UCP donor and and pipeline exec, neither with pension governance experience, named as AIMCo directors

On March 14, finance minister Nate Horner appointed Jason Montemurro and Joel Hunter to the board of AIMCo until 2027. One is a regular UCP donor, and the other is the CFO of TC Energy—the pipeline company that received a $1.3 billion payout from the government of Alberta for a pipeline that never got built. 

“It is disturbing that the government has chosen some local people from the Calgary business community with limited if no experience in pension management or investment,” says Bob Ascah, a former VP with ATB Financial and research fellow with the Parkland Institute. 

“AIMCo needs to have greater sensitivity to the needs of their clients, ie. the pension funds. AIMCo does have a checkered past with the two billion dollar loss from VOLTs and the Alberta Growth Mandate.”

Ascah has called for comprehensive reform at AIMCo, including granting the pension funds the ability to appoint their own directors to the board. Pensions make up 70 per cent, or $110 billion, of the total assets under management by AIMCo. 

Greg Meeker, the former president of the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund, echoed Ascah’s comments.  

“The minister of finance appointed these people without any kind of consultation with the pension funds that are the majority of AIMCo’s assets. This isn’t just the Heritage Trust Fund that’s being managed, that’s just a tiny part of AIMCo’s assets. What is lacking here with these new directors is anyone with pension experience,” said Meeker. 

“It’s a reward that’s handed out in Alberta business community regardless of their experience in pension investment and management, which is most of AIMCo’s business.” 

Montemurro is the CEO and founder of Montemurro Industries where he has worked for the past three years. The company has no website and there is little public information about its business activities. Montemourro is a former investment banker and tax lawyer and has worked in life insurance and private equity. He provided a glowing recommendation to the UCP’s captive insurance legislation which was introduced in 2021.

Montemurro is a regular UCP donor and donated the maximum amount, $4300, to the UCP in 2023. He also donated $960 to Red Deer South UCP MLA Jason Stephan’s constituency association in 2020 as well as another $2400 to the party in 2018. Montemurro also donated $850 to the PC leadership campaign of Jason Kenney in 2017. 

Joel Hunter is the chief financial officer of TC Energy, a massive pipeline company and one with a complicated history with the government of Alberta and AIMCo. In 2021 the UCP government paid TC Energy $1.3 billion after the UCP purchased an equity stake in the Keystone XL pipeline.

Keystone XL was an obviously politically-imperiled project. President Barack Obama had vetoed approval of the pipeline in 2015; Donald Trump re-approved it during his term in office; and Joe Biden promised to veto it again the moment he was elected. And he did, canceling Keystone on his very first day in office.

The government of Alberta’s massive handout to TC Energy was essentially a very, very large bet that Donald Trump would be elected. Hunter was appointed CFO a few months after the news broke, which ultimately amounted to a $1.3 billion payout from Alberta to a pipeline that will never moved a single barrel of oil to market. 

TC Energy and the government of Alberta are both attempting to recover costs from the pipeline’s cancellation from the United States via a legacy NAFTA complaint. TC Energy is set to have a hearing on the matter in the second quarter of 2024. Alberta’s request for arbitration was filed in April of 2023 but has seen no further developments. 

The complicated relationship between AIMCo and TC Energy doesn’t end there. On Boxing Day in 2019 AIMCo announced that it was partnering up with global investment firm KKR to purchase a 65 per cent interest in the Coastal GasLink pipeline from TC Energy. The project, which is still not complete, has grown from $6.6 billion in estimated costs to $14.5 billion in estimated costs. The financial details of this deal have never been released.

The pipeline project is also violating the sovereignty of the Wet’suwet’en nation and this ongoing land dispute has been the cause of ongoing strife in the region. The Wet’suwet’en have a strong legal case and have been extremely persistent in pursuing both legal and extra-legal means of delaying and stopping the pipeline. 

A Canadian environmentalist organization focused on pensions and investments is also criticizing the appointment of a pipeline executive to the board of AIMCo. 

“The appointment of a TC energy executive further entangles AIMCo's governance with the oil & gas industry at a dangerous moment in the global energy transition. As AIMCo grapples with creating and implementing new strategies to manage climate-related financial risk and aligning investment strategies with climate goals, appointing fossil fuel linked directors creates the potential for conflicts of interest at the board,” said Adam Scott, the executive director of Shift Action for Pension Wealth and Climate Health.

“Will Mr. Hunter recuse himself from board discussions and decision-making around the growing need to limit allocation of capital to fossil fuel expansion projects? Pension funds need directors who can be trusted to act with only the best interest of pension beneficiaries in mind, without concern for these obvious conflicts,” said Scott. 

AIMCo’s CEO, Evan Siddall, has also taken to making public statements that are not typical for someone who manages the retirements of hundreds of thousands of pensioners. Siddall has mused multiple times about purchasing the TransMountain Pipeline, another troubled pipeline project. He also said in an interview that, “I believe the AI hype,” then in the same interview talked about how AIMCo was co-sponsoring a new fund that was AI-focused. Seraya Partners is not AI-focused. Siddall has talked frequently about the need to invest more in Asia and opened an office in Singapore but then goes onto the Business News Network to talk about how AIMCo will always be a significant investor in Canada