On September 28, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) published guidance in the form of responses to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about how to interpret and implement the client-focused reforms (CFRs) to National Instrument 31-103 Registration Requirements, Exemptions and Ongoing Registrant Obligations (NI 31-103). As our readers already know, the conflicts-related CFRs must be implemented by June 30, 2021 and the remaining CFRS must be implemented by December 31, 2021. If you need a refresher on the CFRs, you can download our recently updated publication In a Nutshell: Implementing the Client-Focused Reforms.
In our first look at the 34 just-published FAQs, we noted with interest the following topics:
Closed-Shelf Firms: Several FAQs address issues relevant for firms that only sell proprietary products (Closed-Shelf Firms):
- Comparative Analysis of Competing Products Encouraged but Not Required: In their response to FAQ 9, CSA staff indicate that Closed-Shelf Firms do not have to compare their proprietary products to similar securities available in the market. However, CSA staff also suggest that periodically evaluating whether the firm’s proprietary products are competitive with alternatives in the market is one way a firm can demonstrate that its product shelf development and client recommendations are based on the quality of the proprietary products that it makes available to clients. This does not mean, however, that the firm must use the information gained from such an analysis either to change the products it makes available to clients or perform a shelf optimization. However, the information gained from such an assessment might inform the firm’s analysis of whether its controls to address the conflict of interest inherent in its business model are sufficient.
- Assessing Competitors’ Prospectus-Exempt Products: CSA staff’s response to FAQ 11 acknowledges that it can be difficult to compare proprietary products to alternative products offered on a prospectus-exempt basis due to limits on publicly available information. They also stated, however, that most registrants and issuers have a general knowledge of the competitive space in which they operate and are able to gather enough information to understand how they or their offerings compare with others in that space. Staff also emphasized that if there are specific limitations to the information registrants can obtain, or necessary assumptions or caveats registrants have to make in their comparative analysis (for example, because competitive products are materially different), these limitations and assumptions should be documented. Staff also indicated that generally they will expect firms to be familiar with its competitors’ products at least at a high level.
- Know-Your-Product (KYP) for Non-Proprietary Products Offered on an Incidental Basis: FAQ 11 also asks what level of due diligence is expected where a registered firm mostly offers proprietary products but may recommend certain non-proprietary products on an ancillary basis. In their guidance, CSA staff emphasize that firms operating under a 100% proprietary model do not have to include non-proprietary products on their shelf or recommend them. However, if a firm incidentally recommends non-proprietary products, then the incidental nature of the recommendation doesn’t reduce the firm’s KYP obligations for that product. Also, the firm should document its due diligence and, from a conflicts and suitability perspective, document why it has chosen to recommend a particular non-proprietary product over others.
Consent (or Disclosure + Consent) Aren’t Enough: In their responses to several FAQs, CSA staff emphasized that once the CFRs are in effect, consent (or disclosure plus consent) without other action by a registrant will be insufficient to address a material conflict of interest in a client’s best interest. (FAQs 6, 7 and 11) Additional controls (such as pre-trade controls and/or post-trade reviews) must be used. In FAQ 7, CSA staff also indicate that if a client opens an account after receiving clear disclosure that the dealer or adviser will be using proprietary products, it is reasonable to assume that the client agreed to a client-registrant relationship on that basis. However, the dealer must also take other steps to address the conflict before it can proceed, and it cannot rely solely on the issuer or an affiliate for its product due diligence.
Referral Arrangements: The response to FAQ 17 reiterates that when a firm refers a client to a service provider, the firm is responsible for conducting oversight over that service provider. The response also outlines steps that registrants can take to conduct due diligence on prospective referral parties and then supervise any referral arrangements they enter into. CSA staff expect registrants to consult publicly available databases and search engines, and make inquiries of the other party (whether registered or not) to ascertain, for example:
- The referral party’s status (including licensing or registration status), financial health, professional qualifications and history;
- Whether the referral party has been the subject of any investigation by a securities or financial sector regulator, any disciplinary action relating to their professional activities under their governing body or organization; and
- Whether there have been complaints, civil claims and/or arbitration notices filed against them in relation to their professional activities.
