Can an accountant be held liable for failing to disclose that he was acting for the developer in the structuring of each of the real estate projects?

Alberta, Canada


The following excerpt is from Reid v. Graybriar Industries Ltd., 2006 ABQB 519 (CanLII):

In Hodgkinson v. Simms, 1994 CanLII 70 (SCC), [1994] 3 S.C.R. 377, a stock broker who was inexperienced in tax planning sought advice from an accountant regarding tax issues. The stock broker relied heavily on the accountant’s advice, and did not really question him about the reasons underlying the advice he gave to invest in real estate investment projects. The stock broker lost heavily due to a decline in the real estate market. The accountant had not disclosed that he was acting for the developers in the structuring of each of the real estate investment projects. The stock broker would not have invested in the projects had he known this. It was argued in that case that even assuming the stock broker would not have invested had proper disclosure been made, the non‑disclosure was not the proximate cause of his loss. Rather, the appellant's loss was caused by a general economic recession, and it would be grossly unjust to hold the accountant accountable for losses that have no causal relation to the breach of fiduciary duty he perpetrated on the appellant.

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