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Let the Truth Set You Free

My name is Barton Goth, and I am a licensed Trustee who practices here in bankruptcy. As I have been born and raised here in Edmonton, I can remember fondly the glory days of Edmonton Oilers and have been watching very closely the misfortunes of good old Peter Pocklington. Now I don’t know if this is a household name in the rest of Canada, but in Alberta you would find very few who are unfamiliar with good old Peter Puck.

Despite being born and raised in London, Ontario, and owning two Ford dealerships in the area, he moved to Edmonton, Alberta and this is where he really began to make a name for himself. By the mid-1970s, Pocklington had purchased Gainers Food, Palm Dairies, Canbra Foods and many other smaller companies that were eventually built into a fairly diverse business empire. But the purchase that began everything didn’t come until the late 1970’s when he added the Edmonton Oilers to his holdings, and more importantly, bought the rights to Wayne Gretzky. From here Pocklingon’s popularity sky rocketed. He proceeded to move the Oilers to the National Hockey League, won 5 Stanley cups, and ultimately became one of the wealthiest men in Canada and needless to say a beloved figure in the Edmonton business landscape. Now if all that isn’t enough to become noticed, on August 9, 1998 Peter Pocklington did the unthinkable – he traded the most beloved hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretzky, to the Los Angeles Kings for $15 million in cash and a handful of draft picks.

So why am I talking about Peter Pockington on a blog dedicated to bankruptcy? Well, despite the fame and fortune, like many Canadians, Pocklington’s finances were not in as good shape as they may have appeared, to the point that on August 11, 2008, with debts of almost $20 Million and reported assets of only $2,900, he assigned himself into bankruptcy in the State of California. This is where the story gets more interesting, as in the early hours of March 11, 2009, Pocklington was arrested by the FBI for bankruptcy fraud. More specifically Pocklington was accused of making false statements in bankruptcy and making false oaths and accounts in bankruptcy.

This last week Peter Pocklington, former Edmonton business man, once an aspiring politician, pled guilty to one count of perjury and failing to property disclose assets that were in his control. Whether this was a case of poor legal advices as Pocklington claims or a bad decision, the result is the same.

So what can be learned from the adventures of the flamboyant entrepreneur who has made so many headlines? I think over the ages, mothers have said it best – honesty truly is the best policy! The Canadian Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA) hinges on this important principle. Early on in the introduction the legislation itself states: “The Act [BIA] permits an honest debtor, who has been unfortunate, to secure a discharge so that he or she can make a fresh start and resume his or her place in the business community.”

When a person is facing financial difficulties, there are often many parties providing information and support. The problem is that some of these parties are not intimately familiar with the legislation and the problems that can exist where property is gifted away, sold at less than fair market value, or simply not disclosed. As a result, it is important that you first meet with a licensed trustee before you make any decisions. Every trustee linked through the Bankruptcy Canada network will provide you with a free initial consultation. Remember this is a meeting that you want to be prepared for. Make sure to have a list of your debts, a copy of your budget, and be sure to disclose all assets and major transactions that you have entered into in the most recent past. If you approach this meeting sincerely, make the proper disclosures, you will find it is very easy to predict what will transpire should a bankruptcy or consumer proposal be filed, and you will be able to avoid the difficulties that have befallen our good friend Peter.