A defiant Conrad Black told the Ontario Securities Commission he feels "immense remorse" about the collapse of Hollinger International Inc. but no guilt about his actions at the company, explaining Friday he will not apologize for his alleged crimes.
"I have nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about from a moral imperative," he testified Friday at an OSC hearing.
The OSC is seeking to ban Mr. Black from serving as a director or officer of a public company or working as a registrant at a financial firm because of his involvement in a fraud at Hollinger and his conviction in U.S. federal court and subsequent prison sentence.
In testimony in his own defence before the OSC, Mr. Black said he has no desire to be a director or officer of a public company but is fighting the OSC's allegations as a matter of principle because he feels he broke no laws.
"I have absolutely no desire to be a director or officer of a public company, none," he said. "But I do not think what I've suffered justifies the implication that I'm unfit to be one."
He told the OSC he feels "immense remorse" over the collapse of Hollinger and said he feels "terrible to think errors by me contributed to it." But he said he feels no guilt or shame, and will not make a false confession to appease the OSC or others.
He told the hearing panel that he decided from the beginning of his U.S. legal battle to fight the "avalanche" of false charges in every forum.
"I determined … to fight all of them, everywhere, as long as it took. I never stopped to assess the likelihood of success, but only that it was the right course to follow."
In cross-examination later, however, he acknowledged he reached a voluntary settlement agreement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), making no admissions of responsibility. He accepted a permanent ban from acting as a director or officer of a public company in the U.S. as part of the settlement, and agreed to pay a $4-million (U.S.) penalty.
Asked by OSC lawyer Anna Perschy why he did not take a stand on principle in that forum, Mr. Black said he believes he did because he negotiated a lower penalty than the SEC was seeking.
"I resolved the case. There were a number of principles involved," he said.
He also told the commission he believes people should assuage their consciences by admitting wrongdoing and seeking forgiveness as a general rule.
"I do not believe in false or opportunistic confessions," he added. "Were I to make one now, it would be false. It would be cowardly and dishonest and I didn't do it and I won't do it."
The OSC is basing its case on the fact Mr. Black was convicted criminally in the U.S. for taking what it calls "contrived" non-competition payments from the proceeds of the sale of Hollinger newspapers. He was also convicted of obstruction of justice for removing boxes of materials from Hollinger's office in Toronto without authorization.
Mr. Black said Friday he does not think the OSC should "reflexively" copy the U.S. decision.
"I don't think we should be in the business as a country of rubber stamping what goes on elsewhere," he said.
He told the hearing he thought he had approval to remove the boxes from his office and purposely did it in front of security cameras so no one would think he was trying to get away with wrongdoing.
He also said he had no involvement in arranging $600,000 of non-competition payments from the sale of newspapers to Forum Communications and Paxton Media that formed the basis for his fraud conviction. He said the payments were conceived by his partner David Radler, who phoned him for approval after they were arranged.
"That was my total involvement in Forum and Paxton. I had nothing else to do with it."
Mr. Black was convicted in 2007 of three counts of fraud and one count of obstruction of justice, but later had two of the fraud counts overturned on appeal. He served 37 months in U.S. prison and was released in 2012, when he returned to Canada.