Investors Scrutinizing the Regulators

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Fox Guarding the Hen House

July 14, 2005

It's a small world after all

Many column acres have been plowed covering the woes of financier Ian Thow, who is facing investigations by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the British Columbia Securities Commission concerning his investment activities. According to lawsuits filed against Mr. Thow, the former Berkshire Investment Group Inc. executive vice-president allegedly failed to account for more than $1 million in investor funds. So far, this sorrowful Howe Street story hasn't attracted much attention from Government Street. But Public Eye readers may be interested to know, for the record, that a search of the corporate registry has revealed three of Mr. Thow's companies list their registered and records office as being at 420-880 Douglas Street - the law offices of McConnan, Bion, O'Connor, Peterson. That firm is notable among politicos for being home to prominent federal Liberal backroom boy and fundraiser Michael "Benji" O'Connor. Mr. O'Connor was also chair of the Greater Victoria Hospitals Foundation's Together We Care campaign, which accepted a $500,000 pledge from Mr. Thow that was never met. So Public Eye telephoned Mr. O'Connor to ask him about what relationship, if any, he had with Mr. Thow. The following is an edited transcript of that interview.

Public Eye Mike, I was taking a look through Ian Thow's companies and a noticed M600 Holdings Ltd., 657594 B.C. Ltd. - which is a holding company - and Thow Financial Planning Corp. have their registered office being your office. And I'm just wondering what's up with that?

Mr. O'Connor Well, as you know, companies in British Columbia have to have a registered and records office. And we were the registered office for some of those companies. We're no longer the registered office. Those are being handled by Harper, Grey in Vancouver.

Public Eye When did that changeover happen?

Mr. O'Connor That's been in process for the past week.

Public Eye And what's the reason for the changeover?

Mr. O'Connor All of Mr. Thow's legal work is being done by Harper, Grey. I'm not involved at all.

Public Eye Right. So was Ian's previous legal work done by your office?

Mr. O'Connor We were the registered and records office for his companies. We're not handling any of his legal work.

Public Eye Were you handling any of his work previously?

Mr. O'Connor The registered office was what we were.

Public Eye Any other work?

Mr. O'Connor That's all gone to Vancouver too.

Public Eye Any other work?

Mr. O'Connor I'm not acting for Ian Thow in any capacity.

Public Eye Okay. The other thing I noticed is that you were involved with the Victoria Hospitals Foundation with regards to the Together We Care Campaign.

Mr. O'Connor That's right.

Public Eye I'm just wondering whether you were the person that solicited the donation from Ian?

Mr. O'Connor No.

Public Eye And did you have any relationship with Ian at all?

Mr. O'Connor Well, the fact was he had made a pledge to the hospital foundation. And that was my involvement with him.

Public Eye And that was the extent of your involvement with him? The pledge and...?

Mr. O'Connor I was chair of the campaign to raise $17 million.

Public Eye And so the extent of your involvement with him was limited to the campaign and (your firm) being the registered and records office for his companies.

Mr. O'Connor Well, this law firm was the registered and records office for those companies. And that's all been transferred out. And, with respect to the campaign, there was a pledge made. And, obviously, as chair of the campaign, I dealt with Ian in that regard.

Public Eye So did you have any other dealings with him at a personal or business level?

Mr. O'Connor No. In terms of those two things, that was it.

Public Eye In terms of anything else?

Mr. O'Connor I don't have any further comment on anything. I think I made it clear that we were the registered and records office for those companies. We transferred those to Vancouver. And, in my role as chair of the Together We Care campaign, I dealt with thousands of donors quite frankly. Obviously, there were literally thousands of donors from modest gifts to larger gifts. But obviously, in order to make a campaign like that work, you've got to have thousands of gifts to make that goal - especially (in a city) the size of Victoria.

Posted by Sean Holman at 05:17 PM