The Globe and Mail is not where I’m used to seeing “snakes in your bed” headlines.
But this one came close last month: “Catalyst offered up to $11-million to Israeli firm that launched sting on Ontario judge.”
Catalyst Capital is a Toronto private equity company that sued one of its rivals, West Face Capital, for allegedly misusing confidential information to stop Catalyst from buying an interest in the startup mobile operator Wind Mobile which is now called Freedom Mobile. In 2016, Ontario Superior Court Justice Frank Newbould ruled against Catalyst and their claim against West Face for several hundred million dollars.
Spurned by one court, Catalyst then hired Black Cube of Tel Aviv, made up of former members of the Mossad and the Israeli Defence Forces, to find some dirt on Justice Newbould to discredit his decision at the Appeals Court where their suit was headed next.
The name Black Cube may ring a bell because Harvey Weinstein hired them to smother the spreading #metoo scandal; and they also worked for Cambridge Analytica when it imploded, and the Trump administration to discredit the Obama Iran nuclear deal.
Said Globe reporter Tim Kiladze, who wrote the story, “A Black Cube operative approached the then-retired judge in 2017 and posed as a potential arbitration client seeking to hire Justice Newbould.… The two met at Justice Newbould’s office and arranged to have dinner later that evening.”
According to court documents, the goal of the sting was, in the words of Newbould’s dinner mate: “To prove that he’s a racist, a depraved anti-Semite,… and to find information that could paint him in as negative a light as possible.”
Meanwhile, Catalyst is suing Black Cube not because they tried to entrap a judge, but because they failed to. As the Globe tells it, “the operatives did not undertake their investigations in a professional manner, and instead acted recklessly and negligently.”
But an Ontario Judge? Eleven million dollars? The Mossad?
That’s nothing. Today, over 40 different parties are involved in scores of suits and countersuits that make up this Seven Years War that began in 2014.
Back in 1852 Charles Dickens tried to capture in Bleak House the eternity of these he-said-he-said legal battles as a universal fog that muffles everything: “Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots …with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes, gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun…….. Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great and dirty city.”
But the truth in Catalyst vs. West Face is far stranger than even the best fiction – especially since another Justice has written a final judgement on the case whose 56 pages are more gripping than any novel, any court-room drama I’ve seen in years.
In a ruling in January, Justice Cary Boswell of the Ontario Superior Court rejected Catalyst’s case that the details of their relationship with Black Cube falls under solicitor-client privilege and so should not be revealed.
As Justice Boswell noted: “[It’s] a little rich for a party to raise concerns about privacy interests when their business model involves lying to others in the hopes that they may inadvertently disclose otherwise private and confidential information.” He then concluded: “I have no doubt that Black Cube understands that if you live by the sword, you die by the sword.”
Are all legal judgements this clear, cutting and compelling? Of course not. Cary Boswell is an outlier.
All the more reason you should spend a couple of hours reading his judgement in full. Whether you’re a lawyer who only reads these things as a duty, or the rest of us who don’t read them at all, I urge you to dip into a master of drama and language as he unpacks the entire sorry tale, with star turns by the 7 deadly sins and a Page 1 that ranks among the best in modern fiction.
I mean have you ever read an opening as alluring as this?
“ Sometimes people talk too much. Sometimes they get themselves into trouble doing so. Sometimes they hurt other people by what they say. And sometimes they do so intentionally.
 Dr. Hawking was right, of course. It’s impossible to overstate the important place that communication has had in much of human achievement. But language can also be used to demean and demoralize, provoke and offend. It can be used to shape public perception and behavior. It can be used to discredit known facts or promote false narratives. It can be weaponized.
 This multi-tentacled lawsuit is all about the trouble that talking – both the written and spoken word – can create. At the core of the lawsuit are two very wealthy and powerful men; competitors of one another in the private equity investment business. Each accuses the other of weaponizing language against him and his business. Each seeks hundreds of millions of dollars from the other as damages for defamation.”
I urge you now to turn the page.