Nova Scotia

N.S. investors launch lawsuit against investment adviser, bank

A Halifax law firm is launching a lawsuit against an investment adviser, his company and the bank that provided financing, alleging they cost clients millions of dollars in their life savings and retirement income.

Lawyer says adviser's investment strategy was far too risky for his clients' comfort

A Halifax law firm is launching a lawsuit against an investment adviser, his company and the bank that provided financing, alleging they cost clients millions. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

A Halifax law firm is launching a lawsuit against an investment adviser, his company and the bank that provided financing, alleging they cost clients millions of dollars in their life savings and retirement income.

The lawsuit, launched Monday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, names Fredrick Saturley, family members who work with him, his company High Tide Wealth Management, and National Bank of Canada and two of its subsidiaries as defendants.

Lawyer Ian Gray of Walker Dunlop said Saturley's investment strategy was far too risky for his clients' comfort.

Gray said things came to a head in March when the economy started collapsing because of COVID-19. He said that's when National Bank stepped in, demanding the accounts be paid up immediately.

'You trust that they are doing their best'

"When you entrust your money to a financial professional, you trust that they are looking after you, you trust that they are doing their best," Gray said Monday.

"You know, sometimes people make mistakes, but you trust that people are doing what they say they're going to do. And so then to turn around and to go from financially secure, let us say, on March 9 to completely destitute on March 16 is just a massive blow."

Gray said his 29 clients lost about $36 million. They're seeking $40 million in damages.

"They're frightened and scared and they feel betrayed," Gray said of his clients.

"We're talking about dozens of people, obviously, there's going to be differing results. I can think of the extremes of my clients and some of them are dealing with it [in a] very upbeat and sanguine way and others are extremely devastated by this."

Not the first trouble for Saturley

This is not the first time Saturley's investment strategies have landed him in trouble. In 2004, he was fined $10,000 for unauthorized trading in client accounts.

In 2008, while working as an adviser at CIBC Wood Gundy, Saturley's clients lost millions of dollars because of a margin error, leading to his firing. He appealed that decision but the courts upheld the bank's move.

Gray said it appears Saturley hasn't learned anything.

"I would say that this speaks to a reckless arrogance and a refusal to learn from past mistakes and has had a truly ruinous effect on my clients and on others as well," Gray said.

Saturley did not respond to a request for comment on this lawsuit.

A spokesperson for National Bank declined to comment. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 35 years, the last 27 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety. He can be reached at blair.rhodes@cbc.ca

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