The curious case of Michael Beattie


How a former fleet manager who had charges before the courts inserted himself into a $1.5B takeover debate, and brought Bay Street’s brightest with him

By Graeme Hamilton, Barbara Shecter, Jesse Snyder and Mark Rendell

When Michael Wilfred Beattie turned up in Ottawa in late January, a supposed industry player lobbying to block the sale of Canadian construction giant Aecon Group Inc. to Chinese interests, he did not seem out of place.

At his side, making introductions, were a lawyer from Bay Street stalwart Goodmans LLP and seasoned lobbyists representing two of Parliament Hill’s most trusted firms, Navigator and Ensight.

As he made his case to opposition MPs and Investment Canada officials, according to people he met with, he boasted of his deep expertise in the engineering and construction sectors, highlighting a family history building major Canadian landmarks including Toronto’s Royal York hotel.

In lieu of business cards, one person who met him said, Beattie pulled out a vintage Canadian $2-bill from the 1950s and said the man whose signature appeared upon it, then-Bank of Canada deputy governor John Robert Beattie, was a relative.

“He seemed very well-versed and articulate,” recalled Conservative MP Tony Clement, who met Beattie and his entourage on Jan. 31, in his Ottawa office.

Beattie’s tour even garnered a media cameo: In an interview with The Globe and Mail he railed against the “destructive and destabilizing” Aecon transaction, warning that the proposed $1.5-billion sale to the state-owned China Communications Construction Company Ltd. would hand Canada’s construction “jewel” to “tools of the Communist Party.”

The Feb. 1 article touted Beattie as “a veteran construction industry executive” and said his company, M.B.M. Consulting and Construction, was the fourth “significant Canadian construction firm” to oppose the sale.

A series of websites and articles that had appeared over the previous year-and-a-half seemed to back up his credentials, touting the leading roles Beattie and M.B.M. had played in major North American construction projects, and his taste for the finer things in life. Beattie had even emerged as a potential bidder for Aecon prior to the deal with the Chinese firm.

But things weren’t exactly what they seemed.

As he made the rounds in Ottawa, Beattie was actually out on bail awaiting criminal trial after being accused in 2016 of defrauding his former employer, the Town of Caledon.

According to documents filed in related civil court proceedings, the town alleged Beattie, 52, had used a fake invoice scheme to misappropriate more than $700,000 in less than a year in his role as fleet manager.

Going further back, Quebec records indicate a Michael Wilfrod Beattie — sharing the same date of birth as Beattie and the Ontario address he had used to register his company — had pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud and three of perjury in Quebec in the early 1990s.

And in 2006, when the website mbmconsulting.ca said Beattie had been turning his company into a construction-industry leader, government records indicate a Michael Wilfred Beattie with the same birth date and address had filed for personal bankruptcy in London, Ont., with less than $5,000 to his name.

Beattie and one of his lawyers, Edward Prutschi, outside the Orangeville, Ont., courthouse on June 21, after Beattie received a conditional discharge on a criminal charge of failing to comply with an undertaking. All other criminal charges against Beattie had been withdrawn.

Since his adventure on Parliament Hill, much has changed for Beattie. Last April, he and the town reached a settlement on their civil matter. It included an April 13 court order that gave Beattie, his fiancée and M.B.M. Investments Corp., a company registered to Beattie, one week to pay Caledon $711,399 — the sum the town alleged it had lost.

Then in June, after the town had been repaid, the Crown withdrew criminal charges against him of fraud, laundering the proceeds of crime, possession of the proceeds of crime and breach of trust. Beattie pleaded guilty to one criminal charge of failing to comply with an undertaking, receiving a conditional discharge and 10 months of weekend house arrest. He also pleaded guilty to a charge of obstruction under Ontario’s Municipal Act.

While those court matters appear to be resolved, many questions remain.

Just how Beattie went from small town fleet manager to would-be player, inserting himself into the debate over a billion-dollar international takeover and drawing in the sophisticates of Bay Street and the gatekeepers of Parliament Hill has become fodder for speculation in both realms.

Though many of his newfound associates were quick to distance themselves after news of the charges surfaced, others who have crossed paths with Beattie over the years remember him as someone who could be flashy and imperious but who was able to charm with his “gift of the gab.”

“Tomorrow is a new day, and I look forward to completing what I initially set out to accomplish two years ago,” he told the National Post in an email after his sentencing.

”I had no doubt ever that the truth would set me free.”

***

For Beattie, 52, life as a lobbyist was a remarkable, if short-lived, resurrection.

Less than two years earlier, on May 26, 2016, police had walked into KLM’s first-class lounge at Pearson International Airport to arrest him as he and his fiancée, Rebekka Derus, prepared to leave for Amsterdam.

