Disciplinary hearings for two Torys LLP lawyers

The allegations are from two clients the lawyers represented. They also have connections to Conrad Black

By Todd Harrison

On Wednesday August 19th, 2009

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Photo by Matthew BurpeeThe Globe and Mail reported yesterday that Beth DeMerchant and Darren Sukonick from Torys LLP (the former is now retired, but the latter is a partner at the firm) will face a prehearing today for actions which caused the Law Society of Upper Canada to accuse the two lawyers of conflict of interest.

The accusations stem from DeMerchant and Sukonick representing two clients whose “interests were not aligned,” according to the Law Society. Those clients: Hollinger International, Inc., and a group of its former executives — Lord Conrad Black, John Boultbee and Peter Atkinson.

Allegations arose during Lord Black’s 2007 trial in Chigaco that the two lawyers advised the company executives that there was no need to disclose to Hollinger shareholders the fact that the executives were awarded non-competition payments in the wake of Black’s sale of Hollinger newspapers to CanWest and Osprey Media.

Also at issue: legal services provided by the lawyers to Lord Black when he famously made the decision to renounce his Canadian citizenship in order to accept his seat in the British House of Lords. The Law Society says that this move was detrimental Hollinger’s interests, since foreign-owned companies are restricted from receiving certain tax benefits.

The two accused lawyers maintain that they have not done anything unethical. Torys LLP continues to stand behind them.


Photo by Matthew Burpee