Life At Megacorp 16

It is so very interesting just how much fate and luck play a part in landing a new job. Sure, you follow all the same old advice as to networking, resumé writing, and how to conduct yourself at an interview but, you know, sometimes it is just a question of being in the right place at the right time.

My contract with the insurance regulator was winding down so I was delighted to receive a call from my old colleague at CRAP, Sally Self. She was now the only lawyer at a newly established investment management company in Toronto called Turtle Bay Canada Investment Management Ltd, which was owned and headquartered in New York by Turtle Bay America Investment Management.

Sally was handling both compliance and legal affairs for Turtle Bay Canada while Tim Beavis and Anne Kolodny, both based in New York, were handling the negotiation of Canadian contracts.

I was no stranger to Turtle Bay. In fact, I had persuaded Sally to apply for the job she landed there. I thought now she might have wanted to return the favour.

Not only did I know Beavis and Kolodny, but I had negotiated contracts with them as well as Beatrice Tuff, also in New York, who was a bit of a scattered and eccentric lawyer. Kolodny was a friend to me. She was older than myself and exceedingly practical and knowledgeable with a cutting sense of humour. I really enjoyed dealing with her.

Beavis was also a great person to negotiate with. Now Beatrice Tuff was another thing altogether!

I had said, “No” to one of her proposed business relationships in Canada, which involved CRAP contracting with Turtle Bay Canada’s clients and then completely delegating all of CRAP’s responsibilities back to Turtle Bay Canada as CRAP’s agent. The reason was that Turtle Bay Canada did not yet have the necessary license to carry on the business proposed, but CRAP did.

I had a bad gut feeling about the legitimacy of such a transaction, as you shouldn’t do something indirectly that you were prohibited from doing directly. We tried all sorts of work-arounds, but none were acceptable to both Tuff and myself.

Although I had made a decision that was supported by CRAP management, I had made an enemy of Tuff at Turtle Bay America.

Turtle Bay Canada needed a Toronto-based lawyer to negotiate Canadian client contracts. Beavis had pissed off a powerful Canadian based Megacorp, most likely because he was swamped negotiating far bigger deals and could not devote time to a Canadian “small potato” deal. Also, Canadian clients were voicing their dissatisfaction with how long contracts were taking to get negotiated.

Furthermore, some were surprised how Turtle Bay Canada was having contracts negotiated out of New York rather than Toronto. This Yankee imperialism was perceived as a bit anti-Canadian by the Canadian marketplace and whispers circulated about a lack of commitment to Canadian clients.

Turtle Bay needed to act fast so, to placate Tuff, I was offered a 6-month contract instead of a full-time position. A try-out. Years later, I would find out that I had jumped from the frying pan into the fire, however the fire was a rather a long way from being lit.

In many respects there was not much of a difference from working at Turtle Bay Canada than working at CRAP. Both businesses were heavily regulated and both were in the financial services industry. Both had an annoying Human Resources Department and both had a greedy Senior Management Team.

I was so happy to be earning a decent paycheque I just hoped I could sweep all the annoying corporate bullshit out of the way. Boy, talk about being delusional.

So, my new job made me a contract employee in the Turtle Bay Canada Toronto Legal Department

Turtle Bay was a monstrous Megacorp International that dwarfed the size and market power of CRAP. One thing I didn’t miss was the plethora of small fry clients CRAP had. They were not very profitable. They were demanding as all clients have a right to be, but they just ate up massive amounts of time.

Turtle Bay had the biggest and best clients, very much like the ones Felicity Poker had serviced when she had been with her law firm Ooze & Ooze.

Turtle Bay’s clients may have been powerful, but I can’t say I had any problems in dealing with their lawyers and business teams. Law can be a bit of a compromise game. There are certain points you can give on some you can’t.

Those lawyers could have been pushy, aggressive, and obnoxious, but when they heard I had been an American and attended the Ivy League equivalent McGill University, it almost seemed as if I was one of them.

York University and University of Toronto were unheard of in the United States. McGill was up there with Harvard and Yale. Did they know the phrase, “Pick up a fork and you can go to York?” Even the graduates from York University’s faculty of law never ever say they received a law degree from York University but instead from Osgoode Hall.

It was as if they were ashamed of any association with York.

To make a long story short, whilst I suffered prejudice in Toronto for not graduating from a local university, American and European lawyers immediately doffed their hat in respect to my education.

As a last comment, I will say Penton Academy and the McGill Faculty of Law were not the nicest places in the academic world, but unlike other law faculties and secondary schools in Canada they certainly did not suffer from mark inflation.

Turtle Bay America was almost burnt out of business decades ago due to poor compliance and regulatory mistakes it made which took it close to bankruptcy. It smartened up mighty quick and created a bureaucracy that was designed not to repeat those mistakes.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

CRAP was willing to do business with just about anyone. Sort of like a smell test made them happy. Turtle Bay had a rigorous client review process which took weeks to analyze each client to ensure it was reputable, solvent, and legitimate.

They had a New Business Review Committee with representatives from client servicing, risk and compliance, legal, and two senior executives with Turtle Bay in New York who had to sign off on each deal. It was cumbersome and slow, but at least it prevented doing business with bad apples.

Another significant difference was that Turtle Bay had a contractual policy which set down certain terms and conditions which could not be agreed to in any contract, such as not receiving an indemnification from a client. Now, one could bypass all or part of this contractual policy by obtaining senior management approval.

It meant a Senior Management Approval Memo had to be written and approved justifying why Turtle Bay Canada could bypass the relevant provision. The required approval had to be received from a plethora of members of the SMT both in Toronto and New York.

Unfortunately, I had to write countless of these memos. My drafting style was short and sweet, but Sally Self was a CYA specialist and rewrote and over-edited to the point of being ridiculous. It was not uncommon for me to rewrite the SMAM memo 15 times.

The contractual policy was somewhat of a joke because every SMAM I wrote was approved. Big clients have clout.

I should say I did manage to move into a full-time position with Turtle Bay Canada as a Vice President of Legal Affairs. CRAP employees always used to joke about Turtle Bay as they said everyone was a Vice President there. That wasn’t far from the truth, however I am sure it was said with some amount of jealousy because, at CRAP, being a Vice President meant a company car, club memberships, exotic management trips, and an opportunity to get your hands in the cookie jar of executive compensation.

Nowhere near the looting levels of the SMT, but a far cry from the stock purchase plan offered to the regular office tower employees and the rather paltry pension plan they were given.

A Vice-President at Turtle Bay Canada had free parking, a car allowance, and a token incentive payment plan. At least it was a step up from being a contract employee.

The crowning glory was that my former Turtle Bay enemy, Beatrice Tuff, had come full circle and said I was the best legal hire Turtle Bay Legal had ever made!

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About the Author

Ross Trenholm
Life at Megacorp is a true-to-life account of living and working in the higher echelons of the corporate world. Ross Trenholm is the fictionalized persona of those who have lived the Megacorp life and only the names and places have been changed to protect the innocent.