According to a transcript of testimony from his bail hearing, entered into evidence in the Town of Caledon’s civil lawsuit, Beattie had been arrested by Ontario Provincial Police the day before his trip on suspicion of fraud, and released on a promise to appear in court. He was told he could not leave the province of Ontario.

But an investigator had learned Beattie and Derus intended to fly out the next day for a long-planned European river cruise, and arranged to have him detained.

Derus, who was offering to cash in RRSPs to put up $20,000 in bail money, testified at the hearing that the arrest at the airport came as a shock.

Describing herself as a laser technician, model and equestrian judge, Derus said she and Beattie had begun dating in January 2015. Beattie moved into her Brantford home that July, and they were engaged on the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora three months before his arrest.

But Beattie, she told the court, had not informed her about his encounter with the OPP the day before their Europe trip, nor two months earlier had he told her about the loss of his Caledon job, omissions that Justice of the Peace John Creelman called “troubling.”

“Certainly the court has some concerns that this is a very unusual relationship,” he said, in rejecting Derus as a surety, a role initially filled by Beattie’s ex-wife.

Two months later, in July 2016, the Town of Caledon filed a civil suit in Ontario Superior Court in a bid to recover its money.

The court action named Beattie, his registered company, M.B.M. Investments Corporation, and Derus as defendants.

The town was successful in obtaining a freeze on Beattie’s assets and even claimed an interest in the engagement ring he had given Derus.

Documents filed in connection with the town’s litigation indicate Beattie arrived in Caledon in May 2014, hired as the municipality’s roads and fleet manager.

According to affidavits sworn by Caledon’s chief financial officer, Fuwing Wong, in the town’s civil litigation, the suspicious activity began about a year later, in April 2015. That was when the town received its first invoice from a new supplier, M.B.M. Roads Maintenance Solutions — $9,126.02 for the purchase of calcium chloride dust suppressant.

The town paid the invoice the following month with a cheque mailed to a Toronto address.

Over the next 10 months, dozens of invoices for road salts and chemicals arrived, many only days apart, and a total of 65 payments, most for just under $10,000 were made to M.B.M. Roads Maintenance Solutions.

All told, Caledon said it paid M.B.M. Roads Maintenance Solutions $789,977.94. After recovering tax credits claimed on the payments, the town calculated its loss at $711,399.60, which represented about four per cent of its entire 2015 budget for public works.

“Given that there is no evidence that M.B.M. delivered the products that were invoiced, and the fact that the town purchased road salt and calcium chloride from legitimate vendors during the same period as M.B.M. claimed to be providing these products, we have considered all invoices issued by M.B.M. to be falsified,” forensic accounting firm Matson Driscoll and Damico Ltd. concluded in a report produced in May 2016 for the town and entered as evidence in the town’s litigation.

In a January 2017 affidavit, Wong said that banking records obtained via a court order showed that all 65 payments were deposited into a TD account for M.B.M. and that all but $18.58 of the $789,977.94 deposited was ultimately disbursed.

The defendants denied any wrongdoing. “Contrary to the allegations in the Statement of Claim, the defendants did not commit a fraud against the town,” their statement of defence from November 2016 read. Beattie specifically denied that he caused the town to issue payment on fraudulent invoices. “At no time did Beattie lie to his co-workers, manipulate accounting records, or destroy accounting records,” the defence stated.

Beattie had lost his job on March 23, 2016 as part of an internal restructuring of the town’s administration that also saw three other senior employees depart.

Steven Dollmaier, Caledon’s superintendent for roads and fleet, said in an affidavit that when he began looking into M.B.M. Roads Maintenance Solutions after Beattie’s departure, he discovered the website listed on the invoices did not exist. Dollmaier also said messages left at the company’s phone number went unanswered, and when he checked its Toronto mailing address on Google Maps, he found a residential apartment building.

A corporate records search found no evidence of a legal entity known as M.B.M. Roads Maintenance Solutions, Wong said, although Beattie is registered as president and sole director of another company, M.B.M. Investments Corp. After conducting its own investigation, the town called in the OPP.

On April 13, 2018, following an agreement between Beattie and Caledon, Ontario Superior Court Justice Victoria Chiappetta ordered Beattie, his fiancée and his company to pay Caledon $711,399. According to an agreed statement of facts presented at the June 12 court hearing at which Beattie pleaded guilty to the lesser charges, Beattie made “full restitution” to Caledon on April 20.

While the defendants do not appear to have mounted a detailed defense in the civil suit, the agreed statement of facts presented June 12 by Crown attorney Jeremy Tatum indicated that the town’s version of events was not the entire story.

