The Real Story Behind The DioGuardi Complaints and Sensational Headlines
Being a game changer exposes one to the censure of those who cling steadfastly to the status quo, or feel threatened by the thought of a fresh approach.
Philippe DioGuardi is no stranger to such censure. His ongoing challenges to the Law Society of Upper Canada over regulations that prevent lawyers from protecting their clients against collection action by the Canada Revenue Agency have elevated him to front page prominence.
A misleading headline and article in the Toronto Star newspaper on May 21, 2014 inaccurately led readers to believe DioGuardi had been accused by the Law Society of cheating clients. Likely you read in on your way to this web page.
Philippe DioGuardi, and his father, Paul DioGuardi, issued a statement of claim against the Toronto Star for defamation, citing that while he was indeed facing a conduct hearing in answer to complaints filed separately by eight clients (out of a historical base of nearly ten thousand), the headline was deliberately and maliciously misleading, since none of the allegations raised against him by the LSUC made reference to cheating clients.
In November 2015, Philippe DioGuardi reached a settlement with his regulator wherein he agreed to accept discipline for failing to serve these eight clients, and agreed to amend his handling of client fees, despite his position that the Canada Revenue Agency is able to seize client fees before legal services are provided. He was given a token sentence of a suspension for six weeks. He agreed to this settlement in order to protect his children and his parents from repeated front page articles in the Toronto Star that ignored the facts of his dispute with the LSUC, focusing instead on salacious details of his personal life and his ongoing acrimonious divorce proceedings. These front page stories featured paparazzi-style photographs of himself, and photos of his ex-wife copied from personal facebook pages.
As part of the settlement agreement, the Law Society of Upper Canada acknowledged that DioGuardi was entitled to request a policy review of the rules governing protection of client fees. DioGuardi requested discussion of such a review in December 2015, and again in 2016. To date the Law Society has not responded to either request. It appears that the powers that be in the legal profession are unwilling to change the game, at the expense of the public whom it is their appointed duty to protect.
Philippe DioGuardi also challenged the Law Society Act with an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, claiming that the Law Society does not provide adequate protection to clients who choose to make complaints about a lawyer’s conduct in the event that the complaint proceeds to a public hearing. Personal details of the client’s legal matter are at risk of public disclosure during a hearing, DioGuardi argued, and once a hearing begins the client has no power to redact information or stop the hearing process. When the client is a tax evader, or in a dispute with the Canada Revenue Agency, public disclosure of any details of their legal matter may trigger actions by the Canada Revenue Agency which could put the client at risk of investigation, possibly at the criminal level, or seizure of property. DioGuardi advocated that clients be warned of this risk of disclosure, and also be advised to seek independent legal counsel, before submitting a complaint about a lawyer to the Law Society. The Supreme Court dismissed DioGuardi’s request for an appeal in February 2017.