Conrad Black: Let the vengeance begin

His release on bail and rising legal fortunes could help his defamation lawsuits against his accusers


M. Spencer Green/AP

It has been a good summer for Conrad Black. He won a key victory at the U.S. Supreme Court that could help overturn his fraud convictions and, this week, managed to secure his release on bail from a Florida prison. For Black’s accusers, though, the mood is likely less jubilant. With several defamation lawsuits already filed, Black has been promising vengeance on those who played a role in his downfall—and his moment of retribution appears to be drawing closer.

Black still has a way to go before he can claim complete vindication, but experts say those who dismissed his flurry of litigation as long as he languished in jail might want to think again. “If you’re convicted of a crime, that makes it very difficult to win any defamation lawsuits,” says Peter Henning, a professor at Wayne State University Law School and a former attorney with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “If Black can get his convictions reversed that puts him in a much better position.”

High on Black’s hit list are members of a special committee of Hollinger International that delivered a scathing report accusing him of running a “corporate kleptocracy” allowing him and his underlings to make off with some US$400 million. However, the gap between the allegations in the report written by Richard Breeden, a former chairman of the SEC, and reality (as determined by the U.S. legal system) continues to grow wider. While Black originally faced 13 charges that alleged a theft of US$60 million, he was only convicted of three counts of fraud totalling US$2.9 million—plus one obstruction of justice charge related to his removing of boxes from his Toronto office. “That alone demonstrates that there may not be a lot of truth in the allegations and the libels in the Breeden report,” says Earl Cherniak, a Toronto lawyer who is acting on behalf of Black in the libel suits filed in Ontario.

And if Black is ultimately acquitted of all charges, he adds, “then the fact that he’s been convicted of nothing certainly doesn’t hurt his libel case.” Breeden could not be reached for comment, according to a representative.

The defendants in the suit appeared before the Court of Appeal for Ontario this spring in an attempt to have the action moved out of Ontario, where only one of them lives (and where libel laws are more favourable to plaintiffs than in the United States). Cherniak, however, says the province was chosen because of Black’s close connection to the region and the overwhelming media interest in his case among Canadians. “Just read today’s newspapers and look at last night’s news programs,” he said, the day after Black’s bail was granted. The appeal court has yet to give its ruling on whether the suit can move forward.

Black may also be keen to resurrect an $11-million suit, also filed in Ontario, against British author Tom Bower, who wrote the book Conrad & Lady Black: Dancing on the Edge, which painted an unflattering picture of Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel. Black responded in a Daily Telegraph column: “Almost every factual assertion . . . in Tom Bower’s malicious novel about my wife and me is false (and many are defamatory), except for the quotation from my emails to him, predicting that he would write a libellous onslaught, and declining his repeated, fawning pleas for an interview.” Bower later wrote in the Sunday Times about his battles with Black, recapping the moment the businessman’s guilty verdict was delivered: “Finally, the man who thought that the truth could be concealed by lies had been exposed as a charlatan.”

Bower could not be reached and his agent did not return calls. Edward Greenspan, one of Black’s defence lawyers, declined to talk about the possibility that the suit and others could be restarted until Black was out of custody. However, Greenspan told a Toronto newspaper last year that Black was counting on the proceeds of such suits to help pay for his ballooning legal bills.

It is not clear whether the U.S. appeal court’s decision to grant bail means it is likely to deliver a favourable outcome for Black. But many experts think the fraud charges, at least, will be overturned in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to narrow the definition of “honest services” fraud used to convict Black. “Everything is going to hinge on this remaining count of obstruction of justice,” says Bennett Gershman, a professor at Pace Law School. “Would the jury have found him guilty of obstruction of justice if they didn’t have the honest-services counts also to consider? It may be that you can’t separate them.” He says that even if Black is unable to overturn the obstruction charge, he is unlikely to go back to jail having served more than two years already. “The government doesn’t have a strong hand here anymore. Black is in the driver’s seat now.”

As for his enemies: look out.


Conrad Black: Let the vengeance begin

  1. Great to see Conrad!!!

    Go get 'em!

    Maybe we will have true justice after all.

    • We? WE????? Such an admission of being a kisser of Lord lard bottom's bottom!

      Sadly you are another admirer of those who have more power then yourself.

      Justice has not yet been served, but it will be…

  2. Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord (Black")I will repay! Go get em Conrad.

  3. I sure hope Black has enough money to launch a big lawsuit against biographer Tom Bower.

    When Richard Desmond took Bower to court, Desmond got the public whoopin' of his life and fled humiliated with his tail between his legs.

    Black might have won some highly technical legal battles, but in a civil suit where the standard is 'on a balance of probabilities', Lordy is gonna wish he'd laid low in jail for a few more years.

    I suspect the same will happen against Breeden where Black has everything to lose – especially if Black dares to testify.