According to the statement, Beattie had informed his superior, David Loveridge, in 2015 of his role and interest in M.B.M., and had suggested using M.B.M. “as a shell to process some invoices” in order to reduce an “operational shortfall” and ensure provincial standards for road maintenance were met, the statement says.

The town’s assertion that no services were rendered also appears to have been incorrect.

“Although product had never been delivered into the shipping yards, recent disclosure was made to the Crown of over $400,000 worth of invoices reflecting that sum was actually paid to a legitimate third party to perform the services,” the agreed statement read.

Beattie and his fiancée, Rebekka Derus, began dating in January 2015, according to a bail hearing transcript, and were engaged in Bora Bora in 2016.

Using M.B.M. even resulted in a savings to the town of more than $370,000, the statement said, though neither Beattie nor the Crown would elaborate on who the third party was or how the savings were calculated.

A town spokesman also declined to elaborate. “We cannot get into the particular details about criminal proceedings,” Parm Chohan said, adding that the town is not out any money as a result of the episode.

The statement of facts, however, also noted that when Loveridge left the town around February 2016, Beattie did not inform his new superior, Wong, that he was president of M.B.M.

Beattie’s failure to disclose in writing his “conflict of interest” violated both Caledon’s Employee Code of Conduct and its purchasing bylaw, according to the statement. His non-compliance meant town employees were obstructed from performing their duties, which resulted in the Municipal Act charge, to which he pleaded guilty.

Beattie also pleaded guilty to failing to comply with an undertaking, for his attempt to leave the province.

“I screwed up … and made a bad choice,” he told the judge, begging for leniency on the lone remaining criminal count he faced.

“A criminal conviction from this will be devastating to me.”

***

It was a triumphant Beattie who emerged nine days later from his final sentencing hearing in Orangeville, after receiving a conditional discharge.

“Looking forward to taking care of business!” he wrote on Twitter.

The following week, he and Derus sat down in a Yorkville restaurant for an interview with the National Post. He had referred all questions to his lawyer while his case was before the court, but now that he was free of what he called “the shenanigans and silliness,” he wanted to set the record straight.

Caledon was a mess when he arrived, Beattie said, with a high staff turnover and an entrenched union that he managed to sidestep.

M.B.M., he said, had provided management services, such as overseeing contact deliveries and bringing in third party vendors.

“I never did anything wrong. I went in there, and I did my job, and I was happy to do it and happy to make that organization, the town of Caledon, a better, safer place, end of the day,” he said. “I saved them $370,000.”

Beattie described his treatment by the legal system as a “freight-train size of a … screwing,” and later, in a statement sent by his lawyer in response to questions from the Post, said “the only remaining question is who is responsible for providing the false information which led to the charges against me.”

Ultimately, he said, he agreed to pay the $711,399 to Caledon so he could move forward with his life, and that the civil suit settlement came with no acknowledgement of wrongdoing by either he or Derus, and a “full and final release.”

Derus stressed that, contrary to the town’s claim, she did not benefit from the M.B.M. arrangement.

“I wasn’t involved in the Caledon thing in any way shape or form, at all,” she said.

“Well, there was nothing to be involved (in),” Beattie added.

When confronted with incidents from his past, however, Beattie’s story was sometimes at odds with the official record.

In May 1990, police in Richmond, Que., a small town north of Sherbrooke, issued a warrant for the arrest of Michael Wilfrod Beattie on a charge of fraud over $5,000.

The wanted man shared the same birth date as Beattie and the same Dutton, Ont. address used to register M.B.M. Investments Corp. with the Ontario government in 1992.

Jacques Lefebvre was a police officer with the Richmond municipal police at the time, and he remembers the young Beattie as someone striving to get rich quick and dazzle people with his fancy car. “He tried to convince people he was a big shot, someone who was really important,” said Lefebvre, now retired.

Peter Downey, the defence lawyer listed as representing Beattie in the case, recalled his client as a “phony-Rolex type of guy.”

Three perjury charges would be added before the proceedings were completed, and after guilty pleas were entered on all charges, Quebec court records show a one-year sentence was handed down on Jan. 21, 1993.

When the question of whether Beattie had a criminal record was raised at the June 12 hearing in Orangeville, Tatum told the court that he and Beattie’s lawyer Seth Weinstein agreed — and, Tatum said, Beattie himself had confirmed — “that in 1992 he was found guilty of fraud-related charges in Quebec.”

Tatum told the court there was a “discrepancy” over the sentence received, but that it was not necessary to resolve the discrepancy for the purposes of sentencing on the current charge. Tatum also later told the Post that no record of the incident had been registered in a federal database tracking criminal convictions.

