Michael is primarily dedicated to representing his corporate and individual clients in litigation.
With broad experience in civil, criminal, administrative and constitutional law cases, including a great deal of trial and appellate work, he represents the interests of those clients in formal disputes involving professional liability and discipline, civil fraud and conspiracy, construction disputes, shareholder oppression, corporate and directors’ misconduct, insurance coverage and bad faith, securities regulation, bankruptcy, contract, real estate and other business matters.
Michael also is retained by parties to such disputes and requested to intervene as mediator or arbitrator, and he is active in those roles within confidential business and sport disputes.
He regularly conducts litigation in all levels of the British Columbia court system, and has appeared as counsel in the Alberta and Ontario courts, as well as the Supreme Court of Canada, regulatory tribunals, administrative boards, private arbitrations and mediations. His record includes a long list of successful results in both judge and jury trials, tribunal rulings and appeals, as well as negotiated settlements.
Out of court, Michael leads a team of thoughtful and dedicated lawyers, paralegals and staff who focus on practical results and client service.
Since the 1990s, Michael has dedicated considerable time to professional development and training for the legal and accounting professions, the insurance industry and fraud investigators. He regularly provides instruction and commentary to such groups about current legal issues affecting their areas of expertise, and provides legal and strategic advice on an ongoing basis.
Michael spent his earliest days in the legal profession apprenticing in his father’s law firm in Ottawa, and later was mentored as a litigator by leading members of the legal profession in Vancouver, Toronto, and London, England. He had the honour of serving a law clerk to justices of the Court of Appeal for Ontario in 1991-2 before beginning his career as a lawyer at the Federal Department of Justice and then moving into private practice in 1993.
Rated as a "Repeatedly Recommended Leading Practitioner" in the area of Professional Liability by Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory®, 2018
Recognized as a “Local Litigation Star” in British Columbia in the areas of General Commercial and Insurance by Benchmark Canada®, 2018
The vast majority of litigated disputes in Canada are settled between private parties. However, most reasonable settlements are made to happen in the face of a real and looming prospect of litigation. Michael has extensive experience in both settings, and shifts seamlessly from one to the other as circumstances dictate.
Michael has decades of experience in successful commercial mediations involving contract disputes, shareholder oppression, professional liability and even claims involving fraud and crime. All mediations are completely confidential.
Michael has been involved in hundreds of litigated cases, leading to judgments in the courts. Set out below are some publicly-reported judgments in which Michael was involved as counsel, listed by category, going back to 1993.
Civil fraud, injunction, conspiracy and conversion litigation
Counsel for plaintiffs and defendants in hundreds of lawsuits involving allegations of fraud and conspiracy, and remedies obtained by way of Mareva Injunctions, Anton Piller orders and civil execution proceedings. Litigation in this field often intersects with insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings. Some examples:
- 2017 ABCA 316 – appeal in $130 million fraud action, in which the Alberta court overturned multiple Mareva Injunctions and Anton Piller orders
- 2016 BCSC 140 – Mareva Injunction in fraudulent conversion claim
- (2016) – counsel for Chinese national pursued by Chinese bank to British Columbia by enforcement and injunction proceedings.
- Appointed by the Supreme Court of British Columbia to perform the role of supervising solicitor for Anton Piller order execution.
- 2016 BCSC 1108 – judgment in conversion against participants in 2011 Vancouver riot.
- (2015) – jury award of $200,000 punitive damages plus damages and costs in theft of electricity trial.
- 2014 BCSC 1419 – successful civil fraud action against company’s accountant.
- 2010 BCSC 338, 2011 BCSC 1106 and 2012 BCSC 998. Judgments in three related trials for conversion and conspiracy against many defendants in stolen vehicle scheme, with punitive damage awards. Leading cases in BC establishing principles associated with civil fraud and conspiracy.
- 2009 BCSC 1051 and 2011 BCCA 51 – judgment for an insurer, following a lengthy trial of conspiracy and vehicle conversion allegations, awarding special damages, general damages, punitive damages and costs against several participants in a stolen-vehicle scheme. Related appeal establishing the scope of joint tortfeasor liability in conversion.
- ICBC v. Faris et al. (2006) – $3.5 million jury award of punitive damages in staged accident case.
Shareholder Oppression and Other Corporate Litigation
Michael has acted for and against shareholders, directors and companies in litigation involving oppression claims and derivative actions involving allegations of corporate misconduct.
- 2018 BCSC 881 – oppression petition dismissed, and with no leave granted to the petitioner to proceed to trial or to pursue a derivative action.
- 2014-2015 – shareholder oppression and directors’ misconduct claims involving employee-owned forestry company.
- 2012 BCSC 829 – successful civil fraud and corporate oppression action against company’s president
Professional Liability and Discipline – Accountants
Michael has acted for professionals in dozens of cases leading to successful and confidential outcomes when facing discipline by regulatory bodies governing Chartered Professional Accountants, and previously CAs and CGAs.