Due diligence records must be maintained. CSA staff also list examples of controls that can be used to monitor referral arrangements, including:
- Ongoing assessment of compensation received by registrants under referral arrangements;
- Ongoing compliance calls to investors who have been referred to or by the firm to assess how the process is being conducted by each referral party;
- Annual questionnaires sent to registrants receiving referral fees regarding the nature and extent of their involvement in referral arrangements;
- Interviews of registrants receiving referral fees during the branch review process;
- Requiring unregistered referral agents who make referrals to the firm to: (1) attend training on how to conduct referrals; and (2) use only pre-approved marketing materials and social media content in relation to their referral business; and
- Assessing complaints and other information received in connection with referral arrangements to ensure compliance by all referral parties.
When is a Conflict Material? CSA staff’s response to FAQ 5 asking for further guidance on the concept of “material conflicts” does not provide any new information. Staff reiterated the guidance expressed in the revised Companion Policy to NI 31-103 (Revised Policy) that, in determining whether a conflict is material, registrants should consider whether the conflict may reasonably be expected to affect, in the circumstances, the client’s decisions and/or the registrant’s recommendations or decisions. They also pointed to their guidance in the Revised Policy listing the conflicts that they consider to be “almost always material”.
Conflict of Interest Records: FAQ 12 asked the CSA for more guidance on the level of detail required in conflict of interest records. CSA staff’s response emphasizes several points:
- As the materiality of the conflict increases, there should be greater detail in the records maintained to demonstrate compliance.
- The CSA has not prescribed a specific format for such records. However, staff expect firms to, at a minimum, document their identification, review and analysis of conflicts of interest, their determination as to whether a conflict is material, and the controls used by the firm to ensure that material conflicts have been addressed in the client’s best interest.
- The firm’s documentation can be part of its risk assessment or conflicts of interest assessment, and it can include cross-references to the firm’s policies, procedures and controls.
- Paragraph 11.5(2)(q) of NI 31-103 will require firms to create a complete record that documents sales practices, compensation arrangements, and incentive practices, and the guidance in section 11.5 of the Revised Policy describes what must be documented.
Supervisory Staff Compensation: CSA staff discuss approaches to supervisory compensation in their response to FAQ 10. They state, among other things, that they expect the majority of the compensation of supervisory staff to not be tied to the revenue generation of representatives, the branch, or the business line that supervisory staff oversee. If, however, a portion of supervisory staff compensation is tied to branch or business line profitability, CSA staff expect that:
- The other compensation factors should be sufficient to outweigh any bias that supervisory staff might have toward profitability over the clients’ best interest;
- Controls such as multiple level supervision should be in place to ensure head office or an otherwise independent review of the supervisory process; and
- Compensating controls should be tested periodically for effectiveness.
Staff also recommend that firms consider compensating controls such as setting a low level of bonus relative to base salary combined with strict measures that penalize non-compliance, such as tying supervisory staff’s bonuses (or even salaries) to:
- Branch and direct reports not receiving valid investor complaints; and
- Results from independent quality assurance calls to investors to assess compliance and sales practices.
Other FAQ Topics: Before the Thanksgiving Holiday, we expect to publish a second article on our website discussing other FAQs, such as staff’s responses to questions about the collection and maintenance of up-to-date know-your-client (KYC) information and questions about the revised relationship disclosure information (RDI) requirements. We also will monitor the CSA’s CFRs Resource page and update our readers when new FAQs are added.
AUM Law is helping firms make steady progress toward the CFRs’ compliance deadlines and we can help you, too. We can help you develop a project plan, systemically review and make any needed changes to your policies, procedures and operations, and train your employees so that they understand the revised rules and your firm’s updated protocols. And along the way, we’ll stay on top of regulatory updates like the just-published FAQs so that our advice to you keeps pace with regulatory expectations. Please contact your usual lawyer at AUM Law for assistance, or if you’re new to the firm, please contact us for a free consultation.
September 30, 2020
On September 14, staff of the Compliance and Registrant Regulation (CRR) Branch at the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) published their Annual Summary Report for Dealers, Advisers and Investment Fund Managers (Report). The OSC encourages registrants to use the Report to learn more about recent and proposed regulatory initiatives, the OSC’s expectations for registrants, and how staff interpret initial and ongoing requirements for registration and compliance. Although we hope you find our takeaways from the Report useful, the discussion below doesn’t replace the Report or consultation with your counsel about the Report’s implications for your business.