“Alright,” the judge interjected, “But he lost his amateur status a while ago, then?”

Weinstein replied that the parties agreed only that there had been “a finding of guilt.”

In the interview, however, Beattie said he “absolutely” disputes that he had faced criminal charges in Quebec.

He said the charge was “entered incorrectly” and is ”tied to another person” and that he was in the process of having it resolved.

“I was never convicted of anything down there, or went to jail down there,” he said, denying having ever met Downey.

When asked for evidence of his efforts to have the record changed, Beattie provided none.

In November 2012, Beattie had another run-in with the law, this time in London, Ont. Court records show that Beattie was charged with assault with a weapon, “namely a hot beverage.”

The charge was withdrawn the following June after Beattie took part in a diversion program, but the incident left a lasting impression on Judy Nolan, who was working at a McDonald’s drive-thru when Beattie pulled up. She said she handed him his coffee “and told him to have a nice day,” but when he grabbed the coffee from her, part of it spilled on him, and he yelled obscenities at her.

“It was a large black coffee. He proceeded to pick the cup up, took the lid off and threw it in my face,” Nolan, 65 and now retired, said in a recent interview. She said she suffered slight burns but the real damage was psychological.

“I was traumatized to say the least,” she said.

Detective Dave Ellyatt of the London Police Service confirmed that the incident involved a cup of coffee thrown in the face of a drive-thru attendant. He said the Direct Accountability program Beattie took part in requires the accused to acknowledge his wrongdoing and often involves a written apology to the victim. It can also require a charitable donation or community service.

“Restorative justice is what this program is all about,” Ellyatt said.

Nolan said she never received an apology, and in the interview Beattie blamed her, saying she tipped coffee onto him as she was passing the cup through his partially closed car window.

When he reacted in alarm, he said, the cup went flying back at Nolan.

“I got $2,500 from McDonald’s for that and a sorry, and free coffee for a year. Which I did not take advantage of,” Beattie said.

When asked for documentation of the payment and apology from McDonald’s, Beattie provided none.

He said the apology he was required to provide “was more a statement of regret” crafted by his then-lawyer and involved no admission of wrongdoing. He shared an undated, unsigned letter addressed only “To whom it may concern” that blamed the incident on an improperly fastened lid.

“I sincerely apologize if the splashing of coffee and spilling on myself and roof of my car, resulted in coffee also coming into contact with the server,” the letter said.

About six years before the McDonald’s incident, in 2006, a Michael Wilfred Beattie listing the same London, Ont., address Beattie used on the resumé submitted into court by Caledon and sharing the same birth date, filed for personal bankruptcy.

Living in a rented house with his wife and four children, the filer claimed to have just $100 cash in hand and $4,500 worth of furniture and personal effects, records from the federal Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy show.

He owed creditors $86,589, nearly half of it in credit card debt, and declared that he had an income of roughly $50,000 a year after taxes as a fleet manager for London Transit.

In an interview, Beattie said his interest in buying Aecon was sparked by “many years of working close to Aecon and understanding what their operation is.” But Aecon CEO John Beck said that at the time, he had never heard of Beattie or his company.

Under a section asking the filer to indicate whether they had operated a business in the past five years, the filer listed M.B.M. Investments Corp., but said it had been dissolved in 2004.

“I don’t know anything about that. That ain’t me,” Beattie said, when asked during the interview whether he had filed for bankruptcy in 2006. “You’re wrong on that.”

“There’s a Mike Beattie down in London, though” Derus offered.

Beattie then recalled that “about that same time” he had received calls from a bank trying to repossess his car but that it turned out “there’s actually seven Mike Beatties living in London” and that the bank had the wrong person.

When later provided with a copy of one of the government bankruptcy forms listing his personal information, Beattie replied that he was “not familiar with the document” and was making inquiries.

According to the copy of his resumé submitted into court, Beattie worked from 2005-2010 for London Transit, achieving the title of director of transportation and facility development. He then moved on to a similar role for the city of Cambridge.

From 2011-13 he appeared on the Ontario government’s “sunshine list” of public-sector employees earning more than $100,000 annually. In 2013, his salary was $128,573, and he earned about the same in Caledon. Officials with the city of Cambridge did not return calls seeking information about Beattie’s employment there.

Dave Martin, a former equipment operator in Caledon, remembers Beattie’s arrival in 2014. “He was brought in kind of as a hired gun, to clean things up, to keep the union at bay, to take power away from the employees and give it back to management,” Martin said. “He came in with all these credentials on his resumé, so obviously he impressed management with his past experiences.”

