Photo of Michael Nowina

Michael Nowina’s litigation practice focuses on a broad range of commercial disputes including advising on the recovery from fraudulent investment schemes, mortgage fraud and credit fraud. Michael’s fraud-related and investigations experience includes representing victims of a Canada-wide investment fraud and ultimately securing recovery of a majority of the proceeds from the fraud, advising numerous creditors in proceedings commenced to recover fraudulent conveyances and preferential payments in multi-jurisdictional litigation, and representing financial institutions in identity fraud cases and in proceedings to recover funds from fraudulent borrowers. Michael also frequently advises clients on insolvency matters involving fraud.

A preferential transaction occurs where an insolvent person or debtor makes a transfer of property or a payment that has the effect of favouring one creditor over another. Creditors and bankruptcy trustees can use federal or provincial legislation to attack preferential transactions. A recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision, Golden Oaks Enterprises Inc v Scott, 2022 ONCA 509, upheld the finding that certain transactions were an unlawful preference under section 95(1)(b) of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, RSC 1985 c B-3 (“BIA”). As a result, the Court ordered the monies be repaid to the bankruptcy estate.
Continue Reading Insolvency Remedies Available to Combat Preferential Transactions

In a previous post, we discussed disgorgement as an alternative remedy to compensatory damages in cases where a fraudster has profited from the wrongful acts. In a recent Ontario Superior Court decision, Justice Koehnen granted a $10.2 million disgorgement order to return ill-gotten profits made by a former Canadian National Railway Company (CN) employee in breach of his fiduciary duties. This is noteworthy as most of the profits to be disgorged were gone as they been used up during the course of a long and expensive receivership.
Continue Reading Ontario Superior Court Grants Significant Disgorgement Order in Canadian National Railway v. Holmes

When a plaintiff suffers a loss due to the misconduct of a defendant, the typical approach is to award damages that reflects the loss. However, this does not always fit the circumstances of the breach. In some cases, a plaintiff may have suffered no damages, but the defendant has gained significantly. For example, a wrongdoer who improperly uses trust funds, profits from that breach of trust, and later returns the monies to the trust account, but seeks to keep the gains. Where a wrongdoer’s profits are so intimately connected with the wrong and these profits would not have been earned but for the wrongful acts, a plaintiff may turn to gain-based disgorgement remedy as a more appropriate measure of damages.
Continue Reading Disgorgement instead of Damages?

Business Email Compromise (BEC) also known as email account compromise (EAC) attacks exploit our collective reliance on email to conduct business and personal affairs. While there are many variations on this cyberattack, the most difficult to detect are situations where an attacker gains control over a supplier’s email address and uses it to request a seemingly legitimate business payment. The fraudster will request a payment be sent electronically to a new account that they control. This is what makes it so effective, because to the recipient, the compromised email is authentic since it originates from a known authority figure from a supplier. Many employees will fail to realize that it is a cyberattack.
Continue Reading Electronic Fraud: Responding to a Business Email Compromise (BEC)

In an unreported judgment Pallotta v. Cengarle, Court file CV-16-56337 released on February 27, 2020, Faieta J. found real estate lawyer Licio Cengarle vicariously liable for his clerk’s mortgage fraud scheme as well as for breach of trust. This case is a cautionary tale for professionals and employers about the need for internal controls.
Continue Reading Ignorance of Fraud is No Defence: Employer Vicariously Liable for Rogue Employee

David Holden was recently convicted of defrauding Canadian investors in Seaquest Corporation and Seaquest Capital Corporation of more than $54-million in a complex ponzi-scheme. In related civil proceedings our team acted to obtain significant recoveries for some of Holden’s victims. Sadly, this was not the first time that Holden had defrauded investors.
Continue Reading Ponzi Mastermind Sentenced to 12 Years – $54 Million Payment Ordered

In the recent decision Anisman v. Drabinsky, 2020 ONSC 1197 Justice Morgan voided a transfer of a $2.625 million Toronto home for the nominal sum of $2 by Garth Drabinsky to his wife as a fraudulent conveyance as against Drabinsky’s former lawyer and other creditors. This summary judgment decision provides important guidance for creditors on how to approach issues relating to discoverability and limitation periods in the context of real property that may have been fraudulently conveyed.
Continue Reading Understanding a Creditor’s Duty to Investigate: Recent Guidance from the Ontario Superior Court in Anisman v. Drabinsky, 2020 ONSC 1197

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