Friday 19th October 2018

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Posts tagged ‘ontario securities commission’

Cross-country events mark Investor Education Month

October 2nd, 2018

by Greg Klein | October 2, 2018

Following the ounce-of-prevention principle, securities commissions across Canada plan a number of initiatives to encourage smarter, safer investment strategies. A month of events begins with World Investor Week, in which Canadian regulators join the International Organization of Securities Commissions from October 1 to 7. Here’s an outline of this country’s events from province to province.

British Columbia
The B.C. Securities Commission will release new research on millennials this month, along with new tools to help people understand their investment returns. The BCSC also plans design updates to InvestRight.org to improve its efficacy.

Cross-country events mark Investor Education Month

Alberta
A digital education campaign called Spot the Odd will raise awareness of the Alberta Securities Commission’s free resources as well as encourage financial literacy and fraud awareness. A number of activities across the province will include Don’t Get Tricked, to be held in Calgary on October 17.  The ASC provides other resources on CheckFirst.ca.  

Saskatchewan
The province’s Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority has a cryptocurrency awareness campaign slated for Facebook, Twitter, the FCAA website and YouTube. In addition, businesses planning to use cryptocurrencies are invited to discuss their project with the FCAA to learn whether it falls under securities legislation.

Manitoba
The Manitoba Securities Commission will formally launch MoneySmartManitoba.ca to promote financial literacy and planning. The MSC will also take to the Twittersphere with news, tips and strategies for investors.

Ontario
The Ontario Securities Commission plans social media chats on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #IEM2018. The OSC also hosts GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca, plans a telephone townhall for October 10, presents public events around the province with OSC in the Community and further encourages awareness through an investor newsletter.

Participating in World Investor Week helps promote investor education and protection both locally and globally.—Tyler Fleming,
Ontario Securities Commission

Quebec
L’Autorité des marchés financiers will release results of its fourth Financial Awareness Index, measuring the public’s knowledge and use of financial products and services. The AMF will also present the third edition of its Talking Money in Class! contest for high school teachers and take part in the Quebec Seniors’ Fair.

New Brunswick
The Financial and Consumer Services Commission will present online info with special emphasis on initial coin offerings. For more tips on fraud, investors may visit fcnb.ca and follow the commission on Facebook and Twitter. The Fortune online trivia game allows investors to compete with others across the province to learn more and win prizes.

In addition to all that, the Canadian Securities Administrators umbrella group offers its own online tools and resources. The CSA invites the public to take advantage of Investor Education Month and World Investor Week by following @CSA_News on Twitter and @CSA.ACVM on Facebook.

Read: Regulators emphasize innovation and deterrence as financial sanctions fail.

Ontario Securities Commission director of enforcement Jeff Kehoe comments on the OSC’s cash-for-tips program

August 1st, 2018

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Follow the money, distantly

July 13th, 2018

Regulators emphasize innovation and deterrence as financial sanctions fail

by Greg Klein

It was a momentous week for Canadian regulators, seemingly. In a ruling on “one of the largest corporate frauds in Canadian history,” the Ontario Securities Commission slammed Sino-Forest scamsters with over $81 million in sanctions. One day later the Canadian Securities Administrators announced a nationwide total last year of nearly $70 million in penalties and a roughly equal amount in payback orders. All that sounds impressive, but a troubling question remains: How much—or, more accurately, how little—will ever be collected?

Regulators emphasize innovation and deterrence as financial sanctions fail

TSX-listed Sino-Forest’s 2012 crash wiped out $6 billion of investors’ money. Six years of OSC reviews expanded on short seller Muddy Waters’ exposé to conclude that “the complexity, scale and duration of the fraud are simply stunning.”

This week the commission imposed disgorgements, penalties and costs on a quartet of Chinese executives totalling $81.4 million, with Gang of Four ringleader Allen Chan responsible for $67.3 million.

In a sense, the OSC showed leniency. “We do not generally apply our penalties to each misstatement or instance of fraudulent conduct occurring even over an extended period of time, as here,” the commission stated. “If that approach were taken, the sanctions sought by staff would be multiplied many times.”

But whether the amounts could be higher would seem a moot point without collection. In an e-mailed response to ResourceClips.com inquiries, OSC public affairs manager Kristen Rose stated: “In addition to the challenges inherent in collecting sanctions generally, there is added difficulty in matters where respondents are outside of North America, and there is uncertainty as to whether there are recoverable assets. That said, as with any such matter, the OSC will make every effort to identify recoverable assets.”