Among those credentials, according to the copy of Beattie’s resumé submitted by Caledon, were an MBA from Western University’s executive MBA program and an undergraduate degree from McGill University with a dual major of mechanical engineering and commerce.

Western’s Ivey Business School has no record of Beattie ever attending the university, and a McGill spokeswoman said the university has no record of a Michael Beattie graduating in either engineering or commerce in the late eighties.

In the interview, Beattie acknowledged he does not hold an MBA from Western. “I did apply for the MBA program,” he said. “I never followed through on it.”

McGill was a different story, though.

“McGill I went to and graduated,” he said during the interview. Derus even offered to send a photo of his degree.

Pressed later to provide the photo, Beattie said he had attended McGill but never in fact graduated.

“You either misunderstood my remarks in this regard or I misspoke,” he wrote.

Martin said Beattie gave co-workers the impression he led a lavish lifestyle, saying he was married to a successful doctor and had a brother who was a wealthy businessman. In the Alliston, Ont., neighbourhood that he moved into with his family in 2014 after taking the Caledon job, he stood out because of the new Mercedes parked in his driveway, one neighbour said.

While at the City of Cambridge, Beattie had also become involved in the Municipal Equipment Operators Association, whose mission statement says it works to promote “cost effective public service throughout Ontario.”

He rose quickly up the executive of the non-profit organization, becoming president in 2014.

“He’s likeable. He’s got the gift of the gab,” said Ray Klochnyk, who succeeded Beattie as president.

But Klochnyk said an authoritarian streak emerged after Beattie took office, and he was encouraged to step down two months before the end of his term.

Another source, who asked not to identified, said the association had to change internet passwords to prevent Beattie from accessing the association site after he was “pushed aside.”

In the interview, Beattie said he served his full term, and that any suggestion otherwise was an outright lie. “In the normal course, the access I had to the website as President was discontinued,” at the end of his term, he said in an emailed statement.

Klochnyk says that before the falling out, he thought he got to know Beattie fairly well. He says he heard about his wife Kimberly, the fertility doctor. He says he heard that Beattie’s father had been a wealthy London, Ont., businessman who retired with Beattie’s mother to an Italian villa. After their deaths, Klochnyk recounted being told, Beattie and his siblings fought over the division of the estate. Once that was settled, he says Beattie told him, he would never have to work another day.

Klochnyk said Beattie’s 2016 arrest came as a shock, and now he wonders if anything he heard from Beattie was true.

There is nobody by his ex-wife’s name registered as a physician in Ontario, but there is a Kimberly Beattie on LinkedIn who lists her occupation as a lab technician at a London, Ont., fertility clinic. A receptionist at the clinic said Beattie no longer works there, but she had been employed as a phlebotomist — someone who draws blood from patients.

Beattie said in the interview that his ex-wife is a “medical professional,” and that he does not recall ever describing her as a doctor. He also said his mother is still alive and living on the French Riviera.

Credit card and banking records filed in court attest to the extravagant lifestyle Beattie led before his arrest in May 2016. There was the February 2016 trip to Bora Bora, during which charges for $13,222 at a pearl boutique and $2,098 for a helicopter tour appear on Beattie’s credit card statement. Just before Christmas, in 2015, there was a $10,000 charge at Tiffany & Co. jewelers in Toronto. Records from a bank account labeled M.B.M. Investments, which received the transfers from Caledon, show five payments totalling $40,000 to Knar Jewellery in Ontario between November 2015 and May 2016.

But in November 2016, six months after Beattie’s arrest, property records indicate Derus borrowed $400,000 against her house — $150,000 from a relative, Linda Gellman, and $250,000 from the TD Bank. Beattie said the money was needed to cover his legal expenses while his assets were frozen; Derus added that she was also renovating a property she owned.

***

After being released on bail following his arrest at the airport, it seems that Beattie set out to rebrand himself. The process started online, where websites and articles began to appear touting Michael Beattie not as a municipal fleet manager but as “an experienced and highly innovative mechanical engineer” and as “an experienced and highly innovative structural designer and construction professional.”

An mbmconsulting.ca site appeared first, in September 2016, followed by michaelbeattie.org.

Together, the sites presented Michael Beattie as an industry player who had a hand in major construction projects.

The mbmconsulting.ca site said he and the company had “led” such important projects as Boston’s Big Dig, a huge FedEx Ground hub in Pennsylvania and a transit extension in Los Angeles.

On michaelbeattie.org, Toronto’s Delta hotel and Southcore Financial Centre and the Frank Gehry-designed Art Gallery of Ontario “transformation” were added to his list of accomplishments.

