Ellen Bessner is an experienced, tough-minded commercial litigator, known for her determination and common sense advice. After 25 years of practice on Bay Street at prominent Canadian law firms, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP and Gowling WLG, Ellen joined Babin Bessner Spry LLP in 2014, where she is a leader in commercial and securities litigation, employment litigation, insurance defence, directors’ and officers’ liability, professional negligence, class actions, and regulatory matters. She is regularly retained to advise boards of directors and senior officers on compliance issues.

Ellen has acted as counsel before every level of the Ontario courts and in many arbitrations and regulatory proceedings, including before the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA), the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC), the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada (MFDA), and the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC). 

Ellen is the author of the bestselling book Advisor at Risk: a roadmap to protecting your business and has recently written the sequel Communication Risk: how to bridge the client-advisor gap to protect and grow your business. Her books are leading risk management tools for professionals in the financial services industry. She is an expert speaker in the area of risk and writes on the subject in the national, business and industry press.

Ellen is a gifted public speaker and frequently delivers her popular and effective training programs across Canada to a range of professionals, including C-suite teams, boards of directors, management teams, and regulated professionals (accountants, financial and investment advisors, lawyers, planners, and portfolio managers). These programs cover a range of liability, ethics, and compliance issues, and they are designed to help reduce litigation and regulatory risk.

In 2016, Ellen was appointed to the OSC’s Seniors Expert Advisory Committee. She sits on the board of Embark Student Corp. and is a panel member for the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario’s regulatory arbitrations.

Ellen has been recognized as a litigation star by Benchmark Litigation.

Representative Work

Ellen has represented a wide range of clients, including:

  • Advisors defending against clients regarding suitability and discretionary trading
  • Officers, directors, and corporations in contractual disputes and class action defence
  • Employers and employees in wrongful dismissal actions
  • Dealers, advisors, and traders in claims of wrongful dismissal
  • Investment dealers in class actions
  • Advisors at FSCO, IIROC, MFDA, and OSC in respect of allegations of compliance infractions
  • Dually licensed advisors in FSCO / MFDA and FSCO / IIROC proceedings
  • IIROC and MFDA advisors alleged to have engaged in outside business activities
  • Branch managers/supervisors in MFDA and IIROC regulatory hearings
  • Exempt Market Dealers before the OSC
  • Dealers in matters in which several clients commenced proceedings alleging unsuitable investments and unsuitable strategies (including leverage loans)
  • Securities dealers, including settling a multi-party case in proceedings claiming investment losses and leverage loans on very favourable terms
Publications & Tools

For over two decades Ellen has presented on issues of law and compliance to a range of clients in every major city across Canada. Her training programs are designed to teach advisors, agents, and dealers how to manage their businesses in order to better protect themselves and minimize the risk of litigation and regulatory enforcement matters. Ellen also currently delivers training that complements her bestselling book, Advisor at Risk: A Roadmap to Protecting your Business. She has also developed and provided online training.



Please email ebessner@babinbessnerspry.com to order your copy. 



Ellen has presented on a number of topics, including:

  • COVID-19: Challenges & Opportunities
  • Succession/Transition Planning
  • The Future Success of Advisors with Personal and Business Continuity Plans
  • The Balancing Act of Client Communications
  • Grow Your Business by Protecting Yourself and Your Senior Clients
  • Suitability: Turn Product Risk into Opportunity
  • Demystifying Client Best Interest: Differentiate Your Business
  • KYC Risk
  • Continuity/Transition Planning: WHY?
  • Advisor at Risk: ENTREPRENEURS Protect and Grow Your Business
  • ALL IN: Communication Risk to Grow and Protect Your Business
  • Advisor at Risk: A Roadmap to Protect Your Licence and Grow Your Business
  • Communication Risk: How to Bridge the Client-Advisor Gap to Protect and Grow Your Business
  • RISK: Seniors and Their Successors
  • 10 Commandments of Managing Your Business to Protect Yourself
  • Advisor at Risk: A Roadmap to Protecting your Business (IIROC, MFDA, FSCO, OSC)
  • Advisor at Risk: How to Grow/Protect Your Business – Selling to Seniors!
  • Advisor at Risk: War Stories
  • Assistants: Absolutely Critical
  • Branch Managers at Risk: A Roadmap to Protecting your Business
  • Conversations with Clients
  • Compliance Officers at Risk: A Guide to Limiting Liability
  • Compliance Issues for Those Buying or Selling a Book of Business (Insurance/MFDA)
  • Credibility Battle
  • Demystifying Compliance with Secret Sauce
  • Expert Advisor
  • Future Regulation of Financial Advisors and Planners
  • Grow and Protect Your Business: 10 Myths
  • Grow Your Business and Protect: Women and Seniors
  • How to Build a Compliant Business
  • How to Manage Clients' Expectations and More
  • How to Prepare for Future Challenges
  • Limited Market Dealers and Compliance
  • Live Law - Important Legal Considerations for In-House Counsel
  • Paper Trail
  • Portfolio Managers at Risk
  • Products - What You Need to Know
  • Professional Advisor
  • Professional Obligations and Personal Liability
  • Risks, Identify and Resolve
  • Rogue Clients - Identify and Manage
  • Seniors - How to Protect these Vulnerable Clients
  • Seniors - This is a Different Market
  • Teach Advisors to Protect Themselves
  • Women: Opportunities, Challenges and Secret Sauce to Success?



Affiliations & Education

Professional Affiliations

  • Law Society of Upper Canada
  • Canadian Bar Association
  • The Advocates' Society

Bar Admission:

  • Ontario, 1989


  • Osgoode Hall Law School, LL.B., 1987
  • McGill University, B.Comm., 1984 (with Great Distinction)
  • Institute of Corporate Directors, ICD.D, 2020 (Valedictorian)
  • ICD-Rotman, Directors Education Program, 2020


  • NFP Governance Essentials Program (Rotman School of Managements/Institute of Corporate Directors), 2018
  • HR & Compensation Committee Effectiveness (Institute of Corporate Directors) 2019