A. Focus Areas for 2020-21 Compliance Reviews
Staff expect their upcoming compliance reviews to prioritize the following areas:
- COVID-19 impact on registrants;
- Complaint-handling processes;
- Suitability assessments, including concentration;
- Review of some firms to confirm their level of operational activities; and
- Marketing practices, including environmental, social and governance (ESG) offerings.
During the Portfolio Management Association of Canada’s Fall Regulatory and Compliance Webcast on September 24, a CRR staff member indicated that they expect the marketing practices sweep to begin shortly, either in late October or in November.
AUM Law’s focused and general compliance risk assessments can save you time and money by enabling you to pro-actively identify and address issues before they flare up into problems or you are audited by the OSC. But if the OSC calls you for an audit before you call us, we can conduct a strategic and expedited “911” review, so that you can begin identifying and addressing any material issues and are better-positioned to make a good first impression with OSC staff in the initial meeting. Contact us to learn more about these services.
B. Spotlight on Compliance Deficiencies
In 2019-20, CRR staff conducted compliance reviews in the following areas, among others:
- A suitability sweep of exempt market dealers (EMDs) and portfolio managers (PMs);
- High-risk firms identified through the 2018 Risk Assessment Questionnaire (RAQ) or the “Registration as a First Compliance Review Program”;
- Desk reviews of firms reporting financial statement losses in their 2017 and 2018 audited annual financial statements;
- Desk reviews of U.S.-based firms relying on the international dealer, international adviser, and/or non-resident investment fund manager registration exemptions (International Exemptions Review);
- Investment fund managers (IFMs) that had recently acquired or purchased assets of another IFM; and
- IFMs that are members of a self-regulatory organization (SRO).
As usual, the Report includes aggregate data on the type and severity of compliance deficiencies identified during last year’s reviews. The largest number of deficiencies related to compliance systems (40%, up 2% from 2018-19), and there was a tie for second place. Know-your-client (KYC), know-your-product (KYP) and suitability matters tied with client reporting matters, with each category representing 13% of deficiencies identified during the past year’s reviews. The largest number of significant deficiencies in 2019-20 concerned compliance systems (9%), KYC/KYP/suitability (8%), and conflicts of interest/referral arrangements (7%).
As they have in the past few years, staff organized their discussion of compliance deficiencies by theme. Below, we have highlighted topics that we think will be of particular interest to our readers.
1) Compliance Function
Some Annual Compliance Reports Got “Needs Improvement” Grades: Staff noted that chief compliance officers (CCOs) at some firms failed to prepare annual compliance reports, as required by section 5.2 of National Instrument 31-103 Registration Requirements, Exemptions and Ongoing Registrant Obligations (NI 31-103) or prepared cursory reports that didn’t contain enough detail to support the CCO’s assessment of the firm’s compliance function and/or the firm’s and employees’ compliance with securities legislation.
Service Provider Oversight: CRR staff are continuing to see situations where IFMs are performing little to no oversight of their outsourced fund administration and portfolio functions, or of their custodian. Common deficiencies included failures to:
- Obtain and evaluate a Service Organization Controls (SOC) report, when one was available from the service provider;
- Document and maintain evidence of the specific monitoring activities performed;
- Periodically validate the accuracy of prices used by the service provider in portfolio valuation; and
- Review material and complex corporate actions to confirm they were accurately processed and recorded by the service provider.
2) KYC, KYP and Suitability Obligations (EMDs / PMs / SPDs)
The good news is that, in this year’s suitability sweep, CRR staff generally saw improvements in firms’ KYC and suitability processes, compared with prior years’ reviews. However, they are continuing to see deficiencies in some areas, including:
- Inadequate collection and documentation of up-to-date KYC information;
- Inadequate documentation of suitability assessments (e.g. failure to document how a product that did not align with the client’s investment objectives nevertheless was suitable when other components of a client’s profile were considered);
- Managed accounts with portfolios that didn’t align with the client’s target asset mix reflected in their KYC documentation;
- Clients over-concentrated in a single issuer/issuer group or industry/asset class;
- Advisers and dealers not considering a clients’ total holdings of illiquid securities when assessing concentration risk;
- Inappropriate use of client-directed trade instructions (e.g. firms requesting such an instruction instead of conducting a suitability assessment first);
- Non-compliance with investment limits under the offering memorandum (OM) prospectus exemption;
- Inadequate documentation to support the determination that investors qualified as “accredited investors”; and/or
- Relying on third parties to collect KYC information for some clients without an advising representative (AR) or dealing representative (DR) of the firm meeting or speaking with such clients directly.
