Tuesday, July 5, 2005
The activities of Ian Thow, the former senior vice-president at the
Victoria office of Berkshire Investment Group whose outside business
activities have become the subject of a company investigation, are now
front and centre at the B.C. Securities Commission.
Yesterday representatives of the Goodwin family, a group that has filed a
statement of claim against Thow demanding the repayment of more than
$1-million, met, for the first time, with staff at the provincial
The idea was straightforward: The Goodwins wanted to make a full
disclosure of their dealings with Thow to the regulators and bring them
up-to-date on a matter that may end up costing investors at least
$30-million. Prior to this meeting, the regulator acknowledged it was
aware of issues and concerns surrounding Mr. Thow and was looking into
The Goodwin group -- a family-run development company (parents Don and
Anna, children Daryl and Bradley, plus Gina, a daughter in-law) invested
$2.5-million with Thow.
That investment was made into Thow's holding company -- AYG Investments
Inc. -- and was earmarked for National Commercial Bank of Jamaica, a bank
controlled by Michael Lee-Chin, the founder and largest shareholder of AIC
Ltd., and the founder and largest shareholder of Berkshire.
"Thow advised the plaintiffs to invest in shares in the National
Commercial Bank.... Thow advised them that this was a limited opportunity
only available to clients of Berkshire.... In order to participate in the
investment, Thow advised that the funds must be transferred to him
personally or to his holding company and he would purchase the shares to
be held in trust on behalf of the plaintiffs," read the statement of
So after investing $2.5-million, the family has received $1.446-million in
return. The plaintiffs are still owed $1.052-million plus accrued profits.
The Goodwins are one of five different investors who have sued Thow
(and/or his holding companies) and Berkshire. Of the others, three are
from British Columbia and two are from Alberta.
What does Berkshire say?
Not much, other than the following: "We aren't going to comment on matters
that are before the court. During the course of our investigation of his
outside business activities, Mr. Thow resigned."
The legal redress sought by the Goodwin family would not have been
necessary had Thow followed through on a settlement allegedly reached with
the Goodwins last month.
Back then the Goodwin clan -- together with Derek Stimson, a businessman
based in Coaldale, Alta., who has also filed a claim against Thow,
Berkshire and 657594 B.C. Ltd., one of Thow's holding companies -- were on
their way to Berkshire's head office in Burlington, Ont. Their mission: to
meet with Berkshire's compliance department.
"When the plane landed, the cellphones started ringing," Brad Goodwin
said. "It was Thow's lawyer. He was trying to negotiate a deal with us to
stop us from going to the Burlington office and telling them about Ian
The outcome of those phone conversations was that Thow and Stimson reached
an agreement, as did Thow and the Goodwins. As a result, the meeting was
cancelled. As part of that agreement, Thow would return the money within
"We came home. All we had to do was sign the papers. But Ian Thow pulled
the agreement. I didn't think that was possible once the money was in
trust," Goodwin said.
Rod Anderson, a lawyer with the Vancouver law firm of Harper Grey Easton,
has been retained by Thow. Yesterday he wouldn't comment on any of the
allegations made by the Goodwins.
"I have no instructions from my client to make comments to the press
concerning these matters because they are before the courts," he said,
adding that he would not comment on whether he acted for Thow on the
settlements with Stimson and the Goodwins. And he would not comment on
He did say that "we are going to defend the claims."
Aside from a group of former clients who claim they are owed money from
Thow and/or his holding company and/or Berkshire, Thow has other pressing
legal matters. Recently, Donald James, a former partner of Thow -- the two
were purchasing an aircraft -- initiated a court action against Thow. (In
turn, Thow sued James and James counterclaimed.) Last week, James was
successful in winning an injunction that restrains Thow and his company
from "encumbering, charging, mortgaging, disposing or in any way dealing
with" the aircraft. The injunction also required that the aircraft be
delivered to the aircraft operator. James is now proceeding with an
arbitration of his claims.