News Releases

For immediate release May 17, 1999

Law Society suspends Laxton

VANCOUVER - The Law Society of British Columbia announced today that it has accepted Vancouver lawyer John Noel Laxton’s admission of "conduct unbecoming a lawyer" and agreed that he be suspended from the practice of law for six weeks.

The suspension is in effect from July 1 to August 15, 1999. Mr. Laxton must also pay Law Society hearing costs of $2,500.00 as part of his penalty.

Mr. Laxton's admission occurred prior to a disciplinary citation hearing which was scheduled to take place from May 18-20, 1999 at the Law Society building in Vancouver. As a result of Mr. Laxton’s admission, the hearing is cancelled.

The report accepting Mr. Laxton's submission and penalty is attached. 


Note to Editors:

The Law Society of British Columbia makes available the following documents related to discipline hearings:

  • citation
  • hearing reports (including agreed statement of facts, decision as to verdict and penalty)
  • hearing exhibits
  • Discipline Digest and Discipline Case Digest summaries

For more information, contact:
Elizabeth Cordeau, Public Affairs Manager
604-443-5724 or 1-800-903-5300 toll-free in B.C.
604-836-3257 (cellular)

[1999] LSBC 30



- and -

a Hearing concerning


Hearing date[s]: May 12, 1999

Emily Reid, Q.C., Chair
Russell Tretiak, Q.C.
Peter Keighley
for the Law Society:
  Christopher Hinkson, Q.C.
Karen Douglas
for the Respondent:
  William Berardino, Q.C.
Catherine Esson


On September 25, 1998 a citation was issued against the respondent pursuant to the Legal Profession Act and Rule 4-15 of the Law Society Rules by the Executive Director of the Law Society of British Columbia pursuant to the direction of the Chair of the Discipline Committee. The citation directed that this Hearing Panel inquire into the Respondent’s conduct as follows:


1.  Your conduct in making false, inaccurate or misleading statements to members of the press, concerning your activities while Chair of B.C. Hydro, at a press conference which took place on or about February 21, 1996.


This a proceeding under Rule 4-22:


4-22  (1)  A respondent may, at least 14 days before the date set for a hearing under this Part, tender to the Discipline Committee a conditional admission of a discipline violation and the respondent's consent to a specified disciplinary action.

(2)  The chair of the Discipline Committee may waive the 14-day limit in subrule (1).

(3)  The Discipline Committee may, in its discretion, accept or reject a conditional admission and proposed disciplinary action.

(4)  If the Discipline Committee accepts the conditional admission and proposed disciplinary action, it must instruct discipline counsel to recommend its acceptance to the hearing panel.

(5)  If the panel accepts the respndent's proposed disciplinary action it must:

(a)  instruct the Executive Director to record the lawyer's admission on the lawyer's professional conduct record,

(b)  impose the disciplinary action that the respondent has proposed, and

(c)  advise the respondent and the complainant of the disposition.

Because this Panel has the discretion to accept or reject the proposed disciplinary action, application was made by counsel for the Law Society to commence the proceedings in camera so that the respondent’s interests would not be prejudiced if this Panel chose to reject the proposal. Counsel for the respondent joined in on this application and the Panel made an order under Rule 5-6 to proceed in camera.

That order is now revoked and these proceedings are a matter of public record, as the Panel accepts the respondent’s proposed disciplinary action for the reasons which follow:

The Agreed Statement of Facts marked as Exhibit 1 in these proceedings sets out what occurred:

1.  On or about September 25, 1998, a citation was issued against Mr. Laxton.   A true copy of the citation is attached hereto as Appendix A.

2.  From or about November 18, 1993, to on or about February 21, 1996, Mr. Laxton was the Chair of British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority ("B.C. Hydro").

3.  Commencing in early 1994, B.C. Hydro pursued a joint venture for the development of the Raiwind power project in Pakistan.  Private sector funding for the Raiwind project was raised through IPC International Power Corp. ("IPS").

