Bombardier executive stock plan under the microscope by Quebec’s securities regulator

The regulator is reviewing how Bombardier implemented its Automatic Stock Disposition Plan, rolled out last August. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Quebec’s financial market regulator is reviewing Bombardier Inc.’s executive compensation plan, calling on the plane-and-train maker to suspend all related trades just hours after Quebec’s premier expressed lukewarm hopes about the future of the beleaguered company’s commercial aerospace operations.

The Autorité des marchés financiers announced Thursday afternoon it is looking into how Bombardier implemented its Automatic Stock Disposition Plan, rolled out last August.

The Montreal-based company said then that the plan allows some of its senior executives to sell their vested shares as an added incentive in performance-based compensation, so long as the trades are made by independent securities brokers and in line with “trading parameters.”

READ MORE: Bombardier CEO ends silence on layoffs, defends the move

Under Canadian securities laws and Bombardier’s trading policies, senior executives face limits on their ability to sell shares in the company. The plan allows trades to be made in accordance with pre-arranged instructions given when the employee doesn’t have any material undisclosed information, the company said in August.

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Bombardier said Thursday it will fully co-operate with the AMF review, and agreed to suspend all sales of shares until further notice.

The company noted that the ASDP plan was reviewed by the regulator before it was put in place.

WATCH BELOW: Opposition criticizes Liberal government over Bombardier job losses

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Opposition criticizes Liberal government over Bombardier job losses – Nov 8, 2018

Hours earlier, Premier François Legault expressed scant hope for Bombardier’s CRJ series unless it finds a partner after the company agreed to sell its Q400 turboprop program to focus on its business jet and railway businesses.

Legault said the regional jet program could preserve the 1,000 or so jobs currently in Mirabel, Que., if the manufacturer can enter into a partnership rather than rely on public support.

“I do not think it’s a question of government assistance in the case of the CRJ,” Legault said Thursday at a press briefing to wrap up his two-day economic mission to Boston.

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READ MORE: Bombardier cutting about 5,000 jobs as part of restructuring plan

The premier was speaking on the eve of a meeting between Economy and Innovation Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon and Bombardier chief executive Alain Bellemare, a week after the company announced it would lay off 5,000 workers, including 2,500 in Quebec and 500 in Ontario.

The multinational has not ruled out the possibility of spinning off the CRJ series, that was launched in the early 1990s.

Bellemare has indicated that the company is interested in keeping the program if it can cut costs with suppliers, but left the door open to a partnership with other firms.

READ MORE: Bombardier defends CEO’s absence from special meeting following layoffs

“Is there a future for the CRJ? I have questions,” the premier said. “Was there a future for the Q400? I had questions and I was right. Was there a future for the C Series? I had questions and I was right.”

The sale of the C Series, now called the A220 after Airbus bought a majority stake in the jetliner program, was a “lesser evil” to preserve jobs, Legault said.

He said he hopes to offer more support to Bombardier in the rail sector, where he thinks the outlook is better. The Caisse de depot, Quebec’s pension fund manager, owns a 27.5 per cent stake in Bombardier Transportation, while the government owns a 16.24 per cent share of the A220 program.

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“Commercial aircraft, there is a lot of competition and great players,” he said.

“We will try to protect what we have. It’s not easy. The place to invest for the future is in the transportation division.”

Bombardier Transportation has a production plant in La Pocatiere, Que., where the company has said 100 workers will lose their jobs by February despite its winning a $448-million contract for 153 new Azur cars for the Montreal metro.

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