By Noor Zainab Hussain and Maiya Keidan
Feb 26 (Reuters) – The head of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), Mark Machin, has stepped down after his trip to the United Arab Emirates for vaccination against COVID-19 flouted Canadian government’s travel advice and drew criticism.
CPPIB on Friday named John Graham as chief executive officer, who is currently senior managing director and global head of credit investments of the country’s largest pension fund.
Machin becomes the second senior Canadian corporate executive to resign after attempting to jump vaccine queue, underscoring the frustration among some about the country’s slow vaccine roll out.
“We are very disappointed by this troubling situation and we support the swift action taken by the Board of Directors,” said Kat Cuplinskas, press secretary for Canada’s Ministry of Finance.
The CPPIB is governed independently from the federal government but it reports to a board of directors selected by Canada’s minister of finance. It manages Canada’s national pension fund and invests on behalf of about 20 million Canadians
Machin did not respond to a Reuters request for comment. He is the first CPPIB CEO to be forced to resign, a source told Reuters.
Machin sent an internal memo to CPPIB staff acknowledging that he took a personal trip and was in Dubai for a number of reasons, some of which were “deeply personal”, the source said.
Machin also said in the memo that the trip was supposed to be “very private” and that he was disappointed it had become the focus of “expected criticism”, according to the source.
Although there is no specific ban on Canadians traveling abroad, the federal and provincial governments have advised against overseas trips to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Canada trails behind many developed nations in its vaccination drive, with under 3% of the population inoculated so far.
Machin received Pfizer’s vaccine shot after arriving in the UAE with his partner this month, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, adding he had stayed on in the UAE and was due to receive his second dose in coming weeks.
The UAE says it provides COVID-19 vaccinations to residents and citizens only, free of charge, and requires a valid residency identification card to receive the shots. It was not immediately clear how Machin, a British national, secured the vaccine by traveling to Dubai.
Machin, 54, an alumnus of Cambridge and Oxford Universities, joined CPPIB in March 2012 and was appointed as president and chief executive officer in 2016. He had a 20-year-long career at Goldman Sachs Group Inc prior to joining the pension fund.
Under Machin, CPPIB reported net return of 3.1% for the year ended March 31, 2020, down from 8.9% a year earlier. For the period between March and December 2020, the fund has posted returns of 16.4%.
Machin was paid C$5.4 million ($4.25 million) in total for his work in 2020, according to CCPIB’s annual report.
Incoming CEO Graham has been with CPPIB for 10 years. Prior to that he was with Xerox Innovation Group for over nine years.
Graham holds an MBA from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and a PhD from the University of Western Ontario.
Some Canadian federal and provincial leaders have resigned in the past month after their overseas leisure trips sparked public outrage. https://reut.rs/3qZvDLh
Last Month, Great Canadian Gaming Corp CEO Rod Baker resigned after he and his wife were charged with traveling to northern Canada and misleading authorities in order to receive the vaccine. ($1 = 1.2699 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru and Maiya Keidan in Toronto; Editing by Anil D’Silva)