  4. The only thing the Feds were ever able to pin on John Dillinger was tax evasion. That doesn't mean he never committed a whole host of crimes — including murder. Conrad Black is now getting a slight break because a US Supreme Court that is skewed by highly ideological judges is bent on reducing the chances of convicting white collar criminals. Like John Dillinger, Mr. Black is still a criminal.

    • that was Al Capone, leader of the Mob, and sent to prison for tax evasion, John Dillinger was a bank robber and shot coming out of the Movies and did not serve time.

      • Some people would rather not let facts get in the way of a good story.

        • Even after Johnny Depp portrayed the character in a very successful movie.

          • Thanks for the reminder! I've been meaning to see that.

    • What crime? Making money? You might think that is a crime, but if you actually understood what was at issue you wouldn't be so quick to push CB into the same catagory as John Dillinger, er Al Capone.

      If you think the US Supreme Court is packed with right wing ideologes who like to get white collar criminals off, I'm sorry, you need to go see a shrink.

    • The only ideologues involved in Black's case were the prosecutors. And it's nice to see you have such respect for our justice system that you'd call someone guilty even after being found innocent.

      • Well, he hasn't been found innocent. Three of four charges were overturned. Courts can never make a finding of "innocent". It's only "guilty" or "not guilty".

        • "not guilty" and innocent are synonyms. That's lawyer-talk for "means the same thing".

    • The only thing the Feds were ever able to pin on John Dillinger was tax evasion.

      Not true. They pinned the back of his head with a bullet. Perhaps you were thinking of some other John Dillinger.

  5. well one supposes that His Lardiness has to raise money somehow, considering that he has "none".

    • Earning money, and taking down your enemies! Two birds with one stone!

  6. at no time did c black break "the" letter of any law

    he also paid "world class" bucks for legal advice re: revenue distributions

    moving boxes is not hiding boxes – they were still very available

    • This is like saying robbing a bank is just moving the money and it is still readily available.

      • And that you had a court order demanding you clean out the bank.

        • I never understood how he could be criminally prosecuted in the US for allegedly disobeying an Ontario regulatory body's Order. Since when does the US do our prosecutions for us? I hope he's cleared of all allegations myself

  7. One charge surely must stand: The removal of files from his office by Mr. Black in defiance of a court order.He was filmed "in flagranti" and we all saw him in action on TV the same evening.But he will probably argue that the clip was staged so as to incriminate him ,and that it was not actually him that we saw in the TV clip.Money can cause miracles in the legal world.We will see!

    • If all the other charges are dismissed, it's quite possible for the obstruction charge to go too.

    • It is hard to convict on the obstruction of justice charge when the "crime" that led to the court order for those boxes was found not to be a crime.

      • Actually, it is not so hard…in U.S. federal courts.

  8. Conrad Black is a scoundrel of the first order. He represents almost everything that has gone wrong with the capitalist system the past couple of decades. There used to be and there still are some capitalist enterprises that have as objectives serving the common good at the same time as making a profit. With Conrad Black it was simply profit, plus a twisted sense or entitlement that went with it. Not just his Hollinger buiness, but all of his businesses were designed to enrich Conrad Black with little regard for anyone else, most particulalry his investors. His newspapers were designed first as right wing propaganda machines as well as to supoprt his particularly ruthless brand of capitalism. His "get out of jail free card" hinges exclusively on a a conservative court's redefininition of the term "honest services" that makes a mockery of what those words mean in plain English. In Conrad's case honest services apparently means he makes millions while his invvestors go broke.

    • The only reason that the investors went broke is because post-Black management ran the place into the ground, then spent tens of millions of dollars trying to prove that it wasn't their fault. And in case you hadn't noticed, nobody in the newspaper business has done very well for themselves of the last ten years. Is that Conrad Black's fault too?

    • His investors only went broke after Conrad left and the Feds tried to "fix" the company. While Conrad was there his investors were doing well. I am not saying that if Conrad was stealing that is ok, but if the law he broke was there to protect investors, the Feds did a poor job of ensuring that happened. This is at best a case of the cure being worse than the disease and at worst a example of some Federal prosecutors trying to take down a big fish for the sake of publicity and their own political ends.

      Not everyone that makes lots of money is evil.

    • I was going to point out that Hollinger shareholders only got soaked after Black was forced out by an unholy alliance between a disgruntled minority of shareholders and the SEC, but it's already been said. Twice.

