Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec

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Not to be confused with Caisse des dépôts et consignations.
Caisse de dépôt et
placement du Québec
Crown corporation
Industry Pension fund
Founded 1965
Headquarters 65, rue Sainte-Anne
Quebec City, Quebec
Key people
Michael Sabia, CEO
Total assets $225,9 billion CAD (2014) [1]
Number of employees
838 (2013) [2]

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) manages public pension plans in the Canadian province of Quebec. It was founded in 1965 by an act of the National Assembly. The name translates to Quebec Deposit and Investment Fund, but it is referred to by its full French name or as "the Caisse" in English, as no official name exist in that language.[3]

The Caisse is headquartered in Quebec City in the Price building and has its major business office in Montreal in the Quartier international de Montréal.

The Caisse's large holdings make it a formidable player in investment markets. It is the second largest pension fund in Canada, with the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) in first place. As of February 2014, the Caisse’s total assets under management amounted to CA$200 billion.


Jean-Claude Scraire spent 22 years with the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. He stepped down in 2002 after eight years as CEO of Canada’s biggest pension fund, which at the time managed more than $140 billion in assets.[4]

Henri-Paul Rousseau, who previously headed Laurentian Bank, served as the Caisse's President and CEO from 2002 to mid 2008, when he left to become a vice chairman at the Power Corporation of Canada. His successor was the fund's second-in-command and CIO (Chief Investment Officer), Richard Guay, who only served as CEO for four months before abruptly resigning on stress leave. The board chairman Pierre Brunet, a former head of National Bank of Canada securities prior to joining the Caisse, did not have his mandate renewed. [5]

Under Rousseau's tenure, there was a dramatic shift in the investment objectives. The fund became a major player in derivatives, invested heavily in non-bank asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP). It also adopted aggressive currency hedging as an investment strategy in itself, rather than as a strictly defensive measure to protect itself against swings in the exchange rate. In the financial crisis of 2007–2010, all of those strategies backfired against the Caisse, adding to the significant stock market losses that the Caisse and other pension funds suffered. Additional writedowns on the Caisse's remaining holding of $12.6-billion in ABCP and losses on dollar hedging and futures contracts led to the fund's assets to drop by $39.8 billion CAD.[5]

The $39.8 billion loss is a minus-26-per-cent return, making it the worst in the Caisse's 43-year history (In 2002, the Caisse had suffered a minus-9.4-per-cent return, its second worst year). The 2008 annual report of the Caisse show that zero bonuses were paid for 2008.[6] Other large pension funds in Canada were projected to report a minus-18.5-per-cent loss for 2008.[5] The Caisse therefore undertook what would be considered as the most important restructuring event in Canada[7] and Rousseau envisioned and negotiated a unique Canadian solution that consisted of converting the ABCP into long-term bonds.[8][9][10][11] Major players signed the Accord de Montréal which prevented a forced liquidation, which would have resulted in losses of CAD $20 billion.[7] This agreement was a success, and today, investors that had purchased ABCP can recuperate as much as 95 cents for every dollar initially invested.[12][13][14] In the end, the impact was minimal for institutions such as la Caisse de dépôt who recorded a negative impact of 0.1% on the return of depositors.[15] The Caisse is even scheduled to receive an additional settlement which could amount to $385 millions following a ruling from the Ontario Supreme Court.[16]

On September 11, 2009, the rating agency Moody's has affirmed the Aaa long-term and Prime-1 short-term credit ratings of CDP Financial and has maintained its “stable outlook”. These ratings are the highest assigned by the agency.[17]

In August, after $5.7 billion in losses wiped out other gains during the first half of 2009,[18] the Caisse is set to post a return on investments of about 5 percent to 6 percent this year, compared with an average gain of 10 percent to 12 percent for Canadian pension funds.[19]

On June 3, 2013, Bloomberg reported that the Ivanhoe Cambridge real estate unit purchased the Wells Fargo Center in Seattle for $390 million. Ivanhoe owns about eight percent of Seattle financial district's commercial space.[20]

Political Influence[edit]

The Caisse was created in the 1960s on the advice of economist (and future Premier) Jacques Parizeau.

