors. While they were then generally met by fiercely resistant business managers opposed to privatization, nowadays their job is made easier by the growing number of public company executives who, frustrated by the tedious, distracting and costly compliance to modern-day governance rules and regulations, are more receptive to the idea of private equity funds taking them private. And, let’s not forget that, in today’s world, managers are more mobile and can gravitate to the numerous opportunities offered by private equity funds, where they can receive considerable compensation over a relatively short period of time, while being sheltered from public scrutiny and sensational headlines.

Meanwhile hedge funds, which by nature have a shorter time horizon, now number 9,000 and manage in excess of $1 trillion (that’s right, one thousand billions!). In 2006 alone, $126 billion of new money flowed into U.S. hedge funds. Their presence in the financial markets is substantial: for example, they account for between 30% and 50% of transactions on the New York and London stock exchanges! These funds are lightly regulated private investment pools which initially attracted endowment funds and wealthy individuals, but which today also have pension funds and insurance companies as investors.

While many hedge funds are devoted to generating short-term returns by leveraging financial instruments, I would like to focus on those funds which take positions in widely held public companies and become “activist shareholders” with the view of pressuring those companies into actions which, in turn, will quickly result in added value for shareholders, including themselves. Once they become shareholders, they will often align with other institutional investors who are shareholders of the company, and promote whatever initiatives could quickly generate added value: sale or spinoff s of divisions, cash dividends or repurchase of shares, and cuts in operating costs, are a few examples of what can be on their agenda, in addition to their ultimate goal of an outright sale of the company, which would fetch a premium for control (Desmarais 2007a:3.)

In the same month in an article published in the Canadian Council of Chief Executives journal National and Global Perspectives Desmarais warned of the structural impact on the industrialized world caused by the meteoric rise of private equity and hedge funds in the financial markets.

Is it not ironic that the principal investors in private equity and hedge funds – large institutional investors – are happy to put massive amounts of money in the hands of people who do not register with any securities commission, or have few, if any, governance regulations to adhere to and report on? (Desmarais 2007:16).

In the same edition both Gordon Nixon and Dominic D’Alessandro echoed their concerns.

In 2006, more than 100 of Canada’s public companies were acquired by foreign interests. The list includes some of the oldest and most well-established companies across a broad spectrum of industries – everything from hotels to retailing, to metals and mining [. . .] My concern stems from the fact that the world is awash with capital and that the consolidation trend in many industries will inevitably continue. We are a small country with a relatively small population. Canadian companies typically are not of a size to be global players. All too often, decisions affecting the future of important firms and the communities that they sustain are made solely with a view to the short-term financial consequences. I find it particularly bothersome that so many of our natural resource companies – which I would argue represent unique and irreplaceable assets – are now owned elsewhere (D’Alessandro 2007).

Over the past year, 116 Canadian public companies were acquired by foreign interests, more than any other major country including much bigger economies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France and all the Nordic countries combined. We have not only seen the disappearance of major Canadian household names, but the loss of Canadian presence in industries where we have long had traditional strengths (Nixon 2007:5).

In May and June, 2007 the 150 C-Suite executives from the top 1000 corporations interviewed by the Gandalf Group were generally optimistic about the Canadian economy (Gandalf Group 2007:4). Some expressed concerns about the increasing levels of foreign ownership in key sectors and about private equity firms hollowing out corporate Canada. 23% have concerns that private equity firms engage in too much short-term thinking (Gandalf Group 2007:32). Most executives now favour restrictions in strategic industries.

The strongest areas of consensus about the negative impacts of private equity relate to keeping the company Canadian owned and about the debt burden of the company. A substantial percentage of executives believe that private equity also has a negative impact on the economic contribution the company will make to Canada and to the community it operates in, on the labour relations of the company and on the governance of the company (Gandalf Group 2007:28).

Bibliography

2006. “Canadian Executives Indicate Human Resources and Rising Canadian Dollar are the Major Business Challenges.” CTV. June 12, 2006.

http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/show/CTVShows/20060611/ctv_release_20060611/20060612

2007. “C-Suite Survey.” Globe and Mail, Report on Business. 18 June 2007: B5.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/Page/document/video/vs?id=RTGAM.20070619.wvcsuite0619&ids=RTGAM.20070619.wvcsuite0619&hub=search

D’Alessandro, Dominic. 2007. “How Can We Conserve Canadian Ownership?” National and Global Perspectives . May 3, 2007. p. 23.

Desmarais, Paul Jr. 2007. “Private equity, public interest.” National and Global Perspectives . May 10, 2007. p. 16.

