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Conrad Black's lawyers argue for dismissal of OSC regulatory proceedings

TORONTO - A lawyer for Conrad Black says that if a regulatory hearing into his time at the helm of Hollinger is to go ahead, the former media baron deserves the chance to tell his side of the story.

Lawyer Peter Howard is asking that a proceeding against Black by the Ontario Securities Commission be dismissed, because he says any fallout from his alleged involvement in a complicated system of non-compete payments involving Hollinger Inc. and Hollinger has already been dealt with in civil and criminal matters in the United States.

But Howard also says that if the hearing is to go ahead, then Black wants to tell his story.

He says that while there are certainly "victims and villains" in the 20-year saga of Hollinger's rise and fall, the whole story as told by Black will show that he isn't in the latter category.

The OSC alleges directors and officers of Hollinger Inc. and Hollinger International engaged in "a scheme'' to line their pockets with company proceeds through a system of non-competition payments. It said last July it wanted to determine whether Black and two other executives should be banned from buying or trading in securities and from becoming directors of public companies in Ontario.

Howard says Black cannot accept such a ban because it would imply he did something wrong - something he is not prepared to do.

He says Black will defend himself "to the last breath and dollar."

He also hinted at arguments to come, suggesting Hollinger shareholders lost value because Black's bid to privatize Hollinger Inc. in 2005 was blocked.

Since Black didn't do anything wrong, he argues, there is no reason to ban him from acting as a director for the public interest.

Black, Atkinson and Boultbee, were found guilty of three counts of fraud each by a U.S. jury in 2007, and Black was also convicted of one count of obstruction of justice. Two of the three fraud convictions against the men were overturned on appeal after the U.S. Supreme Court sharply curtailed the "honest services" laws that underpinned part of the case against him. Black ended up serving 37 months out of a 42-month sentence in a Florida prison, and was fined $125,000.

The SEC agreement, announced in August, bars Black from acting as a director of a public company in the United States.

Hollinger International was a U.S. public company, under the jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchange Commission, while Hollinger Inc. is a Canadian company under the OSC's purview.

Most of the OSC's original allegations against Hollinger and its senior executives and officers, filed in March 2005, were removed in a revised version issued July 12.

The revised OSC statement replaced pages of allegations from the OSC staff with a summary of U.S. proceedings against Black and two of his former senior executives. However, the OSC enforcement staff reserved the right to bring forward further allegations.

The OSC proceedings also apply to former Hollinger executive John Boultbee, who has brought a motion to have the allegations against him dealt with separately from Black. That motion will be heard in July.

The third former executive named in the original hearing notification, Peter Atkinson, reached a settlement with the OSC last September.

In his settlement agreement, Atkinson agreed to a deal that forever bars him from acting as a director or an officer of a public company in Ontario. He is also banned from acquiring any securities of Hollinger Inc.

The Canadian Press

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