KYC and suitability obligations remain an area of ongoing concern for securities regulators. AUM Law can conduct a focused review of your client-facing documentation, policies and procedures and then help your firm can make any changes needed to comply with existing laws and implement the changes required by the client-focused reforms (CFRs) by the December 31, 2021 deadline. Please contact us to discuss how we can help.
3) NOT Now – Internal Firm Suspensions Require a Notice of Termination (All)
A firm that internally suspends a registered or permitted individual must file a Notice of Termination (NOT), so that the regulators and the public (through the NRD database). Firms that do not file a NOT, as required, run the risk of being held responsible for any registerable activity the individual conducts, even while under a firm-imposed suspension.
Staff indicated in the Report that some firms have been reluctant to file a NOT due to concerns that having the individual reinstated will be time-consuming. To address that concern and encourage firms to file NOTs as required, CRR staff have committed to a streamlined review process for assessing an individual’s suitability for registration after a firm-imposed suspension. In particular, CRR staff will permit firms to file Form 33-109F7 Reinstatement of Registered Individuals and Permitted Individuals (instead of Form 33-109F4) and will not require a new application fee, if certain criteria are met, including the following:
- The firm notifies staff in advance of the issue that led to the suspension;
- Staff is satisfied with the remedial actions that the firm has indicated it will take;
- The firm files a timely NOT;
- The firm notifies staff at least five business days in advance of its intention to reinstate the individual;
- There is no new detrimental information from the time the NOT was submitted; and
- There are no changes to information previously submitted in items 13 through 16 of Form 33-109F4.
AUM Law can advise you on, prepare and complete registration-related filings such as NOTs, as required. Please contact us if you have questions about or need assistance with matters like these.
4) Cross-Jurisdictional Registration Issues
Servicing Non-Ontario Clients without Required Registration (PMs / EMDs): According to the Report, Staff continue to see firms and representatives who do not have the required registrations in the relevant jurisdictions to trade in, or advise on, securities for clients outside Ontario. For example, some firms and/or their representatives are purporting to rely on the client mobility exemptions for Canadian clients without satisfying the criteria for those exemptions. Staff encourage firms to, among other things:
- Take an inventory of the residency of the firm’s existing clients;
- If the firm determines that any of its clients are located in jurisdictions where the firm and/or its registered individuals are not registered and do not have a valid exemption to rely upon, take immediate steps to come into compliance or discontinue the offering of any advisory or dealing services to the relevant clients;
- Train employees on the limitations of conducting dealing or advising activities in other jurisdictions;
- If applicable, take adequate steps to confirm that all requirements to rely upon the client mobility exemption are met (including verifying that the individual and firm do not exceed the allowable number of eligible clients in each jurisdiction and submitting Form 31-103F3 Use of Mobility Exemption to the regulator in the relevant jurisdiction); and
- Maintain adequate records for all of the above.
International Firms with Canadian Clients (EMDs / IFMs / PMs): During its International Exemptions Review, staff found that some firms had not filed up-to-date forms with the OSC to properly rely on the exemption and/or did not always provide clients with the required disclosure (or maintain evidence that the disclosure was provided). In addition, some international advisers had not maintained sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the advice being provided to Canadian clients with respect to Canadian securities was incidental to the advice being provided on foreign securities. Also, CRR staff noted that some firms, who were providing advisory services to permitted clients registered as advisers in Canada, were improperly purporting to rely on the international adviser exemption in section 8.26 of NI 31-103, instead of complying with the exemption criteria for international sub-advisers in section 8.26.1.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need advice or assistance regarding the application of Canadian registrant regulation requirements to your cross-border activities.
