The two former First Marathon Inc. stockbrokers at the centre of the Cartaway Resources Corp. conflict of interest case are trying to avoid the glare of publicity while living quietly in southern Ireland.
Blayne Johnson and Robert Hartvikson moved to Ireland from their previous base in Vancouver about 18 months ago to escape attention stemming from a regulatory probe into their involvement in Cartaway, a penny mining junior that was controlled by First Marathon brokers and their families in the mid-1990s.
After a lengthy investigation, a British Columbia Securities Commission panel ruled last week that the two men were in conflict of interest and took advantage of being large owners of Cartaway stock, which they sold to their clients in 1995.
The ensuing investigation, one former colleague says, "wasn't much fun" for Mr. Johnson and Mr. Hartvikson. They each are facing stiff penalties and a possible lifetime ban from trading stocks in Canada.
"They wanted to get out of the limelight," he said.
A devoted family man who, sources say, liked to work closely with companies he invested in, Mr. Johnson, 42, has been living in Cork, Ireland with his wife and two children since the fall of 1998.
Mr. Hartvikson, a 46-year-old bachelor who emigrated to Dublin in January 1999, is now recovering from a serious illness he contracted while participating in an extreme sports competition in Borneo recently.
Both are said to have been attracted by Ireland's generous tax laws and the chance to dabble in that country's booming venture capital sector.
It is from their base there that the two brokers are likely to fight the BCSC ruling, which is expected to provide the ammunition for regulators investigating potential conflicts of interest at other Canadian investment firms.
When the ruling was announced last week, Mr Johnson issued a statement saying he was extremely disappointed with the commission's decision and has instructed his Vancouver lawyer Howard Shapray to try to have the ruling quashed by the B.C. Court of Appeal.
"These guys have been crucified by the commission for doing what everybody in the brokerage industry does," Mr. Shapray said.
Mr. Hartvikson, who has so far not made any public statements about the BCSC ruling, is expected to meet with his lawyer Wade Nesmith in London next week to discuss the situation.
While neither Mr. Hartvikson nor Mr. Johnson responded to e-mail messages sent last week by The Globe and Mail, they are clearly financially well equipped to mount a court challenge to the BCSC ruling. Trading records show the two personally made a combined sum of $5.1-million by trading Cartaway shares while they were employed in the Vancouver offices of First Marathon, which is now known as National Bank Financial.
They were part of a group of eight First Marathon brokers who got large blocks of shares in Cartaway for as little as 12.5 cents each,. They financed the company's exploration projects in Labrador by selling shares to clients at much higher prices.
Their activities came to light after the stock rose to $26 on the Alberta Stock Exchange in 1996, and then collapsed when visual inspections of the drill core did not meet investor expectations.
Colleagues say the money Mr. Hartvikson and Mr. Johnson made by trading Cartaway shares does not include the roughly $20-million each acquired from their own investments in other hot mining stocks, such as Arequippa Resources Ltd., and by being early-stage investors in Bre-X Minerals Ltd.
"They really knew junior mining," said one former securities industry colleague who is familiar with their investment activities.
"Blayne was the type of guy who would try to help companies by getting involved," said Eric Savics, one of five First Marathon brokers fined by regulatory authorities in Canada for their role in the Cartaway affair.
While colleagues say Mr. Hartvikson is the more aggressive investor of the two, he is viewed as an intensely private individual who does not believe in flaunting his wealth by buying fancy sports cars or expensive clothes.
During a recent race through the rivers and jungles of Borneo, Mr. Hartvikson contracted a potentially deadly infection known as leptospirosis. Exposure to the illness can cause convulsions, high temperatures and uncontrollable shaking.
Sources said Mr. Hartvikson and Mr. Johnson are both trying to take advantage of Ireland's red-hot economy. "They are basically looking for companies to invest in," a source said.