Law Society of B.C. pays executive director Jim Matkin $291,700 to resign

By David Baines
Vancouver Sun
Jan 06, 2005

The Law Society of B.C. agreed to pay former executive director Jim Matkin $291,700 to resign his post after learning he was involved in a junior company with two known stock offenders, the society has disclosed.

In a release posted on its website, the society said it agreed to pay Matkin, who stepped down Dec. 6, $288,800 in severance pay and $2,900 in benefits -- an amount equal to 16 months' salary.

The society also confirmed that a member, who has not been named, has filed a complaint against Matkin, who is also a lawyer and member of the society, alleging that his conduct was unbecoming that of a lawyer.

Acting executive director Sholto Hebenton said Wednesday the society is investigating the matter to determine whether a citation should be issued against Matkin. Matkin was placed on paid leave Nov. 25 after The Vancouver Sun revealed that he was serving as president and chairman of a junior company called Hydrogen Power Inc. Hydrogen Power is a Seattle-based company which, through Canadian parent Global Hydrofuel Technologies Inc., acquired University of B.C. technology to produce hydrogen by combining water with aluminum and certain catalysts. The company is currently private, but is seeking investors and plans to go public on a U.S. exchange.

The Sun revealed that the company's chief executive officer is Ricky Gujral, who in 2001 admitted to trading offences while working as a broker at Union Securities. She agreed to pay a $46,400 fine and submit to a two-year trading ban. The Sun also revealed that Terry Alexander is helping to promote the company's technology and is an investor. In 1999, Alexander admitted to secretly trading stock through offshore accounts. He agreed to pay a $1.2-million penalty and to submit to a 20-year stock market suspension.

In August, Alexander was charged with violating his suspension. A trial is pending and, if convicted, he could be sent to jail.

Matkin denied any improper conduct. He argued that Gujral and Alexander had learned from their mistakes and deserved a second chance. He also said he sought and obtained assurances that Alexander would not promote the company's shares, only the technology.

On Nov. 25, after the articles were published, the society announced it would investigate the matter. Meanwhile, Matkin would take a paid leave of absence. Several days later, however, Matkin - who had served as the society's executive director for the past seven years - offered to resign in exchange for severance payments totalling $291,700.

 

"This amount is less than what would have been payable to Mr. Matkin had the benchers terminated his employment and paid him severance under the terms of his employment contract," the society said in its release. It also said the settlement "obviated the need for the investigation and removed the possibility of the disruption and expense of litigation."

Society president William Everett also noted that, as a result of the resignation, there would be no need to pursue an investigation into Matkin's conduct as executive director. A subsequent complaint from one of its members, however, has caused the society to open a new investigation into Matkin's conduct as a member.

There has never been any suggestion that Matkin did anything illegal. The issue is simply whether it was appropriate for him to be dealing with a company associated with Gujral and Alexander. A graduate of Harvard law school, Matkin has worked in many high-level positions, including deputy minister of labour in a former NDP government, president of the B.C. Business Council and a director of the Bank of Canada. He also headed a government-appointed inquiry into regulation of the Vancouver Stock Exchange, which was instrumental in cleaning up the Vancouver stock market.