January 11, 2005
MONTREAL (CP) -- The CIBC knew of broker Harry Migirdic's 20- year
record of "chronic delinquency" and failed in its duty to safeguard its
clients, a lawyer representing two investors said Monday at the start of
a multimillion-dollar damages trial.
"They kept him employed for one reason -- he was one of its most
performing producers, generating more than $1 million in commissions,"
said Serge Letourneau, lawyer for retired machine- shop owner Haroutioun
Markarian and his wife Alice.
They want damages and reimbursements after losing a large part of their
savings in a scenario they claim was orchestrated by Migirdic.
CIBC World Markets' lawyer Bernard Amyot, while admitting he had no
evidence of a motive for the Markarians' $356,824 guarantee of Ruth
Luthi's account in 2001, argued in his opening statement that the
guarantees were legitimate and signed by the plaintiffs.
He said the company was within its rights in exercising them.
While the couple's experience was "regrettable," Markarian is a prudent
businessman who "understands the consequences of a signature," Amyot
If people can avoid contractual commitments because they claim they
didn't read or understand what they signed, the implications for the
economic and judicial system are profound, Amyot maintained.
Luthi, a resident of the northern Quebec community of Senneterre, was
the first witness in Quebec Superior Court Monday in the case pitting
Markarian and wife against CIBC World Markets, Migirdic's former
Luthi, 51, who runs a small meat shop with her husband, also is a former
client of CIBC World Markets and Migirdic, who was assigned as her
broker in the early '90s when her first broker left.
She testified Monday she didn't know her account was being guaranteed by
the Markarians, people she didn't know.
Luthi said she didn't even know she was losing money in her trading
account. She had indicated to Migirdic she did not want risky
investments. Capital preservation "was primordial for me," Luthi said.
But she left the decisions to him.