Thursday, June 15, 2006
Retired businessman Haroutioun Markarian was on the road to Plattsburgh,
N.Y., yesterday, when he heard from his lawyer that he'd won big in his
lawsuit against CIBC World Markets.
"I was confident the wrongdoer would be punished, and the Canadian
justice system did not let me down," said Markarian, 73.
He had $300 to his name when he brought
his young family to Canada from Egypt in 1962. A machine shop that he
built "from nothing" was their ticket to a better life.
By 1993, when he retired and sold his share of the business to his
employees, he and wife, Alice, had assets in the millions.
About $1.4 million was placed with CIBC Wood Gundy. After the brokerage
seized and liquidated their holdings to pay off the trading losses of
people they didn't know, they had all of $2.54 left at the CIBC.
The Markarians had been clients of Harry Migirdic, a Wood Gundy broker
who misled them about the documents they were signing, since the
mid-1980s. Like them, he was an active member of Montreal's Armenian
"I had faith in him," Markarian, 73, testified in Superior Court. "I
felt fortunate to be served by a company vice-president."
Markarian said he never would have signed guarantees for the trading
losses of strangers.
"Why would I risk the family fortune for people I don't know?"
Though they still had substantial sums at other institutions, the couple
said the CIBC seizure took a toll.
"We had established a certain standard of living," Markarian said. "It
was cut in half."
Alice Markarian, 68, testified the events had a profound effect on her
"He didn't want to go to Armenian functions," she said. "He didn't want
to face people who wanted to talk about (what happened). He felt
Son Arek, 38, said his father "was a respected man, a founding member of
the Armenian community, one of the builders. It was a tremendous blow to
his ego, his self-esteem. ... Losing half what you worked your life for,
in one afternoon, at his age - it changed him."
Markarian was thrilled by yesterday's decision, but the ordeal has
shaken his confidence in Canada's financial institutions.
"I'm very vigilant now. I don't trust anyone. Financial institutions are
out for themselves. That's why investors have to watch their accounts