Ponzi schemes and other fraudulent arrangements that operate on a large scale often involve complex networks of activities, actors, and funds transfers. Given the number of players that may be required to bring about such a scheme, the tort of civil conspiracy provides a potential means for recovery for fraud victims.

The elements of civil conspiracy: Simple motive or unlawful means?

As outlined in the Supreme Court of Canada’ decision in Canada Cement LaFarge Ltd. v. British Columbia Lightweight Aggregate Ltd. civil conspiracy in Canada is comprised of two related but distinct categories.  The first category is the “lawful means” or “simple motive” conspiracy, and the second is the “unlawful means” or “unlawful conduct” conspiracy.
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Senior executives are sometimes indemnified against costs and expenses incurred as a result of legal proceedings that might be brought against such employees. Indemnification of this kind provides the executives with a level of security in which they can make necessary, often difficult decisions required in their roles without fear of being exposed to liability, should they become a target of legal proceedings. Absent specific and careful language, however, these indemnity clauses can leave employers vulnerable to paying costs and expenses associated with dismissing senior employees who are alleged to have committed fraud or other misconduct while employed.
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Nazir Karigar, a former agent of an Ottawa high-tech company  was sentenced on May 23, 2014 to a penitentiary term of three years for conspiring to bribe several Indian government officials in the first Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (the “CFPOA” or the “Act”) case to go to trial. The conspiracy to bribe had as its purpose the winning of a tender for a multi-million dollar contract to sell facial recognition software to Air India, a state enterprise. Facial recognition software may play an important role in preventing the boarding of planes by unauthorized persons.
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Source: www.personneltoday.com

Employees are often reluctant to report suspected misconduct because they fear retaliation from those that are engaged in the misconduct. This often prevents companies from discovering employee-related fraud at its early stages. While employer surveillance can go a long way to discovering wrongdoing in the workplace, employees are in a better position to know what their colleagues are doing and employers should have mechanisms in place to encourage their employees to report wrongdoing.  In a previous post, we referenced the recent $2 million alleged fraud by several York University employees. The University eventually became aware of the situation through a whistleblower, but by that time, it had been ongoing for over 7 years. This illustrates the importance of having transparent whistleblower protection policies that provide employees with a safe route for registering issues or complaints of wrongdoing within the company. Such protection policies will encourage early reporting to the employer and facilitate earlier discovery of wrongdoing thereby reducing the potential losses incurred. In addition, employees will be less likely to make the complaint externally, for example, directly to the media, if they know that their complaint will be taken seriously by the employer and properly investigated.
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In this age of technology, the risk of departing employee theft and fraud has increased substantially. Departing employees are no longer limited to removing printed confidential business information, but can abscond with business information, trade secrets, client contacts, and other similar material using, for example, an external disk drive or an external email account.

How can companies protect themselves from departing employee related theft and fraud?
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