In times of mostly bad news, we need light wherever we can find it. While no story has pissed me off quite as much over the last two weeks as the reaction to Michael Sabia's appointment as head of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, today I am all smiles and sunshine on the issue. What's to thank for my change of mood? Lysiane Gagnon's column in this paper today. Financial journalism obviously isn't Ms. Gagnon's strength so she decided to consult the experts about the appointment. And not one to start with the riffraff, she went right to the top of the financial food chain. First up (and I am literally just working my way through her column): Mike L. from the "Globe and Mail discussion board." (Fred from Saskatoon was unavailable for comment.) Mike's reaction to Sabia's appointment? "The guy single-handedly killed Bell...and now he's working on my pension. If I want information about my pension, will I get shifted to some call centre in India?" Good one Mike L. - that shot about Bell's call centre's in India. Hit him where it hurts (with only a slight racial undertone). As for him "destroying" BCE. He became CEO in April 2002. His last day was July 11, 2008. Over that time, BCE shares went from $23 to roughly $39. An argument can certainly be made that BCE shares underperformed over those six-years - but "killed it"? Amazing that a Globe discussion board poster didn't do a complete fact check. Just amazing - their track-record is normally so reliable. Next source Gagnon relied on? "Retired journalist Ray Heard". Heard slams Sabia saying Mr. Sabia "is the biggest upwardly mobile failure in our corporate history." It wouldn't even have occurred to me to make this up it's so funny. I have a new front-runner for 2009 Best Unintentional Comedy in Canada. Sabia couldn't have received a better endorsement than this (okay, maybe one). Look, Sabia may or may not be the "right" person for the Caisse job (in all seriousness, his record at BCE is a mixed bag, though his resume before joining BCE is stellar), but that's not what's happening here. Political columnists don't attack heads of pension boards with the likes of Mike L or Ray Heard just because BCE's share prices underperformed. For a slightly different take on the issue, I recommend Norman Webster's piece in the Gazette yesterday. The headline says it all "Landry reminds us we're not really part of the tribe". In particular:
"Claude Lamoureux, Quebec-born, educated at the Université de Montréal and Laval, had enjoyed some success in Toronto. Indeed he did. Lamoureux retired in 2007 after nearly 18 years in charge of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, another giant investment vehicle of the same order as the Caisse de dépôt.
"If the Globe and Mail or Toronto Star were to say Claude Lamoureux shouldn't be running the Teachers' fund because he didn't understand the culture of English-speaking Canada, well, there'd be an explosion."