In addition to the challenges inherent in collecting sanctions generally, there is added difficulty in matters where respondents are outside of North America, and there is uncertainty as to whether there are recoverable assets. That said, as with any such matter, the OSC will make every effort to identify recoverable assets.—Kristen Rose,
OSC public affairs manager

She added that Chan faces a civil judgement of US$2.6 billion, as well as a class action suit. Wronged investors would get priority over OSC penalties.

This week’s annual enforcement report from the CSA—the umbrella group for securities commissions in 13 jurisdictions—shows $69.4 million in penalties imposed nationwide during the last calendar year, along with another $68.6 million in restitution, compensation and disgorgement orders.

The report doesn’t say how much was collected. CSA chairperson Louis Morisset doesn’t have the figures either, not even for previous years. But he emphasizes that collection efforts continue.

“Those sanctions don’t always align with a person or company’s ability to pay,” he tells ResourceClips.com. “I can certainly assure you that we’re deploying all efforts to collect those monetary sanctions.”

Among the barriers to collection are bankruptcy, competing claims, lack of recoverable assets or offshore residence.

Nevertheless the performance of securities commissions, especially in British Columbia and Ontario, has come under media scrutiny. Beginning late last year, a series of Postmedia stories by Gordon Hoekstra detailed several cases of B.C. Securities Commission sanctions remaining unenforced, despite offenders holding significant assets. Over the last decade the BCSC collected less than 2% of $510 million in fines and payback orders, while the OSC enforced about 18% of its penalties, Hoekstra found.

In December Globe and Mail reporters Grant Robertson and Tom Cardoso released their study of 30 years of regulatory records, finding scams with higher dollar values than the resulting penalties, which often went unenforced anyway.

Morisset declined to comment on the stories, referring only to a December CSA statement that took issue with some aspects of the G&M reports and emphasized the role of police in financial crime investigations.

Still, media coverage seemed to make an impact.

“Immediately after the Postmedia investigation, the BCSC filed at least 10 writs of seizure and sale in B.C. Supreme Court for financial fraudsters owing nearly $70 million in penalties, and renewed three enforcement orders,” Hoekstra reported last month. “Also following the investigation, B.C. Finance Minister Carole James ordered the BCSC to improve its collection record and called for new tools and modernization of the Securities Act to improve collection.”

Regulators emphasize innovation and deterrence as financial sanctions fail

CSA chairperson Louis Morisset:
“There is an array of means and we’re deploying
everything available in the circumstances
to ensure deterrence.” (Photo: CSA)

As the CSA report shows, regulators don’t just go after money. Last year courts handed out prison terms totalling 33 years for offences under provincial securities legislation, with sentences for the 17 individuals ranging from 30 days to five years. Criminal Code cases handled by regulators brought eight sentences totalling 14 years.

Six of the jailbirds were repeat offenders. But a low overall recidivism rate of about 4% shows the power of deterrence, Morisset says. And, regardless of whether it’s responding to media criticism about enforcement, the CSA emphasizes the importance of deterrence.

It’s “also achieved by other means like revoking, suspending or imposing restrictions on registration, imposing bans, freezing accounts,” explains Morisset. “There is an array of means and we’re deploying everything available in the circumstances to ensure deterrence.”

Last month the OSC stated its two-year-old whistleblower program brought 11 no-contest settlements, returning more than $368 million to investors.

Beyond that the CSA plays up its “innovative” approaches, to binary options for example. In addition to a public awareness campaign, the group approached Twitter, Facebook, Google, Apple, Visa and MasterCard. “We made them aware of the issues surrounding binary options and that they were used to a certain extent to facilitate fraud, and I think our approach was very innovative and effective in preventing fraudsters from reaching their targets,” says Morisset.

Also innovative was an outright ban on binary options. “It was the first time in Canada that we banned a product, giving a very strong message that these are toxic products.”

He says new approaches to fraud could expand the pool of potential victims, drawing in millennials with little or no investment experience. CSA publicity campaigns encourage awareness of the cryptocurrency world.

Through its Regulatory Sandbox, the CSA tries to streamline the entry of innovative fintech firms into the regulatory world. The CSA’s new Market Analysis Platform will use updated surveillance technology to monitor manipulation and insider trading. Canada’s first Pump and Dump Summit, held in Calgary last September, brought together four Canadian securities commissions and the RCMP, along with the U.S. SEC and FBI. Across Canada and abroad, inter-jurisdictional collaboration helps regulators join forces, says Morisset.

“We are innovative and we have to be, because the markets are innovative.”

But when the regulators fail, others might step in—with fraudsters on one side and, on the other, maybe opportunistic vigilantes like Muddy Waters.

