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Richmond lawyer guilty of professional misconduct in $7.5M theft won't be disbarred

The Law Society of B.C. has suspended B.C. lawyer Hong Guo from practice for one year after she was found guilty of professional misconduct. (Law Society of B.C. - image credit)
The Law Society of B.C. has suspended B.C. lawyer Hong Guo from practice for one year after she was found guilty of professional misconduct. (Law Society of B.C. - image credit)

A Law Society of British Columbia tribunal review panel has ruled against disbarring Richmond lawyer Hong Guo, who was found guilty of professional misconduct related to the theft of $7.5 million in client funds by her bookkeeper.

Guo was originally suspended from practising law for a full year. The LSBC brought the review application to disbar her, arguing it was the only reasonable penalty for the totality of her misconduct.

In 2021, a law society tribunal found Guo had failed to supervise her employees, failed to comply with trust accounting rules and had left signed blank cheques with the bookkeeper, which enabled the theft of money from client trust funds.

The tribunal found that on discovering the thefts, Guo misappropriated money from the trust funds of other clients in order to complete pending real estate transactions.

The clients impacted were eventually compensated by Guo personally and through $4 million paid out by an insurance policy.

The investigation into Guo's misconduct began in 2018 while she was running to become mayor of Richmond.

At the time, she defended herself on Twitter, explaining that it was two former employees — one of them her accountant — who stole the money from her pooled trust account by forging her signature. Guo said she reported the theft to RCMP as soon as she found out about it.

The review panel upheld her one-year suspension, which starts today, March 8, 2023. It also ordered Guo to enter into a practice supervision agreement when she returns to practice, meaning she will be working under the supervision of another lawyer.