Newsreal Archives/Critic' Corners



David Baines of the Vancouver Sun writes the following story of another lawyer who committed a breach of trust. Mr. Baines does not bring up the fact that the lawyer he is writing about should be charged under the criminal code, rather he writes that the lawyer was a fool in representing himself before the court.

It begs the question as to why reporters even bother writing about these stories, especially when they do not fully inform their readers.

Too many lawyers in this society use their privileges to commit crimes.

In B.C., with over 11,000 lawyers, you can bet that many commit crimes and this is due to the fact that they know they won't be charged criminally. Being cited by the law society and loosing the right to practice law, is not a deterence for many lawyers who commit crimes against their clients and ultimately the public.

Judge overrules lawyer's $926,916 fee

David Baines

Vancouver Sun

Friday, May 04, 2007

North Vancouver lawyer and sports agent Ron Perrick committed a breach of trust when he scooped nearly $1 million of client money from his trust account to pay his fees without telling his client, a B.C. Court judge has ruled.

It wasn't until months later that the client learned Perrick had taken a total of $926,916, an amount that the client contends is outrageous and not justifiable.

When it comes to fee disputes and lawyer conduct, the judgment rendered by B.C. Supreme Court judge Eric Rice on Jan. 23 is one of the most unequivocal and damning I have ever read:

"Mr. Perrick removed the funds without permission before rendering a statement of account according to the rules of the Law Society," the judge stated.

"Mr. Perrick knew that he was not authorized to take out funds. He knew or ought to have known that taking them was contrary to the rules and constituted a breach of trust.

"Further, he concealed his actions. Despite many numerous and urgent requests between February and October 2006, Mr. Perrick never revealed that he had taken the money. To this day he has not revealed what he has done with the money.

"By virtue of those wrongful acts, his breaches of the Law Society rules and his breaches of duty as trustee of the funds, the plaintiff has been unlawfully deprived of $926,916."

Even then, it took Perrick three months to return the money, which is now tied up in court, still beyond the reach of his clients.

Not surprisingly, the law society is on the case: "Absolutely we are looking into this," said society spokesman Brad Daisley. "It raises serious issues that we need to look at."

Perrick, 61, is a native of Duncan. He obtained his law degree from the University of Saskatchewan before returning to B.C. to practise. He became best known as a sports agent -- among his clients were CFL quarterback Matt Dunigan and NHL players Greg Adams, Cliff Ronning and Rod Brind'Amour.

The case arises from the sale of a commercial property in the 1300-block of Seymour Street, owned by the two sons and two daughters of the late John Watson, the founder of Sundance Trampolines. (Readers who commute downtown via the Granville Street bridge may recall the "Sundance Trampolines" sign on the building, just east of the Seymour St. exit ramp.)

In April 2003, the four siblings -- through a B.C. numbered company -- hired Perrick to help sell the building. Negotiations went on for nearly four years. Meanwhile, the property value increased dramatically. Finally, on Feb. 9, 2006, it was sold for $5.75 million to Concert Real Estate Corp. Concert paid the money to Perrick, who deposited the funds in his trust account.

On Feb. 17, 2006, one of the siblings, Dianne King, sent a fax to Perrick asking how the money would be disbursed. On Feb. 26, another sibling, Rosalee McRae, asked how and when the funds would be distributed, and what Perrick's fee would be.

Perrick did not respond. Instead, without telling his clients or getting their consent, he withdrew $350,000 on the closing date, another $49,000 the next day, $342,000 on Feb. 27 (the day after McRae's inquiry), and $145,000 on April 18.

Judge Rice said the clients claim they didn't authorize the fee or the removal of the funds. Perrick, on the other hand, "maintains that the fees were approved, in a general way at least, although he conceded that he was not authorized to remove the funds."

In any event, said Rice, the issue before him was the process, not the amount. In that regard, the judge said Perrick removed the funds "before issuing any statement of account, and knowing that charging so much was probably not going to be acceptable to his client."

It wasn't until June 15, 2006 -- more than four months after the closing date -- that Perrick submitted a bill. It was backdated to Feb. 9, the closing date, making it seem like the bill was drafted before the funds were removed.

The actual bill is 34 pages long and itemizes dozens of phone calls and various other tasks that Perrick claims he performed, with no reference to the hours worked, or an hourly rate or contingency fee, or the amount of disbursements that he paid on the client's behalf.

Judge Rice notes that the siblings' lawyer, Robert Ward of Edwards Kenny & Bray, pressed for Perrick's timesheets and for confirmation of whether the money was in their trust account, but to no avail.

"Mr. Perrick never responded to any of the requests regarding the trust funds, and he never did advise the plaintiff that the trust funds had been taken by the defendants," the judge noted.

It wasn't until Ward filed a lawsuit and examined Perrick under oath that the clients learned he had withdrawn nearly $1 million of their money from his trust account.

"In this case I find there is no question that [Perrick and his law corporation] withdrew for their own use trust funds without any legal right," the judge concluded.

He ordered Perrick to return the funds, but Perrick did not. Ward called him into an examination to try to determine where the money was, but Perrick refused to answer any questions and walked away. It wasn't until three weeks ago that he finally paid the money into court.

While Rice concluded that Perrick committed a breach of trust, he made it clear that he was simply ruling on the process by which the funds were taken, not whether a fee of that magnitude was justified. That issue will be reviewed at a later date. Until then, the money remains out of the clients' reach.

If that wasn't enough grief to heap on his clients, Perrick counter-sued them and their lawyer. Ward called it a "frivolous and vexatious counterclaim ... brought solely for the purpose of neutralizing counsel and intimidating" his clients.

Perrick eventually abandoned his counter-claim, but not before causing his clients more needless anxiety and cost. Ward is asking the court to assess special costs against Perrick.

In all these actions, Perrick acted for himself. Since then, he has hired Bryan Baynham of Harper Grey LLP. Hopefully, this will speed up a resolution.

"Mr. Perrick recognizes that when he acted as his own lawyer, it didn't reflect very well on him," Baynham said in an interview Thursday.

There is an old saying: A lawyer who acts for himself has a fool for a client. Judging by the tarpit that Perrick has gotten himself into, this is a case in point.

dbaines@png.canwest.com

Ron Perrick Law Corp. et al,