OSC whistleblower inducements bring wronged investors over $368 million

June 29th, 2018

by Greg Klein | June 29, 2018

Rewards to informers have yet to be revealed but the Ontario Securities Commission says wronged investors have benefited from Canada’s first-such cash-for-tips program. During its two years of operation an average of two tips a week has resulted in 11 no-contest settlements that returned over $368 million to investors. Company employees who provide information receive protection, as well as rewards of up to $5 million. But that money could take several years to arrive, given the complexity of investigations, the length of proceedings and the time granted to appeal.

OSC whistleblower inducements bring wronged investors over $368 million

The program calls for inside scoop that’s “high-quality, timely, specific and includes credible facts” about actions including fraud, insider trading, misleading financial statements and trading-related misconduct.

The commission referred 19 tips, about 10% of the total received, to its enforcement branch, where 15 “are associated with active investigations.” Sixty-eight tips “were or are in the process of being shared with another OSC operating branch or another regulator for further action.”

The commission says it endeavours to protect whistleblowers’ identities, guards against employer reprisals and allows informers to act anonymously through a lawyer. Company officials wracked with guilt or apprehension, meanwhile, may also turn themselves in for a possible no-contest settlement.

“The program is still in its infancy, but is already proving to be a powerful enforcement tool, as with our no-contest settlements and the option to self-report,” commented OSC director of enforcement Jeff Kehoe. “These all serve to promote a strong culture of compliance in Ontario’s business community, effectively extending our reach and allowing us to do more to protect investors.”

Read more about the OSC whistleblower program.

Fraud Awareness Month begins amid criticism of lax enforcement against serial scammers

March 7th, 2018

by Greg Klein | March 7, 2018

Education more than deterrence seems to be the focus of Canadian securities commissions as Fraud Awareness Month begins. Two series of articles by Postmedia and the Globe and Mail reveal numerous examples of con artists evading administrative penalties and criminal charges, leaving victims powerless to recover losses.

Fraud Awareness Month begins amid criticism of lax enforcement against serial scammers

The British Columbia Securities Commission kicked off the annual awareness campaign by releasing results of a survey. The people most susceptible to investment scams, the poll found, are millennials. Over 500 respondents were tested on their reaction to a fictional investment offer that guaranteed no-risk returns of 14% to 25%.

“Although the claim contains several investment fraud warning signs, 26% of respondents said the offer was ‘worth looking into,’” the BCSC reported. “More troubling, 20% of the respondents who would look into the offer said they were interested because they need the money, indicating even greater vulnerability.”

Adults aged 18 to 34 showed the greatest naiveté, with 47% of women and 35% of men that age expressing interest. Just 13% of people 55 years and over gave similar answers, a decline from 26% in a similar 2012 study.

“Investors should always be skeptical of anyone offering a risk-free investment with an unusually high return, because there’s no such thing,” warned BCSC director of communications and education Pamela McDonald. “We encourage investors to look carefully at every investment they make, but also to listen to your gut. If something doesn’t make sense, or doesn’t feel right, we encourage you to contact the BCSC.”

The admonition follows criticism of weak enforcement by the BCSC and its counterparts. In December the Globe and Mail’s Grant Robertson and Tom Cardoso reported their analysis of 30 years of regulatory records, finding one in nine people pronounced guilty of securities fraud go on to re-offend, some even defying multiple lifetime trading bans through aliases and “jurisdiction-hopping.” Ill-gotten gains can far exceed penalties, which at any rate often remain unenforced.

In November a Postmedia series by Gordon Hoekstra reported numerous cases of uncollected BCSC fines and payback orders on scammers who in some cases continue to hold significant assets. Others transfer assets with relative ease.

Between the fiscal years ending in 2008 and 2017, Hoekstra stated, the BCSC collected less than 2% of $510 million in fines and payback orders. The Ontario Securities Commission did somewhat better, collecting 18% over the last decade.

In a December response to the Globe and Mail, the Canadian Securities Administrators stated that securities commissions are limited to pursuing administrative cases, with police responsible for criminal matters. But last month Hoekstra reported examples of Vancouver police and RCMP refusing to investigate fraud allegations. Vancouver cops say they typically refer cases of investment fraud to the BCSC. The RCMP declined to investigate another example on the grounds that it was a BCSC matter.

In another February story, Hoekstra revealed the BCSC “quietly” stayed more than $35 million of penalties regarding nine cases following a B.C. Court of Appeal decision on a pump-and-dump operation.

