Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision of the Hearing Panel

Suneil Kyle Sangha

Surrey, BC

Called to the bar: June 24, 2015

Membership ceased for non-payment of fees: January 1, 2021

Hearing date: August 31, 2021

Panel: Christopher A. McPherson, QC (chair), Karen Kesteloo and Lindsay R. LeBlanc

Decision issued: December 17, 2021 (2021 LSBC 55)

Counsel: Kathleen Bradley for the Law Society; Michael D. Shirreff and Jennifer Millerd for Suneil Kyle Sangha

FACTS

Suneil Kyle Sangha was retained to provide advice on the purchase of a unit in a strata property. Sangha reviewed an unexecuted agreement for the purchase and sale, finding that the $260,000 deposit for a $300,000 purchase price stood out as unusual. He advised his client that “it was not a good idea to do this,” but he did not make revisions to the agreement.

The client signed the purchase agreement and a promissory note at the meeting and Sangha witnessed his client’s signature on an acknowledgement and receipt, stating that he received a copy of the disclosure statement for the property even though Sangha did not provide it to him. Sangha was not familiar with the deposit provisions of the Real Estate Development Marketing Act at the time of the meeting. He did not record in writing instructions he received from the client or the advice he gave to the client.

Given the large deposit, Sangha prepared an addendum to better protect his client’s interests. It provided that the deposit was to paid to the developer by trust cheque and credited against the purchase price, that on completion of the agreement the developer would credit $40,000 to the purchaser as a set off against the purchase price, and the initial deposit and credit would be secured by a promissory note. The promissory note Sangha attached was provided to him by the developer and he did not draft or amend it. Sangha understood that the promissory note did not offer much further security for his client.

Sangha did not obtain a corporate search of the developer or an officer’s certificate for the developer and would not have known whether the developer’s documents were duly executed when he forwarded the deposit. He did not obtain a title search to confirm the developer owned the property it purported to sell. The purchase transaction proceeded and Sangha received $500 in cash from the client for his legal services. He did not provide a receipt or an invoice on the day he received the cash payment. Months later, the client had not obtain title to the unit and foreclosure proceedings were commenced against the developer. Sangha’s client participated in a class action lawsuit against the developer and received a settlement. He also commenced a lawsuit against Sangha and his law firm.

In a separate matter, Sangha was retained for the sale of a client’s home. The client attended Sangha’s office to sign the closing documents but Sangha was not there that day. The client’s signatures were witnessed by another lawyer. He did not sign any direction or order to authorize the payout of the sale proceeds. Two days after the transaction closed, Sangha received a call from a third party who said he was owed a significant amount of the sale proceeds. Sangha placed a call to the phone number he had for his client and spoke to someone he understood to be his client who confirmed the third party was entitled to a portion of the sale proceeds and gave instructions to pay money to him. Sangha arranged for a trust cheque for $110,000 made payable to the third party. Sangha emailed his client a copy of his client trust ledger showing all the payments made out of trust, including the payments made to the third party. His client picked up his cheque for the sale transaction and did not raise any complaints at the time.

A year later, Sangha’s client contacted him and requested his file. The file contained an unsigned order to pay. His client complained about the payment of funds to the third party and took the position that he never authorized the payment. Sangha said he did not specifically offer to repay the client for his losses but discussed investing some money in a company his client was starting. The client commenced a civil action against Sangha and his law firm, claiming damages for negligence, breach of contract and breach of duty. The civil action is ongoing. Sangha admitted that he withdrew $149,500 from trust and paid the monies to a third party without obtaining written authorization or appropriately documenting verbal instructions he believed he had obtained from his client.

ADMISSION AND DETERMINATION

The panel found that Sangha’s conduct was a marked departure from that which the Law Society expects of lawyers. Sangha admitted, and the panel agreed, that his conduct amounted to professional misconduct with respect to two separate matters.

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The panel considered Sangha’s serious disregard for his basic obligations as a lawyer, his relatively recent call to the bar, and his extensive professional conduct record, which includes two practice supervision agreements, practice standards recommendations, a conduct review, a practice standards order not to practise real estate law that remains in place to date, and a finding of professional misconduct in another discipline matter.

The panel accepted the disciplinary action jointly proposed by Sangha and the Law Society and ordered that Sangha:

  1. be suspended for two and a half months; and
  2. pay costs of $3,000.

