Osgoode Investor Protection Clinic receives $80,000 court-directed award

Osgoode Hall Law School

The Investor Protection Clinic at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School is the recipient of an $80,000 cy-près award from a class action settlement.

The award will assist with the ongoing operation of the community clinic including the hiring of four Osgoode students to work part-time at the clinic over the summer as interns.

The first clinic of its kind in Canada, the Investor Protection Clinic was launched last fall to provide free legal advice to people who believe their investments were mishandled and who cannot afford a lawyer. In just six months, the clinic has handled more than 40 files.

Founded by FAIR Canada and Osgoode Hall Law School with seed funding from the Law Foundation of Ontario Access to Justice Fund, the clinic is staffed by 12 second- and third-year Osgoode Juris Doctor (JD) students who are paired with supervising lawyers from leading business law firms in Ontario.

Poonam Puri
Poonam Puri

Professor Poonam Puri, Academic Director of the Investor Protection Clinic, said the cy-près award “raises awareness of the important role that the Investor Protection Clinic plays as a part of the broader securities regulatory mosaic in Canada -by helping retail investors – at no cost to them – with their concerns and complaints as they navigate the system.”

The Class Action Proceedings Act (Ontario) gives the court discretion to grant cy-près (French for “as near as [possible]”) awards. Cy-près distributions are generally approved in two particular circumstances: (1) where class members cannot be easily identified; or (2) where it would be uneconomical to effect a distribution to class members.

The Investor Protection Clinic’s cy-près award was the result of a decision by Justice Paul Perell of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The court approved a settlement in the shareholder proceeding involving Barkerville Gold Mines Ltd. The plaintiff class had alleged that there was a misrepresentation in the public disclosures resulting in the securities being suspended for a long period of time.

Puri said Morganti & Co., the law firm representing the plaintiff class of investors, had heard about the Investor Protection Clinic and approached her about the possibility of a cy-près award going to the clinic.

“Counsel for both parties to the proceeding agreed that the Investor Protection Clinic was an appropriate recipient of a cy-près award and the court agreed that the settlement and the distribution plan is ‘fair, reasonable, and in the best interests of the class,’” Puri said.

Marian Passmore, Director of Policy and Chief Operating Officer of FAIR Canada, lauded the court’s approval of the cy-près award to the Investor Protection Clinic. “This is terrific news as this award will permit the Investor Protection Clinic to carry on its important work into the next academic year.”

The Investor Protection Clinic is one of 19 clinical and intensive programs at Osgoode Hall Law School that offer innovative ways for Osgoode students to deepen their knowledge and skills, and gain the mix of theory, practice and reflection they require for graduation.

Common issues that the Investor Protection Clinic helps with include cases of an advisor, teller or customer service representative at a bank, insurance company or investment firm misrepresenting the risk of a client’s investments; funds being used in ways that a client was unaware of; an advisor making too many trades, resulting in high commissions or trading fees; a firm charging fees that were not explained to a client; and an advisor signing forms on a client’s behalf without their permission. However, the clinic is unable to help clients with losses that occurred as a result of market forces and risks inherent in investing.

For more information about the Investor Protection Clinic, call 416-736-5538 or email ipc@osgoode.yorku.ca