The Superior Court considered that the firm had failed in its obligation to inform its client and awarded him only a fraction of the amount claimed.
Because the fees were billed without regard to the actual value of the work performed, and without the client knowing what to expect, the Court reduced the total bill by half.
The claim related to the unpaid balance of an invoice that totaled $532,497. BLG’s client, the private finance company Olivier Leclerc Capital (LeclercCo), having already disbursed $153,000, felt that it “owed nothing more” to the firm.
Hence the dispute.
The court ruled, ruling that the firm, which was claiming $365,475 in unpaid fees from its client LeclercCo, rather believes that the total invoice should not exceed $250,000.
So there’s only $97,000 left to pay.
A blank check
“(LeclercCo) criticizes (BLG) for having behaved as if it had given him a blank check. The amounts of the fees invoiced, she pleads, are unjustified, unjustifiable and clearly unreasonable”, summarizes the decision of the Court.
LeclercCo had retained the services of BLG in 2016 to help it settle a shareholder dispute. The work was carried out from the end of 2016 until the summer of 2017.
In her decision of May 3, the judge Karen M. Rogersof the Superior Court, determined that if the fees charged were reasonable for the month of December 2016, they should be reduced for the period from January 1 to July 31, 2017, a period for which they should not exceed 250 $000, she concluded.
However, BLG demanded in particular $353,785 for the months of January and February alone, in addition to the work carried out until July 2017, for a grand total of $365,475 in unpaid balance. The firm also claimed the annual rate of 12% applicable from 2017 to 2022, adding nearly a quarter of a million dollars to the final bill.
Represented internally by partner Me Eugenie Lefebvre and lawyer Me Valerie J. Di Lena, BLG declined to comment. “We are still evaluating the follow-up we wish to give to this judgment”, explained by email the regional director of business development, Valerie Laplante.
Obligation to inform not complied with
The Superior Court considers that Borden Ladner Gervais breached his obligation to inform, and points out that he did not apply a “concrete approach” to bill fair and reasonable fees to his client.
“A simple review of the invoices in dispute demonstrates that the amount of fees invoiced to LeclercCo is the result of a simple mathematical operation consisting in multiplying the time devoted to the execution of the Mandate (…)”, specifies the judgment.
In this case, nothing allowed Leclerc to anticipate such high bills, especially for the first two months of 2017.
“In fact, LeclercCo receives the invoice for the professional services rendered in January while the work of BLG during the month of February is already well underway. The invoice for services rendered in February, received in March, will also be a big surprise for LeclercCo. »
The Superior Court notes the “lack of coordination” between the various lawyers assigned to the case, including the partners Sylvie Bouvette, François D. Gagnon, Tommy Tremblay, Hugo Babos-Marchand and Eve Gaudetand the lawyer Hugo Saint-Laurent. Me Bouvette’s hourly rate was $625 while Me Tremblay’s was $490.
This lack of coordination led to the same documents being revised by several professionals, who were called upon to provide “the same services (…) without assessing the added value”.
The Court therefore determines that the client must pay only $97,000 for the balance of any account, to which an annual rate of 12% has applied since March 7, 2017.
Contacted by Droit-Inc, the lawyer for LeclercCo, Me Louis-Georges Brunetof Gagnon, Brunet & Kilani, declined our interview request.