Judge makes ruling

Ontario’s Capital Markets Tribunal denied a bid to delay the Ontario Securities Commission’s (OSC) proceedings against a trio of executives at failed fund manager Bridging Finance Inc. (BFI).

The OSC has alleged that the firm’s co-founders, David and Natasha Sharpe, and its one-time chief compliance officer, Andrew Mushore, violated securities laws in connection with a series of allegedly conflicted transactions involving the firm’s funds.

The hearing into the OSC’s allegations, which began in June 2023, is near its end. Witness testimony has been concluded, and only final submissions and arguments from both sides are left.

However, before the hearing could be concluded, counsel for Natasha Sharpe asked for a pause in the proceedings while they seek to resolve an unpaid legal bill. Sharpe’s counsel say they haven’t been paid for almost a year, and are owed over $900,000 in legal fees. Absent an adjournment, Sharpe’s lawyers asked for permission to be removed as counsel for the case.

Today, the tribunal denied both motions, ruling that Sharpe’s lawyers may not step down from the case. And since they must remain as counsel, the issue of payment does not in itself necessitate an adjournment.

The tribunal said its reasons will be issued later.

According to a previous decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Sharpe’s legal fees were originally being paid out of accounts under the control of Bridging’s receiver, PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. (PwC). However, since those accounts were exhausted, the receiver has refused to pay her legal bills out of other assets under its control.

The court has concluded that the legal bills are reasonable.