2017 Bertram Scholars

The CFGR is Canada’s only charitable foundation focused solely on supporting and disseminating governance research from a Canadian perspective. Each year, through the Bertram Doctoral Scholarships, the CFGR supports corporate governance research undertaken by Canada’s most promising doctoral students.

Read about the 2017 Bertram Scholars in the November/December issue of the Director Journal

Thomas Boisvert St-Aranaud, Université de Sherbrooke

My 10 years of experience in entrepreneurship, non-profits and cooperatives have exposed me to a wide variety of managerial issues. After observing many shortcomings in the application of conventional management approaches, I decided to work on research in the field. My non-traditional background gives me an unique outlook on contemporary issues. Among other things, it allows me to use my in-depth understanding of field reality to facilitate the mobilization and transfer of appropriate knowledge directly to practitioners.

Research summary
I am interested in the governance of organizations through the prism of antifragility. Antifragility characterizes organizations that can take advantage of the unpredictability of markets and organizational environments. I aim to develop general principles of antifragile design which will help build systemic and non-predictive governance. In doing so, I hope to help managers take advantage of disorder within and outside of their organization. I trust that my research will contribute to the advancement of knowledge by identifying mechanisms capable of catalyzing antifragility within organizations.

Duff Conacher, University of Ottawa

Duff Conacher is an internationally recognized leader in the area of democratic reform and government accountability. He is a former Ralph Nader's Raider and a graduate of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. He is the co-founder of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group, and of Democracy Watch which he has led since 1993. He is also co-founder of Democracy Education Network, one of Canada's leading civics education organizations. He was an Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law from 2011 to 2014, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa School of Political Studies from 2014-2016. He is currently a Ph.D. student and Adjunct Professor at the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Law, and an Adjunct Professor at the University's School of Political Studies. He also heads the firm GoodOrg.ca Consulting which provides advice, services and training to governments, businesses and citizen organizations in the areas of good governance, ethics, responsibility, communications, stakeholder and public relations.

Research summary
Ensuring that officers and board members of private and public sector corporations, government-agencies, and not-for-profit organizations do not further their own private interests when participating in decision-making processes is one of the fundamental challenges of any good governance system. Decisions that re-direct resources toward serving board members' private interests can: decrease corporate revenues and share value (for a private or publicly traded corporation); waste the public's money (for a public sector corporation or government-agency), and; waste money that is difficult to raise (for a not-for-profit organization). My research project aims to develop a best-practice model system of rules and enforcement measures for ensuring officers and board members do not take part in decisions in which they have a private interest?

Leanne Keddie, Concordia University

Leanne Keddie is a PhD Candidate in Accountancy at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal, QC. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Commerce from Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB, and her Master in Business Administration (MBA) from McMaster University in Hamilton, ON. She is also a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CMA) with a particular focus and passion for management accounting. Prior to commencing her doctoral studies, she held various positions in industry for over a decade including commercial finance, private company business valuation and work in the accounting education sector most recently with CPA Canada. She has taught advanced management accounting courses as well as financial accounting courses for the last seven years and has worked as a research assistant on a variety of projects related to corporate governance, SME financing, corporate social responsibility and accounting education.

Research summary
Her current research examines the use of corporate social responsibility (CSR) incentives in executive compensation packages. While other non-financial incentives, like customer satisfaction, have risen in popularity since the 1990's, it appears that these new CSR metrics are being promoted by the firm in line with a perceived definition of corporate sustainability including social and environmental elements. This contrasts with the typical financial goals related to improving the stock price of the firm, profitability or cash flow. Such incentives are found in an estimated 40% or more of CEO and top management team bonus plans for large firms. Examples of CSR incentive targets include carbon emission reduction or employee safety improvements as well as other metrics related to achieving social or environmental firm goals. We currently know very little about these CSR incentives. Her research aims to explore why firms are adopting CSR incentives and how corporate governance plays a role. Practically, she aims to provide evidence that informs boards on the use and design of CSR incentives and how corporate governance supports these initiatives. This research will be of interest to shareholders and other stakeholders as they are currently demonstrating a growing interest in both executive compensation as well as social and environmental matters, issues of great importance in corporate governance within Canada today.

James Shou, University of Alberta

James Shou is a PhD Candidate in Finance at the Alberta School of Business (ASOB), University of Alberta. Under the supervision of Prof. Randall Morck, James' research spans the areas of Corporate Governance, Behavioural Finance and Asset Pricing. His teaching covers courses in Business Statistics, Investments and Risk Management. Prior to joining ASOB, James received his B.A. in Economics from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and his M.Sc. in Applied Economics from the University of Manitoba. He is a recipient of the AIMCo PhD Scholarship in Finance.

Research summary
Canadian listed firms' market-to-book ratios are ten percent or more below those of similarly sized US listed firms in the same industries. Similar discounts are present in Canadian firms' P/E ratios, Q ratios, and other valuation measures. Given the close similarity and integration of the two economies, this is an intriguing anomaly dubbed "the Canada discount puzzle". My doctoral thesis is to use an unprecedentedly comprehensive (in number of years and number of firms covered) panel database of Canadian firms to explain why the Canada discount exists. This will let me explore how the Canada discount varies across years, industries, and firms' varied corporate governance regimes. Previous work confirms the existence of a Canada discount, but remains ambiguous about what causes the discount. One line of previous work argues that many Canadian firms have corporate governance problems associated with entrenched controlling shareholders - often politically powerful business families. Preliminary results show the discount has worsened since previous studies looked at it, and suggest governance shortfalls, some possibly made worse by macroeconomic factors. My further work should help isolate the causes of the Canada discount. This would help directors (or shareholder activists groups) better identify and correct genuinely important governance problems. Correcting these problems would increase Canadian share prices, thereby increasing investors' portfolio values and, by increasing IPO valuations, making Canadian stock markets better places for entrepreneurs to list.