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Ben Sakamoto is a member of Baker McKenzie’s Litigation & Government Enforcement and Corporate & Securities Practice Groups in Toronto. He joined the Firm as a summer student in 2016 and completed his articles of clerkship in 2018.  Ben has a broad commercial litigation practice. He acts for clients on fraud matters, internal investigations, jurisdictional disputes, class actions, and commercial arbitrations. He is a contributor to canadianfraudlaw.com and globalclassactionsblog.com. In addition to his litigation work, Ben’s practice includes transactional work in a range of corporate and securities law matters.

Lawyers must act with care and uphold their professional obligations when making referrals. The Supreme Court of Canada recently addressed the professional liability of a lawyer who advised his client to purchase specific offshore investments from an advisor where that advisor turned out to be a fraudster. In Salomon v Matte‑Thompson, 2019 SCC 14, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal holding the lawyer liable for his client’s investment losses.
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When a plaintiff obtains a judgment from the court, that party is normally precluded from starting another lawsuit seeking the same judgment debt from the defendant. However, in Royal Bank of Canada v Kim, 2019 ONSC 798, Justice Broad of the Ontario Superior Court made an exception because the bank had discovered evidence of fraud after it obtained summary judgment against the defendant. The bank sought to pursue a second action for a judgment in fraud so that the judgment would survive and be enforceable after the bankruptcy of the defendant who, in turn,  vigorously resisted the second action arguing that  the plaintiff had already obtained judgment against him and could not reconstitute the judgment after the fact.
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In McGoey (Re), 2019 ONSC 80, Justice Penny of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice found trusts over two properties held by a bankrupt were void as shams. In his decision, Justice Penny noted that had he not found the trusts to be sham trusts, he would still have set them aside as fraudulent conveyances, making us ask: “what is the difference between a sham trust and a fraudulent conveyance?”

A sham trust occurs where documents or acts give the appearance of creating legal rights that the parties have no intention of actually creating. In contrast, the documents and acts for a fraudulent conveyance accurately reflect the intentions of the parties and the legal rights that they want to create. The issue with a fraudulent conveyance is not that the transfer of rights is a sham, but that the transfer is being done for fraudulent purpose. With the evidence in front of him, Justice Penny was satisfied that, even if the McGoeys intended to transfer the properties, it was for a fraudulent purpose.
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Piercing the corporate veil remains a difficult feat in Ontario. Recently, in Cornerstone Properties v Southside Construction, Justice Hockin of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice refused to pierce the corporate veil to hold a corporation liable for a costs award against its subsidiary. This decision reaffirms that courts will only pierce the veil where a corporation is being abused to the point where it is not functioning as a bona fide corporate entity, and instead is being used as a vehicle to facilitate fraudulent or improper conduct.
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