THE DARK SIDE OF HERBERT BLACK

Cousineau, Sophie

Ernst & Young has just crowned Herbert Black as one of the top entrepreneurs in Quebec. Did they ignore the fact that this business man doubles as a broker with questionable methods? There is no doubt that the scrap metal merchant, who has run the American Iron & Metal Company for 35 years, is familiar with success. Through diversification, the company that specialises in the recovery and recycling of metals had seen its sales jump to $850 million in 2004, Herbert Black said in an interview.

But there are plenty of things that the financial results do not say. The family business in Montreal East is not the only source of income for Herbert Black, an art collector and patron who lives in the hills of Westmount. The entrepreneur (with no relation to Conrad Black) is a recognised trader in New York and London and makes plenty of money on the metal market. But he profits from losing, if we are to believe his legal proceedings, and he is quick on the trigger to bring suit.

To those who dare to deceive him: beware. In 1994, Herbert Black was fooled into buying two 'Georgian' style chairs for USD1.2 million. However, the antique chairs from Sotheby's were fakes. Not only did Herbert Black make heads roll at the respectable auction house, in 2000 he instigated a class action lawsuit against Sotheby's and Christie's for collusion. Both houses crumbled, paying USD512 million to the collectors.

In Quebec, it is his role in the JITEC case that has raised the eyebrows of those who have followed the story. But Herbert Black’s actions in the wake of the Sumitomo scandal are also controversial in the United States and England.

Herbert Black plays the role of a law-abiding citizen, but he bets on the falling stocks of companies that he has reported to the authorities, which stock market authorities in Quebec have learned to their expense. And on more than one occasion, he bought the services or knowledge of employees of security commissions in order to extract confidential information and expand his legal pursuits. Here is the chronicle of two cases that reveal the dark side of Herbert Black.