May 27, 2005
The lawyer defending CIBC Wood Gundy's seizure of $1.4 million from a
retired Montreal couple who unknowingly guaranteed the trading losses of
complete strangers got a thorough grilling yesterday from Superior Court
Judge Jean-Pierre Senecal.
As CIBC lawyer Bernard Amyot presented closing arguments in the
five-month-old trial, Senecal intervened for clarification on several
He drew attention to the failure of CIBC branch manager Tom Noonan to
actually phone or meet with retirees Haroutioun and Alice Markarian in
the years before the brokerage took their money using guarantees
obtained by former broker Harry Migirdic, an admitted fraudster. (The
Markarians are suing the CIBC for the return of the $1.4 million, plus
$10 million in punitive damages).
"Why didn't he (Noonan) make a call?," the judge asked.
Amyot said he sent letters instead.
"Is there any better way to facilitate fraud than do everything on
paper?" Judge Senecal commented, later adding "if it had only Noonans,
CIBC would be bankrupt."
He also wondered why CIBC had never contacted Sebuh Gazarosyan, whose
account (guaranteed by the Markarians) was $1 million in the hole.
Gazarosyan was Migirdic's uncle in Turkey and only a figurehead.
"If I'm a branch manager, and a client I don't know owes $1 million, I
think I'd be interested in meeting him," Senecal observed. "He owes $1
million to CIBC, but the branch manager never meets him. How is that
Amyot agreed that if calls had been made, the fraud would have been
detected sooner, but maintained the Markarians had deactivated CIBC's
internal checks and balances by signing guarantee confirmations year
Senecal also zeroed in on wording in the CIBC defence mentioning that
Migirdic and Markarian both were members of Montreal's tight- knit
Armenian community and giving the impression they were somehow
"Why this reference to them being in the same community? Why insist on
that?" the judge asked.
Amyot said CIBC never alleged there was an Armenian plot, but there
could have been. "Was it a possibility? Yes. There's nothing racist in
The trial is expected to conclude today.