John Graham Tait struck gold on Bay Street, but his luck ran out in family court.
The Toronto millionaire has been ordered to pay $31,015 in monthly support to his five-year-old daughter - the largest temporary child-support award by a Canadian court.
In making the order, Madam Justice Susan Greer noted that as the 38-year-old man's income "escalated skyward," he stubbornly condemned his former wife's attempt to secure a generous child-support payment as being "nothing more than a means of wealth transfer from him to her.
"He does not seem to understand that child support is no such thing," Judge Greer, of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, said in her recent order.
Family law experts have been taken aback by the award. In a commentary in a legal newsletter, Toronto lawyer Philip Epstein termed it, "rather startling; an indication that the courts have lost their way with respect to what is considered to be 'appropriate.' "
In another commentary, Toronto lawyer Jeffery Wilson said that the ruling enters "the annals of fulsome jurisprudence offered up by wealthy men who leave the nest when their offspring are very young ... " The extraordinary nature of the award arose from the fact that Mr. Tait's annual income had rocketed from $82,452 in 2005 to $3,579,000 in 2006. By 2008, it had reached an estimated $6,632,626.
The source of his good fortune were gold mine stock options. A half-million Gold Eagle Mines Ltd. options Mr. Tait had received from his father, the one-time president of the company, soared in value after it was taken over by Goldcorp Inc.
Mr. Tait quickly developed a taste for gold mining, and plunged into the business in a big way, and soon became president of WSR Gold, CEO of Vedron Gold, CEO of Harricana River Mining, and director of VG Gold Corp.
However, when Mr. Tait's ship came in, his wife - Susan Desrochers, a 40-year-old marketing director - was left in his wake. The couple had started living together in 1998 and were married in 2002.
"It is the wife's position that during the parties' time together - both before and after their marriage - the husband's income was sporadic and often nominal," Judge Greer said. "She says that she supported the husband both emotionally and financially throughout their marriage."
Mr. Tait disagreed. "The husband emphatically denies that she helped him during the marriage, and suggested he get a job bartending when he was not making much income," Judge Greer noted.
In the first eight months after he left her, Mr. Tait provided just two child-support payments. Beginning in May, 2005, he hiked his payments to $350 per month.
"He continued to pay the $350 per month in 2006, yet his income rose astronomically to $3,579,000 that year," Judge Greer noted. "In none of these instances did the husband volunteer to pay child support in accordance with Child Support Guidelines."
Judge Greer noted that Ms. Desrochers felt intimidated and threatened by Mr. Tait's efforts to procure a settlement, and that his lack of candour in disclosing his true income became "a severe issue."
"It has taken her this long to get the husband to realize that his failure to comply with his legal obligation continued to create hardship for her and their daughter over the past 4½ years," Judge Greer said.
"The husband says he does not oppose any retroactivity award for child support, since he now admits he did underpay in the past and now realizes the error of his ways."