In the 1967 annual report, then Caisse chairman Claude Prieur wrote: “Between two investments of similar quality and price, the one that seems most susceptible of favouring the economic development of the province is preferred, even if, in doing so, it is necessary to sacrifice somewhat the diversification of the portfolio.”[21]

When Rousseau took over from Jean-Claude Scraire as the CEO of the Caisse, he steered the fund away from its traditional role of favouring Quebec businesses, making returns the first priority. This surprised many observers, as Rousseau had been a strong Quebec nationalist, once leading a pro-sovereignty group called Les Économistes pour le OUI, and being a close friend of former Parti Québécois premier Lucien Bouchard. And during the time that he headed Laurentian Bank, he criticized then-Caisse CEO Jean-Claude Scraire for not investing more of Quebeckers' pension money in Laurentian Bank shares. However, when Jean Charest became premier in 2003, he passed legislation that explicitly spelled out the Caisse's mandate for the first time. The law stipulated the Caisse is to seek “optimal” returns “while at the same time contributing to Quebec's economic development.” [21]

Quebec Premier Jean Charest came under heavy fire when the $39.8 billion loss was revealed, with some accusing him of calling the 2008 snap election prior to the Caisse's troubles becoming public.[22][23]

Some suggested that there was too much political influence on the Caisse, with the board of directors being appointed by the province. Chairman Pierre Brunet said that the CEO "has to understand the Quebec environment" and requires "a thorough knowledge of the socioeconomic and political issues of Quebec." The Caisse is still beholden to its legacy as a creation of the Quiet Revolution.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Tara Perkins (2009-08-11). "Caisse de dépôt takes $5.7-billion hit". Toronto: The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  4. ^ News brief: Caisse departures. Investment Executive. Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  5. ^ a b c The Globe and Mail (Toronto)  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ a b Fortin, Pierre (28 March 2014). "Cinq ans après, le point sur l'annus horribilis de la Caisse de dépôt". L'actualité. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  8. ^ Bérubé, Gérard (28 February 2009). "Restructuration des PCAA - Crawford donne le crédit à Rousseau". Le Devoir. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  9. ^ Bérubé, Gérard (29 November 2012). "Perspectives - L’influent gouverneur". Le Devoir. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  10. ^ Desjardins, François (24 January 2009). "PCAA: un cauchemar logistique prend fin". Le Devoir. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  11. ^ Greenwood, John (18 February 2013). "ABCP fiasco’s silver lining for Canada". Financial Post. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  12. ^ Gauvin, Jean Louis (7 March 2014). "Des papiers commerciaux payants !". Le Devoir. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  13. ^ Desjardins, François (12 December 2013). "Papier commercial - Des titres vendus presque à leur pleine valeur". Le Devoir. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  14. ^ Childs, Mary (13 March 2014). "BlackRock Auctions C$1.5 Billion of Restructured Short-Term Debt". Bloomberg. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  15. ^ Bérubé, Gérard (4 April 2014). "La débâcle de 2008 est de l’histoire ancienne pour la Caisse de dépôt". Le Devoir. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  16. ^ Desjardins, Francois (26 July 2014). "Nouveau déblocage pour la Caisse de dépôt". Le Devoir. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  17. ^ "CDP financial’s credit ratings affirmed by Moody's". the Caisse. September 11, 2009. 
  18. ^ "Caisse to issue $8B in bonds". CBC News. November 13, 2009. [dead link]
  19. ^ Fournier, Chris (November 13, 2009). "Caisse de Depot May Sell C$8 Billion of Bonds by 2010 (Update2)". Bloomberg. 
  20. ^ [2][dead link]
  21. ^ a b The Globe and Mail (Toronto)  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  22. ^ [3][dead link]
  23. ^ [4][dead link]
  24. ^ [5][dead link]