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Ben Sakamoto is a member of Baker McKenzie’s Litigation and Government Enforcement Practice Group in Toronto. He joined the Firm as a summer student in 2016 and completed his articles in 2018. Ben has a broad commercial litigation practice. He acts for clients on fraud matters, internal investigations, jurisdictional disputes, class actions, insolvency and restructuring matters, and commercial arbitrations. He is a contributor to canadianfraudlaw.com and globalclassactionsblog.com. Ben also assists the Firm's pro bono team in providing legal assistance to survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

The Court of Québec recently considered whether the complexity of a white collar case justifies a departure from the presumptive 18-month limit for the prosecution of criminal offences after charges are laid. The Court’s decision affirms that white collar matters that are often thought of as “complex” are not necessarily exempt from the 18-month ceiling.
Continue Reading Complex White Collar Prosecutions and Dismissal for Delay

On October 28, 2020, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned a respected Commercial Court judge’s decision on a motion affecting a range of important legal issues, including the fraud exception to the autonomy principle regarding letters of credit. In 7636156 Canada Inc. (Re), 2020 ONCA 681, Ontario’s highest court clarified the law regarding a landlord’s right to call on a letter of credit (“LC”) when its tenant becomes bankrupt. The Court of Appeal confirmed that, under the autonomy principle, a bank’s obligation under an LC is independent of a tenant’s obligations under the lease, and clarified the fraud exception that allows a bank to refuse to pay on an LC. The case also holds implications for Canadian bankruptcy law.
Continue Reading Fraud exception to letter of credit autonomy principle requires “impropriety, dishonesty or deceit”. Court of Appeal overturns ruling that had denied commercial landlord of bankrupt tenant full amount of credit.

In a widely publicized move, on December 18, 2019, SNC-Lavalin Construction Inc. pleaded guilty to fraud over five thousand dollars. The guilty plea was the result of protracted settlement discussions between SNC-Lavalin and the Crown.

As part of SNC-Lavalin’s plea deal, all charges against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and its international marketing arm, SNC-Lavalin International Inc. were withdrawn. SNC-Lavalin Construction will pay a fine of $280 million, payable in instalments over the next five years. The deal also includes a recently released probation order that requires SNC-Lavalin Construction to cause SNC-Lavalin Group to strengthen its compliance program, record keeping, and internal control standards.
Continue Reading SNC-Lavalin Probation Order Issued in Connection with Guilty Plea

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.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Confirms that Lawyer is Liable for Advising Clients to Invest in Fraudulent Scheme

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.
Continue Reading Bank allowed to allege fraud in second ‘Kick at the Can’

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.
Continue Reading Same Facts, Different Badges – Sham Trusts and Fraudulent Conveyances

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.
Continue Reading Piercing the Corporate Veil – the Need for Clear Fraudulent or Improper Conduct