CEN Biotech Makes Up Employee to Respond to Criticism

An Ontario company facing serious allegations of misrepresenting itself to the public and to shareholders has been caught inventing a fake employee to dispute those claims.

CEN Biotech, which has applied to become Health Canada’s largest producer of medical marijuana under a new federal program, issued a press release after an investigation by The Globe and Mail in December detailed false or exaggerated claims by the company. In the response, a CEN Biotech official identified as Isak Weber called The Globe’s article “misleading,” and suggested the story was “created.”

But, in fact, Mr. Weber was created. The Toronto-based public-relations firm Pathway Group, which cut ties with CEN Biotech on Friday, said it learned of questionable conduct by the company – including an admission that executives were lying about the existence of Isak Weber – and has refused to work with them.

The Globe had been requesting an interview with Isak Weber since Dec. 21, but the company had not owned up to his identity until Tuesday. Asked if Mr. Weber was real, chief executive officer Bill Chaaban said in an e-mail that Isak Weber was a “nom-de-plume” for an employee at CEN. He compared the situation to CEOs reading speeches written by others. “There are also many corporations that adopt an identity,” Mr. Chaaban said, giving “Ronald McDonald,” “Mr. Clean” and “Mr. Goodwrench” as examples.

The strange saga of CEN Biotech is fast becoming a blemish for Health Canada, which is building a privatized medical marijuana sector. CEN Biotech is the Canadian subsidiary of Michigan-based Creative Edge Nutrition, and is seeking a federal licence to grow 600,000 kilograms of medical marijuana in Lakeshore, Ont., which would make it the biggest in Canada. Despite questions about its conduct, CEN has made it to the final stage of a licensing process Health Canada describes as “rigorous.”

– Read the entire article at The Globe and Mail.