Au Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in trouble. Ex-Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould recently testified that Trudeau and his advisors pressured her to sidestep prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, the Quebec-based engineering and construction firm, on allegations of fraud and bribery.

What was the alleged transgression by SNC-Lavalin, one of the world’s true mega-firms? Paying bribes to former Libya strongman Muhammar Gaddafi’s family for lucrative contracts. According to various media reports, the bribery is alleged to have taken place between 2001 and 2011. If found guilty, according to The Guardian, SNC-Lavalin would be barred from bidding on federal projects for a decade. For a company with 3,400 employees in Quebec, that could be devastating.

Wilson-Raybould told justice officials that Trudeau and his team pressured her to support a “deferred prosecution agreement” with SNC-Lavalin, an agreement that would involve fines and enhanced compliance, but not criminal prosecution. When she did not go along with the plan, Wilson-Raybould told justice officials, she was demoted by Trudeau. The prime minister, of course, denies the allegations. But the cloud now hanging over Trudeau could come into play later this year, when he is up for re-election. Stay tuned.

Don’t drink and drive, folks. Seriously, it won’t be good for your personal or professional life. Just take the case of an architect in upstate New York. Last year, the guy was handed an indefinite suspension and ordered to seek treatment until he was “fit to practice.” When the suspension ends, he’ll still be on probation for another two years, which takes this case into at least 2020. Why all the fuss? Because, the “Licensee admitted to the charge of having been convicted of two Driving While Intoxicated convictions.” Next time – or the next two times – you’ve had a few drinks, it might be wise to take an Uber.

Watch what your marketing department is putting in its collateral. There’s an interesting case brewing In United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. A photographer filed suit against an architecture firm because, he says, the firm used one of his photos – a photo that appeared copyrighted in the New York Times – in its marketing collateral without credit and without permission. The photographer is asking the court to give him any “profits, gains or advantages of any kind attributable to defendant’s infringement of plaintiff’s photograph,” or statutory damages of up to $150,000 “per copyrighted work infringed” pursuant to federal law. In a second claim for relief, the photographer is asking for as much as $25,000 for “each instance of false copyright management.” The firm denies the allegations and has asked the judge to toss the case. Regardless of how this case turns out, it’s got to be headache for all involved.

Oceans 11, or something like it, in Belgium. Earlier this year, a band of brash thieves came up through the sewer system and through the floor to burglarize a bank in Antwerp, Belgium. The break-in was near the city’s diamond district. According to news reports, when police arrived, the bank’s vault was still locked. When they finally got inside, they found a hole in the floor and empty deposit boxes. Investigators discovered at least two tunnels, one leading into the sewage pipe, and one leading out of the pipe and into the vault. The local newspaper, Het Laatste Nieuws, interviewed an Antwerp-based engineer, Els Liekens, who was quoted as saying, “I do not know how those burglars got out alive there. When it starts to rain, rainwater enters the sewers and can fill up very quickly, which can lead to drowning if you are there.”

The dam collapse earlier this year at a mining facility in Brazil was devastating. According to The Wall Street Journal, it was the worst disaster of its kind in the last 50 years. At least 179 people were killed by the river of mine waste unleashed by the breach. Well over 100 are missing and presumed dead. In the wave or arrests following the disaster, Makota Namba, a senior engineering inspector, was taken into custody. Namba, and others, have since been released, but Namba remains a central figure in the case investigators are building as they discern what exactly happened – or didn’t happen – between the dam’s owner, Brazil mining giant Vale, and the German inspection firm TÜV SÜD. Another person who also looks to be an important figure is Andre Yassuda who, like Namba, worked as an engineer for TÜV SÜD at the time the dam broke. By the time this is all over, plenty of people will probably lose their jobs, and some might even go to jail, based on what the engineers know and what they have to say. Unfortunately, plenty of people have already been buried.   

If you know of an interesting or off-kilter story taking place in the AEC industry, please contact C+S Engineer at rmassey@zweiggroup.com.