At OSC Dialogue 2014, U.S. and Canadian regulatory experts tackled hot-button topics.

That includes the pros and cons of shareholder activism, and how advisor-client relationships are evolving.

During the first panel, activist investor Bill Ackman talked about the importance of shareholder rights with Sharon Geraghty, of Torys LLP, and Roberta Karmel, of Brooklyn Law School.

At another panel, heads of major fund companies debated whether product innovation across North American was helping or confusing investors. The panel included: Som Seif from Purpose Investments; Howard Atkinson from Horizons ETFs (Canada); Peter Intraligi from Invesco Canada; James Norris from Vanguard; and Rhonda Goldberg from OSC.

Then, OSC’s Howard Wetston and SEC’s Mary Jo White talked about the changing regulatory landscape.

For insights from these experts, check out some of assistant editor Katie Keir’s live tweets below. Read more from Katie Keir and

Panel 1 – The value of shareholder activism

Howard Wetston (moderator) asks if media casts activist investors in a negative light ‪#OSCDialogue

Ackman: That can happen if it shows management-shareholder relationship as a war. Can be positive relationship, though, if both parties trying to boost biz value ‪#OSCDialogue

Read: Solve the share buyback riddle

But there can be manipulative shareholder activists who act in their own interests as well, add Geraghty and Karmel ‪#OSCDialogue

It’s key for investors to have a voice, [Ackman] adds. Before, the only option was to sell if shareholders disagreed with biz owners ‪#OSCDialogue

Read: Private equity firm buys Safeway for $9B

When companies boards are chosen, there should be 2+ people to choose from for each position. You can then pick the best of applicants ‪#OSCDialogue

Read: Focus on company management when choosing stocks

Karmel says we’ll see a rise in shareholder activism, given businesses in a low growth cycle and may need operational boosts/growth ideas from investors ‪#OSCDialogue

Panel 2 – Innovation in products and markets

Over the last 30 years, equities, bonds & real estate outperformed, with real estate on top. But what’s in our future? ‪#OSCDialogue

Defined benefit programs and real estate returns have helped prepare Boomers for retirement in an era of low returns. But those 50-years-old and younger are at risk ‪#OSCDialogue

A bear market during the recession boosted the need for product innovation, and also was a catalyst for changes like CRM2, says Atkinson ‪#OSCDialogue

So alternatives must be explored, says Intraligi, including products like derivatives, which have a bad rep in Canada ‪#ODCDialogue

Read: Seeking investment opportunities? Here’s help

As manufacturers create new products, they have to also make sure education is offered to target buyers, says Goldberg ‪#OSCDialogue

For example, derivatives are used in products, so advisors need to understand these, says Atkinson. There are benefits when they’re part of overall strategies and portfolios ‪#OSCDialogue

Read: Details on derivatives

Big issue in Canada is still embedded fees; will continue to be an issue as market and products change ‪#OSCDialogue

As such, CRM2 could be just beginning, says Goldberg, and we keep examining distribution models, advisor pay & trade costs ‪#OSCDialogue

Read: Will there be a CRM3?

Panel 3 – Conversation with SEC

White says SEC results report coming out today: there were 755 cases launched last year, and more than $4B in fines, disgorgement handed out ‪#OSCDialogue

The U.S. whistleblower program is working well and more than exceeding expectations, says White. About 3,000 tips submitted so far, and most are good tips that result in cases being launched #OSCDialogue

Read: SEC awards whistleblowers $875,000

Big fines are important since they send messages to market participants, but we need to fine both companies and people since the latter isn’t considered “the cost of doing business,” says White ‪#OSCDialogue

Market structure revision is about more than looking at HFT & dark pools, says White. ‪#OSCDialogue

Read: Are high-speed traders better regulated in Canada?

Also, ATSs have benefits, but we need greater transparency regarding those systems. There will be more rulemaking and revisions around those systems ‪#OSCDialogue

SEC recently did a literacy study, & the main message was advisors need to provide more education, more visual resources ‪#OSCDialogue

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