Desmarais, Paul Jr. 2007a. “Chairman’s Address to Shareholders.” Power Corporation of Canada. May 10, 2007.

http://www.powercorporation.com/powercorp/webcast/2007/PCC_Eng_Discours_P_Desmarais_jr_2007_May11_FINAL.pdf

Gandalf Group. 2007. “C-Suite Survey On The Role of Private Equity.” Report on Business. Globe and Mail. June 14, 2007. http://www.dwpv.com/images/C-Suite_June_2007.pdf

Nixon, Gordon M. 2007. “As the world changes, Canada must adapt.” National and Global Perspectives . March 2, 2007.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Meteoric Rise of Private Equity and Hedge Funds.” >> speechless. September 2007. http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddp3qxmz_355dbbcxv


Patrick Watson (1980) vs CTV (2007): the case of Conrad Black: The Canadian Establishment and governance.

Throughout the trial of Conrad Black I wondered why Patrick Watson‘s articulate and well-researched CBC documentary entitled the Canadian Establishment (1980), was not viewed on CBC. Conrad Black was known for a strong and effective offensive tactics when dealing with his image management in the press and until the guilty verdict became publicized the media was discouraged from entirely objective coverage. This may change now that the jury has revealed to their decision. CTV coverage reveals a pro-Black bias describing him as stoic, proud, even …onian, in the face of this trial, almost agreeing with Conrad Black that he is somehow above the law. However, he did glare and skowl at the jury when they gave their decision. They describe how he helped every community he was a part of. They admire his rise from his university education to an emerging career with the press to the circle of the uber-wealthy. They expect him to stand up to this and continue to argue for his own innocence. He was found guilty of obstruction of justice where he removed evidence from his Toronto office and of email fraud which hold a combined possible sentence of 10 to 65 years. Charges of racketeering were dismissed. Nonetheless he stole millions of dollars from Hollinger, and continues to feel no remorse. There appears to be a strong empathetic response to the potential of his doing his real jailtime in an American jail where he is actually going to have to do work such as laundry. There is speculation and some relief that since he is so ‘astute’ in terms of money that he will have provided for himself and his family, Barbara Amiel, their son and daughter, Alanna in some ‘legal’ fashion. CTV journalists are comparing the American and Canadian legal systems in terms of fairness and approaches to access to jury information. They mused about whether American courts would be harsher on Black and his co-accused than their Canadian counterparts who would be more influenced by Black’s position of power, wealth and prestige. They seem to admire Black for his intelligence and his ability to write and do research and imagine him using his minimum security prison to study and write. Although others argue that an American minimium security prison is not an exclusive club prison like those in Canada and Black will not have access to a computer. CTV interviewees describe Black as someone very concerned with his place in history. CTV journalists look for ‘silver lining’ in his situation. They wonder how Black will survive from now to his sentence hearing by Judge … in November. He is no longer a Canadian citizen since he abandoned it to become a British Lord. This means he has no rights to go to Canadian jails which are considered to be friendlier to the uber-wealthy. Black is expected to begin quickly to appeal the jury’s findings. This will not be stalling the sentencing hearing.

What makes Watson’s (1980) revelations so compelling at this time is the way in which he reveals Black’s roots as outsider on Bay Street until he was able to take advantage of widows of Establishment members to get his toe in the door. While Black’s father had some wealth through his brewery, his family lacked the prestige and power of the Canadian Establishment. According to Watson, it was during the era of Conrad Black that the Establishment shifted towards an even more self-serving attitude of entitlement. His business ethics predates that of the mean-spirited arrogance of the financeers in the 1990s. He seems to embody that which is dysfunctional and unsustainable in a social world corrupted by extremes of wealth and poverty.

My own concern with Black was the role he played as media mogul in obstructing access to an objective press, a keystone of democracy. Like the the New Brunswick-Bahamas Irvings prior to their ethical turn, mass media moguls adopt Friedman’s motto that their sole responsibility is to make money. Black claimed that he hoped to provide more of a pro-business, economic efficiency viewpoint to counteract the perceived social justice bias of the media (Flynn-Burhoe).

Do we secretly admire white collar criminals and their brilliant lawyers? Conrad Black and three others are accused of stealing $60M from shareholders to fatten their 5- and 7-figure salaries. Prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer claimed in his opening statement that media mogul Black failed to provide the public with objective accounts of world affairs.

read more | digg story

CTV News. 2007. Conrad Black. July 13, 2007.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2006. “Media and Objectivity: a Selected Timeline of Social Events.” >> papergirls. December 6.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007.

Is the Mass Media Coverage Biased in Favour of Conrad Black?”>> papergirls. May 9, 2007.

Watson, Patrick. 1980. The Canadian Establishment. CBC.

Patrick Watson.” Museum TV Archives.


The Canadian business community has taken the most active interest in politics at the CEO level than any other business community in in the world (d’Acquino cited in Brownlee 2005: 9 Newman 1998:159-160). And this interest and influence has been on the rise in the last decades. Canada’s business community has had more influence on Canadian public policy in the years 1995-2005 then in any other period since 1900.