In civil litigation, Michael has acted for Chartered Professional Accountants and other professionals in defence of hundreds of lawsuits. Most have been settled and others were successfully defended in court. Some published decisions:
- 2012 BCSC 1234 – action against auditor related to Bear Mountain investments dismissed professional negligence action against accountant related to fraudulent conveyance dismissed based on issue estoppel.
- 2008 BCSC 328– dismissal of claim against chartered accountant alleging inadequate advice in respect of the valuation of a logging business in a divorce settlement.
- 2007 BCSC 1081 – taxation related to bankrupt estate in respect of bankruptcy arising out of Eron Mortgage Corporation’s affairs.
- 2006 BCSC 89 – third party claim against corporate directors in oppression action.
Regulatory, Criminal and Charter cases
Representation of the Crown in prosecutions, as well as persons and corporations charged with offences.
- Litigation involving allegedly unlawful use of criminal search warrant powers in the regulatory context.
- Litigation involving allegations of Charter infringement against crown corporations, related to search and seizure and other powers.
- 2008 BCSC 1204 – defendants in an insurance fraud trial alleged various breaches of the Charter of Rights by investigators. Allegations of racial profiling were dismissed. Applications to exclude real evidence based on allegations of unreasonable search and seizure were dismissed.
- BCSECCOM 645 (findings); 2007 BCSECCOM 773 (decision) – defence of charges before the B.C. Securities Commission, mostly dismissed.
- 2002 SCC 61 – Supreme Court of Canada decision striking down provisions of the Criminal Code respecting search of law offices pursuant to warrant. Junior counsel.
- (20 April, 1998), Surrey 65381 (B.C. Prov. Ct.) – Crown’s trial counsel in constitutional challenge to the validity of the criminal prohibition on simple possession of marihuana. Application dismissed and decision later upheld by Supreme Court of Canada.
- (18 February, 1998), Vancouver CC970509 (B.C.S.C.) – Crown’s trial counsel in constitutional challenge to the validity of the criminal prohibition on possession of marihuana for the purpose of trafficking. Application dismissed and decision later upheld by Supreme Court of Canada.
- (30 March, 1994), Vancouver CA016527 (B.C.C.A.) – Appeal decision regarding Crown’s disclosure obligations in relation to third-party therapist’s records.
- Prosecution of federal offences related to taxation, bankruptcy, fisheries and transportation.
Hundreds of lawsuits involving allegations of insurance fraud and insurer’s bad faith, and related insurance coverage disputes.
- 2015 BCSC 631– successful appeal of coverage award based on legal test for standard of proof in an insurance coverage claim.
- 2014 BCSC 797– insurance claim dismissed at trial based on fraud.
- 2012 BCCA 493 – interpretation of the time at which a limitation period begins to run, based on a cause of action arising, pursuant to s. 17 of the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act.
- 2011 BCSC 878 – dismissal of insurance coverage claim based on misrepresentations of leased status of vehicles.
- 2010 BCSC 662 – insurance contract interpretation – Dismissal of claim by an insured for coverage.
- 2004 BCCA 498 – appeal from a decision striking out a claim by an insured person who claimed that her insurer owed her a duty of good faith that included a duty to provide advice to her regarding coverage. Appeal dismissed.
- 2003 BCSC 677– successful appeal defining the scope of ICBC’s liability in its capacity as registrar of motor vehicles.
- Qualified Arbitrator, 2014
- Ontario Court of Appeal, Law Clerk, 1991-1992
- University of Victoria, Juris Doctor, 1991
- Queen’s University, Bachelor of Commerce (Finance), 1988
- British Columbia, 1993
- Michael is an active community volunteer and board member
- Author of many published articles on professional liability, fraud litigation and other legal issues
- Regular speaker at legal, insurance industry and accounting professional seminars
- Presenter, Risk Management for Accountants, 2010-2017, Institute of Chartered Accountants of B.C.
- Presenter, Expert Evidence, 2016-2017, Canadian Institute
- Presenter, Arbitrations, Arbitrator Selection, 2017, Continuing Legal Education
- Presenter, Claims on Fraud, 2013, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
- Author, Legal Training Manual, 2012, Private Investigators Association of British Columbia
- Presenter, Defence of Fraudulent Claims, 2010, Canadian Defence Lawyers
- Moot Court and Advocacy Instructor, The Law Society of British Columbia
- Advocacy Instructor, University of British Columbia
- Member, The Law Society of British Columbia
- Member, Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch
- Member, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
- Member, Private Investigators of B.C.
Recognized as a “Litigation Star” in British Columbia in the areas of General Commercial and Insurance by Benchmark Canada®, 2017
Ranked as a “Recognised Practitioner” in the area of Litigation: General Commercial by Chambers Canada®, 2018