Judge looks at papers

People who invested in failed fund manager Bridging Finance Inc. are a step closer to getting some of their money back.

On June 14, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice will consider the proposed sale of an outstanding loan from Bridging to subsidiaries of a Vancouver-based cannabis company, Red White & Bloom Brands Inc. (RWB).

According to court filings, US$12.9 million of the US$49.75 million loaned to RWB is outstanding. Bridging’s receiver, PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. (PwC), has proposed selling that loan to one of RWB’s other lenders, Royal Group Resources Ltd.

PwC needs court approval for the transaction as part of the terms of its appointment as Bridging’s receiver, and is also asking the court to keep the deal’s price secret until the transaction closes — in case the sale falls through and PwC needs to find another buyer.

The court filings also detail PwC’s ongoing efforts to collect on several other outstanding loans.

In April, PwC asked the court to appoint a receiver for an Ontario numbered company that owed Bridging $39 million, and sought a receiver for another group of borrowers that had stopped repayments.

PwC also launched collection actions against eight other unrelated borrowers with outstanding loans from Bridging.

These recovery efforts come as retail investors in the various Bridging funds still haven’t received any money back. PwC’s latest report to the court reiterated that the receiver aims to make an interim distribution to investors this year.

PwC’s latest estimates peg potential recoveries for Bridging fund investors between $669 million and $763 million. Approximately $2.1 billion was believed to be in the funds when Bridging was first placed into receivership in April 2021.

In early 2022, PwC estimated investors could expect to recover between $628 million and $804 million from the Bridging funds. As of March 31, 2024, PwC has amassed $624 million in cash as part of its ongoing recovery efforts as loans have been repaid and funds held in trust were returned.

On top of the current cash, PwC estimated between $42 million and $143 million will still be recovered — although the costs of the receivership are estimated between $43 million and $50 million.

The overall recovery estimates also include $46 million that has already been paid to some institutional investors, leaving remaining investors with an estimated recovery of between $623 million and $717 million (after costs).

Before a distribution can take place, a court-appointed officer must rule on the validity of three outstanding claims against certain Bridging funds, which are worth a combined $297 million.

According to the latest filings, the first of those claims is expected to be adjudicated by the end of August.

In the meantime, investors await the conclusion of the Ontario Securities Commission’s enforcement action against Bridging’s founders, David and Natasha Sharpe, and its former chief compliance officer, Andrew Mushore.

The regulator’s allegations against the executives have not been proven.

The OSC’s case wrapped up on June 3, and the Capital Markets Tribunal is now considering its decision.