4.  Mr. Laxton is the majority and controlling shareholder in Noel Developments Ltd. ("Noel").

5.  Mr. Laxton arranged for Noel to purchase through two corporations U.S. $1 million worth of shares in IPC.

6.  On February 21, 1996, Mr. Laxton as Chair of B.C. Hydro attended a press meeting where he stated that he had not invested personally in IPC. A copy of the transcript of the February 21, 1996 press meeting is attached as Appendix B.

7.  On or about March 1, 1996, Mr. Laxton issued a public statement disclosing the purchase by Noel of IPC shares through two corporations and that the purchases had been made to save the deal from collapsing which would have had serious consequences for B.C. Hydro. A copy of the March 1, 1996 statement of Mr. Laxton is attached hereto as Appendix C.

8.  Mr. Laxton’s incorrect statements as outlined above to the press on February 21, 1996, constitute conduct unbecoming a member of the Law Society of British Columbia and warrant a penalty equal to a six week suspension from the practice of law and costs fixed in the amount of $2,500.00.

A copy of the 21 page transcript of the February 21, 1996 press meeting is found as Appendix B to Exhibit 1. At page 3 of the transcript Mr. Laxton said "I have not invested in any of these companies" and "I have not personally invested, only my daughters".

These statements are conceded by counsel for the respondent to be incorrect or inaccurate as Mr. Laxton was the controlling shareholder in Noel Developments Ltd. which did purchase through two corporations shares in IPC.

The respondent made these statements as the Chair of B.C. Hydro. We were told that at the time of their press meeting he had been asked to resign as Chair of B.C. Hydro and had agreed to do so. Further, that these statements were uttered in circumstances of high emotion and pressure.

The respondent took steps to correct the inaccurate comments in a statement which was published on March 1, 1996 (see Tab C). At page 4 he said:

"For the sole purpose of saving the project therefore I personally arranged for a substantial portion of the balance of money required. Through a family company I arrange for my three daughters to invest $300,000.00 in I.P.C., which they did through Tri-Star Power. I also arranged for $500,000.00, from the same company, to be advanced to Nico Capital Corp., a British Columbia company owned by Andrew Milligan. In addition the family company funded U.S. $700,000.00 for the purchase of shares by Metropolitan Capital Limited, a British Virgin Island company. No person other than the family company has any interest in Metropolitan. Other than U.S. $700.000.00 these were the last sums received by I.P.C. before financial closure.

It is conceded by Mr. Laxton that his incorrect statements to the press on February 21, 1996 constitute conduct unbecoming a member of the Law Society of British Columbia. We accept this. We were also provided four letters of reference, marked as Exhibits 2 to 5 in these proceedings.

The disciplinary action proposed is a six week suspension commencing July 1, 1999. Counsel for the Law Society has provided authorities where suspensions from one month to two months were imposed. The Panel agrees to the six week term. As to the timing of the suspension, we were told that Mr. Laxton has some cases in the Supreme Court that are set for continuation in June. Accordingly the Panel agrees that the period of suspension should commence on July 1, 1999, in order that the matters before the Courts can continue as scheduled so that the parties to the actions will not be prejudiced.

Counsel for Mr. Laxton asked us to defer publishing a notice until May 31, 1999. We reject that request and note that under Rule 4-37 the Executive Director of the Law Society must immediately publish the fact that a member has been suspended.

Accordingly, turning back to Rule 4-22(5):

a)  We instruct the Executive Director to record the respondent's admission on his professional conduct record;

b)  Impose the disciplinary action that the respondent has proposed, a six week suspension effective July 1, 1999;

c)  Costs in the amount of $2,500; and

d)  Advise the respondent of the disposition.

Dated this 13th day of May, 1999

Signed by:  Emily Reid, Q.C., Chair, Russell Tretiak, Q.C. and Peter Keighley