eDiscovery Daily Blog

Here’s a Story Where Picking the Right Font Was Never More Important: eDiscovery Trends

This is a story that a word geek like me can really appreciate.  We talk a lot on this blog about the importance of metadata to provide additional useful information in discovery productions and help minimize the risk of fraud.  You wouldn’t think that the font you use on a document could expose it as a fake document, but in this case, it did.

In Newser (Alleged Fraudster Made a Really Poor Font Choice, written by Arden Dier), the choice of fonts apparently exposed a an alleged fraud scheme in Canada, where Gerald McGoey’s company, Look Communications, went bankrupt at the end of 2017. Ordered to repay $5.6 million to creditors, the former CEO sought to protect two properties—an Ontario farm purchased for $635,000 in 2003, and a cottage bought for $700,000 in 1994—with signed declarations claiming they were held in trust by his wife and three children, and therefore safe from the courts.

Here’s the problem: the farm declaration, dated 2004, was written in Calibri, while the cottage declaration, dated 1995, was written in Cambria. Per Ars Technica, Cambria was designed no earlier than 2004, while Calibri was designed between 2002 and 2004; both only became widely available in 2007.

This according to the expert report of Thomas Phinney, who has a Master of Science in graphic arts from Rochester Institute of Technology School of Printing, specializing in design and typography and over 20 years of experience in the font industry!  I guess there’s an expert for everything!  Anyway, Phinney told the court that no one but a Microsoft employee or contractor could’ve had access to Calibri in March 2004, as it wasn’t widely released until Microsoft’s Office 2007, per the National Post.

Anyway, while McGoey’s lawyers suggested the family was only mistaken about the dates the documents were signed, Ontario Superior Court Justice Michael Penny wrote in a decision earlier this month that “the conclusion that the … trusts are shams is unavoidable”.

According to the National Post, “had McGoey used Times New Roman, a popular default Microsoft font prior to 2007, it’s possible his ruse would never have been discovered.”  Whoops.

I guess if you’re going to forge a document, you’d better be up on your font history.  Or just stick with Times New Roman.

So, what do you think?  Have you ever had a case with forged documents that were identified by an unusual method?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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