Zero tolerance for lawyers who play fast and loose

A British Columbia Court of Appeal ruling is just the latest in a series of judicial decisions showing zero tolerance for lawyers embroiled in conflicts of interest, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School says, reported the National Post March 2. The court ordered a former tax partner with a Vancouver law firm to pay a former client as much as $32 million received in a business relationship with a competing client. “This is clearly an indication that the courts are taking this very seriously and lawyers can’t play fast and loose with these duties. And that if they do, the courts are going to come down hard on them,” said Allan Hutchinson, associate dean at Osgoode and the author of Professional Responsibility and Legal Ethics. “This court, at least – and it might go to the Supremes – is saying if you screw around with fiduciary duties, look out.”

While Vancouver lawyer Robert Strother profited more than most lawyers would from acting in conflict, in other cases, “lawyers might have to give over all of their fees in some circumstances,” said Hutchinson, who rues the lack of training that Canadian law students receive in ethical issues. While Hutchinson acknowledged a national law firm can inadvertently run into conflict-of-interest problems if a lawyer in the Vancouver office unknowingly agrees to represent a client whose interests are contrary to those of a client of a lawyer in the Toronto office, he says well-organized law firms have nothing to fear from the Strother judgment.

Globe columnist muses on Star’s ‘investigation’

The Globe and Mail’s John Barber mused about the Toronto Star’s “investigation” of a York land deal in his March 2 column. Barber said the Star “strangely alleged that Howard Sokolowski, who is also president of Tribute Communities, received a sweetheart deal from his York buddies when he bought a chunk of the campus three years ago for residential development. Given that the University formally offered the parcel to three leading developers before selling it to Tribute – a fact introduced in paragraph 57 of the Star special about the ‘not publicly tendered’ land – the outside expert that York enlists to examine the deal will have difficulty condemning it with the same gusto.”

  • York University President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden told CBC Radio news reporters March 1 that York’s Board of Governors has decided to appoint an independent investigator to look into the controversial sale of a piece of land at the University three years ago. Aliza Libman, news editor of York’s student newspaper Excalibur, also talked about the board’s decision, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” the same day. The board’s proposed review also made newscasts March 1 on CBC TV’s “Canada Now” and Toronto’s CFMT-TV and OMNI News.

Days of posh drug-company freebies over for doctors

New guidelines that came into effect early this year severely restrict the legendary freebies – ranging from haircuts and cooking classes to European excursions – drug companies have doled out to doctors in the past, reported Canadian Press March 1. Toronto physician Joel Lexchin, a York University health policy and management studies professor and longtime industry watcher, said some doctors may feel they are paying a penalty for the sake of “political correctness”. “Unfortunately, all the evidence that’s out there shows that is a pretty naive point of view. These kinds of things do affect prescribing behaviour, whether or not people are willing to admit it,” he said, adding that drug firms in Canada spend $2 billion a year on promotions, or 15 per cent of every dollar earned in sales.

Grad’s cosmetics went into Oscar loot bags

It’s been 10 years since York business grad Hana Zalzal created the foundation for a fresh new line of cosmetics from the den of her small house, reported The Toronto Sun March 2. CARGO cosmetics were soon snapped up for use on prime-time TV shows like “Friends”, have been included in an Academy Awards gift basket and are being launched in Australia and France. “I always loved makeup and I saw an opportunity in the marketplace,” said the Toronto resident. “The market was well penetrated with professional brands. I could predict that the market was becoming more innovative and cutting edge. It was following the path of fashion. Women didn’t want to wear the same makeup that their mother’s mother wore.” Zalzal completed a civil engineering degree at the University of Toronto and an MBA in 1992 at York University.

 MBA programs reach out to the world

The increasing globalization of the world economy, and the accompanying demand for managers with experience in foreign markets, cross-cultural perspectives and more than one language, are changing the face of Canada’s top MBA programs, reported the National Post March 2. York University’s Schulich School of Business reaches 28 countries with 40 exchange agreements, it noted.