OSC tele-townhall encourages scam awareness

October 16th, 2017

by Greg Klein | October 16, 2017

OSC tele-townhall encourages scam awareness

Courts and regulatory agencies notwithstanding, there’s probably no greater frustration for con artists than con-resistant investors. With that in mind, the Ontario Securities Commission has a public outreach program underway including a tele-townhall.

Taking place October 24 at 6:30 p.m., the one-hour event will work “much like a call-in radio show,” the commission explains. Staff will provide information about frauds and scams commonly perpetrated in Ontario. Callers may ask questions and take part in live polls. Participants can register here up to noon of that day.

As part of an outreach program called From Bay Street to Main Street, the OSC also has several investor awareness meetings scheduled over the next few months. Many of the events will take place with groups representing Canadian newcomers or seniors, two particular scam targets.

The OSC also promotes investor knowledge through its Get Smarter About Money website.

Among other strategies across the country, the British Columbia Securities Commission has promoted investor awareness through entertaining videos, a few of which can be seen here and here.

Ontario Securities Commission director of enforcement Jeff Kehoe comments after two con men get jail time for a Tanzanian mining scam

February 7th, 2017

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$6.6-million gold mining scam nets four-year jail terms

December 20th, 2016

by Greg Klein | December 20, 2016

Two conmen who touted a Tanzanian gold mining stock now face prison time and restitution orders, the Ontario Securities Commission announced December 20. William Wallace and Robert Heward were each sentenced to four years and ordered to pay back $6.67 million to approximately 105 people who invested in Londoni Gold Corp. The pair were convicted of fraud, illegal distribution and unregistered trading. The last two charges brought concurrent 18-month sentences.

We will continue to seek prison sentences for individuals who commit crimes like these, which have a devastating impact on the lives of people and their families.—Jeff Kehoe,
OSC director of enforcement

Despite never having been registered with the OSC and having no prospectus for their company, the two sold Londoni shares between December 2009 and December 2013. In doing so they misrepresented the project’s operations, management, viability and production potential, the court heard. “A significant portion” of the money they raised financed their personal lifestyles.

They first appeared in a Toronto court in September 2014.

“This case sends a strong message to individuals engaged in securities fraud and illegal distributions that they will be held accountable for their misconduct,” said OSC director of enforcement Jeff Kehoe. “We will continue to seek prison sentences for individuals who commit crimes like these, which have a devastating impact on the lives of people and their families.”

The charges followed an investigation by the Joint Serious Offences Team, a partnership of the OSC, RCMP Financial Crime program and Ontario Provincial Police Anti-Rackets Branch.

SEC pays whistleblower $22 million for securities fraud tip

August 30th, 2016

by Greg Klein | August 30, 2016

Detailed information and extensive assistance brought an informer more than $22 million, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced August 30. It’s the SEC’s second-highest award, following a $30-million payout in 2014.

The anonymous tipster worked for the offending firm, which wasn’t named by the SEC.

SEC pays whistleblower $22 million for securities fraud tip

“Company employees are in unique positions behind the scenes to unravel complex or deeply buried wrongdoing,” said Jane Norberg, acting chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower. “Without this whistleblower’s courage, information and assistance, it would have been extremely difficult for law enforcement to discover this securities fraud on its own.”

In June 2015, Norberg told an Ontario Securities Commission roundtable that the SEC had paid 17 people a total of more than $50 million over four years of operation. The largest reward at that time was over $30 million. The total now surpasses $107 million, divvied up between 33 recipients.

Rewards can range between 10% and 30% of money collected when sanctions exceed $1 million, the SEC stated. “No money has been taken or withheld from harmed investors to pay whistleblower awards.” The SEC protects tipsters’ confidentiality.

Last month the OSC became Canada’s first regulator to offer such rewards. Payouts can range from 5% to 15% of sanctions and/or voluntary payments by companies of at least $1 million. The maximum reward comes to $1.5 million, but can increase to $5 million should the penalty exceed $10 million.

An e-mail from OSC rep Kate Ballotta confirms that the program has already received tips but doesn’t state whether payouts have been made yet. “Another securities enforcement tool unique to the OSC,” she writes, is the no-contest settlement program in which five cases have resulted in about $200 million being returned to investors.

In Quebec, l’Autorité des marchés financiers launched a reward-less whistleblower program in June, after AMF research found “confidentiality is what primarily motivates whistleblowers to report incidents.”

The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada opposed the OSC rewards, arguing they could encourage “bounty-hunting behaviour and framing companies for financial gains.” PDAC also warned that “overly cautious issuers” might face extra costs for additional legal advice.

L’Autorité des marchés financiers disagrees with the Ontario Securities Commission policy of rewarding whistleblowers

August 5th, 2016

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