  9. Sunshine Coaster and certain others obviously don't want to be confused by the facts or anything else that might cause them to stop beating up on Black! As regards the infamous boxes that Black moved from his office, it was proven (but conveniently ignored!) in Court that Black was not aware of the Court order as his own lawyers only advised him of the existence of the Court Order several days after he had moved the boxes. Secondly, the contents of the boxes which were shown to be virtually irrelevant to the case had already been copied TWICE by both the SEC and by the Dept of Justice! Last but not least, how does a Court in Illinois even have jurisdiction over something that Black allegedly did in Canada? Imagine a Canadian court convicting someone in Canada of an "offence" they supposedly committed in the US! Black's trial was a compete travesty of justice from Day One and his only "crime" was appearing to be arrogant by being unwilling to roll up the white flag and surrender to the US "justice" system! Black is a great Canadian and the granting of a peerage to him by the Brits was an honour to him and to Canada but Chretien was determined to block it because he thought Black's papers were (rightly!) giving Chretien a lot of grief. Again, the fact is that more that 300 Canadians have been knighted or given peerages before a very vindictive Chretien decided to invoke a spurious Resolution from 100 years ago that had never even been passed into law! I hope Black finally gets a fair shake after 6 years of relentless persecution while the real crooks who destroyed Hollinger (Breeden et al) lined their pockets with millions!

    • A very common feature of laws in most civilized countries is that ignorance of the law is no defence. Since Conrad Balck is a very sophisticated individual, assisted by the best lawyers money can buy, it is a safe bet that he knew exactly what the rules were. Which is why he was convicted of obstuction of justice.

      Conrad Black got exactly what he deserved and will still sepdn more time in jail.

      • And since the SEC already had copies of everything in the boxes, certainly Black could have felt quite justified in taking the boxes home.

      • Ignorance of the law is not a defense but ignorance of a court order is.

        And the jurisdictional issue was very conveniently overlooked. and again by you.

    • If Black didn't fear cross-examination so much, he'd have overruled his lawyers, taken the stand, and cleared up the issue at the trial. Instead, he spreads a bogus version of the events through unsworn statements outside of court. He's a criminal *and* a wimp.

      • Yeah imagine him taking the position that it is up to the prosecutor to prove the case, not for the defendant to answer the charges. The gall!

        Give me a break.

  10. Go Get them Conrad, I certainly hope that all remaining charges will be dropped.

  11. Conrad Black, now Lord Conrad Black, is an individual who dared – dared to take on the elitist Chretein Liberal establishment. He did the unthinkable by establishing a Conservative newspaper and, run conservatively. He built an empire that the mean spirited egoistical board members and major share holders decided to take him down. Consequently – the empire became worthless and, while he served time in the US prison – he shall yet be vindicated. And, woe to those who did him grief – their time will come.
    It is impossible to fathom whey people are so envious and mean spirited against others who become capable of greatness, such as he – or for that matter our current Prime Minister. Our country called Canada (not just Quebec) deserves to have many more great men who stand tall for what they believe in – imho.

  12. Now that the law they used to get him is clearly limited to bribery and kickbacks, it is entirely possible that the impugned actions other than removing the boxes may no longer be punishable. He still drove the company into the ground with gluttunous payments to himself and lavish improper spending, all to the detriment of shareholders. He may get rid of most of the jail time, but let's not pretend he's a man you should trust with your money.

    • I wouldn't trust him with my money either but the shareholders of the company knew what kind of management they were getting when they bought in. Argus and Hollinger are not your typical blue chip investment. Everyone knows that before you make an investment you should scrutinize the management. Correction on the moving boxes, the shareholder revolt resulted in Black's ouster as CEO and also sudden eviction order from the corporate HQ hence the moving of personal effects from there caught on video surveillance. I don't hold anything against the man because he hasn't affected my life (or most of his detractors in these forums). His pomposity and arrogance doesn't affect me one bit. However I have problems with a justice system that singled out a high profile celebrity to persecute because presumably their success in prosecuting will act as deterrence to corporate misbehavior. I am all for prosecuting corporate fraud but Richard Breeden's report has been 98% discredited. Breeden is the real culprit along with the new management which took a $500 MM entity to $5 MM in less than 3 years. If he manages to pull it off I would welcome him back.

  13. Lots of comments on Lord Black in other forums, mostly negative but what are the issues?
    1. Did Black run the company like his own bank? But shareholders can get out. The company went under after Black was ousted. 2. Did the Chicago jury convict him of raiding the company treasury? The conviction was under section 1346 for mail fraud and not providing honest services. 3. Is he a convict? No, the US Supreme Court set aside three convictions so Lord Black is simply a defendant and the time he spent in Coleman prison is likely to be expunged as well as the obstruction. 4. Did he get off because he is rich? Not unless you believe that all 9 US Supreme Court justices were bought off. Black could marshal the resources to mount a US Supreme Court challenge which and yet a lot of folks have the impression that he gets off because he is rich.
    5. Is he arrogant and pompous? Yes but that is not indictable offense, only in the court of public opinion.
    The charges leveled against Black legal and otherwise appear to hold as much water as a sieve. While folks are entitled to their opinion rightly or wrongly I prefer to remain objective and unemotional.

