Egg industry "whistleblower" fined for contempt
Court orders all sides — with their multi-million dollar lawsuits — to mediation
STRATHROY — The man with the thousands of e-mails that sparked multi-million dollar lawsuits in the egg industry has been fined $5,000 for contempt.
Norm Bourdeau is the so-called whistleblower and former information technology manager at L.H. Gray Farms who contacted police after reading internal L.H. Gray e-mails.
In 2008, after the internal e-mails got into the hands of Best Choice Eggs, a division of Sweda farms, of Blackstock, the company launched a $15-million lawsuit against Burnbrae Farms and L.H. Gray Farms, arguing that Canada’s two largest egg companies set out to destroy competition and inflate profits. Along with a second lawsuit against the Egg Farmers of Ontario, the lawsuit was consolidated late last year. Sweda is now seeking about $35 million in damages.
Sweda’s allegations have not been proven in court. They are based almost entirely on e-mails that Sweda says reveal cracked and dirty eggs went into cartons headed to grocery stores.
L.H. Gray is suing Bourdeau for $15 million for damaging its reputation and making false allegations. Bourdeau has countersued for $25 million for breach of contract and defamation.
Bourdeau told Farmers Forum that he is surprised that he was fined. He added that L.H. Gray had asked for a jail sentence of at least three months and a fine of $20,000 to $40,000.
Bourdeau plans to appeal but noted that only about 80 of 600 appeals each year reach the Supreme Court.
The boxes of stored data that include e-mails and grading information are now held by a court-appointed lawyer in a safe deposit box until a judge can determine what information can be made public.
All sides have been ordered to meet with a court-appointed mediator on June 15 in Toronto in hopes of resolving some of the issues. Mediation is not binding but is confidential.