Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision on Disciplinary Action

Florence Esther Louie Yen

Vancouver, BC

Called to the bar: September 1, 1995

Discipline hearing: March 17 and 18, 2021

Panel: Nancy Merrill, QC (chair), John Lane and Sandra Weafer

Decision issued: July 21, 2021 (2021 LSBC 30)

Counsel: Mandana Namazi for the Law Society; Gerald Cuttler, QC for Florence Esther Louie Yen

BACKGROUND

A hearing panel determined that Florence Esther Louie Yen committed professional misconduct by permitting the use of her firm’ s trust accounts for deposits of approximately $10 million USD and $1.27 million CAD and dispersing approximately the same amounts without providing any legal work in connection with the transactions, failing to make necessary inquiries, failing to record the results of the inquiries and failing to record the source of the funds with respect to three deposits (2020 LSBC 45).

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The panel found that Louie Yen was wilfully blind in allowing her firm’ s trust accounts to be used and manipulated, though it could not definitely conclude any money laundering had occurred. The panel noted it is not its role to make that determination, but emphasized that lawyers are gatekeepers of their trust accounts. The panel found her conduct reflected poorly on the legal profession and required a substantial penalty.

Louie Yen maintained she did nothing wrong at the facts and determination hearing, but at the disciplinary action phase, she acknowledged the misconduct and apologized for it. She reassured the panel that this type of conduct would not happen again and detailed the steps she had taken to protect against it. The panel remained troubled that the client involved in the matter continues to be her client and she did not ask him for any further information regarding the transactions.

Louie Yen submitted that the panel should consider Charter values, how her suspension would impact her Cantonese-speaking ethnic client base and how difficult it would be for her clients to find a Cantonese-speaking lawyer in the Lower Mainland. The panel considered guidance from a case outlining factors to consider when sanctioning a racialized lawyer and found that the need for general deterrence and protection of the public outweighed any negative impact on her clients or employees.

The panel ordered that Louie Yen:

  1. be suspended for three months; and,
  2. pay costs of $35,209.83.

2021 LSBC 30 Decision on Disciplinary Action