Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Court Upholds $118 Million Award against Negligent Livent Auditor Deloitte

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Court Upholds $118 Million Award against Negligent Livent Auditor Deloitte

Article excerpt

Deloitte liable for $118-million Livent award

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TORONTO - The corporate auditor to the once high-flying Livent theatre company run by disgraced mogul Garth Drabinsky was partly responsible for the hundreds of millions of dollars creditors ended up losing, Ontario's top court ruled Friday.

In upholding an $85.6-million award against Deloitte and Touche -- $118 million with interest -- the Court of Appeal sided with a judge who found the auditor had been negligent in failing to detect, and act on, the fraudulent behaviour of Drabinsky and his partner, Myron Gottlieb, in the 1990s.

After all, there had been numerous red flags for several years that Deloitte essentially ignored, the court found.

"Deloitte knew that Drabinsky and Gottlieb were aggressive entrepreneurs who pushed the envelope in terms of accounting and financial measures," the Appeal Court said in a 100-page judgment.

"It is more likely than not that a careful and objective investigation into Livent's financial statements, pursued with 'an attitude of professional skepticism,' would have revealed the fraud."

Under the flamboyant Drabinsky, Livent Inc. brought popular shows like "Phantom of the Opera," "Show Boat," "Kiss of the Spider Woman," and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" to stages across North America. But the apparent success was based on a massive sleight of hand that included cooking the books, kickbacks and manipulated expenses.

The shenanigans were discovered in mid-1998 when a new management team took over. Within months, Livent went bust -- leaving investors and banks about $500 million out of pocket. Drabinsky and Gottlieb went to prison for fraud and forgery.

Livent's bankruptcy receiver sued Deloitte -- which had audited the company's books from 1989 through to 1998 -- on behalf of those owed money.

In a novel ruling that followed a 68-day trial in April 2014, Superior Court Justice Arthur Gans found Deloitte largely liable for Livent's losses after August 1997, saying company creditors had been hapless victims of a fraud the auditor should have brought to their attention had it done a proper job. …

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