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John Pirie leads the Firm’s Canadian Litigation and Government Enforcement Group. He acts for clients in complex litigation and investigations. Mr. Pirie’s practice includes a significant fraud law and asset recovery component, often involving matters in the financial services industry. He routinely acts for our clients in coordination with other Baker McKenzie offices globally. Mr. Pirie has expertise concerning asset recovery strategies and emergency relief measures related to fraud, including Mareva injunctions, Anton Piller orders, Norwich Pharmacal orders, global asset tracing and fraudulent conveyance proceedings. Mr. Pirie has acted as lead counsel on an array of reported cases in this field, and he has been recognized in Lexpert’s Annual Guide to the Leading Canada/US Cross-Border Litigation Lawyers, and in the Legal 500 for Dispute Resolution (Canada). He appeared in the Supreme Court of Canada on a case ranked by Lexpert Magazine as Canada’s #1 business decision for 2007. Mr. Pirie has previously been named one of Lexpert’s Rising Stars, a “top 40” award that recognizes Canadian lawyers with an outstanding record of success.

On September 2, 2014, the Ontario Securities Commission commenced its high-profile hearing in the case of the Sino-Forest Corporation (“SFC“). SFC is alleged to have engaged in widespread fraud relating to its public financial disclosure. The specific allegations involve the fabrication or overestimation of revenue and assets, falsified evidence of ownership, backdated contracts, and undisclosed control over particular customers and suppliers.
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In October 2011, the Ontario Securities Commission (“OSC“) raised the concept of offering no-contest settlements of the sort commonly employed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC“). On March 11th of this year, after receiving some sharply divided feedback in months of public hearings, the OSC announced that it was moving forward with the introduction of a policy that would permit settlement of enforcement proceedings without requiring an admission by the respondent of misconduct (no-contest settlements). The OSC has emphasized that the deployment of this policy will only be available in a narrow set of circumstances. In the meantime, the debate over whether such a policy can achieve its objectives of expedience and efficient resource allocation while at the same time avoiding the risk of letting wrongdoers off the hook, has yet to be resolved.


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Our team has been monitoring some key developments that could soon impact US and Canadian companies that list shares on US exchanges. One of 2014’s most important legal developments is likely to flow from the US Supreme Court’s ruling on “fraud on the market” theory, to be rendered in Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund Inc. (“Haliburton”). Oral argument in Halliburton took place on March 5, 2014.

In Halliburton, the US Supreme Court has been asked whether “it should overrule or substantially modify the holding in Basic v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224 (1988) … to the extent that it recognizes a presumption of class-wide reliance derived from the fraud on the market theory.”  The decision in Halliburton is expected to be of importance given that in Amgen Inc. v. Connecticut Retirement Plans, a case decided in early 2013, members of the Supreme Court expressed concern with respect to the fraud on the market theory. 
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Our team acted for one of the parties in Labourers’ Pension Fund of Central and Eastern Canada v. Sino-Forest Corporation, where Justice Morawetz of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice approved Ernst & Young LLP’s $117 million settlement relating to class action lawsuits commenced by jilted investors following the downfall of former stock market darling, Sino-Forest Corporation.  The $9.2B class action involves significant fraud allegations that call into question Sino-Forest’s structure, reporting and revenues, as well as the practices of its auditors and underwriters. In addition to garnering attention as the largest auditor settlement to date in a Canadian securities class action, this landmark decision is noteworthy for the Court’s approval of a comprehensive third-party release and a ‘no opt-out’ settlement feature granted in favour of Ernst & Young.   The Court also approved a controversial framework that would make similar settlements available for  future settling defendants – a feature some critics characterize as extraordinary relief in cases where there are underlying fraud allegations.
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Dividing up a shortfall from a Ponzi scheme was first posed before the United States Supreme Court in 1924. The infamous case of Cunningham v. Brown dealt with the original Ponzi scheme of Charles Ponzi and distributing remaining funds back to victims when his investment scheme was finally unravelled, but left victims with only a fraction of their original investments. Unraveling a Ponzi scheme to return a shortfall of money back among its victims is akin to untangling the noodles in a half-eaten bowl of spaghetti at a buffet and trying to determine who cooked each strand. Where multiple chefs (all using the same recipe) all had their spaghetti thrown in one giant pot, it would be a seemingly impossible task to untangle the half-eaten bowl to see which chefs’ spaghetti was still in that bowl.
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