Livent Inc. co-founder Garth Drabinsky has been stripped of his licence to practise law in Ontario, in another blow for the disgraced theatre producer convicted of fraud in 2009.
A disciplinary panel of the Law Society of Upper Canada issued its decision disbarring Mr. Drabinsky on Thursday, after holding a hearing in March. He had not actually practised law since 1981 and had agreed not to practise law after his fraud convictions.
But Mr. Drabinsky, released on day parole in February, 2013, had pleaded with the Law Society at his hearing to give him a retroactive three-year suspension that would allow him to immediately restart his law practice. He said he would restrict his work to “media and entertainment law,” offering services only to other lawyers for the first five years and eschewing the use of a trust account.
He told the panel that the law licence “is one of the few assets I have left in my life to be able to use in an effective way to climb out of the abyss that I have been in for these 15 years.”
His pleas did not convince the three-member Law Society discipline panel, which ruled that Mr. Drabinsky’s criminal conviction for fraud disqualified him from practising law: “The serious criminal offences of fraud that the lawyer committed mandate the penalty of revocation. We order that the lawyer’s licence be revoked, effective immediately.”
The panel was also not convinced by what it described as “glowing” character reference letters from prominent Canadians including former prime minister Brian Mulroney, former CBC chief Richard Stursberg and Albert Schultz, the artistic director of Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre Co.
The decision comes after Mr. Drabinsky was convicted of fraud in 2009 and sentenced to five years in prison for systematically misstating Livent’s financial results in every quarter after Livent became a public company in 1993 until the company’s collapse in 1998. He was also stripped of his Order of Canada in late 2012. The Law Society initiated its proceedings against him in May, 2013, shortly after he was released on day parole.
Called to the bar in Ontario in 1975, he helped co-found Cineplex Theatres in 1979, and later left to co-found Livent’s predecessor company in 1989 with long-time partner Myron Gottlieb.
Mr. Drabinsky has described himself as an expert in entertainment law, and wrote a book on the subject in 1976, titled Motion Pictures and the Arts in Canada: The Business and the Law.
Since his release on parole last year, Mr. Drabinsky has formed a new company, Ambassador Entertainment Inc., to develop entertainment products. At a parole hearing in 2013, he said he was working with a company trying to develop a miniseries on a book, and said he had worked for a company trying to build a new theatre.
In his testimony before the Law Society, Mr. Drabinsky offered behind-the-scenes insights on his 2008 fraud trial, saying he decided not to testify in his own defence at the trial on the advice of his lawyer, who felt the Crown had not proved its case against him.
Mr. Drabinsky was represented by noted trial lawyer Edward Greenspan.
He suggested he regretted the decision not to testify because he could have explained his role as a driving force at Livent, insisting he never asked anyone to commit fraud, but pushed staff hard through the force of his personality.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t testify at trial. I wish I had,” he said. “But notwithstanding the fact that I drove the company very hard, that I was rigorous on all of the employees, including the accounting staff. A lot of this emanates from a flawed ambition to succeed, to succeed maybe at any cost.”
A lawyer for Mr. Drabinsky could not immediately be reached for comment.