10 February 2014

Following the money: Lawyers giving back #nlpoli

When Nalcor needs a bunch of Quebec lawyers, one of the firms they go to is Fasken Martineau. Nalcor has been relying on FM for lots of things over the years, including the infamous series of appeals to the Quebec energy regulator.

Last week, FM issued a news release about the close of the financial deal for the project.  It included a quote from Xeno Martis, the lead lawyer from FM for the project:

"Fasken Martineau conceived and proposed a modified "wrap structure" which sheltered the lenders from any project risk and provided them with direct recourse to the Sovereign," added Mr. Martis.

That was important, as one of the underwriters described in a Financial Post story a couple of weeks ago:

“The benefit of the guarantee was that no one had to look at the merits of the underlying project.”

Whatever the provincial government paid Fasken Martineau via Nalcor, that bit of work was worth it.  After all, as a result of the way FM structured the deal, investors were protected from any risk and none had to look at the merits of the project before putting money into it.

The provincial Conservatives can also thank FM for other cash.

From 2007 to 2012, Fasken Martineau and some of the company’s lawyers made $37,300 in political donations in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to information from Elections Newfoundland and Labrador.  All of it went to the provincial Conservatives.

The largest amount – $11,450 – was in 2012.  That’s the latest year for which figures are available.


Note the blank spot in 2011, the provincial election year.  Either FM didn’t make any donations that year at all or Elections NL records are not complete.  Given that the company and its lawyers made sizeable donations every other year since 2007, it seems odd that they closed their chequebooks only to re-open them again.

In 2003, the provincial Conservatives promised to introduce political finance reforms if they were elected.  Once elected, the Conservatives didn’t do anything about their commitments to restrict political donations by corporations and individuals.  In a recent interview on the commitments, Premier Tom Marshall said that the Conservatives decided to focus on electoral reforms that would affect the most people in the province.

How fortunate for the Conservatives’ fund-raising efforts.