Telecom giants choose different ways of being transparent over federal subsidy


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Rogers, one of Canada’s biggest and most important companies, should have been on that list, too. Canada Revenue Agency this week set up a searchable database of all the corporations that have received CEWS. A search on “Rogers” turns up multiple listings for Rogers Communications Canada Inc. and Rogers Media Inc., the Rogers subsidiary that runs a group of cable channels, including Sportsnet and Citytv and dozens of radio stations.

We will continue to take corrective action where disclosures are potentially misleading

Sonny Randhawa, OSC

We would have determined that Rogers received the wage subsidy had we paid closer attention to its earnings calls. When asked whether the company had disclosed that it was receiving CEWS, a spokesman provided a transcript of the company’s second-quarter earnings call with analysts in July.  “We did qualify for and receive some funding for our media business, that essentially ground to a halt,” said chief executive Joe Natale, who had to make a bet on whether professional hockey would resume. “The choices were to either furlough employees and have them go on individual subsidy, or to keep employees here, take advantage of that support mechanism,” Natale added. “Having people on standby and ready versus having to call them back from furlough was an advantage to us as a whole.”

Rogers probably didn’t do anything wrong in disclosing this way. The OSC and other regulators afford managers a fair amount of discretion when it comes to publishing financial information, which means companies can opt for translucent over transparent,​​​ according to lawyers who advise companies on their public filings.

For its part, the OSC said it will be watching. “This is an area that we’re monitoring closely in Ontario, and we will continue to provide guidance and take corrective action where disclosures are potentially misleading,” Randhawa said.

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