5) Distribution of a Registered Firm’s Own Shares (EMDs / PMs)
The Report discusses two compliance issues arising from situations where registered firms distribute their own shares to investors. First, staff reiterated that, even where the firm is relying upon a prospectus exemption to effect the distribution, the firm still must comply with its registrant obligations (e.g. relating to KYC and suitability) in connection with the distribution.
Second, staff emphasized that when firms distribute their own shares to existing and prospective clients, the resulting relationship is one that presents the highest degree of conflict of interest recognized by National Instrument 33-105CP Underwriting Conflicts (NI 33-105). In such situations, it is unclear if the firm is acting in the capacity of an issuer or, as a registered firm, by advising or recommending an investment in the firm’s shares to its existing clients (either as a PM through a managed account or as an EMD). In addition, this business model could create the perception that investors who are clients might be favoured over non-investor clients (e.g. with respect to access to proprietary information or the allocation of investment opportunities). The Report outlines steps that firms can take to respond to this conflict. Among other things, staff recommend that firms:
- Disclose and explain the conflict to potential investors and obtain an appropriate acknowledgement from them;
- Disclose all risk factors relating to the investment in the firm;
- Advise potential investors to seek independent advice regarding the investment and provide all information needed for such advice; and
- Develop and implement appropriate policies and procedures to, among other things:
- Identify and address all related conflicts of interest;
- Address the fair allocation of investment opportunities among clients; and
- Prohibit sharing of the registered firm’s business information with shareholders of the firm that are also clients, in a manner that might prejudice other clients.
6) Captive Dealers (EMDs)
Staff reminded EMD-only firms that distribute securities of a related or connected issuer with common mind and management (Captive Dealers) that they must adequately respond to the material conflicts that arise in this business model. The EMD’s financial incentives to sell its related or connected issuer’s securities may come into conflict with its regulatory obligations, such as those concerning suitability and fair dealing. Staff recommend that Captive Dealers, among other things, to assign a responsible individual, such as the CCO or ultimate designated person (UDP), who has not been directly involved with the trade in question, to confirm that investors understand:
- The relationship between the Captive Dealer and the related or connected issuer;
- The investment’s key features; and
- The concentration risks associated with investing in a limited number of related or connected issuers.
Staff also encourage Captive Dealers to ensure that the relevant employees have been trained to explain the nature of the material conflicts of interest inherent in the business model and the importance of avoiding, managing and/or disclosing them and understand their KYC, KYP and suitability obligations.
7) Financial Conflicts of Interest (All)
Staff identified certain financial conflict of interest situations such as the payment of consulting fees or placement fees to registered firms by companies that the firms’ funds or managed accounts invested in and where the conflict of disclosure to clients was non-existent or inadequate. According to staff, if a registered firm is paid by issuers of securities that it recommends to its clients, it should:
- Structurally segregate its corporate finance business from its advisory business and implement internal information barriers;
- Enhance its monitoring controls over clients’ suitability assessments;
- Fully disclose the issuer relationships and compensation arrangements in offering documents and account opening documents;
- Disclose all conflicts of interest in the relationship disclosure information (RDI) required by section 14.2 of NI 31-103;
- Provide clear and meaningful disclosure in plain language about the nature and impact of each conflict; and
- Obtain the client’s written acknowledgment that they understand the nature and impact of each disclosed financial conflict of interest before selling the product or service to them.
8) Inappropriate Reliance on Custodian to Satisfy Account Statement Delivery Obligations (PMs)
Staff reminded PMs that they cannot meet their statement delivery obligations by relying solely upon their custodian to deliver position and transactional information to clients. If a PM has entered into a service arrangement with a dealer member (DM) of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC), the PM can satisfy its obligation to deliver statements to a client if that client’s DM, acting as custodian, sends a DM statement to the client, provided that the PM:
- Does not hold any of the investments it manages for the client;
- Verifies that the investments it manages for the client are held in a separate account for the client where the DM knows the client’s name and address;
- Discloses the service arrangement to the client in accordance as called for by Section 3 of CSA Staff Notice 31-347 Guidance for Portfolio Managers for Service Arrangements with IIROC Dealer Members;
- Confirms that for each of the client’s accounts at the DM, a DM statement is delivered to client at the required frequency with the required content;
- Takes reasonable steps to verify that the DM statements are complete and accurate;
- Complies with client requests or agreements to receive PM statements from the PM, supplemental to the DM statement; and
- Verifies that the market value data it uses to prepare the client’s annual investment performance report is consistent with the data in the relevant DM statement delivered to the client.
