A Matter of Trust: Power and Privilege in Canada's Trust Companies


352 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-670-80208-5





Reviewed by Robert W. Sexty

Robert W. Sexty is a commerce professor at the Memorial University of
Newfoundland and author of Canadian Business: Issues and Stakeholders.


Both authors are business journalists who have written extensively on financial issues in several Canadian and foreign publications. This book on the Canadian trust company industry is the first book for either.

The book is organized into eleven chapters that have been given catchy, if not always informative, titles. Beginning chapters describe how things used to be in the trust company business, exemplified by titles like “The Family Compact” and “The Old Guard.” The following chapters describe the new players (“The Outsiders” and “Stopping the Puck”), many of whom saw the potential for using other people’s money to enhance their financial empires. The authors not only describe how these new players used the resources of trust companies, but also, in some cases, how they abused them. The final chapters focus on how government reaction and regulation has been inadequate. According to the authors, governments are still attempting to catch tip to the changes that have occurred in the trust industry.

The authors focus on what they consider to be two misfortunes in the trust industry: the abuse of power and privilege that has made trusts appear to be “scandal ridden financial institutions,” and the concentration of control over the industry in the hands of a few, including the Bronfmans and the Belzbergs.

Other recent books have described misfortunes of specific trust companies — for example, Trust: The Greymac Affair (Lorimer, 1983) and Public Money, Private Greed (Collins, 1984). A Matter of Trust summarizes the continuing changes and problems occurring in the trust industry in more general terms. Customers of trust companies, whether borrowers or savers, will find this book disturbing as they will wonder whom they can trust with the management of their financial affairs.


Best, Patricia, and Ann Shortell, “A Matter of Trust: Power and Privilege in Canada's Trust Companies,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/36364.