Risk Update

Canadian Conflicts Clashes — Estate Battle Conflict Appeal, Confidentiality Aspersions Casted on Firm

Alta. CA allows law firm to continue representing estate beneficiary, finds it was not in conflict” —

  • “The Alberta Court of Appeal has affirmed the decision allowing a law firm to continue representing an estate beneficiary, finding that it did not act in conflict.”
  • “In Konkolus v Balanko, 2023 ABCA 303, Jody Balanko is the personal representative of the estate of Elvyn Balanko, also known as Alvin Balanko. Jody and her sister, Peggy Konkolus, are the estate’s primary beneficiaries.”
  • “In November 2022, the court declared that Dentons Canada LLP may continue to act for Peggy Konkolus. Jody contended that Dentons acted for Peggy in litigation relating to her actions as the former power of attorney for Alvin Balanko before his death and for her as a beneficiary of the estate. Jody argued that, depending on the issue, Dentons takes whatever position is more favourable to Peggy as either former power of attorney or beneficiary. Jody asserted that this causes Dentons to take contrary positions and act in conflict, which justifies their removal as counsel.”
  • “Peggy argued that Dentons only started acting for her in her capacity as former power of attorney following her father’s death and that Dentons had never acted for the estate.”
  • “The chambers judge found no conflict existed as she was not persuaded by the contents of a letter submitted by Jody and considered the other evidence speculative and not persuasive. The Alberta Court of Appeal affirmed the chambers judge’s decision, finding that he made no palpable and overriding error.”

Rogers Communications says it is justified in withholding board information from Rogers sisters: court filing” —

  • “Rogers Communications Inc. RCI-B-T says in a new court filing that it has ‘rational’ and ‘justifiable’ reasons for withholding some board information from two of its directors, Melinda Rogers-Hixon and Martha Rogers.”
  • “Last month, Ms. Rogers-Hixon and Ms. Rogers, who are sisters, launched a legal challenge to obtain the documents, reigniting a long-standing feud between warring factions of the family that controls the Toronto-based telecom giant.”
  • “In its rebuttal, filed in the B.C. Supreme Court on Monday, the wireless giant says it has ‘significant concerns’ about the sisters’ conduct and their choice of counsel.”
  • “Ms. Rogers-Hixon is represented by Walied Soliman, the Canadian chair of Norton Rose Fulbright, a firm that also works for Telus Corp. T-T, one of Rogers’s main competitors. Rogers argues this is a conflict of interest as commercially sensitive information could make its way to Telus through the law firm.”
  • “The company says it asked Ms. Rogers-Hixon to terminate the firm or to enter into an undertaking that board materials and discussions would not be shared with the firm but she has refused.”
  • “‘Given the Petitioners’ conduct, including in retaining as counsel a law firm that is the longstanding and principal advisor to one of [Rogers]’s two fiercest competitors and is actively representing the interests of that competitor directly adverse to [Rogers], [Rogers] is not only entitled but obligated to limit their access to confidential board materials until such a time as the Petitioners and their counsel are prepared to enter into appropriate undertakings to protect those materials,’ the court filing reads.”
  • “The sisters have argued that the company’s refusal to give them access to the same information other directors are privy to is ‘oppressive and unfairly prejudicial.’ They say they need access to unredacted documents to make informed decisions and properly perform their duties as directors.”
  • “The company noted in its response that it is conducting an independent investigation into the sisters’ conduct as directors and that the review has not yet concluded.”