Greetings from the “Death Star” - EDC's response to fiction and hyperbole

  • National Newswatch

On Saturday, March 10 the Globe and Mail published an opinion piece about EDC entitled “The Death Star of Canada's economy.” The headline gave a fair indication of what was to come – a fictional story told with hyperbolic language.The issue at the centre of the piece is EDC's petition before a South African court to ground a Bombardier jet. The aircraft in question was leased by Westdawn Investments, a company with links to the Gupta family of South Africa, with a commercial loan to the lease operator provided by EDC in 2014.In fall 2017, we cancelled the leasing and began efforts to reclaim the aircraft as a result of Westdawn's breach of contract.Those are the basic facts of the case. There is, as always, more we would like to say, but as long as the issue remains before the courts (as it does in Johannesburg and in the U.K.), we are limited in what we can make public by the necessity of not prejudicing our position.Happily, legal proceedings do not limit our ability to respond to some of the other allegations made in the article. They are many, varied and wide spread in their aim, and leave the impression of EDC, international trade and finance as a world of dark dealings with no political or regulatory oversight. This impression demands correction.#1 – EDC's track recordAs the author himself notes, this is the first time in nearly eight decades that we've dealt with this kind of situation. With more than 20,000 financing transactions under our belt in every corner of the globe, this is the first time where we've gone to court because of the risk of corruption exposure. One in 20,000 is an exceptional track record that speaks for itself, and for the people and companies we partner with.#2 – EDC is transparentEDC discloses every financing and guarantee transaction it undertakes, and has done so since 2001. That disclosure includes the country and sector of the transaction, the company receiving the funds, the purpose of the funds, and, in the case of buyer financing, the Canadian company that benefits. The amount financed is also included, within pre-determined ranges, to protect the interests of Canadian companies against foreign competitors.The author suggests that EDC's year-end financials do not provide the exact amount of loans it extends. This is false. EDC's financing portfolio is broken out in exact amounts by sector, geography, by specific exposure (gross loans, commitments, guarantees, risk transfer, etc.), by risk rating (investment grade, non-investment grade, impaired), and by interest rate risk. We also report on our loan interest yield and our net finance margin. All of this information is in our annual reports, which are tabled in Parliament and publicly available.The author also claims that EDC should disclose the exact terms of every financial transaction. To be clear, no other Export Credit Agency or commercial financial institution in the world discloses this kind of information. To do so would be in breach of law and the confidentiality of our Canadian clients.#3 – EDC welcomes oversightNot satisfied with taking on EDC, the author turns on the politicians and ministries charged with oversight of EDC and finds them all lacking a basic grasp of our organization's mandate and purpose. On the question of 'having a grasp,' we would happily test the author's understanding of trade with the great number of experts within government who have dedicated their professional lives to trade and finance that have direct mandates to provide oversight to EDC.Indeed, EDC welcomes a standard of accountability and oversight higher than many public institutions and far beyond the oversight to which many of our foreign counterparts are subject. Our governance system includes an independent, government-appointed Board of Directors (all of whom have wide and deep private sector experience) that meets with EDC's Executive Committee a minimum of six times a year. The Board is accountable to Canada's Minister of International Trade, who also has responsibility for the annual approval of EDC's corporate plan.Does this mean that EDC's operations are perfect? No. This is why we welcome feedback from a variety of government players, including the annual oversight of our finances by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, including a special review by the OAG every five years, and a legislative review of EDC by Parliament every 10 years. Any suggestion that EDC operates outside of the public eye is nothing short of mindboggling.#4 –  EDC listensEDC's business practices have also been informed by, and benefited from, the critical engagement of a range of stakeholders, such as EDC's CSR Advisory Council (composed of leading experts in the world of CSR) and various civil society groups. We receive feedback regularly from several international working groups to which we are a signatory, and from business groups we are members of and aligned with. All of this is feedback that we are better for.In EDC's dealings with civil society, we believe our cooperation and dialogue with these groups have generated a greater understanding of our differing positions, as well as our areas of common ground. This, along with our collaboration with other leaders in the field – the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, and the European Bank for Reconstruction Development – helps make EDC a top performer among international financial organizations in project and transactional review.Why go to these lengths? The answer is simple. It's because EDC does play an important role in the Canadian economy. For thousands of companies seeking that first opportunity to go global, for businesses trying to expand and diversify into international markets, we are a trusted partner.Our customers, in turn, create Canadian jobs, grow our economy, and offer products and services around the world that benefit many. We have been entrusted to protect and promote an important part of the Canada brand for good reason, and we are driven by a mandate to help Canadian companies succeed and our economy prosper. Any threat to EDC's reputation is a threat to our ability to fulfill this mandate.That is, of course, why this response to the March 10 piece is necessary. Where we find misinformation, we have a duty to correct it. As we continue to grow our impact and help expand Canada's global footprint, we expect there will be more questions about what we do, and how we do it. The fact is – and this is a fact – we welcome that scrutiny.If this doesn't sound like the inner machinations of a Death Star, we're sorry to disappoint. They are, rather, the inner workings of a proud Crown corporation, run by dedicated professionals, working for and with Canadian companies around the world.

David Bhamjee has worked at EDC for 17 years and was appointed Vice-President of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs in January 2018. He is responsible for critical corporate and business advisory functions that oversee EDC's strategic relationships with media, Government, private sector partners and civil society. Prior to his new appointment, David served as Vice-President of Corporate Strategy for three years, and before that served in a number of leadership roles across the corporation.