Bombardier shareholders to vote on call for more lobbying transparency

MONTREAL — Pension plan managers and other institutions holding millions of Bombardier shares would like to see the transportation giant go the extra mile for lobbying transparency.

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), the California Teachers’ Pension Fund and the Florida State Board of Administration (SBA) said they are supporting a proposal by OceanRock Investments asking Bombardier’s board to file an annual report on direct and indirect lobbying activities.

The proposal will be voted on Thursday at Bombardier’s annual meeting.

SBA governance analyst Tracy Stewart says one can never be too careful given that there are currently a lot of political risks.

At the end of fiscal 2017, the CPPIB, the California Teachers’ Pension Fund and the SAB — with assets under management totalling nearly $881 billion — held approximately 7.6 million Class A and B shares of the Quebec multinational.

The OceanRock Investments initiative has also been endorsed by the two major shareholder advisory agencies, Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS).

Bombardier has urged its shareholders to vote against the motion, arguing that is already reports monthly on its federal lobbying with the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada and the information is found on the Quebec Lobbyists’ Registry for provincial activities.

Reports on lobbying in the United States are available to the general public through the House of Representatives, it added in its proxy circular released in March.

The proposal is unlikely to pass because the Beaudoin-Bombardier family controls 51.5 of the voting rights thanks to the multiple voting shares.

Meanwhile, with the exception of the Florida institution, the CPPIB and the California Teachers’ Pension Fund are endorsing the compensation policy for Bombardier’s key executives.

In 2017, the company’s top five executives earned total compensation of US$30.8 million, up 12.3 per cent over the prior year. Including board chairman Pierre Beaudoin raises the total payroll to US$33.4 million, up seven per cent.

The annual meeting will be the last as a board member after 43 years for Laurent Beaudoin, the architect of its growth as the manufacturer of planes and trains. The meeting is ten days before his 80th birthday.

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