  14. People who think Conrad Black is out of the judicial woods might want to take a look at what the court of appeal previously said about his 'conventional fraud' and bogus SEC filings.

    Judge Richard Poser will have to do a 180-degree reversal for Black to walk away from the criminal convictions. I'm not saying it can't happen but it's rare for a judge to go from chastising a fraudster to kissing the same guy's feet as he begs forgiveness.

  15. Let the vengeance begin may be a provocative headline, but there are still civil suits and 3 fraud charges he has to face. There are also 3 more charges from the SEC to be heard in December. I think rather then exact revenge on those who blew the whistle on him, it might be wiser for him to lay low. After all, he was able to convince a judge he was broke after having sold 2 homes while in prison (in the USA, he intends to come to Canada as a sanctuary) and hiding the money in holding companies oddly enough named after himself.. His plea of poverty makes me want to vomit…

    But he will always have misguided defenders who think he is innocent because they are adoring of his stature and power and even his wealth, however ill-gained it may be. It isn't over and Macleans should quit bottom kissing.

    • I may be one of the misguided defenders as opposed to being a misguided detractor but anyone who can get 9 US Supreme Court Justices to agree with him can't be totally out to lunch. A lot of words in rant but not much substance e.g. he isn't broke but his worldwide assets have been frozen due to court proceedings (mareva order since 2006) to prevent him from hiding and spending assets that might be owed [Tedesco-National Post July 24th]. However if your mind is made up then no amount of research will change that position. It is also interesting that after the Breeden Report the Illinois prosecutors succeeded in convicting him of just $2.9 MM and not the $60 MM for which he was originally charged. However the prosecutors were more interested in displaying a trophy head than the welfare of the shareholders he supposedly defrauded. They jailed him instead of requiring him to make restitution. The new management managed to sink the Sun Media Times within 3 years.

      • Actually , according to reports from that time, prosecutors let many of the "iffy" charges slide and stuck with ones they considered "airtight".
        The Supreme Court has a problem with the law as applied to Black, not quite the same as supporting Black's claim that he was "railroaded".
        As has been stated, Black still faces other charges yet media spin makes it sound like a convicted murderer has been saved from death row and exonerated by a DNA test.
        Black may not be a hard core gangbanger but he isn't a candidate for the Innocence Project either.

        • Let the re-trial begin. If the airtight ones got tossed, then the iffy ones will look like harassment. As long as the US Justice System is starting from scratch the previous convictions expunged Black might no longer have to abide by travel restrictions. It will be interesting to see if the US Justice System can stomach another trial instead of trying to salvage the previous verdict. It will seem like “we didn't get him on that one so let's retry him for something else”. Does vendetta come to mind? The trial team has to peel egg off its face. Also they don't want to be restricted by the new honest services interpretation. They also risk losing a high profile trophy head for their display case. During the financial meltdown of 2008-2009 companies were getting bailed out for billions mainly due to the collapse of financial derivatives and shaky mortgages. So Lord Black was convicted of 'stealing' $2.9 MM and got 78 months but banks and carmakers got bailed out by the US taxpayer. No wrongdoing there, right? I guess it doesn't pay to be arrogant and pompous. Someone is ready to cut you down a notch or two.

  16. Diane Francis had a good synopsis of the atmosphere in the US that lead to Black's conviction. Quite likely the first words she's written in 10 years that I felt worthy of recommendation to others.

  17. 4:11 pm July 31, 2010
    cyr wrote:
    .Po is an arrogant juror the worst you can get…Loves himself not justice. “but poor fool can't see it wait until the lord removes the tree out of his eye. gave Black 30 seconds of his time..Biblical president, what you sow you will reap!! What you do in dark..will show in the light…..How douse it feel POTS posner now that the supreme court made your verdict . 9-0….against..I guess you and judge (over -opine) ives and that other POTS Buss man. HA Ha! serve the rest of Blacks sentence……………His US lawyers said he was never told about pre service of obstruction writ, and what's the hell mail fraud…everybody sends mail every day!!another lets catcher…..You are fast becoming a fascist state..and most of my associates in canada are being advised against doing business in the country you have spoilt with your legal mumbo/jumbo. Where due process not in the US.

  18. Hey Dilbert,
    Is Conrad Black still a criminal if there is a reversal of felony charges in a court of appeal? Just askin' Yer Honour.

  19. Always small criminals do serve harsh sentences while millions swindling individuals who destroy countless people and destabilize system manage to get slap on the hand! System /Society never will recuperate if justice system does not be just! He was suing every one questioning his activity before this and he is “Black has been promising vengeance on those who played a role in his downfall”!!!!!! Very interesting and unsettling, proving his character and outlook???????????