Look at what we stand for and look at what all the governments, all the major parties . . . have done, and what they want to do. They have adopted the agendas we’ve been fighting for the in the past few decades (cited in Brownlee 2005: 12 Newman 1998:151).

Tom D’Acquino should know as he is the CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.

While the average North American is becoming increasingly concerned by climate change, a recent report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers has found that fewer than a fifth – 18 per cent – of North American chief executives are concerned about climate change putting them increasingly out of step with their colleagues in Europe and Asia Pacific.

This a current list of the Chief Executive Officers of the Officers of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives:

  • Dominic D’Alessandro, Vice Chair Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and President and CEO Manulife Financial
  • Thomas d’Aquino, Chief Executive Officer and President of Canadian Council of Chief Executives
  • Paul Desmarais. Jr. Vice Chair President of Canadian Council of Chief Executives and Chairman and C0-Chief Executive Officer of Power Corporation of Canada
  • Richard L. George, Honorary Chair Canadian Council of Chief Executives and President and CEO of Suncor Energy Inc.
  • Jacques Lamarre, Vice Chair of Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and President and CEO SNC-Lavalin Group, Inc.
  • Gordon M. Nixon, Chair of Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and President and CEO of Royal Bank of Canada
  • Hartley T. Richardson Vice Chair of Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and President and CEO of James Richardson and Sons, Ltd.
  • Annette Verschuren Vice Chair of Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and President of The Home Depot Canada

Selected bibliography

  • Brownlee, Jamie. 2005. Ruling Canada: Corporate Cohesion and Democracy. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.
  • Brownlee’s (2005) publication stems from his MA thesis supervised by University of Manitoba Sociology Professor Greg Olsen. It builds on the work of William Carroll, Wallace Clement and Murray Dobbin. I highly recommend this book for teaching, learning and research on how Ottawa really works. Some of the well-constructed arguments are located in sections entitled: economic cohesion and the structure of corporate capital, mergers and acquisitions, interlocking directorates, a class conscious business elite, public policy formation network, Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Global policy organizations, advocacy think tanks and economic elite, corporate social responsibility and the role of states in the era of globalization. The bibliography is a book in itself. The appendices, Media-Corporate Director Board Interlocks and Think Tanks – Corporate Director Board Interlocks for 2003 provide missing pieces to a puzzle.

  • Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2006.Media and Objectivity: a Selected Timeline of Events
  • Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2005. Interview with Jamie Brownlee in response to Globe and Mail article “Canada’s top 10% pay 52% of total tax bill.”
  • Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “King of Canada: Tom d’Acquino CEO of CEO’s” Google Docs and Spreadsheet. mirror
  • “The Globe and Mail Weekly Appointment Review.” Globe and Mail. January 22, 2007. p. B6
  • Hackett, Robert A. and Gruneau, Richard. 2000. The Missing News: Filters and Blind Spots in Canada. Ottawa: Centre for Policy Alternatives/Garamond Press Inc.
  • Hackett, Robert A. and Zhao, Yuezhi. 1998. Sustaining Democracy? Journalism and the Politics of Objectivity. Toronto: Garamond Press Inc.
  • I first read this book while preparing to teach a Northern-centred introductory human rights course in Iqaluit, Nunavut. My students were often employees of the Nunavut Government involved in making history as they introduced their own human rights bill. I wanted the inconvenient truth claims in Hackett and Zhao to be illegitimate but their research was unfortunately very robust. I thought I lived in a country whose forms of democratic governance were maturing until I read how we were actually going backwards not forwards in terms of objectivity and mass media.

    These recent shifts in media ownership and policy might be seen as the equivalent of a non-violent coup d’etat, a metaphor evoking the inherent link between media power and state power — between the colonization of the popular imagination and the allocation of social resources through public policy and market relations. Communications scholar Herbert Schiller suggests that what is at stake is “packaged consciousness”: the intensified appropriation of the national symbolic environment by a “few corporate juggernauts in the consciousness business (Hackett and Zhao 1998:5)

  • N/A. 2007. “U.S bosses out of step on climate change.” Management-Issues
  • Newman, Peter. 1975. The Canadian Establishment. Toronto: Mclelland and Stewart.
  • Newman, Peter. 1975. The Canadian Establishment. Toronto: Mclelland and Stewart.
  • Newman, Peter. 1981. The Acquisitors.. Toronto: Mclelland and Stewart.
  • Newman, Peter. 1998. Titans: How the New Establishment Seized Power. Toronto: Penguin Books.
  • Olsen, Gregg. 1991. “Labour Mobilization and the Strength of Capital: The Rise and Stall of Economic Democracy in Sweden.” Studies in Political Economy. 34.
  • Olsen, Gregg. 2002. The Politics of the Welfare State: Canada, Sweden and the United States.. Toronto: Oxford University Press.
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