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GWL won't appeal ruling

Former clients of rogue broker seek settlement

Greg Downey's lawyer has contacted Great-West Life to ask if the Winnipeg-based insurance giant is willing to negotiate a settlement with a total of nine clients.

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Greg Downey's lawyer has contacted Great-West Life to ask if the Winnipeg-based insurance giant is willing to negotiate a settlement with a total of nine clients. (PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES)

Great-West Life has decided not to appeal a December court ruling that found it responsible for the actions of a former rogue broker, and now former clients of Gary Palmer are lining up to get their money back.

Greg Downey, who was bilked out of $40,000 by Palmer, said his lawyer, Richard Beamish from Tapper Cuddy LLP, has sent a letter to his counterpart at Great-West to ask whether the Winnipeg-based financial services giant is willing to negotiate a settlement with him and eight other clients.

"I would hope they would want to get this all settled," Downey said. "Once one case has gone before a judge and (Great-West) has been found at fault, it's pretty much the same for everybody else. It seems kind of silly to drag it through the courts -- all (Great-West) gets is bad press."

Beamish, who represents seven former clients of Palmer, said he's looking to nail down pre-trial dates.

"We're going to push them hard. We were hoping (the Mignault decision) would break the dam. We're going to pull the trigger, unless (Great-West) wants to settle," he said.

Palmer was convicted in November 2010 of defrauding 23 people, including the theft of $1.5 million during his decade-long run, and sentenced to eight years in prison. Some of his former clients have dropped out of the legal action due to rising costs.

Great-West had countered Palmer was an independent contractor and it was not responsible for what he did. The trial judge disagreed, saying in December the company "cloaked (Palmer) with the attributions of apparent authority" and awarded Michel and Lorraine Mignault $528,834.

Their lawyer, Dave Hill, said he didn't receive a formal notice Great-West was not going to appeal but it was academic after he received a cheque for the Mignaults in the mail last week.

"It's hopefully good news for the (remaining) investors," he said.

A spokeswoman for Great-West confirmed the company's intentions not to appeal but declined to comment on what might happen with the other Palmer clients because the matters are before the courts. She said the Palmer case is a "rare and unfortunate situation where a single independent adviser was found to have committed fraud."

"This is an isolated incident involving an independent adviser and his clients and their investments through him," the spokeswoman said.

It was widely expected Great-West would appeal the December judgment because it had been successful on two previous appeals in the past five years.

In one case, a $37-million judgment on a pension fund was overturned, and in the second, the aggravated damages awarded against it in a disability claim by a lower court were thrown out.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

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