BC lawyer suspended for working both sides of real estate deal | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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BC lawyer suspended for working both sides of real estate deal

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A BC lawyer was suspended for six weeks by the BC Law Society after he worked both sides of a real estate deal.

The conflict of interest, along with a case where he neglected to tell a judge he was short funds in a real estate deal and numerous failures to identify his clients, earned him a suspension and a requirement to work under supervision.

Vancouver real estate lawyer Gary Lo signed a consent agreement with the law society on Sept. 15, admitting to several missteps in his practice.

In 2019, Lo was representing an unnamed company as it worked out the details of a $10 million private mortgage it was seeking, offering advice for repayment, according to the agreement.

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Both before and after he was retained, Lo neglected to tell his client he was in a conflict of interest because he worked with the owner of the lending company since 2016, that is called "HS" in the decision.

He was prohibited from acting against the lender unless he had informed consent, but he didn't do so, nor did he suggest either company get independent legal advice.

He did warn the lender he was working on the $10 million loan and he wouldn't give advice to both companies. Instead, he warned the lender that assessing the repayment risk would be "your responsibility."

That same year, he worked with HS in a case that landed him in BC Supreme Court.

The company was working on a Vancouver land purchase, which required a $988,000 payment by the end of May 2019.

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By mid-June 2019, the payment still hadn't been made and Lo was only given $458,000 from his client for the purchase.

Lo's client said he could send bank drafts if the lawyers for the opposite side of the purchase made a demand, but told Lo he "would like more time so that he did not have to draw funds from another source," according to the decision.

Lawyers soon threatened to take the deal to court if the payment wasn't made.

Lo hadn't received instructions from his client and didn't respond to lawyers for the other side, who then followed through and took Lol to court over the purchase in August 2019.

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The court ruled in February 2021 in favour of the seller and ordered Lo to pay $988,000 for the purchase, expecting he should have the full amount held in trust. He sent only the $458,000 and explained it was all he had for his client, according to the decision.

He later admitted he should have stayed away from the transaction entirely.

On at least four other occasions, Lo was retained for private loans and real estate deals in which he didn't verify the identity of all the people involved.

Along with his suspension, Lo has now added new procedures to ensure he identifies all his corporate clients when he is retained.

His practice supervisor is there to consult him on avoiding potential conflicts of interest in the future, according to the decision.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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