CFL chair Jim Lawson accused of distributing porn via email at former job: report

CFL chairman Jim Lawson is embroiled in a nasty civil lawsuit with a former employer that accuses him of, among other things, distributing pornography to fellow staff members in the workplace, reports the Financial Post.

According to the story, Lawson is suing – and being countersued by – Sherry Brydson, heiress to the Thomson fortune and the richest woman in Canada (she’s worth an estimated $6 billion.) Five years ago she fired Lawson as the director of an investment company controlled by the family and in 2013, he sued her for wrongful dismissal and $24 million.

From the story:

Lawson says in his claim that he, “discharged his duties as CEO of Westerkirk faithfully, and in particular, ensured that investments were made carefully after appropriate due diligence.”

But Westerkirk’s “amended reply to the defense to counterclaim and rejoiner” alleges that, “the only issue in this case is whether the serial misconduct, serial dishonesty and self-dealing of the plaintiff, James J. Lawson, is cause for his dismissal.”

According to court documents cited by the Financial Post, Lawson acknowledged distributing pornography around the offices Westerkirk Capital Inc., the company Lawson ran and which Brydson is the sole director and executive chair. Lawson gave a deposition in the case and was quizzed on the pornography by lawyer Howard Levitt.

Again from the Post:

Levitt also asked Lawson about pornography that he forwarded to other Westerkirk employees from his office email account. “Do you agree that it is contrary to good corporate governance to circulate pornographic pictures and videos?” Levitt asked Lawson.

“I do not believe it is appropriate,” Lawson replied. Lawson, who after university played two seasons with a Montreal Canadiens farm team, said he received the pornography from some of his hockey buddies. “The source of the pornographic material in almost every case was one particular hockey team and I asked them to stop on a number of occasions.”

Levitt then asked, “If you asked them to stop, why did you circulate it yourself?”

“I regret doing so,” Lawson replied. Lawson then added that the eight people in Westerkirk’s office — four women and four men — “had a very good, strong, respectful culture.”

During discovery, Levitt attempted to play several pornographic videos. “There are different levels of degradation,” he said. “Different levels of racism, bestiality, misogyny, of how hard porn they are.”

[Lawson’s lawyer] refused to let his client view the videos. According to the court transcript, Levitt intends to play the tapes at trial.

None of the allegations made by either party have been proven in court and the case is set to go to trial on Sept. 11.

Lawson has served as the chair of the CFL’s board of governors since 2013 and has filled the role as interim commissioner twice, including this season prior to the hiring of Randy Ambrosie.

The league came under fire this week for its handling of the hiring of disgraced former Baylor head coach Art Briles, who was added as assistant by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Monday before pressure forced the team and the league to rescind the offer.

The CFL provided a short statement.

“This litigation is a private matter between Mr. Lawson and a former employer and we have no comment.”




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