Court Rejects Claim for Profits of CIBC Visa Cards

On October 22, 2002, a breach of confidence and a breach of fiduciary duty claim brought by ERSS Equity Retirement Savings Systems Corp. against CIBC was dismissed in its entirety.

In 1998, CIBC launched the Dividend and Dividend Platinum Visa Cards, which offer a cash rebate based on purchases that can be added to bank products including deposit accounts and retirement savings vehicles. The plaintiffs maintain that the cards use a loyalty reward currency they had developed in the early 1990s, and which had been the subject of discussions with CIBC pursuant to a confidentiality agreement. The plaintiffs claimed disgorgement of all the profits CIBC earned from the cards.

The B.C. Supreme Court held that CIBC had acted properly throughout, that it had independently developed the concept and business plan for the cards, and that CIBC had not been influenced or assisted by the plaintiffs’ own loyalty programme. The features of CIBC’s products were dissimilar in many respects to those of the plaintiffs’ offering. The court also noted that the plaintiffs’ programme was similar to a U.S. loyalty programme, which was known and in the public domain years before CIBC launched its products.

The plaintiffs were represented by Alan Lenczner, Q.C., and Eleni Maroudas of Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin, and Gordon Elliott of Thompson & Elliott. CIBC was represented by Geoffrey Cowper, Q.C., and Matthew Ghikas (commercial litigation) of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP in Vancouver.