Lack Of Criminal Prosecution For Canadian Lawyers Who Misappropriate Client Funds A Common Occurrence; Client Reimbursement Fund Coughs Up Almost All Of $960K Misappropriated By One Attorney
- The Law Society of Manitoba referred 10 cases involving lawyers who wrongly took money from clients to the Winnipeg Police Service over a six-year period, but not one resulted in criminal charges.
All 10 lawyers were disbarred because of their conduct. In total, they misappropriated more than $1.9 million, in amounts ranging from $5,000 to nearly $1 million.
The Winnipeg Police Service declined an interview.
***"The law society reported these matters to the police because it is our statutory responsibility under the provisions of the Legal Profession Act to report possible criminal activity," Law Society of Manitoba CEO Kris Dangerfield wrote to the CBC in an email.
Howard Tennenhouse is among the disbarred lawyers the law society referred to police. He misappropriated $960,000 from 55 residential school survivors. Many of his clients were unaware of the misappropriation, the law society said.
Law society records say Tennenhouse intimidated clients who complained to the law society about his conduct, lied about continuing to meet with clients after he was suspended and, in one case, walked into a bank with a client and instructed the client to take out a bank draft of $27,607.50, which Tennenhouse then deposited into an account in Tennenhouse's wife's name.
In the end, Tennenhouse pleaded guilty to seven counts of professional misconduct and was disbarred in February 2012.
The law society repaid the residential school survivors almost all of the nearly $1 million Tennenhouse had overcharged.(1) It later recouped those payments in full from Tennenhouse, the law society said.
For "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that provide some reimbursement for losses suffered by clients due to the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in the other provinces throughout Canada or in the various states throughout the U.S., see:
- Directory Of Lawyers' Funds For Client Protection (February 2017) (includes a listing for Canadian client protection funds, courtesy of the American Bar Association);
- Check the USA Client Protection Funds Map;
- Check the Canada Client Protection Funds Map.