The government of British Columbia is introducing wide-ranging reforms to the province’s securities laws, including enhanced enforcement powers for the B.C. Securities Commission (BCSC) and measures to bolster oversight of derivatives markets and financial benchmarks.
The provincial Ministry of Finance said the changes will, among other things, provide the BCSC with the strongest regulatory enforcement powers in the country.
For instance, the changes expand the BCSC’s investigative powers, and increase the commission’s ability to freeze or seize property that fraudsters transfer to others.
They also give the commission the power to seize RRSPs and to impose penalties for violations of regulatory rulings without holding a hearing.
The reforms also introduce minimum jail sentences for serial fraudsters and increase the maximum penalties (fines and jail time) for securities offences.
“Our government is taking action to make sure we have the strongest protections in Canada for people who are investing and tough penalties for those who are abusing the system,” said Carole James, B.C.’s minister of finance.
“These changes send a clear signal to fraudsters that the rules do apply in B.C., and if you break them, there will be consequences. People can feel confident knowing that B.C.’s investment markets will be protected today and into the future,” she added.
“B.C. is setting the bar high when it comes to protecting people’s investments,” said Ermanno Pascutto, executive director of the Canadian Foundation for Advancement of Investor Rights (FAIR Canada).
“These amendments to improve fine collection rates are some of the most far-reaching in Canada and align with international best practice. We are pleased that the B.C. government and the BCSC will make it a priority to return funds to victims of investment fraud.”
Along with the enforcement-related changes, the reforms also feature measures to establish a new regime for derivatives, giving the BCSC explicit authority over trade repositories and the ability to regulate benchmarks.
“We’d like to thank the B.C. government for taking action to crack down on white-collar crime with these groundbreaking amendments,” said Brenda Leong, chair and CEO of the BCSC.
“We now have new and better tools to go after the bad actors who break the law and cause significant harm to investors and the capital markets,” she said.
The government said that the reforms represent the most extensive amendments to its securities laws since the legislation was introduced in 1996, and reflects its stepped up efforts to crack down on white-collar crimes such as fraud and money laundering.