Bombardier’s commitment to Canadian ethics


It is an honor to work for a company that commands as much media attention as Bombardier. It serves as a constant reminder that the decisions we make impact the lives of people around the world and that we have a responsibility to act with the highest standards and in the best interests of all our stakeholders in Canada and around the world.

As a member of Bombardier’s leadership team, I know first-hand that there is nothing our Company takes more seriously than its commitment to the highest ethical business practices. We focus on that responsibility every day, which makes it difficult to understand why one of Canada’s leading newspapers, The Globe & Mail, appears fixated on attacking our reputation with flawed coverage, while largely ignoring much of the significant progress we have made executing our turn-around plan.

As a global business we operate in many complex and developing markets. We understand that in doing so we will, on occasion, encounter people that don’t always share our high ethical values. We see this as a challenge to be managed rather than a reason to retreat from global competition. We believe that people everywhere deserve access to the very best aerospace and rail technology, and we'd like to supply it. As I’ve said in previous postings, this is a goal supported by our shareholders and, we believe, the Canadian public.

As always, we welcome the scrutiny that comes with being one of Canada's leading multinational companies. However, at the same time our employees, partners and other stakeholders deserve objectivity and full accuracy in any media coverage; and we will continue to call out instances where this standard is not met. 

The latest example is a lengthy article published by the Globe last month attacking our integrity. Despite the article’s length and the tremendous resources the Globe apparently spent to assemble it, there’s a lot of false assumptions and missing facts below the headline, “How Bombardier’s ‘success fees’ gave the transport giant an inside track to deals around the world.

Let’s start with the fact that fees paid to consultants with expertise and first-hand experience in a particular country are both legal and commonplace in almost every international business.  Indeed, paying success fees or commissions for legitimate work and services performed is not prohibited under Canadian law.  Moreover, the Globe presents no actual evidence of impropriety associated with any payment of commissions or “success fees” by Bombardier.  Rather, the Globe relies on anonymous sources, speculative allegations, and mischaracterizations of standard global business practices to suggest wrongdoing. 

The paper’s primary source is an unnamed former employee who left the company more than a decade ago. Although this hidden source explicitly admits he was never directed to do anything unethical by superiors, he is nevertheless allowed to present allegations of supposed bribery simply because “he believes” it took place. 

To string out the innuendo, the Globe then resorts to hypothetical scenarios in which charges “could have” or “should have” been made despite the reality that no formal allegations were ever brought against Bombardier, except in one instance last year where a Bombardier employee was charged, tried, and acquitted.

A recent follow-up opinion column in the Globe & Mail argues that “Canadian ethics should follow Bombardier wherever it goes.” In that, we emphatically agree and suggest the same standard be applied to coverage of our company. And, we are glad to see that others agree. 

With public trust in the news media at an all-time low, Globe & Mail editor-in-chief David Walmsley recently announced that the paper would embark on an effort called The Trust Project. “We commit to offering more engagement with our staff as we tell you more about our techniques” he promised. “We are offering...’ask us anything’ sessions [to provide] the greatest insight into the standards we impose upon ourselves.”

Here’s a couple of questions they might start with. How did a story with such questionable anonymous sourcing, in an apparent violation of the paper’s own ethics rules (see side note), ever get past editors?  Shouldn’t the reporting have spelled out up front that there were no findings of misconduct against Bombardier at any time?  Finally and perhaps most importantly, can the public expect anytime soon to see more journalism focused on how our company is succeeding in the marketplace as our turn-around plan gains momentum? 

Side note : 

Permitting an anonymous source to make disparaging remarks is deeply irresponsible.  It’s unethical too by the Globe & Mail’s own Editorial Code of Conduct which states, Reporters should strive to minimize the use of unattributed quotes [and] not let people dodge accountability or take anonymous potshots.  Direct quotes should not be attributed to anonymous sources but should be paraphrased and cannot [be used] to voice opinion or make ad hominem or personal attacks.  But, the Globe did exactly that and enabled a hidden source to malign us as lawbreakers. The Globe abandoning its own standard certainly raises questions about their editorial direction and views.

Mike Nadolski
Vice President Communications and Public Affairs

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