Rodgers Bar Society hearing concludes

GUYSBOROUGH – “Anyone that knows me, I think, would be proud of how I defended myself,” Adam Rodgers told The Journal about a recent hearing of the Nova Scotia Barristers Society (NSBS). The hearing involved allegations of professional misconduct made against Rodgers related to activities at the Boudrot Rodgers Law firm in 2018.

In October of 2018, Jason Boudrot, managing partner of the Port Hawkesbury law firm Boudrot Rodgers, contacted the NSBS to report that he had “some issues with his trust accounts,” as stated in a NSBS hearing committee document in September 2019. That statement unlocked an avalanche of information and a settlement agreement between NSBS and Boudrot that saw the lawyer disbarred in 2019.

On August 18, 2020 the NSBS announced it would, “hold a hearing, at a date and time to be determined, respecting charges against Adam Rodgers, a member of the Society.” The hearing was held on October 5 and 6 in Port Hawkesbury with no witnesses called other than Rodgers; all other evidence – documents and transcripts of statements – were provided by the Society’s investigator.

Inquiries made by the Guysborough Journal to the NSBS about the hearing received the following response from Tilly Pillay QC, NSBS Executive Director, on behalf of the Society: “Adam Rodgers was aware that false time entries of his were entered to create inflated Work in Progress Reports to be filed with a lender on a quarterly basis for purposes of supporting credit extended to the firm, and failed to stop this practice. Adam Rodgers was aware of the firm’s practice of posting unsupported disbursements on client files for the purpose of supporting the extension of credit by financial institutions and failed to stop this practice.

“The evidence supporting this charge comes from interviews with employees and associates of the former law firm and from Client Ledgers generated from the firm’s accounting system that the Society reviewed as part of one or more Lawyers’ Fund for Client Compensation claims, as well as other information we received in the course of our investigation,” wrote Pillay.

When asked if it is alleged that Rodgers had knowledge that money was being moved in and out of trust funds without the client’s knowledge, Pillay responded, “Yes, it is alleged that Mr. Rodgers had knowledge of this practice.”

For his part Rodgers denies any wrongdoing. Addressing the assertion made above by the NSBS he stated, “I addressed this allegation at the hearing, and described it then as a red herring in all this. The data entries that the Society was questioning were done for a legitimate purpose, which was to estimate the total work in progress for the firm. They were not for billing clients and have no relation to the money taken by Mr. Boudrot.

“He (Boudrot) was the managing partner and everything he did was designed not to be detected. And the evidence at the hearing showed the fact that Mr. Boudrot had been stringing our accountants along for at least 10 months and they never detected his theft. As soon as I discovered his theft, I acted decisively and had him reported and cut him off completely from the firm.”

When asked about evidence presented at the hearing given by a former associate of the firm, Matt Hart, which indicated that Rodgers hesitated to report Boudrot, Rodgers told The Journal, “I didn’t resist reporting it at all…As soon as I found out, I knew Mr. Boudrot was finished. There was no way around that.

“I took a little bit of time to sort through what we were going to do, how we were going to handle it, what we would tell clients and the public and took measures to protect the firm and the clients. Then I had Mr. Boudrot reported almost immediately. There was no question of reporting him or anything like that. The comments from Mr. Hart that the Bar Society raised were really taken out of context. I said that to the panel…there was no question in my mind about reporting him. That was going to happen, and it did happen – I acted very decisively,” said Rodgers.

The hearing also presented evidence that Hart had told the firm that money was missing from trust accounts he managed and that if it happened again, he would quit. Rodgers told The Journal that the conversation had been between Hart and Boudrot; not with himself.

It was also raised at the hearing that employees’ health benefits weren’t available because the business had failed to pay the premiums. The company credit card was also left unpaid and had insufficient funds when staff attempted to use it. “I was aware of that as soon as it happened,” Rodgers told The Journal about the failure to pay benefit premiums, “and this was an area Mr. Boudreau and our bookkeeper; they looked after our day to day financial management—and it wasn’t a question of not having the money, it was something that they overlooked as a payment, so it was sloppy work on their part but nothing to do with the liquidity of the firm.”

Addressing the credit card situation, Rodgers told The Journal, “We had lots of different accounts and again that was poor management on Mr. Boudrot’s part; he was the managing partner and doing the financial management. So again, there was money there, but he had moved things from the wrong account and he just wasn’t keeping track of things properly.”

With these types of financial management failures occurring at the firm, The Journal asked Rodgers why he didn’t take a closer look at the finances of the entire operation, instead of putting out fires as they arose. He replied, “I took a closer look at the overall firm finances. I was well aware of all of those —we were in the process of a major refinancing that was going quite well; the firm was very successful.

“Banks were competing very hard for our business,” Rodgers said, adding that the firm had close to $3 million in annual revenue.

“To me, there was no connection between those kind of minor bookkeeping issues that he (Boudrot) was dealing with and the overall condition of the firm or any allegation of theft,” said Rodgers.

Rodgers did raise concerns about the agreement the NSBS made with Boudrot in 2019. He told The Journal, “The settlement agreement that they put forward for approval—that agreement said that they would not report Mr. Boudrot to the RCMP. If you want to stop people from stealing from trust funds, it’s not a difficult thing to do if you are the managing partner. There needs to be severe consequences to this.”

For their part, the NSBS as represented by Pillay stated, “In the Boudrot matter we did not need to report the matter to the law enforcement authorities as we were made aware that the matter was being investigated.”

Rodgers told The Journal, “I am glad to hear some reports that the RCMP are looking into this. I will cooperate with them, of course, if they ask.”

That request for cooperation will likely be forthcoming from the RCMP in the coming months as the police are in the middle of investigating the matter concerning Boudrot and the theft from trust funds handled by the Boudrot Rodgers firm.

Sgt. Andrew Joyce of the RCMP told The Journal last week that the RCMP received a complaint about Mr. Boudrot on Nov. 20, 2018. He went on to say that, “because of the scope of the matter and the details and technicalities of it, it came in under our Commercial Crime section…The allegation basically involved a lawyer and a law firm, and it is of a financial nature. Financial investigations are inherently detailed and can be somewhat long and tedious. Ones that involve our legal profession, lawyers and law offices, can be even more so – the reason for that is that lawyers have solicitor client privilege…That privilege can only be waived by the client themselves.

“That (solicitor client privilege) on top of inherent factors of financial crime investigations makes for a very lengthy, time consuming investigation,” he said explaining that the police cannot go get a third party to request documents without first securing judicial authorization, which entails preparing documents to present to the court making the case for authorization.

Sgt. Joyce added that the police weren’t immune to the impacts of COVID-19 on their operations and this impacted the progress of the investigation as well. He said he could give no time frame for when the case might move forward.

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As for his future at the bar, Rodgers told The Journal, “I feel good about how the hearing went. The Bar Society could not identify any precedent in Canadian law where failing to supervise a managing partner was considered professional negligence. And that is important because they are asking this panel to break significant new ground when it comes to discipline of lawyers. I don’t think they are very persuasive in making that case.”

The Journal requested an interview with Matt Hart, the former associate of the law firm Boudrot Rodgers, but received no response before this paper went to press.

The panel’s decision on the hearing is expected by the end of November.

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