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Professional group had duty to warn public, says Justice

Couple successfully sues Association in Hofman-case

Tags: Hofman Case Investigation

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - An elderly immigrant couple who lost its life's savings to a former certified general accountant - now a fugitive from justice - successfully sued Fred Siebolt Hofman' professional organization for having failed to enforce disassociation terms after he resigned during an investigation into his conduct. The Schillings, who arrived from New Zealand in 1985, argued that they would have demanded the return of their money had they known that Hofman was no longer a CGA.

Relying on income from a 'safe' investment with the Dutch-born accountant, the Schillings testified that Hofman used his CGA affiliation months after he had resigned his membership in the professional body. The Certified General Accountants Association of B.C. was investigating a complaint when Hofman through his lawyer agreed to resign with the understanding that the case against would be dropped. Hofman's clients were never told of the matter.

Conduct investigated

That investigation into Hofman's conduct was the second in five years; the first one was in 1982, when he was suspended as a CGA for two weeks. The second resulted in a fine of $1,000.00 in 1987, and an insistence that Hofman keep his accounting practise separate from his investment services. In her ruling on the case, Madame Justice J. Sinclair Prowse of the Supreme Court of B.C. observed that the association then regularly monitored Hofman's compliance of the prescribed conditions.

The second case also involved a separate investigation by the Superintendent of Brokers who nearly two years after the complaint was laid, issued a temporary order that Hofman and his investment company, Braman Management Limited, '... cease trading ... in any securities held by or on behalf of any person or entity who has given Braman, Hofman ... discretionary authority to make investment decisions on his or its behalf...' In February 1989, a new order set long-term restrictions on Hofman. Some months later, the Securities Commission requested the association's documents on Hofman, leading Justice Prowse to conclude that it was aware of the ongoing investigation of its member. Designation was used Hofman voluntarily resigned from the association on January 15, 1990, but made a deal that specifically prohibited any public notice of this decision. Although there were conflicting statements on the matter, Prowse was satisfied that Hofman had not ceased to use his 'certified' designation. During the case a witness testified that he had called the Association nine months after Hofman's resignation, advising it of the fact that the forbidden term 'certified' was still being used. Justice Prowse left it to the parties to agree to the amount of the damages at issue but will provide further direction if they cannot resolve the matter. Absent from Schillings suit was Hofman, who is featured on the RCMP's Most Wanted List. Judgements in civil cases against the fugitive accountant run in the millions. Additionally, there are over sixty counts of theft and fraud outstanding against Hofman whose whereabouts are unknown. He was last seen on an Amsterdam-bound aircraft from Seattle, April 1991.