|For immediate release||June 14, 2004|
Law Society provides compensation for Wirick misappropriations
VANCOUVER – The Law Society of BC has approved more than $18 million in compensation for people and organizations who lost money due to misappropriation of real estate and mortgage funds by disbarred lawyer Martin Wirick.
"These payments come from the Law Society's Special Compensation Fund which is financed by annual assessments paid by all practising lawyers in BC," said William Everett, QC, President of the Law Society. "The lawyers of this province deserve praise for ensuring innocent parties are financially compensated."
The Law Society began a forensic audit of Mr. Wirick's law practice in May 2002. The audit - which is the largest ever undertaken by the society and is still ongoing - revealed millions of dollars had been misdirected. A Law Society discipline panel disbarred Mr. Wirick in December 2002 and the police are now investigating him and his client Vancouver real estate developer Tarsem Gill.
"The Law Society applauds the RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department's new Lower Mainland White Collar Crime Unit for making the investigation of this matter its first case," Mr. Everett said. "The Law Society believes that it is appropriate for the police to review this complex matter and to determine what action, if any, should be taken next."
Since 1949, the Law Society has maintained a Special Compensation Fund to compensate clients who suffer loss through a lawyer's misappropriation of trust funds. Although instances of misappropriation by lawyers are rare, the legal profession believes clients who lose money because of the actions of a few lawyers should not suffer financial hardship. Lawyers value the public's trust and do not want to see the integrity and reputation of the profession stained by the actions of a few. It is for this reason that the Law Society provides compensation to people who lose money due to a lawyer's misappropriation.
The Law Society continues to receive and process claims for compensation. Due to the complexity of the case, there are a significant number of overlapping claims and it is not possible at this stage to determine the total amount needed to put claimants into the same position they would have been in had Mr. Wirick honoured his undertakings. In order to provide compensation to those persons and organizations who lost money due to Mr.Wirick's misappropriations, the Law Society increased the annual Special Compensation Fund assessment in 2003 from $250 to $600.
The Law Society of BC was founded in 1869 and is the governing body of the legal profession in BC. Under the provisions of the Legal Profession Act, the Law Society is responsible for the licensing, professional conduct and discipline of the more than 10,000 lawyers in BC.
Law Society of BC media contact:
Brad Daisley, Public Affairs Manager
604-443-5724 or 1-800-903-5300 toll-free in BC