Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Decision on Facts, Determination and Disciplinary Action

IAN DAVID REITH

Whistler, BC

Called to the bar: May 19, 1989

Discipline hearing: October 19, 2015

Panel: David W. Mossop, QC, Chair, Carol Gibson and Peter D. Warner, QC

Decision issued: November 12, 2015 (2015 LSBC 50)

Counsel: Patrick M. McGowan for the Law Society; Ian David Reith on his own behalf

FACTS

Ian David Reith was employed for the first 21 years of his practice by a company in Whistler that mainly sold time-sharing properties. He left the company in January 2010 to run a private practice focused on real estate conveyancing. He continued to assist his previous company occasionally in the transfer of time-share units.

A Washington state company acquired a 2/51 interest in a time-share from the Whistler company. When the president of the Washington state company died in 1997, his widow wrote to the Whistler company to the attention of Reith advising him of her husband’ s death. A memorandum from the Whistler company’ s legal department was issued directing that ownership be transferred to the widow’ s name. No such transfer occurred, and the fractional interest remained in the Washington state company’ s name until 2011.

In January 2010, the widow spoke with Reith and advised that she wished to transfer the 2/51 interest in the time-share to her nephews. Reith sent her two land title documents to be executed and a request for $556.85 payable to him in trust for property purchase tax, fees and disbursements. The widow executed the land title documents before a notary public in Washington and returned these documents to Reith along with a cheque in the requested amount.

In May 2010, Reith received an email from an employee of the Whistler company, referring to the Washington state company as a defunct company. Reith responded that they would nevertheless submit the transfer to the land title office to see if it could sneak through the examiners. In July 2010, Reith emailed one of the nephews, the employee and another employee of the Whistler company stating a similar message, that the Washington company was a defunct company and he had told the widow they would see if the transfer sneaks through. He promised to contact the examiner to check on its status, though he did not file any documents with the land title office until six months later.

In January 2011, Reith wrote to the nephew again to say he was waiting for confirmation from the widow and/or the nephews regarding how they want the new ownership to show. One of the nephews emailed Reith and instructed that the interest be transferred solely to the widow. Reith took no steps to confirm the instructions with the widow. She did not advise Reith that she authorized her nephew to instruct him on her behalf, nor did she tell Reith that she wanted the interest to be transferred into her own name.

Reith filed the transfer and lease documents in the land title office, without the signature of the widow. Reith did not advise her of the financial obligations the sublease would impose on her. Funds were transferred from Reith’ s trust account to his non-trust account to pay conveyance costs, but Reith did not prepare or deliver a bill to her.

ADMISSION AND DISCIPLINARY ACTION

Reith admitted to the following professional misconduct: he engaged in questionable conduct that casts doubt on his professional integrity; he failed to provide a quality of service that would be expected of a competent lawyer; he acted in a conflict of interest by acting for the various parties involved; and he withdrew funds from his trust account without preparing and delivering a bill to his client.

The panel emphasized the important role of lawyers in ensuring the integrity of the land title system in British Columbia and in safeguarding the system against fraud. The panel took into consideration that Reith was genuinely trying to help the widow get the title transferred and he did not gain anything personally by his misconduct. The panel also considered his financial situation, professional conduct record, and other precedent cases to assess the appropriate penalty.

The panel ordered that Reith pay:

  1. a fine of $3,000; and
  2. $2,000 in costs

2015 LSBC 50 Decision on Facts, Determination and Disciplinary Action