Fraud and Insolvency Law

In Akagi v. Synergy Group (2000) Inc. (“Akagi“), the Ontario Court of Appeal set aside a series of ex parte orders made by Toronto’s Commercial List Court granting broad investigative powers to a court-appointed receiver.  The receiver had been empowered under section 101 of the Courts of Justice Act which gives the court powers to make such an order “where it appears to a judge of the court to be just or convenient to do so”.  The Court of Appeal ruled in its decision released on May 22, 2015, that there are situations where it is appropriate to appoint a receiver to investigate the affairs of a debtor or to review certain transactions including even, in proper circumstances, the affairs of and transactions concerning related non-parties.  However, the Court of Appeal ruled that the receivership in Akagi had morphed into an expansive investigation on behalf of non-parties which the Court found to be improper and misguided.
Continue Reading Ontario’s Highest Court affirms the concept of Investigative Receiverships, but with note of caution

How do you uncover a suspected fraud when you cannot obtain any information from the suspected fraudster in the first place? And what do you do if the suspected fraudster has avoided complying with a court order to produce documents? One under-utilized strategy is to seek to appoint a receiver over the books and records of the alleged fraudster.
Continue Reading Strategy for uncovering a suspected fraud

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.
Continue Reading Court approves gold-plated releases despite extensive fraud allegations

In Wolf v Anstett, 2012 ONSC 3220, a creditor used section 5 of the Assignment and Preferences Act (the Ontario provincial legislation which may be applied to set aside transactions made by an insolvent person or a “person in contemplation of insolvency”, with an intent to give an unjust preference to a creditor) and Rule 16.08(16) of the Rules of Civil Procedure[i] to halt a would-be fraudster from attempting to thwart a previous judgment by using a newly incorporated entity to receive payments that should have went to the plaintiff.
Continue Reading Attempt to thwart a previous judgment through a related corporate entity found to be preference under the Assignment and Preferences Act

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.
Continue Reading How should a Court divide a shortfall of money among victims of a Ponzi Scheme