12/05/2012 05:03 EST | Updated 02/04/2013 05:12 EST

$20M securities lawsuits filed in P.E.I.

More than 70 lawsuits that could involve more than $20 million in investments were filed in P.E.I. Supreme Court Wednesday.

The case involves an investment broker and more than 70 Islanders who lost their money in several Chinese companies.

Spencer Campbell, the lead lawyer on the case, said many of the claims are from prominent Islanders, including P.E.I.'s Lt.-Gov. Frank Lewis, and several of the individual claims will be worth more than $1 million. Campbell said, however, the list of claimants include a broad cross-section of Islanders, from a student to very elderly people.

"We have people who are elderly and have essentially lost their life savings and really have no ability or capacity to make that money back," said Campbell.

"The money is gone. The clients in this case have lost the money. In many cases their portfolios have been reduced to zero or a fraction."

The defendants named in the lawsuit include National Bank Securities Inc., Wellington West Capital Markets Inc., John Phillip Watts, and Watts Hickey Partners.

Campbell said the suit centres on activities of investment broker John Phillip Watts, who he says invested his clients' money in risky Chinese companies.

CBC News reached Watts at his Charlottetown home, but he said he couldn't comment. He said the lawsuit was all news to him.

Watts said the matter would require a response from National Bank's head office, and he would pass on the request from CBC News.

National Bank also declined comment.

The defendants have 20 days to file their statements of defence with the court.