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Joe Groia at Osgood Hall in Toronto (Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Joe Groia at Osgood Hall in Toronto (Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

The trials of Joe Groia Add to ...

While still chasing after Weinberg regarding the $100 million, Cinar launched a second lawsuit in 2007. This one was aimed not only at Weinberg but also at Groia and Fournier, arguing that the two lawyers had conspired to break the injunction. The suit says that “Groia collaborated with” Weinberg in order to make him judgment-proof by helping the former Cinar CEO move his assets outside of Quebec. They are seeking $500,000 in damages.

Groia says there is “absolutely not one shred of merit to that position. It’s complete and utter bullshit. I’ve had my account pored over by their law firms, my accountants, everybody’s looked at it. Every cent and every nickel in my trust account has been accounted for.”

In 2008, Cinar and Weinberg finally settled the main lawsuit over the missing $100 million. The terms of this agreement are secret. One result was that Cinar discontinued its lawsuit against Weinberg over his alleged role in breaking the injunction.

But that lawsuit continues against Groia and Fournier alone. Why? Ostensibly it’s because the company believes they helped Weinberg violate the 2005 injunction. The lawsuit against Groia and Fournier is perhaps a way to shake the tree and see if anything tumbles to the ground—namely assets Weinberg didn’t inform Cinar about. If they find Weinberg has lied, it could make that settlement null and void.

Groia has fought back, arguing that his dealings with Weinberg are all protected under client-solicitor privilege. So far, though, the courts have disagreed.

One issue at stake are affidavits Weinberg signed detailing his assets, which Cinar says Groia helped draft back in 2006. For example, Weinberg wrote one affidavit in which he did not disclose any transfer of his assets after the injunction was in place, saying he had only $1,000 in Groia’s trust account in August, 2005. Yet court documents reveal that Groia’s own records showed that $440,000 of Weinberg’s money was in the account at that time, and no less than seven transfers for a total of $416,649 were made without court authorization (Groia contends these affidavits were finalized by Weinberg’s Montreal lawyers).

In one legal skirmish earlier this year, Groia lost a fight with Cinar’s lawyers regarding whether he should turn over his written communications with Weinberg. In its ruling, the Quebec court said the affidavits detailing Weinberg’s money transfers contained false information and Weinberg had sought to undermine the judicial control over his accounts. And it didn’t matter whether the money had originated from Weinberg’s sons—it still could not be dispensed without the court’s authorization.

Groia is convinced that the lawsuit against him continues “because [Voorheis and Brock]are still pissed that just when they thought they had Weinberg on his knees, I prevented them from getting default judgment against Ron for tens of millions of dollars.” Voorheis’s and Brock’s position is that they are simply trying to be sure about the extent of Weinberg’s assets.

A “hard knocking” of views indeed. When Joe Groia’s twin troubles are settled, he may unwillingly have set two new precedents. One for a lawyer’s ability to be aggressive. Another for a lawyer’s ability to get paid.

With files from Jeff Gray

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