Injunctions & Emergency Relief

Square Rect - red and greyThe decision in SFC Litigation Trust (Trustee of) v. Chan, 2017 ONSC 1815 represents a step toward a more flexible approach when our courts are asked to consider whether a Mareva injunction should be granted. In this case, the appellant, Mr. Chan, the former Chief Executive Officer of Sino-Forest Corporation (“SFC”), appealed an order confirming a Worldwide Mareva injunction that had been granted against him, ex parte.

SFC was a Canadian corporation and had an office in Ontario, a head office in Hong Kong, and assets predominately located in China. It carried out a sale process through the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, R.S.C. 1985 c. C-36 (the “CCAA”), which ultimately failed.  SFC then applied under the CCAA for an order approving a plan of compromise and reorganization, which was subsequently sanctioned.  A Litigation Trust was assigned the litigation rights of SFC.
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In DBDC Spadina Ltd et al v Norma Walton et al, Justice Newbould of the Ontario Superior Court recently granted a motion for summary judgment on the basis that there was sufficient evidence to justify a finding of fraud. The decision reflects the guidance set out in the landmark Supreme Court Canada decision Hyrniak v. Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7, which recognized that the adjudicative process can be fair and just without requiring the expense and delay of a trial.
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Thawing assetsOne of the most powerful pre-judgment remedies available to a plaintiff is a Mareva injunction freezing the defendant’s assets before trial. The Mareva injunction is a powerful tool for levelling the playing field when dealing with those who, left to their own devices, would dissipate their assets in order to frustrate the claims of their creditors.  Due to its extraordinary effect, the parties to such an injunction can seek to thaw the freezing order to access funds or assets.  As recent case law has shown, the tests to be met differ for defendants and plaintiffs, and a number of factors ought to be considered before a request is made to thaw assets frozen under a Mareva.
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The Mareva injunction is a powerful tool for levelling the playing field when dealing with those who, left to their own devices, would dissipate their assets, with a view to frustrating the claims of their creditors.  While the commencement of litigation is the traditional juncture to seek such extraordinary relief, based in part on the idea that a defendant might then take steps to dissipate assets, it is not the only stage of the process at which such an order is available. If a Mareva was either not granted, or not sought, at the front end of the process, but then a money judgment is obtained, some defendants might then take steps to remove, conceal or consume assets, while an appeal is pending, thereby exploiting the automatic stay of execution imposed.
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In a decision sure to please the international arbitration bar and those who pursue asset recovery in fraud matters alike, our team was recently successful before the highest court in British Columbia. The BC Court of Appeal reinforced the importance of Canada’s international obligations to recognize and enforce arbitral awards and to treat foreign litigants as favourably as British Columbians at all stages of proceedings, including the pursuit of extraordinary relief such as Mareva injunctions. Madam Justice Garson, writing for a unanimous Court that included Madam Justice Levine and Madam Justice Neilson, overturned a decision of Madam Justice Ross, which had declared a Mareva injunction to have been wrongly granted, in part, based on the “limited association” of the parties to British Columbia. In reaffirming the flexible approach to Mareva injunctions taken by British Columbia Courts, the panel explicitly rejected the conclusion of Justice Ross that the appellant had failed to meet the full, frank and fair disclosure obligations of a party seeking an injunction on ex parte basis.
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