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Independent and objective opinion prized in court

Frank Vettese's body of knowledge is highly sought in valuations work

Some of the most challenging days in Frank Vettese’s year are those he spends as an expert witness in court. This is where the latest thinking in Vettese’s field of valuations is tested and challenged, so he makes sure he’s there to participate.

As a member of Deloitte Forensic practice, Frank takes the stand three or four times a year, often in battles between large companies over breach of contract or the value of a business. In 2003, for instance, he testified on behalf of the federal government, which argued successfully that an organization was pricing in a predatory way. Sometimes the disputes are between people. Frank acted for a family member in a dispute that turned into one of Ontario’s longest-running court cases. The investigation extended into self-dealing, bonuses, fraud and the sale of the business.

Analytical, thorough, credible: solid expert witness credentials
Testifying as an expert witness is intense, gruelling work that requires thorough preparation — one month of study for every week on the stand. “By the time you take the stand, you have to know the case cold,” he says.

“To be successful as an expert witness, you have to be analytical, thorough and credible," says Frank. "They’re not looking for someone who’s the best debater. They don’t want someone flashy." In his view, the job of an expert witness is "to help the judge arrive at a decision by giving expert opinion that is independent and objective," he says. “Winning as an expert witness means arriving at views and communicating them in a very compelling way. It’s about getting your opinion accepted by the court.” Judges have called him conservative, balanced, fair and reasonable. Even some of the lawyers on the opposite side of the courtroom feel that way. They’ve even hired him for subsequent cases.

Valuation services well served by expert witness ability
Frank's reputation as credible expert witness helps him not only in the business of dispute consulting, but also in his work with  Valuation Services.  He has worked on some of the biggest transactions in Canadian business, such as the valuation of John Hancock Financial Services when it was bought by Manulife Financial Corp., as well as major clients like Celestica, Open Text and GlaxoSmithKline. When companies approach Frank for help, they know they’re hiring someone with the ability to defend the valuation in court if, for example, it’s ever challenged by regulators or other parties.

Taking the stand tests professional limits
“Court work is the most professionally challenging thing you can do. Being cross-examined in court requires you to test the limits of your abilities within your professional area,” says Frank. “You’re operating at the highest levels within your profession when you’re dealing with groundbreaking issues. That’s why I do it.” The big court cases help to develop the body of knowledge and the theory behind valuations, he adds, because that’s where theories and issues are challenged.

Experts at the table play a role in developing the body of knowledge. “If you’re going to practice in valuations, you need to play a significant role in developing the field," says Frank. "The way to do that is by being involved in significant cases that test the limits of professional theory.”

Since university, Frank wanted to combine a career in law and business. After second year at York University, he was accepted to both business and law school. He went to business school, but always eyed the legal practice. That interest didn’t fade when he got his CA, so Vettese set up a boutique firm specializing in dispute consulting in Toronto. He moved the practice to Andersen and then to Deloitte.

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