Osgoode Investor Protection Clinic will use $157,750 court-directed award to provide pro bono advice

Osgoode Hall Law School

An Osgoode Hall Law School clinic that provides free access to legal services for vulnerable investors has received a cy-près award of $157,750 from a class action settlement approved by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

Poonam Puri
Poonam Puri

“The Osgoode Investor Protection Clinic fills a critical gap in the retail investment landscape. We’re grateful for this award that allows us to continue our important work in the face of growing demand, while also raising awareness of the potential benefits of directing a cy-près award to our clinic,” says Professor Poonam Puri, the clinic’s academic director. Ontario’s Class Proceedings Act gives the court discretion to grant cy-près (French for “as near as possible”) awards when it’s not cost-efficient or feasible to distribute the awarded funds to members of the class action.

The first of its kind in Canada, the Osgoode Investor Protection Clinic was launched at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 2016 to provide pro bono legal advice to people who believe their investments were mishandled and who cannot afford a lawyer. Funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada, the clinic pairs 12 second- and third-year Osgoode JD students for a year with supervising lawyers from leading business law firms in Ontario. Together, they support clients ranging from seniors who lost their entire retirement savings, to people swindled by trusted members of their community, to investors who had their portfolio mishandled by advisors.

Among many impacts, “the cy-près award will assist with the development of investor education, the recruitment of Osgoode students as summer interns and with the clinic’s research activities,” says Puri. By acting as a “living lab” to collect data, Puri and her team identify trends in investor protection, inform public policy debate and contribute to legal practice and reform.

The Osgoode Investor Protection Clinic was awarded the funds as the result of a decision by Justice Benjamin T. Glustein in a class action case involving global pharmaceutical company Endo International PLC. The representative plaintiff, an Endo investor, alleged that the company had misrepresented and/or omitted important information about its generic pharmaceutical business and certain other risks that, when revealed, caused a significant decline in the price of Endo’s securities.

The court approved the cy-près donation at the request of the plaintiff and with the approval of the defendant “so as to provide an indirect benefit to Class Members on top of the monetary recovery that most of them will be entitled to under the U.S. Settlement,” wrote Glustein in his decision.

This marks the second time in as many years that the Osgoode Investor Protection Clinic has been named in a class action settlement.

“A cy-près award aims to serve the interests of class members, which makes us an ideal match in securities class action cases where it’s impractical to directly compensate class members,” points out Puri.

Osgoode alumni and legal representatives seeking further information on the Osgoode Investor Protection Clinic and court-directed awards are invited to contact Puri at 416-736-5542 or ppuri@osgoode.yorku.ca.