Alex Bangura, CEO of the Brampton, Ont., online marketing company Marketing Blitz, said Beattie approached him in September 2016 to build the M.B.M. Consulting site “from scratch.”

Bangura said Beattie was looking to improve his online reputation. When he searched Beattie’s name online, Bangura said, coverage of the Caledon charges was the first thing to pop up. “We told him, ‘There is a lot of information about you online,’ and he said, ‘Yup, that is what I’m trying to clean up.’ ”

Bangura said only the home page for mbmconsulting.ca was completed when they had a disagreement after three months.

“Michael was very unique in his approach to solving problems and very difficult to deal with,” Bangura said. He said he built the company website from information provided to him and does not know whether M.B.M. Consulting was “an actual functioning company.”

Beattie acknowledges that he hired Bangura “to update and refresh” his “online presence,” but said he was unhappy with Bangura’s work, and terminated his services.

“He took it upon himself to use the opportunity to promote my web presence, and in doing so he prepared certain web pages that were later deleted,” Beattie said in an emailed response.

Marketing Blitz said that in January 2017, at Beattie’s request, it transferred all the website files it had created for M.B.M. Consulting to Reputation.ca, a Toronto-based firm that helps companies and individuals manage their online reputations.

When media coverage of M.B.M. Consulting appeared in 2017, it was not in the mainstream business press, but in obscure online publications.

“We get called into a lot of jobs that have been difficult,” Michael Beattie, founder and CEO of M.B.M. Consulting, is quoted saying in an interview dated July 2017 on Singapore-based YoungUpstarts.com. “But ‘can’t’ is not a word in my vocabulary.”

Another online biography accompanying a Michael Beattie blog post that appeared on money.ca boasted that that the author had amassed a fortune worth $228-million through his Toronto construction company M.B.M. Consulting, noting that he takes pride in his wine and antique collections and “enjoys motorcycling, thoroughbred horse racing and formula one racing.”

After being authorized by Beattie to speak to the Post, Matt Earle, the president of Reputation.ca, said their engagement did not begin until June 2017 and lasted only about six months.

He said he took information from existing websites and from Beattie, who he says reviewed and approved all material before it was posted.

“We did create some articles about him, and … the source materials for these articles were probably some of the articles from his previous campaign,” Earle told the Post. “The content was badly written but it had some facts in it that we could pick out and we used into new content.”

Asked whether he or someone at his firm had fact-checked the details, Earle said Beattie wasn’t “famous” or “prominent” enough for his information to be verified through third-party sources.

“Usually the clients are prominent, there’s media coverage, there’s websites from their employers,” he said. “In this particular situation, he’d sort of worked for government and then all of a sudden had become, like built this construction company, and I thought, well that’s a little unusual, but I just, I sort of thought, oh I kind of underestimated you last time I met you.”

On Aug. 25, 2017, Beattie took things to another level.

In a news release issued in the name of Beattie LP, for which another website would soon be registered, Michael Beattie expressed “interest” in the potential sale of Aecon, which the company had announced earlier that day. The release described Beattie as an executive with 22 years experience in the construction business and said the Beattie LP group of companies were “constructional and operational leaders.”

“The company is pursuing all avenues in its interest in Aecon,” the Beattie LP release said.

***

When Beattie began making waves over the Aecon sale, Chris McNally, chairman of the Canadian Construction Association, was baffled. “No one has ever heard of this gentleman,” he said in an interview, adding that his industry group represents more than 20,000 firms and would be aware of a player as big as M.B.M. claimed to be. “When the executive committee gets together, we pretty much know anybody of any size, and he’s claiming quite a bit of size. He would be on our radar,” McNally said.

Beattie said he has no time to get involved in industry associations. “I’m building all this other stuff and they don’t know me, so I guess that’s their problem why they don’t know me, right?” he said.

In the interview, Beattie said his interest in buying Aecon was sparked by “many years of working close to Aecon and understanding what their operation is.”

But John Beck, Aecon’s chief executive, said he was confused by Beattie’s interest in his company. “I had no idea who he was — I had never heard of him or his company before,” Beck said.

Beck said he later had a brief exchange with Beattie — he could not recall if it was by text or email, though Beattie said it was by text — but that by that time, “I had determined that he was not a serious party.”

The National Post could find no evidence of Beattie’s involvement in the prestigious projects listed on his websites, but in the interview, Beattie said it amounted to pumping concrete.

“Through M.B.M. Investments, I owned a company that we pumped concrete for. We had a concrete pumper and that’s what was used in those projects,” he said. He said “a gentleman” had approached him to provide financial backing for the concrete venture. He declined to identify his partner.

