Origin Energy bidder Brookfield slapped by pension funds for tax chicanery

by Michael West | Jun 13, 2023 | What's the scam?

Financial engineer Brookfield, which is bidding for Origin Energy, has been pinged at its annual meeting with a large protest vote for tax dodging. What’s the scam?

The scam is that maybe tax dodging by large corporations is now frowned upon even by company shareholders. A motion by a shareholder at the Toronto general meeting calling for great tax transparency has attracted 27% support, equivalent to one third of independent shareholders. Brookfield has taken over Healthscope, AusNet and Aveo in recent years.

This is the best result yet for a resolution of this kind. In previous votes, the highest so far was Cisco with 27% shareholder support last year. Microsoft was 24% and Amazon was about 17% for the last two years (discounting for Jeff Bezos’ insider holdings it is over 21%). Recent resolutions at Conoco, Chevron and Exxon have been in the 14-17% range, but that is not surprising since many longer-term investors have divested from fossil fuel companies already.

The vote in favour of the resolution at Brookfield is particularly remarkable, given it is the first time the resolution has been voted on at any Canadian headquartered company (dual listed), the first time at an asset manager and with over 18% insider holdings (8% held by the company and 10% by 8 top executives. CEO James Flatt holds almost 4% of the stock by himself with a market value of over CAD$2.6 billion).

Meanwhile Brookfield proposes control Origin Energy via the tax haven of Bermuda should it be successful in its takeover.

Smoke and Mirrors: report finds Origin Energy’s suitor Brookfield an aggressive global tax dodger

Michael West established Michael West Media in 2016 to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. West was formerly a journalist and editor with Fairfax newspapers, a columnist for News Corp and even, once, a stockbroker.

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