Friday, February 08, 2019
SNC-Lavalin: Scandal Or Much Ado About Almost Nothing?
I suppose it's the price I must pay for trying to maintain a daily blog, that yesterday I should write about how Nicholas Kristof called us the "moral leader of the free world."
And today I should be writing about this story.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office attempted to press Jody Wilson-Raybould when she was justice minister to intervene in the corruption and fraud prosecution of Montreal engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., sources say, but she refused to ask federal prosecutors to make a deal with the company that could prevent a costly trial.
If only to explain why I believe that it will probably end up being much ado about almost nothing.
For the following reasons.
(1) The suggestion that offering SNC-Lavalin a Deferred Prosecution Agreement is to be soft on crime is absurd. When a DAP is a perfectly legitimate tool in the fight against corporate wrongdoing.
A DPA is a voluntary agreement negotiated between an accused and the responsible prosecution authority. Under a DPA, the criminal prosecution is suspended for a set period of time. During that time, the accused must comply with the terms of the agreement. If the accused complies, the charges are withdrawn when the DPA expires and no criminal conviction results. If the accused does not comply,charges may be revived at any point during the term of the DPA and a prosecution may be pursued and a conviction sought.
It is widely used in the U.S. and Britain, and in the often murky world of corporate crime has several perceived advantages.
The prospect of being invited to negotiate a DPA may motivate companies to self-disclose wrongdoing since they may otherwise have to face the prospect of a formal criminal conviction, whether as a result of a guilty plea or following a trial.
DPAs may reduce the negative consequences for blameless employees, shareholders, customers, pensioners, suppliers and investors and may enhance the prospects for prosecuting and holding criminally liable the individuals within the corporation who are responsible for the corporate wrongdoing.
Especially since although SNC-Lavalin has in the past given Canada an unenviable reputation as one of the world's most corrupt countries.
Out of the more than 250 companies year to date on the World Bank's running list of firms blacklisted from bidding on its global projects under its fraud and corruption policy, 117 are from Canada — with SNC-Lavalin and its affiliates representing 115 of those entries.
It is now reportedly back on track.
So Trudeau had every right to ask about whether it qualified for a DPA that could save thousands of high grade jobs in this country.
(2) But whether he did or not NOTHING happened. The course of justice was not diverted. The criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin continues.
(3) The most damning allegation that Jody Wilson-Raybould lost her job as Justice Minister because she refused to intervene in the case, may be more myth than reality.
For as Dale Smith points out that might have happened for all kinds of other reasons.
Many people, pundits included, are suddenly treating this story as some kind of exoneration for her demotion, and ignoring the fact that there were very real reasons for why she was replaced, many of which had to do with the fact that she wasn’t managing her office competently, and she was making questionable staffing choices in her own office.
I have my own unnamed sources in the legal community who can point to her incompetence, and this is now being swept under because she’s suddenly being hailed as a hero – which is another reason why I have some suspicions about the source of this story (and why she hasn’t been in a hurry to offer any denials, only a “no comment”).
Which raises the disturbing question that Wilson-Raybould might have been so bitter, and there is no doubt she was bitter, that she made the SNC-Lavalin case, rather than her incompetence, the reason for her transfer.
So I wouldn't be surprised that her seething desire for revenge may well have made her the main source of the Globe's story.
Which would explain why she is not talking, even if it leavs this burning question hanging over her:
If she was so terribly aggrieved why didn't she RESIGN? Why is she still in the Trudeau cabinet?
(4) Unless she can pull a smoking gun out of her purse, this story is going nowhere. Especially since Andrew Scheer is the last person to advance it without any additional evidence for a very simple reason.
Scheer has lied so much, and demonized Trudeau for so long, that most Canadians will dismiss what he has to say as more of the same.
And simply tune him out.
Except in Quebec where his attack on SNC-Lavalin may be perceived as an attack on a company that Francois Legault has said needs protecting.
And could very well cost Scheer many votes in that province, at a time when he is desperately seeking them.
I may be wrong, maybe somebody will produce that smoking gun, or somebody will come forward with new evidence.
But until then this story is mostly hot air, fanned by our shabby Con media.
And is in my opinion much ado about almost nothing...