Canada pension fund boss quits after overseas trip for Covid-19 shot

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OTTAWA – The head of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), Mr Mark Machin, has resigned after his trip to the United Arab Emirates for vaccination against Covid-19 flouted Canadian government’s travel advice and drew criticism.

CPPIB on Friday (Feb 26) named Mr John Graham, currently senior managing director and global head of credit investments, as the new chief executive officer of the country’s largest pension fund.

Mr Machin, 54, becomes the second senior Canadian corporate executive to resign after attempting to jump vaccine queue, underscoring the frustration among some about the country’s slow vaccine roll out.

“It was a complete lapse of moral judgment which risked undermining people’s trust both in government policy and the stewardship of their public pension provision,” said Mr David Wheeler, a former business professor at York University, adding that “clearly he had to go immediately”.

Mr Machin received Pfizer’s vaccine shot after arriving in the UAE with his partner this month, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, adding he had stayed on in the UAE and was due to receive his second dose in coming weeks.

“We are very disappointed by this troubling situation and we support the swift action taken by the Board of Directors,” Ms Kat Cuplinskas, press secretary for Canada’s ministry of finance.

CPPIB, which manages C$475.7 billion (S$497.62 billion), is governed independently from the federal government but it reports to a board of directors selected by Canada’s minister of finance. It manages Canada’s national pension fund and invests on behalf of about 20 million Canadians.

Mr Machin did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Mr Machin, after discussions with the Board, agreed the most appropriate step was to tender his resignation, Mr Michel Leduc, senior managing director and head of public affairs and communications said in a statement to Reuters.

No travel ban

Mr Machin sent an internal memo to CPPIB staff acknowledging that he took a personal trip and was in Dubai for a number of reasons, some of which were “deeply personal”, the source said.

Mr Machin also said in the memo that the trip was supposed to be “very private” and that he was disappointed it had become the focus of “expected criticism”, according to the source.

Although there is no specific ban on Canadians travelling abroad, the federal and provincial governments have advised against overseas trips to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Canada trails behind many developed nations in its vaccination drive, with under 3 per cent of the population inoculated so far.

The UAE says it provides Covid-19 to residents and citizens only, of charge, and requires a valid residency identification card to receive the shots. It was not immediately clear how Mr Machin, a British national, secured the vaccine by travelling to Dubai.

Mr Machin worked with Goldman Sachs for 20 years before joining CPPIB in March 2012. He was appointed as president and CEO in 2016.

Under Mr Machin, CPPIB reported net return of 3.1 per cent for the year ended March 31, 2020, down from 8.9 per cent a year earlier. Mr Machin was paid C$5.4 million in 2020, according to CCPIB’s annual report.

Incoming CEO Mr Graham has been with CPPIB for 10 years. Prior to that he was with Xerox Innovation Group for over nine years.

Some Canadian federal and provincial leaders have resigned in the past month after their overseas leisure trips sparked public outrage.

Last Month, Great Canadian Gaming Corp CEO Rod Baker resigned after he and his wife were charged with travelling to northern Canada and misleading authorities in order to receive the vaccine.

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