Harper Grey wins or­der for lawyer-turned-farmer Briner

Stockwatch Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By Mike Caswell

IN A foot­note to the crim­i­nal case against dis­barred Van­cou­ver se­cu­ri­ties lawyer John Briner, court fil­ings have re­vealed that he ne­glected to pay the law firm that rep­re­sented him in the case. That firm, Harper Grey LLP, has ob­tained a court or­der to re­cover its le­gal fees. The or­der, handed down on Nov. 21, 2017, di­rects Mr. Briner to pay $15,974.

The or­der comes about 22 months af­ter Mr. Briner pleaded guilty in the Provin­cial Court of Bri­tish Columbia to a charge stem­ming from vi-

ola­tions of an of­fi­cer and di­rec­tor ban. In 2010 he re­ceived a five-year ban for aid­ing the pump-and-dump of an OTC Bul­letin Board listing, Golden Ap­ple Oil & Gas Inc. (The B.C. Se­cu­ri­ties Com­mis­sion had barred him from trad­ing, serv­ing as an of­fi­cer or di­rec­tor, car­ry­ing out in­vestor re­la­tions work, and from act­ing in a man­age­ment or con­sult­ing role in the se­cu­ri­ties mar­ket. While sub­ject to the ban, he re­mained a di­rec­tor of a num­ber of en­ti­ties, in­clud­ing his own law firm.)

The le­gal bill at is­sue arose out of that crim­i­nal case. Over a one-year pe­riod, Harper Grey lawyer Rod An­der­son rep­re­sented Mr. Briner and ul­ti­mately ne­go­ti­ated a guilty plea. It now ap­pears, how­ever, that Harper Grey’s in­voices were go­ing unpaid dur­ing that pe­riod. An in­voice sum­mary at­tached to the Nov. 21 or­der shows that Mr. Briner paid $3,000 worth of fees, leav­ing $15,974 ow­ing. To re­cover the amount, Harper Grey filed a law­suit in the Provin­cial Court of Bri­tish Columbia. Mr. Briner did not con­test the suit, re­sult­ing in the or­der handed down on Nov. 21.

For Mr. Briner, the le­gal bill far ex­ceeds the penalty that he re­ceived in the crim­i­nal case. On Feb. 9, 2016, the judge im­posed a $1,000 fine on him, with the pay­ment rep­re­sent­ing his en­tire sen­tence. In im­pos­ing the fine, the judge ac­knowl­edged that Mr. Briner had no crim­i­nal record and would have to live with the stigma of be­ing charged.

(Ahead of sen­tenc­ing, Mr. Briner claimed that he did not en­tirely un­der­stand the BCSC ban. He said that his un­der­stand­ing was that the ban only ap­plied to pub­lic com­pa­nies. He did not re­al­ize that it ap­plied to pri­vate en­ti­ties such as his law firm or an­other en­tity that he con­trolled, called Jervis Ex­plo­ration.)

Since his guilty plea, Mr. Briner has found him­self a new ca­reer, that of a hop farmer. He is the sole di­rec­tor of a com­pany called North­west Hop Farms Inc. (His five-year ban ex­pired in 2015, so he may le­git­i­mately oc­cupy that role.) On its web­site, the com­pany calls it­self a Fraser Val­ley hop farm and hop dis­trib­u­tor.

It is not clear how suc­cess­ful his new ven­ture is, but Mr. Briner did re­cently at­tract a fawn­ing ar­ti­cle from Van­cou­ver Sun re­porter Brian Min­ter. On Oct. 17, 2017, Mr. Min­ter re­ported on the craft brew­ing in­dus­try and how it was sourc­ing some of its hops from the Chilli­wack area. The ar­ti­cle, which con­tained many quotes from Mr. Briner, men­tioned that he and his fa­ther had a 50-acre farm in the area. “We must ad­mire the grow­ers who are now pro­duc­ing hops for the Cana­dian mar­ket and the craft brew­ers who cre­ate so many great new beers and ales. I wish John Briner and his fa­ther the very best in their new ven­ture,” the piece read.

The piece did not men­tion Mr. Briner’s past trou­bles with se­cu­ri­ties reg­u­la­tors, which go back to Sept. 1, 2009. On that date, the U.S. Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion filed a civil com­plaint in New York against Mr. Briner and oth­ers for the pump-and-dump of Golden Ap­ple. The SEC claimed that Mr. Briner helped a Toronto man named Jay Budd, who pumped Golden Ap­ple to $3.70 with mis­lead­ing news re­leases. Dur­ing the pro­mo­tion, a pri­vate com­pany that Mr. Budd con­trolled, Ethos In­vest­ments Inc . , sold $3.4-mil­lion (U.S.) worth of stock, the SEC claimed.

Both men set­tled the case out of court, with­out ad­mit­ting any wrong­do­ing. Mr. Briner re­ceived $92,368 (U.S.) in fines and agreed to a five-year ban from par­tic­i­pat­ing in penny stock of­fer­ings and from serv­ing as an of­fi­cer or di­rec­tor of a pub­lic com­pany. Mr. Budd agreed to a per­ma­nent penny stock ban and re­ceived $4.7-mil­lion (U.S.) in fines.

Af­ter the SEC case con­cluded, the BCSC im­posed re­cip­ro­cal sanc­tions on Mr. Briner. On April 5, 2011, the lo­cal reg­u­la­tor banned him from trad­ing, serv­ing as an of­fi­cer or di­rec­tor, car­ry­ing out in­vestor re­la­tions work, and from act­ing in a man­age­ment or con­sult­ing role in the se­cu­ri­ties mar­ket. The BCSC ban was in effect un­til Nov. 3, 2015.

The SEC cited Mr. Briner again on Jan. 15, 2015, for a shell scheme. The U.S. reg­u­la­tor said that he set up 20 pur­ported min­ing com­pa­nies in 2011 and 2012 us­ing sham prop­erty deals. He hid his role with the com­pa­nies, putting nom­i­nee of­fi­cers in con­trol, the SEC claimed. Mr. Briner set­tled that mat­ter with­out a hear­ing, agree­ing to a $71,820 (U.S.) fine and a per­ma­nent ban. He did not ad­mit any wrong­do­ing.

Sep­a­rate from those trou­bles, Mr. Briner ran afoul of the Law So­ci­ety of Bri­tish Columbia. On Nov. 30, 2015, the so­ci­ety dis­barred him for mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ing client money. The so­ci­ety said that he had $50,439 in his trust ac­count that he was sup­posed to hold for a client, but in­stead used it for other pur­poses. Mr. Briner had con­tended that the prob­lem was an ac­count­ing er­ror, but the Law So­ci­ety de­ter­mined that he was “not be­ing honest and forth­right.”

(*CUR­RENT)

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