Suneil Kyle Sangha

Surrey, BC

Called to the bar: June 24, 2015

Membership ceased for non-payment of fees: January 1, 2021

Hearing date: August 31, 2021

Panel: Christopher A. McPherson, QC (chair), Karen Kesteloo and Lindsay R. LeBlanc

Decision issued: December 17, 2021 (2021 LSBC 55)

Counsel: Kathleen Bradley for the Law Society; Michael D. Shirreff and Jennifer Millerd for Suneil Kyle Sangha

FACTS

Suneil Kyle Sangha was retained to provide advice on the purchase of a unit in a strata property. Sangha reviewed an unexecuted agreement for the purchase and sale, finding that the $260,000 deposit for a $300,000 purchase price stood out as unusual. He advised his client that “it was not a good idea to do this,” but he did not make revisions to the agreement.

The client signed the purchase agreement and a promissory note at the meeting and Sangha witnessed his client’s signature on an acknowledgement and receipt, stating that he received a copy of the disclosure statement for the property even though Sangha did not provide it to him. Sangha was not familiar with the deposit provisions of the Real Estate Development Marketing Act at the time of the meeting. He did not record in writing instructions he received from the client or the advice he gave to the client.

Given the large deposit, Sangha prepared an addendum to better protect his client’s interests. It provided that the deposit was to paid to the developer by trust cheque and credited against the purchase price, that on completion of the agreement the developer would credit $40,000 to the purchaser as a set off against the purchase price, and the initial deposit and credit would be secured by a promissory note. The promissory note Sangha attached was provided to him by the developer and he did not draft or amend it. Sangha understood that the promissory note did not offer much further security for his client.

Sangha did not obtain a corporate search of the developer or an officer’s certificate for the developer and would not have known whether the developer’s documents were duly executed when he forwarded the deposit. He did not obtain a title search to confirm the developer owned the property it purported to sell. The purchase transaction proceeded and Sangha received $500 in cash from the client for his legal services. He did not provide a receipt or an invoice on the day he received the cash payment. Months later, the client had not obtain title to the unit and foreclosure proceedings were commenced against the developer. Sangha’s client participated in a class action lawsuit against the developer and received a settlement. He also commenced a lawsuit against Sangha and his law firm.

In a separate matter, Sangha was retained for the sale of a client’s home. The client attended Sangha’s office to sign the closing documents but Sangha was not there that day. The client’s signatures were witnessed by another lawyer. He did not sign any direction or order to authorize the payout of the sale proceeds. Two days after the transaction closed, Sangha received a call from a third party who said he was owed a significant amount of the sale proceeds. Sangha placed a call to the phone number he had for his client and spoke to someone he understood to be his client who confirmed the third party was entitled to a portion of the sale proceeds and gave instructions to pay money to him. Sangha arranged for a trust cheque for $110,000 made payable to the third party. Sangha emailed his client a copy of his client trust ledger showing all the payments made out of trust, including the payments made to the third party. His client picked up his cheque for the sale transaction and did not raise any complaints at the time.

A year later, Sangha’s client contacted him and requested his file. The file contained an unsigned order to pay. His client complained about the payment of funds to the third party and took the position that he never authorized the payment. Sangha said he did not specifically offer to repay the client for his losses but discussed investing some money in a company his client was starting. The client commenced a civil action against Sangha and his law firm, claiming damages for negligence, breach of contract and breach of duty. The civil action is ongoing. Sangha admitted that he withdrew $149,500 from trust and paid the monies to a third party without obtaining written authorization or appropriately documenting verbal instructions he believed he had obtained from his client.

ADMISSION AND DETERMINATION

The panel found that Sangha’s conduct was a marked departure from that which the Law Society expects of lawyers. Sangha admitted, and the panel agreed, that his conduct amounted to professional misconduct with respect to two separate matters.

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The panel considered Sangha’s serious disregard for his basic obligations as a lawyer, his relatively recent call to the bar, and his extensive professional conduct record, which includes two practice supervision agreements, practice standards recommendations, a conduct review, a practice standards order not to practise real estate law that remains in place to date, and a finding of professional misconduct in another discipline matter.

The panel accepted the disciplinary action jointly proposed by Sangha and the Law Society and ordered that Sangha:

  1. be suspended for two and a half months; and
  2. pay costs of $3,000.

2021 LSBC 55 Decision of the Hearing Panel