You don’t need a crystal ball to predict a future of more regulation.
In 2016, CSA dropped a bombshell in the form of proposed targeted reforms and a best interest standard. Also expected this year but still lying in wait: CSA’s report on mutual fund fees, which may decide the fate of embedded commissions.
Further, the review of Ontario’s financial advisory services is reportedly on its way in early 2017. The province also recently introduced legislation to create a new financial services regulator to replace the Financial Services Commission of Ontario.
In the fervour to keep abreast of all the regulatory action, the point of the endeavour — serving investors — might be forgotten.
That’s top of mind, of course, for the Canadian Foundation for the Advancement of Investor Rights (FAIR). Here’s its 2017 wish list of consumer protections:
- A best interest standard. Investors already believe advisors make recommendations based on investors’ best interests. Advisors’ recourse to suitability — a lesser standard — doesn’t pass muster.
- A ban on embedded commissions. Trailing commissions pose conflicts of interest, says FAIR, citing professor Cummings’s research on mutual fund fees and flows. The conflicts are systemic and hurt both investors and the market.
- A ban on commissions for amounts borrowed to invest based on a leveraging strategy. There’s inherent conflict when firms and registrants benefit from recommending that a client borrow to invest. Further, such investing is irresponsible when so many Canadians are already heavily indebted.
- A national, consumer-friendly registration check. The current system is complicated, requiring the search of several databases. A national, one-stop source for registration and disciplinary information should cover all registrants and licensees — in insurance, securities and banking.
- A national statutory ombudservice. Investors need recourse to a complaint process that is fair, and decisions should be binding.
- A fraud compensation fund. Investors who experience fraud often don’t get compensation through the courts or the Canadian Investor Protection Fund. FAIR names Quebec and the U.K. as jurisdictions that effectively provide compensation.