“He’s moved on. I don’t think it would be appropriate if I gave his name,” he said.

When later asked for documentation showing his involvement in the projects, Beattie said only that it was “not relevant to the Caledon matter.”

Other apparent inconsistencies might have raised concerns as well.

The M.B.M. Consulting website listed its corporate address as 200 Bay St., Suit (sic) 3600, in Toronto. But the building management has no record of an M.B.M. Consulting at that address, and the suite number claimed by M.B.M. actually belongs to law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.

Beattie told the Post the address was from five years ago and had not been updated on the website.

In a personal bio on the same website, Beattie was described as having founded M.B.M. following six years working in “operations, turnarounds and mergers and acquisitions” at a Toronto company called Lakeview Holdings. It says he remains a director of Lakeview Holdings Trust. The National Post was unable to trace any record of Lakeview Holdings or Lakeview Holdings Trust in Toronto.

In the interview, Beattie said Lakeview Holdings is a family trust created by his father.

“It’s a family trust … so I wouldn’t call it a job,” he said.

Despite the apparent inconsistencies, Beattie managed to gain entry into Bay Street’s inner circle and then Ottawa’s corridors of power.

Professional sources familiar with aspects of the Beattie saga suggest he might have benefited from a chain of introductions, intentional or otherwise.

During the time Beattie was pursuing support for his interest in Aecon, sources tell the National Post he claimed to be a cousin of Geoff Beattie, who once managed the fortune of Canada’s richest family, the Thomsons. But Geoff Beattie says there is no relationship between the two men, either by blood or business.

“I’m not very sure about very many things in life these days, but I can absolutely stake my life on it that I’ve never met the guy and he’s not related to me,” he said, adding that he first heard last summer that someone named Michael Beattie was claiming the two were related.

“To be honest with you, it was so absurd I just ignored it, and it just kept coming and coming. And I actually told reasonably sensible people … that this was all rubbish, and notwithstanding that they continued to deal with the guy.”

Beattie says he agreed to pay $711,399 to Caledon as part of a civil suit settlement so that he could move forward with his life, and that the settlement came with no acknowledgement of wrongdoing by either he or Derus.

For his part, Michael Beattie said he does not remember telling anyone he was related to Geoff Beattie. (As for his relation to the Bank of Canada’s John Robert Beattie, he said: “We’ll leave that off the table. You need to remember, I’m still trying to do some things.”)

Darryl Konynenbelt, who was the director of media relations at Navigator Ltd. when it was hired by M.B.M. Investments Corp. sometime in late 2017 or early 2018, said in an emailed statement that Beattie was referred to the firm “by people with impeccable credentials” who were “well known to us.” The statement, which came after press coverage questioning Beattie’s credentials, said Navigator had stopped representing him because “new information … has since come to light.”

The referral to Navigator was “for a specific mandate — the sort we often get,” the statement said, adding that Navigator believed that mandate was “successfully fulfilled.”

Goodmans LLP, the Toronto law firm that represented M.B.M. Investments Corp. and whose Grant McGlaughlin accompanied Beattie to Parliament Hill, declined to explain how it came to act for him. “Our professional obligations prevent us from discussing this matter with you,” Goodmans general counsel Ken Crofoot said in a short email to the National Post.

Jon Levin, a partner and veteran corporate lawyer at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP in Toronto — which was not involved with Beattie — said new clients usually trigger due diligence searches by law firms. They can range from a simple Google scan to a scouring of databases of individuals and organizations charged with or convicted of serious offences such as money laundering or fraud.

A search on Beattie, however, may have turned up nothing, given that the Quebec incident that Beattie is disputing was not registered in the national database.

In any case, legal and consulting sources say the scrutiny of clients tends to be on the less rigorous end of the spectrum in cases where there is a referral from a trusted source.

“These kinds of events underscore the importance for a law firm of ‘knowing your client,’ ” Levin said.

Joseph Belan, chairman of the Switzerland-based consulting and investment company Novatrek, who later accompanied Beattie to Parliament Hill, said in an email that he met Beattie through Michael Siltala, a lawyer who had previously practiced at Toronto-based Torys LLP for more than 20 years.

Siltala, who left Torys in 2014, had introduced Beattie to several Canadian investment banks over the summer of 2017 as part of his bid to pursue a possible investment in Aecon, Belan said.

Belan said his first encounter with Beattie took place in October 2017 in a Torys office in Toronto, where the three discussed the Aecon strategic review process. (A spokesman for Torys said it is not unusual for former partners to be given access to an office at the law firm as a courtesy.)

Reached by telephone, Siltala declined to explain his past relationship with Beattie, or respond to others’ recollections of the nature of his involvement.

