Why did Jian Ghomeshi hire Dentons?

Jian Ghomeshi
Retaining the global giant likely part of the radio star’s broader PR strategy, says employment lawyer David Whitten

By Daniel Fish

On Friday October 31st, 2014

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When Jian Ghomeshi retained Dentons Canada LLP to file his $55-million lawsuit against the CBC, he hired a firm that normally acts for big corporate clients, not plaintiffs, says, David Whitten, partner at the employment firm Whitten & Lublin. 

“I was really surprised to see Dentons on this one,” he says. “I thought he would’ve been better served by going to a so-called employment law boutique, as opposed to a firm that’s better known for their corporate due diligence.” 

And yet, that’s exactly what the radio star did. 

On Monday, Dentons filed a lawsuit that alleges the CBC made a “moral judgment about the appropriateness of BDSM” when it fired Ghomeshi, who hosted the cultural affairs radio show, Q, on the weekend. 

According to the statement of claim, two lawyers are representing Ghomeshi. One is Neil Rabinovitch, a partner who specializes in commercial litigation and insolvency. The other is Tiffany Soucy, a senior associate in the firm’s litigation group, with experience in real estate, employment, defamation and fashion. Both lawyers declined requests for an interview. 

In the claim, Ghomeshi insists any violence in his sex life was consensual, despite now-extensive allegations to the contrary published in the Toronto Star

From the moment the story broke, Whitten says Ghomeshi and his then-public-relations team at Navigator Ltd. (yesterday, the communications firm said it was no longer advising the ex-broadcaster) seemed to have a clear mission: to make a huge splash in the press to distract people from what he’s been “accused of doing.” 

If that’s the gameplan, says Whitten, then “you want to do everything big. You want to make a massive lawsuit claiming an obscene amount of money. And you want to use the biggest law firm you possibly can.” And so, he explains, Ghomeshi might have hired Dentons — one of the 10 largest law firms in the world, with about 2,600 lawyers and professionals in more than 50 countries — to “give his claim some additional clout” in the public eye. 

Indeed, the entire goal of the lawsuit seems to be salvaging his public reputation, he says. In his view, the case has a “limited” chance of success: even if Ghomeshi is honest and never broke the law, the CBC has every right to fire him for his private sex life.  

Unlike race, religion, or sexual orientation, “sexual adventurism” is not protected under the human rights code, says Whitten. “Ghomeshi is really out to lunch if he thought that somehow he could maintain this alternative-type sexual lifestyle and that, once it hit the public, it would not impact his career.” 

Moreover, the value of the lawsuit, which seeks $5 million in punitive damages, is “absurd,” he says. “In Canadian courts, you’ll be lucky to get $100,000 out of [an employer] for the most egregious conduct ever. This is just for shock value.” 


Photo: The Canadian Film Centre