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May 5, 2010 12:18 PM

Ex-Card Shark Dimitri Lascaris Bets on Canadian Class Actions

Posted by Brian Baxter

The Toronto Globe and Mail has an interesting story this morning on Dimitri Lascaris, a former Sullivan & Cromwell associate and card shark whose latest gamble is bringing securities class actions north of the border.

Lascaris_Dimitri

From his base in London, Ontario, where he works for plaintiffs firm Siskind, Cromarty, Ivey & Dowler, Lascaris (pictured right) is emerging as one of Canada's top securities lawyers.

The American Lawyer's Julie Triedman wrote about Lascaris in the magazine's annual Canada Report last August, when she noted Lascaris's unusual background as a globetrotting gambler. Lascaris quit S&C as a fourth-year associate in 1998 to join several other disgruntled Wall Street professionals on a worldwide casino tour.

The group made millions counting cards--a legal tactic, as a Ropes & Gray partner once told us--at casinos throughout North and South America, Europe, and the Caribbean. But despite adhering to the letter of the law, the group was forced to call it quits after casino owners caught on to their winning ways. (Triedman reports that casinos started calling the crew "the Greeks" because of Lascaris, who is of Greek descent.)

Lascaris returned to Canada in 2003 looking for a legal job, but despite his experience at S&C, Triedman wrote that most major firms turned him down after learning about his gambling background. One firm that didn't, Ontario-based plaintiffs shop Siskinds, offered him a job that Lascaris readily accepted, making partner in 2007.

It was a gamble the firm hasn't regretted. The Globe and Mail reports that Lascaris's experience at the blackjack table has made him a leading advocate for Canadian shareholders. Since Ontario passed legislation in 2005 loosening restrictions on shareholder suits, Lascaris and Siskinds have nabbed the largest filings.

Despite the new securities rules, the expected Canadian class action boom has yet to occur, the Globe and Mail reports. One possible reason: in Canada the loser pays for the costs of litigation, meaning that plaintiffs firms have to be particularly careful in choosing cases. (Check out Triedman's story in the Canada Report for more details.)

Securities boom or not, Lascaris told the Globe and Mail that, for him, a return to professional gambling is off the table.

"I remember once I walked into a casino in Monaco. I had never been there in my entire life," he said. "And within 30 seconds, they asked me to leave the premises. It's extraordinary...the extent to which they believe that no one on the casino floor should actually have the capacity to win."

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