Richmond lawyer claims bank failed to spot suspicious transactions

Embattled Richmond-based lawyer Hong Guo and her law corporation are suing the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), claiming the bank failed to recognize suspicious transactions that led to a multimillion dollar theft from the law corporation’s trust account.

Guo and Guo Law Corp. filed a notice of civil claim in BC Supreme Court on April 3. According to the lawsuit, the law corporation’s former bookkeeper, Zixin Li a.k.a. Jeff Li, conspired with the firm’s former receptionist, Qian Pan a.k.a. Danica Pan, and an associate to misappropriate funds from the law corporation’s trust account. Guo claims CIBC converted trust funds and cheques and failed to prevent the theft due to “willful blindness or recklessness.”

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“CIBC was under a duty of care to Guo Law and members of the public to establish and operate a functioning system to monitor, assess, recognize, report, investigate and prevent suspicious transactions, including transactions that were indicative of a risk of fraud or theft of trust funds,” the claim states.

Between February and April 2016, the former employees allegedly converted more than $6.6 million through CIBC using “unauthorized and fraudulent” cheques. CIBC allegedly provided several bank drafts on Li’s directions, made payable to Pan, “despite CIBC’s actual knowledge that Li did not have signing authority, or any authority, to provide such directions.”

The plaintiffs seek an order for CIBC to repay $6,619,263 and unspecified damages for conversion, breach of trust, breach of duty or care, and negligence.

The allegations have not been tested or proven in court, and CIBC had not filed a response to the claim by press time.

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