At the World Economic Forum meeting last month in Davos, Switzerland, Neil Bruce, president and CEO of Montreal-based design-build giant SNC-Lavalin Inc., was named to co-chair its Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI), a CEO-led anti-corruption effort, the firm said on Jan. 29.
Working with outside groups, PACI will set “industry practices to rebuild and foster trust in business and institutions,” SNC-Lavalin said. It has about 90 corporate signatories. Other co-chairs named are Deloitte global Chairman David Cruickshank and Thomson Reuters USA CEO James C. Smith. Fluor Corp. Chairman David T. Seaton is a PACI steering board member.
Bruce has advanced SNC-Lavalin’s implementation of a more robust ethics and anti-corruption platform for its estimated 50,000 global employees since 2012, when details surfaced of alleged bribes by some executives to win contracts in Canada, Libya and Bangladesh. These incidents occurred before Bruce joined the firm in 2013 and became CEO in 2015; executives involved no longer work for the firm.
Bruce said in December that SNC-Lavalin reached an agreement with Québec government agencies under the province’s Voluntary Reimbursement Program to settle improper payments over the past 20 years stemming from fraud or fraudulent tactics used to win public contracts. The payment amounts and other terms were not disclosed.
According to a January online review by Toronto law firm McCarthy Tétrault LLP, SNC-Lavalin, two subsidiaries and two former executives are set for trial in September related to criminal charges for Libya payments. The parent and units have pleaded not guilty to two charges. Other ex-executives’ trials are set for October and next January.
But SNC-Lavalin may be able to settle the charges, as Canada considers enacting a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) approach, which it now lacks, unlike the U.S., the U.K. and other G-7 nations. A DPA would allow firms to settle criminal charges by agreeing to restitution, remedial steps and independent monitoring, among other measures. Bruce has been among the Canadian executives who have testified in favor of DPAs in the just-ended public consultations with federal officials. Later this year, Canada is set to release recommendations on a DPA approach and possible reform of debarment rules for government contractors.