By Abeer Khan
The Toronto Metropolitan Students’ Union (TMSU) has filed a $900,000 lawsuit for various damages against past students’ union executives and employees.
The TMSU is seeking $475,000 in damages for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, civil fraud, negligence and civil conspiracy, according to a statement of claim filed by the union and obtained by The Eyeopener.
It is also seeking $75,000 in aggravated and punitive damages and $350,000 in special damages.
The statement names former executive members and employees of the TMSU who were employed between 2020 and 2022.
Executive member defendants include Siddanth Satish, Vaishali Vinayak, Tarmanjit Mann, Akibul Hoque and Maleha Yasmin.
Satish was the TMSU’s vice-president education between May 2020 and April 2021 and then served as the students’ union president from May 1, 2021 to April 30, 2022.
Vaishali Vinayak was the vice-president equity from May 1, 2020 to April 2021 and then was vice-president operations at the TMSU from May 1, 2021 to April 30, 2023.
Tarmanjit Mann was the vice-president education of the TMSU from May 1, 2021 to April 30, 2022. Akibul Hoque was the vice-president student life of the TMSU from May 1, 2021 to April 30, 2022 and Maleha Yasmin was the vice-president equity of the students’ union from May 1, 2021 to April 30, 2022.
Non-executive members addressed in the statement are Harjot Grewal and John/Jane Doe.
Harjot Grewal was a management employee of the TMSU subject to individual contract of employment, according to the claim filed. He is a chartered professional accountant and was the TMSU’s financial controller from around November 2, 2021 until his dismissal in late 2022, as previously reported by The Eye.
John Doe or Jane Doe served on the TMSU’s Board of Directors and possibly as an executive member between 2020 and 2022, according to the statement.
In the statement, the TMSU said its bylaws and financial policies set numerous financial controls in place during the defendants’ tenure. However, it says the defendants “knowingly engaged in improper, unauthorized financial activities and/or were knowingly negligent in their obligations to oversee the RSU’s finances.”
Financial mismanagement included allegedly colluding to steal TMSU funds via an alleged Raptors playoff tickets giveaway involving nearly $75,000, making unauthorized, undocumented payments to third-party vendors totalling over $340,000 and authorizing over $25,000 to executive members without proper authorization or documentation.
The statement also says defendants entered into agreements to deliberately prejudice the management of the TMSU and copied and retained confidential TMSU emails and documents without authorization.
The statement says that the years leading up to the defendants’ tenure had been “extremely difficult” for the organization due to previous financial misconduct and the university’s attempt to unilaterally terminate its operating agreement with the students’ union.
“The Defendants…were fully aware of the financial impropriety that had occurred in 2018 and 2019 and the devastating impact it had on the organization,” the statement reads.
“Despite this fact…they engaged in repeated financial improprieties, including wilful and bad faith efforts to defraud the RSU and take advantage of their positions for their own personal gain.”
According to the statement, Grewal, Satish and Vinayak all had signing authority over the TMSU’s bank account, occupying key positions within the TMSU’s structure for ensuring financial compliance, accountability and responsible use of students’ funds, the statement reads.
The TMSU says Grewal, Satish, Vinayak and Mann knowingly took actions that were contrary to the best interests of the TMSU and “engaged in willful efforts to defraud the RSU and take advantage of their positions for their own personal gain.”
Grewal, Satish and Vinayak repeatedly signed off on numerous payments—including at times payments to themselves—with “complete, wilful disregard to even the most basic financial controls.”
“At least some of the improper payments they authorized were a flagrant, wilful, and bad faith misuse of RSU funds for their and various other Defendants’ personal benefit,” the claim reads.
The statement also alleges that Hoque and Yasmin were willfully negligent in their duties to oversee TMSU finances and have been “fully and knowingly complicit in some or all of the instances of wilful, bad faith misappropriation of RSU funds.”
The “wilful and deliberate” financial mismanagement and misappropriation of funds has had a “very significant impact on the organization,” the claim states. The most “direct” financial impact on the TMSU has been the deprivation of misappropriated funds, it further says.
The students’ union says in the statement that the defendants actions forced it to devote an “enormous amount of staff time to determine what occurred during the Defendants’ tenure.”
“Significant funds have also been spent on external legal and financial consultations and investigations,” the statement further reads.
In the statement, the TMSU estimates the total costs of financial mismanagement—alongside the breach of student members’ privacy and the change in the collective agreement resulting in higher wages by the defendants—is presently valued at $250,000.
The statement of claim was electronically issued on April 23, 2023. This is a document that describes the facts and legal reasons a plaintiff—the person or entity suing—is entitled to compensation, according to the Government of Ontario’s website.
More to come.