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$40-million lawsuit filed against prominent Halifax investor and National Bank

Click to play video '$40 million lawsuit filed against prominent Halifax investor and national bank' $40 million lawsuit filed against prominent Halifax investor and national bank
A $40 million civil lawsuit has been filed against prominent Halifax investment advisor

Dozens of Nova Scotians have filed a joint lawsuit against a prominent Halifax investment advisor and their bank, claiming the investor, unbeknownst to them, had been operating in risky investment strategies they didn’t sign up for.

Halifax lawyer Ian Gray filed a civil lawsuit in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Monday afternoon on behalf of his 29 clients against Fredrick Saturley and his investment firm High Tide Wealth Management and the National Bank of Canada and its subsidiary National Bank Independent Network, which has client relations with High Tide Wealth Management.

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Gray and his clients allege Saturley was pursuing risky investment strategies on behalf of the 29 clients, who are largely made up of Nova Scotian families in their early and late retirement phases — strategies that Gray says they had never signed up for.

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“These are not the sort of people that anyone would advise to undertake risky, capital-intensive strategies in an attempt to make a killing. These are people that needed to play things safe and steady for retirement,” Gray said. “And here’s the important thing: that’s what they thought they were doing.”

Gray and his clients allege Saturley was independently executing these risky investment strategies, and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the market crashed, so did the clients’ portfolios.

“Mr. Saturley and his subordinates systematically misled our clients about what was going on and did not inform them what was happening,” Gray said.

Neither Saturley nor the National Bank’s subsidiary NBIN held up their end of the bargain, Gray said. Operationally, he said they both failed his clients, adding NBIN had an obligation to alert them when things were going south with their finances.

“We’re proceeding against both defendants in negligence, saying they failed to do the things they needed to do to safeguard our clients’ interests in a way that they were obliged to,” he said.

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Gray said that collectively, his clients lost $36 million in the failed investment strategy and are seeking $40 million in the civil suit to cover damages and other expenses.

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The allegations made in the lawsuit have not been proven in court.

Global News spoke with Saturley by phone, and he said he wasn’t aware of the civil lawsuit and wouldn’t comment on the matter, while a spokesperson with National Bank also declined to comment.

Saturley was in 2004 disciplined by the Investment Dealers Association of Canada, which at that time was the body that regulated investment advisors. He was fined $10,000 and was ordered to re-write the IDA Conduct and Practices exam for improper trading practices.

Gray says in the case of his clients, all had signed “know your client” forms and never agreed to this level of aggressive and risky investment strategy.