Torstar has maintained, “We are confident that we conducted ourselves legally, ethically and in the long-term interest of the markets we serve.”
Today, The Tyee adds another piece to the who-knew-what-when puzzle, an email sent to all Torstar staff from President and CEO John Boynton at 10 a.m. Nov. 27, 2017 explaining the deal that day with Postmedia.
The letter (reproduced at the bottom of this story) names all the papers shifting to Postmedia ownership without stating any will be closed. It does say, “Approximately 200 Metroland and 50 Metro staff will be affected by the sales to Postmedia. The employees will receive severance packages.” In fact, 244 Torstar employees lost jobs when Postmedia acquired and then folded the papers where those people had worked.
A former employee of Ottawa Metro, which was owned by Torstar and transferred to Postmedia and then shut down, told The Tyee that he and fellow workers received, three days in advance, notice of an all-staff meeting scheduled at 9 a.m. on Nov. 27, 2017, when the deal was announced. The Tyee has seen the email. At that meeting, the source says, he and other staff were let go.
‘Their theory is going to be this is a sham merger’
The Competition Bureau faces a steep task in attempting to prove a criminal conspiracy occurred in the crafting of the Torstar-Postmedia deal, said Michael Osborne, partner at Cassels Brock law firm specializing in competition law and editor of Canadian Competition Law Review. Under the Competition Act, the crown would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was an agreement between competitors to fix prices, allocate markets or restrict output, Osborne explained.
“Their theory is going to be that this is a sham merger, and that this is really some kind of market allocation or output restriction agreement to close a bunch of newspapers in each other’s markets,” he said.
On Tuesday, the Competition Bureau announced it had obtained a court order to interview one former and five current Torstar employees under oath. They are:
Sandy Edward MacLeod, Torstar’s former Chief Operating Officer, Print;
Dana Robbins, Vice President and Group Publisher, Metroland Central;
Dino Luis (Dean) Zavarise, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Torstar Printing;
Derek John Fleming, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Metroland;
Lozenzo DeMarchi, in his capacity as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Torstar; and
Ian Oliver, President, Metroland
Those witnesses are constitutionally protected from being prosecuted using compelled testimony that is self-incriminating. However each could help build the bureau’s case by providing evidence to bring charges against another, Osborne said.
“You can conduct an examination of Paul and find out everything that Sally did, and you can conduct an examination of Sally and find out what Paul did. And you can use both of their evidence against the companies that employ them. But you can not use Paul’s evidence against Paul or Sally’s evidence against Sally,” Osborne explained.
Osborne, as a close observer of Competition Bureau enforcement over the years, noted that interim commissioner Matthew Boswell, appointed in May by the Trudeau Liberal government, may be signalling a more aggressive approach than his predecessor in combatting monopolistic practices.
“This is certainly a case to watch,” said Osborne.
© [The Tyee] (https://thetyee.ca/News/2018/12/06/Feds-Probe-Media-Giants-Conspired/?utm_source=national&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=061218)