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About Michael

Michael Barrack is recognized as one of the top litigators in Canada. He has led high profile trials, arbitrations and disputes involving both international and Canadian Law. He has appeared in proceedings at all levels of court in Canada, and represented clients in proceedings in the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands. He has been called on by corporations, pension funds, governments, educational institutions, regulators and individuals to help resolve their most complex disputes.

Together with his colleagues at Blakes, Michael works to build the right team to solve his clients' matters efficiently and effectively. He is a strong promoter of diversity, having sponsored and mentored many lawyers from diverse backgrounds who have become leaders of the profession. Michael's first experience with the law was as a client. He attributes much of his success to a fierce dedication to solving his clients' problems creatively and in the best way for them. He is also actively involved in his community outside of his legal practice.

Michael has deep experience in most areas of the law, including corporate and commercial, taxation, securities, constitutional, insolvency, directors and officers liability, investment regulation, professional liability, government contracts and relationships, stakeholder rights, trusts, bilateral investment treaties, and international law.

Benchmark Litigation wrote about him:

"When something looks like it's going to go all the way, Michael Barrack is someone you can count on to see it through. Even if it winds up settling on the courthouse steps, he is ready to walk up those steps at any time."

He is also noted as possessing "superior trial savvy, with a clinical, strategic approach that is never a bulldog-tantrum approach. It's more a street-fighter-meets-master-chess-player approach." On the strength of this collective acclaim, he has been named "Trial Counsel of the Year".

Select Experience

Michael's representative matters include:

  • Lead counsel in bilateral investment treaty arbitrations on behalf of Canadian corporate investors against foreign governments in proceedings conducted in London, UK and The Hague, Netherlands

  • Successfully representing a major Canadian bank in a highly contested arbitration proceeding recovering both a substantive award and full indemnity costs

  • Counsel to both debtor corporations, creditors in several major insolvencies, including lead counsel for Algoma, Stelco, U. S. Steel, Lightstream and Unitel in their CCAA proceedings

  • Counsel to Belinda Stronach in contentious litigation over the Stronach family enterprises

  • Counsel for pension funds successfully asserting their rights in insolvency proceedings; he represented U.K. pension claimants in successfully obtaining a landmark "modified pro rata" allocation of US$7.3-billion raised from the sale of the Nortel Networks global business units and patent portfolio following a technologically advanced cross-border trial conducted simultaneously before Canadian and US Courts; he represents the Sears Canada pension administrator in proceedings brought against the former officers, directors and majority shareholder

  • Acting for Jack Ground, former Superior Court Justice, in his capacity as Litigation Trustee of Hollinger Inc., against Conrad Black, David Radler and other directors of Hollinger, a bank syndicate, and the lawyers and accountants of Hollinger Inc.

  • Representing OMERS and Oxford at the Cunningham Inquiry into the conduct of Mayor Hazel McCallion in connection with her son's dealings with the City of Mississauga

  • Acting for United States Steel Corporation and United States Steel Corporation Canada in the first Investment Canada Act prosecution in the statute's 40-year history

  • Representing TransCanada in a high-profile dispute with the Government of Ontario over the cancellation of the Oakville power plant

  • Representing the Toronto Stock Exchange's interests at the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC)

  • Acting for the OSC on the prosecution against Ernst & Young in connection with their audit of Sino-Forest leading to a no-admission settlement and payment

  • Representing Canadian Pacific Railway Corporation (CPRC) in lawsuits launched against the Governments of Canada, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to recover taxes paid in contravention of a provision of the 1880 Charter of CPRC, which states that the main line shall "be forever free from taxation"

  • Defending CP Ships in a cross-border securities class action, including developing a strategy that led to the U.S. class action being dismissed at the pleadings stage and ultimately leading to the settlement of the Canadian proceedings

Awards & Recognition

Michael was named Ontario Trial Lawyer of the Year (2017), Ontario Litigator of the Year (2016) and National Trial Lawyer of the Year (2015) in the Benchmark Canada Awards. He is also recognized as a leading litigator in the following publications:

  • The Legal 500 Canada (2024: Hall of Fame – Dispute Resolution: Ontario; 2016–2023: Dispute Resolution)

  • Chambers Canada: Canada's Leading Lawyers for Business (2019–2024: Litigation: General Commercial; 2016–2017: Dispute Resolution)

  • Chambers Global: The World's Leading Lawyers for Business – 2017–2024 (Dispute Resolution: Litigation)

  • The Lexpert/American Lawyer Guide to the Leading 500 Lawyers in Canada (2016–2024: Corporate Commercial Litigation; 2018–2022: Litigation – Directors' & Officers' Liability)

  • The Best Lawyers in Canada – 2016–2024 (Class Action Litigation, Corporate and Commercial Litigation, Director and Officer Liability Practice, Legal Malpractice Law, Securities Law)

  • Who's Who Legal: Canada – 2022–2023 (Commercial Litigation)

  • Lexpert Special Edition: Litigation 2023

  • Benchmark Canada's Top 50 Trial Lawyers 2023

  • Benchmark Canada: The Definitive Guide to Canada's Leading Litigation Firms and Attorneys (2023: Litigation Star – Commercial, Professional Liability; 2021–2022: Commercial, Professional Liability)

  • The Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory – 2018–2023 (Litigation – Directors' & Officers' Liability; Insolvency & Financial Restructuring – Insolvency Litigation; Litigation – Corporate Commercial; Litigation – Securities)

  • Thomson Reuters Stand-out Lawyers 2021 – Independently Rated Lawyers (As nominated by senior in-house counsel)

Professional Activities

Michael is an honorary overseas member of the Commercial Bar Association of the U.K. He is also among a distinguished group of the foremost Canadian advocates as a past president of The Advocates' Society. As a former founding director of Pro Bono Law Ontario and member of the Supreme Court Institute, Michael is dedicated to the pursuit of justice in the community and the promotion of excellence in advocacy in Canada.

Michael is currently chair of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario and has been active on a number of boards of directors of community-based organizations.

Publications
Education

Admitted to the Ontario Bar – 1982
LLB, Osgoode Hall Law School – 1980
BComm, University of Toronto – 1977

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