Tag: Manitoba

Law Society of Manitoba ordered to investigate complaint against Peter Nygard’s lawyer

The Law Society of Manitoba has been ordered to investigate a professional misconduct complaint against Winnipeg lawyer Jay Prober for comments he made about women who allege they were sexually assaulted by Peter Nygard.

The law society initially dismissed the complaint because the complainant, Ottawa human rights lawyer Richard Warman, had no connection to the case.

Warman filed a complaint in June after reading a CBC News article which quoted Prober as saying a woman who accused his client, Peter Nygard, of rape was “a purported actress who is now playing another role” and had “jumped on the perceived money train.” 

Prober called another alleged sex assault victim “probably another complainant who has been paid for false evidence.”

Warman appealed the decision to dismiss his complaint, and the Manitoba law society’s complaints review commissioner ordered the investigation.

“They had not bothered to conduct even the least investigation into it,” Warman said in a phone interview with CBC News.  

Fifty-seven women have filed a civil class-action lawsuit in New York against Nygard, claiming they were raped or sexually assaulted. Some of them allege they were assaulted when they were just 14 or 15 years old.

On Feb. 25, 2020, the FBI raided Nygard company offices in New York as part of a criminal investigation. (Earl Wilson/The New York Times)

The lawsuit was put on hold in August after the U.S. government requested a stay of proceedings.

Nygard denies all allegations against him and claims his former neighbour in the Bahamas — billionaire Louis Bacon, who Nygard has been feuding with for years — is paying the women to make up allegations as part of a conspiracy to destroy his reputation and business. 

In a Sept. 8 letter to Warman, Manitoba law society complaints review commissioner Drew Perry said, “while a lawyer is permitted to make the same type statements in public as he/she would make in court, I agree that the statements attributed to Mr. Prober are concerning, especially in the MeToo era of shifting expectations.”

He added that “The only way that I have to take the matter further, and in the process obtain his explanation for his alleged comments, is to order an investigation. I am now doing that.”

One of the women in the class-action lawsuit told CBC News she came forward in part because of Prober’s comments in the media about the other alleged victims. 

Warman says that alone should have been reason enough for the law society to investigate his complaint.

The society, Warman says, is in the “unique position to say to a member of the profession that engaging in that kind of conduct is not only subject to investigation by us as the law society, but it’s also questionable because it raises the issue of whether those kinds of comments in and of themselves are spawning further litigation.”

Richard Warman says he’s concerned the only public acknowledgement of the law society’s investigation will come if it proceeds to a hearing before a tribunal. (Submitted
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Immigration lawyer Paul Hesse disbarred after Manitoba Law Society finds he stole millions from clients

The Manitoba Law Society has disbarred Paul Hesse, stating the disgraced immigration lawyer lost over $6 million of his clients’ money through a series of schemes that saw them invest in fake or shell companies under the promise it would help them immigrate to Canada. 

Hesse had been under investigation by the law society since July 2019, when several of his former clients came forward to CBC and other media outlets, claiming he had bilked them out of their life savings.

The decision says that over a three-year period, beginning in 2016, Hesse lied to 27 different clients, almost all would-be immigrants, making false promises that cost them thousands of dollars.

“He lied, he stole, he acted in his own self-interest, he gave wrong advice and he abused his position to get his clients to lend him millions of dollars, most of which he never repaid,” the Sept. 16 law society decision says.

“Most of the 27 clients also had their hopes of immigrating to Canada thwarted.”

Last year, one client told CBC he was out $200,000 and his permanent residency application was left in limbo after transferring Hesse money to invest in a company, in order to get a work permit. The permit never materialized and Hesse told him the money was gone. 

The Law Society found Hesse guilty of 29 counts of professional misconduct through these schemes that included:

  • Advising clients to invest money in a business without disclosing his personal relationship to its owner.
  • Putting clients’ money into investments without authorization.
  • Lying to clients about their immigration status so he wouldn’t have to pay back money.
  • Advising clients to invest in shell companies.
  • Lying to clients so they would lend him money.
  • Telling clients investments would qualify them for immigration, when they were in fact “sham investments.”

“In the end, Mr. Hesse stole $3.5 million from clients and fraudulently obtained more than $3 million through lies and deceit,” said the decision.

“Most of the clients he wronged were vulnerable in that they would not have had English as their first language and they may not have had a good understanding of the Canadian legal system.”

Pitblado lawyer ‘appalled’ by actions

At the time of the misconduct, Hesse, who was also once the president of the Manitoba Liberal Party, was a partner at the Winnipeg firm Pitblado Law.

The firm and its managing partner, Benjamin Hecht, terminated Hesse’s employment on June 7, 2019, after learning about the allegations.

Hesse currently faces several civil lawsuits from his former clients, including a proposed class action against Hesse and Pitblado filed in August. 

‘We hope the law society’s decision is seen as an important step towards holding Mr. Hesse accountable,’ says Benjamin Hecht, a managing partner at Pitblado Law. (Submitted by Pitblado Law )

Hesse did not return a request for comment.

He also did not respond to any notices or correspondences by the law society, which under Court of Queen’s Bench rules is deemed an admission to the facts laid

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