Significant Penalty for Borrowing Money from Clients

In College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario v. Virani, 2017 ONSC 3445 a physician borrowed over $600,000 from two patients to make an investment. The investment turned out to be fraudulent and Dr. Virani lost the money borrowed from his patients and much of his own money. Dr. Virani became insolvent and the patients are still out most of their funds. Misconduct was admitted. The issue on appeal was whether an eight month suspension was excessive in the circumstances particularly given that other cases involving physicians borrowing money from patients resulted in a lesser sanction.

The Divisional Court upheld the order finding that there were numerous factors supporting a lengthy suspension including:

  • The amount of funds borrowed from the patients was significant both in absolute terms and in terms of the impact upon their financial resources.
  • The patients were vulnerable and Dr. Virani “manipulated for his personal gain” his ethnic and linguistic connection with the patients and the status that he enjoyed as a physician in the Iranian community.
  • Virani was not candid with the patients or the College about the matter. For example, he issued NSF cheques to the patients and did not disclose the matter, initially, on his annual renewal forms with the College.
  • Virani showed little remorse and made very little effort to offer restitution, instead relying on the insolvency laws to extinguish the debt.

The Divisional Court did not accept Dr. Virani’s arguments that there was little need for specific deterrence (as he had not been honest and his financial circumstances were even more limited now than before), that undue emphasis was placed on Dr. Virani’s ethnic background (as that had been considered only in terms of the degree of trust placed in him by the patients when asking for the loan) and of the proportionality of the order compared to other cases (as those other cases had fewer aggravating and more mitigating factors). The eight-month suspension was upheld.

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