“I know nothing about his history. I don’t deny that I had a relationship with him, but there’s so little to it that … there’s just not much point in having a discussion about it.”

Belan said Novatrek conducted background checks and reference checks on Beattie, but “nothing was revealed that would have suggested any issues or concerns over his professional profile or previous misconduct.” He said that deeper background checks on Beattie weren’t conducted because Novatrek was working with him strictly on a consulting basis, rather than underwriting a financial transaction, for example.

But Belan also said that Beattie appeared to have an endorsement from BMO’s Donald K. Johnson, a dealmaker who was hailed last year for recruiting legendary investor Warren Buffett as a savior for then-beleaguered mortgage lender Home Capital Group Inc.

Belan said he was copied on an email in which Johnson said he was “doing some work with Mr. Beattie.”

Johnson, 83, who in addition to being a member of the advisory board at BMO Capital Markets is a well-respected Toronto philanthropist and an Officer of the Order of Canada, declined to answer questions from the National Post about Beattie.

It is understood, however, that Beattie’s fiancée, Rebekka Derus, is a niece of Johnson’s wife, Anna McCowan Johnson.

In the interview, Beattie said he did not work with Johnson “in any way.”

He said another lawyer at Torys, who he had initially approached for “estate planning and wealth management” reasons, had referred him to Siltala because the firm had a conflict regarding the Aecon deal.

Beattie said Siltala was out of the picture by the time Navigator was hired later that year, and Goodmans came on board around Christmas.

***

On Oct. 26, 2017 Aecon Group Inc. announced it had reached a deal to be taken over by CCCI, prompting a change in strategy for Beattie.

”It went from OK we’re no longer in takeover mode, we’re now in advocacy. So we became investor advocates,” Beattie said, of the decision to lobby against the deal. “To be honest with you, I had no idea what CCCI was…. We backed away for a bit, had a look at it, and then, you know, things started jumping out.”

He met with officials in Ottawa in late January, and on May 23, the federal government announced that it was blocking the Aecon sale to CCCI on the grounds of national security. There is no evidence Beattie’s actions played a role in the decision, but he had a different take.

“I am a private individual, who successfully assembled and led a very astute and competent team of advisors to bring forth concerns to Parliament … concerns that would impact private Canadians and the Canadian construction industry as a whole, on several levels,” Beattie wrote in an email after his court case ended.

“I am happy that our Federal Government found these concerns valid, and decided to stop a Chinese SOE (state-owned enterprise) from purchasing a fine Canadian construction company.”

In the interview, he mused that the all-powerful Chinese government might have taken notice of his efforts to block the CCCI bid and tried to smear him.

“Before we went through this journey … I said, ‘Well we’re going against the Chinese government that has access to many things,’ and then all these interesting stories start popping up,” he said. “How can so many wrong things happen to one person that are explainable?”

Beattie declared the outcome of his sentencing at the Orangeville courthouse June 21 a victory as well.

The most serious charges had been dropped, and the conditional discharge for failing to comply with an undertaking meant that, although there was an admission of guilt, it would be purged from his record three years after his probationary period ends.

But in his comments from the bench that afternoon, Ontario Court Justice Richard Schwarzl did not completely repair Beattie’s reputation.

“You are a scoundrel,” the judge told Beattie, who was joined in the courtroom by Derus and her aunt Linda Gellman. Schwarzl said Beattie struck him as “arrogant, selfish, and imprudent.” The judge said Beattie was “dishonest with the police” about his travel plans to Amsterdam.

“He just thought that he was going to get away with this,” he said.

For 10 months, Beattie will spend his weekends under electronically monitored weekend house arrest, and for 18 months he will be on probation.

But he says he has no intention of letting that slow him down. In court, one of Beattie’s lawyers indicated M.B.M. — once a trucking company, then a construction firm — has undergone another transformation. It is, Edward Prutschi said, “a financial management firm,” handling Beattie’s own finances and those of clients.

“I’m very happy to continue on the way I am,” Beattie said in the interview. “Am I interested in a construction company here in Canada? More than likely. And am I going to pursue that? More than likely.”

Beattie spoke of his “finances outside of Ontario” and mused about Aecon’s value with CCCI out of the picture.

“I’m looking you straight in the eye and I’m saying to you I’m a private individual with the means to reach out and see if this deal can happen. That was the intent right from the get-go, OK, and it still is,” he said.

He offered to fetch bank records from his car to provide “an understanding of what kind of level I’m at.” After about five minutes, he came back empty-handed. He had gone to the washroom and then realized how late it was, he said. They had to leave.

with files from Vanessa Hrvatin and Sarah Krichel



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