Caveat emptor. Check it out first: in business and in law

TORONTO – This principle of responsibility and accountability is being illustrated in shocking fashion, thanks to Trump, in the Courts and electoral processes of the USA, and to Netanyahu in Israel. Canada is not immune. If “things are not what they appear to be”, it is the obligation of the consumer to know what he/she purchases before expending any money or resources.

The “buyer beware” principle is a foundational element of Greco-Roman jurisprudence. In my opinion, the experience was first chronicled and influenced by the incomparable Greek poet, “Homer”, in his epic the Iliad, the story of Trojan war. The poem’s imagery and metaphors depict the disaster that befell the Trojans for not “looking a gift horse in the mouth”. 

Eight hundred years later, the Roman poet Virgil, in his opus the Aeneid, chronicled the adventures of one of Troy’s survivors – Aeneas – in part to illustrate the sacrifices needed to restore losses that could have been avoided […] if only Trojans had thought twice about that horse. 

The Associated Press, on February 16, reported on the decision by New York Justice Arthur Engoron regarding the ‘questionable’ commercial practices of former President Trump (in the pic above, from his Twitter / X profile).

These will cost the Donald between $355 million and $453.5 million, once interest charges are applied. It is a little more than my heirs can expect from my bank account when the good Lord includes my name in His daily roll call.

That is not what bothers me. What does trouble me is the quote attributed to judge Engoron in that judgement: “Trump and his company were likely to continue their fraudulent ways […without the penalties and controls he – Engoron – imposed].” Engoron went on, “This is a venial sin, not a mortal sin; […] they did not rob a bank at gunpoint. Donald Trump is not Bernard Madoff. Yet, defendants are incapable of admitting the error of their ways.” Engoron said their “complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological” and “the frauds found here leap off the page and shock the conscience.”

Forgive me, I started to confuse the Court’s bench and the Judge with the altar and the Vicar of Christ – no disrespect intended. At what point does “venial” become “mortal”, and under which conditions does $453.5 million still qualify as venial?

Engoron concluded that Trump and his co-defendants “failed to accept responsibility” and that experts who testified on his behalf “simply denied reality.” What about the incompetent accountants and lawyers of the ‘buyers?

I am neither Republican, nor Democrat nor American. The troublesome issue is that of seeking “justification” for everything before a court whose decisions can be predetermined by ad hoc partisan considerations. How so like the leadership of some politicos in Israel today!

Bibi Netanyahu caused five elections in three years since the one in 2019. He has accepted neither the decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court nor the decisions of the electorate: keep rolling the dice for that ‘double or nothing’ seems to be his “religion”. Outside of Israel, anyone who disagrees with his failed politics is branded an anti-Semite.

Unfortunately, we in Canada are not that far behind. The courts – rightly or wrongly – are now the default position for every disagreement on policy: there is a “…-phobic” to cover everything. All that is left for us to do is secure the appropriate judge… or pray for the availability of one.