Bridging Finance Update

There have been some developments—none that could be considered good—in the Bridging Finance story.

As you will recall, the local angle on this tale of a Toronto-based private debt lender in receivership is that Membertou Corporate borrowed $6.8 million from Bridging to invest in Albert Barbusci’s Sydney harbor container terminal project. Membertou and Bridging Inc were announced as partners in Barbusci’s Novaporte “consortium” in January 2020. That Membertou turned to Bridging Finance for the money is indicative of the risky nature of the investment—private debt lenders specialize in boldly going where regular banks fear to tread.

Bridging Finance, run by the husband-and-wife team of David and Natasha Sharpe, had $2 billion in assets from some 26,000 investors under administration in April 2021 when a judge, at the behest of the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC), took the reins from them amid allegations of self-dealing and misleading investors.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was appointed trustee with a mandate to sell the company, but after identifying “significant issues” with many of Bridging’s loans, PwC asked the court to allow it to abandon the attempted sale and proceed to a wind-down of the firm. In March 2022, the court approved this request, which was expected to result in a loss to investors of at least $1.3 billion.

Since then, the following things have happened (beginning with the most recent revelation):


Oh Oh, Coco

The One condominium, Toronto

Globe and Mail photo

China-East Resources Import & Export Co (CERIECO) is suing Jenny Coco, the majority owner of Bridging Finance, alleging she used investor funds to backstop her luxury condo project with Sam Mizrahi (also named as a defendant in the lawsuit).

As the Globe and Mail reported on June 6:

CERIECO ultimately agreed to advance a $213-million loan, but only after Ms. Coco arranged for Bridging Finance’s flagship investor fund, the Bridging Income Fund, to act as one of several guarantors, CERIECO alleges in the lawsuit. The loan is now in default, CERIECO alleges.

CERIECO also alleges that the name Bridging Finance, as well as Ms. Coco’s family business at the time, Coco Paving Group, was removed from some versions of the guarantee. They were instead called “confidential guarantors” and the contract signature pages were also removed, according to the lawsuit.

Natasha Sharpe, co-owner and former managing director of Bridging, reportedly signed the document naming the Bridging Income Fund as guarantor.

None of CERIECO’s allegations have been proven in court. But if a court agrees the fund was a guarantor, it could mean Bridging is responsible for covering the loan, resulting in even greater losses for its 26,000 mostly retail investors.

Bridging is not, however, named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

In February, the Globe and Mail reported that one of Bridging’s worst-performing loans was made to Mizrahi for an earlier condo project, located at 181 Davenport Road in Toronto, and that the debt had “languished on Bridging’s books for a decade.”

The project at the heart of the CEREICO lawsuit, called The One, is a long-delayed skyscraper under development at Yonge and Bloor in what is almost always referred to as “Toronto’s upscale Yorkville neighborhood.”


Formal allegations

Natasha and David Sharpe

Natasha and David Sharpe, 11 April 2019 (Source: Bridging Finance Inc

On June 1, OSC staff asked the commission to impose fines of up to $1 million against David Sharpe, Natasha Sharpe and Andrew Mushore (Bridging’s chief compliance officer) alleging that:

Through their relationships with three borrowers and with the assistance of Bridging’s Chief Compliance Officer, Andrew Mushore, the Sharpes funnelled investor funds to themselves and Bridging, then concealed their wrongdoing from investors.

The Sharpes then obstructed (OSC) Staff’s investigation to try to cover their tracks. Together with Mushore, they destroyed, concealed and altered Bridging records, misled Staff after swearing to tell the truth, and, in the case of David Sharpe, intimidated witnesses.

The “three borrowers” in question were Sean McCoshen, Rishi Gautam and Gary Ng.

The formal allegations against the Sharpes and Mushore run to 16 pages.


Gary Ng

Gary Ng

Gary Ng

On May 31, the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) imposed a $5 million fine and a permanent ban from working in the securities industry on Gary Ng, the former owner of PI Financial Corp and a former co-owner of Bridging Finance.

The panel, which also ordered Ng to pay $194,000 in costs, found he’d “engaged in fraudulent conduct with respect to loan financing” and “failed to cooperate with Enforcement Staff who were conducting an investigation.”

As the Globe and Mail reported:

The regulator also alleged that Mr. Ng supplied falsified collateral when buying a 50-per-cent stake in private debt manager Bridging Finance in the summer of 2019. Bridging lent Mr. Ng’s companies more than $131-million – and the loans are now part of a much larger investigation into Bridging by the Ontario Securities Commission.