Staff also note that PMs should maintain their own records of clients’ investment positions and trades, including evidence to support reconciliations between their records and the DM’s statements and establish policies and procedures to verify that DM statements are complete, accurate and delivered on a timely basis.
9) Trade Confirmations for Managed Accounts (PM / EMD)
The Report addresses a frequently asked question about whether a firm registered as an EMD, IFM and PM must send trade confirmations to its managed account clients for each purchase or sale of a security of a proprietary fund where the firm also acted as the registered dealer for the trade. According to staff, since the firm is already subject to obligations as a PM when it purchases the security on behalf of the managed account, there are no additional obligations that apply if it conducts the trades through its dealer registration. Provided that the managed account client consented not to receive trade confirmations for each transaction in the account, staff would not expect the firm to provide real time trade confirmations.
10) Other Deficiencies
We’ve briefly summarized below some additional staff recommendations and commentary that we think our readers may find relevant.
Custodial and Prime Brokerage Agreements (IFMs): CRR staff reminded IFMs that they need to have written agreements in place between the prospectus-exempt funds managed by them and the funds’ custodian and/or prime broker.
Funds Purchasing Securities from “Responsible Persons” (IFMs / PMs): According to staff, some registered advisers have been selling securities owned by the adviser’s firm to an investment fund managed by the adviser, contrary to the prohibition in paragraph 13.5(2)(b) of NI 31-103 on advisers knowingly causing investment funds they manage to purchase securities from a “responsible person”. Staff emphasized that firms should have policies, procedures and pre-trade controls to identify prohibited transactions like these and prevent them from occurring.
Impact of IFRS 16 on Working Capital (All): Some firms are not applying IFRS 16 Leases correctly, or at all, which has resulted in some firms incorrectly calculating their excess working capital balances. In some cases, this resulted in the firm being capital-deficient.
Insurance Coverage (All): Firms should check that their coverage is adequate, that bonding policies provide for a double aggregate limit or full reinstatement of coverage, that claims of other entities covered under a global policy do not reduce limits or coverage available to the registered firm, and that the registered firm should have the right to claim directly against the insurer for losses under a global policy.
Personal Trading (All): CRR staff are continuing to see deficiencies in firms’ personal trading policies and procedures. Identified deficiencies included inadequate policies and procedures, failures to enforce the firm’s policy, failing to maintain complete information on the person trading accounts of all “Access Persons”, and failing to require written pre-approval of Access Persons’ trades.
C. Regulatory Actions – Conduct Concerns During the Registration Process
The Report also includes data on CRR regulatory actions, including data comparing the different kinds of regulatory actions taken in the past five fiscal years. In addition to providing an overview of all regulatory actions concerning registrants, this year the Report highlights CRR staff’s approach to handling conduct concerns that arise during the registration process.
CSA Guidance Has Helped: Staff discussed the decrease since fiscal 2018 in the number of regulatory actions involving denial of registration. They believe that the 2017 publication by the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) of Staff Notice 33-320 The Requirement for True and Complete Applications for Registration (SN 33-320) has provided helpful guidance to firms conducting due diligence on the individuals they’re sponsoring and deterred some non-disclosure by registrants. Staff have also been conducting early-stage conference calls with firms where concerns have been identified, which has led to firms reviewing and, in seventeen cases in fiscal 2020, withdrawing applications that otherwise might have resulted in denial of registration.
Non-Disclosure in Registration Applications Is Still a Problem. Nevertheless, CRR staff are continuing to identify material non-disclosure of regulatory, criminal and/or financial information in registration applications, and this concern still constitutes a substantial number of the cases reviewed by CRR where registration is ultimately denied.
How Staff Handle Conduct Concerns in Registration Process: The Report includes a flow chart outlining the typical process CRR staff follow if a Registration Team refers a matter to the Registrant Conduct Team for investigation. According to the flow chart:
- CRR management will share their initial regulatory concerns with the firm.
- The Registrant Conduct Team will take steps that may include interviewing third parties who may have relevant information, as well as the individual applicant.
- If the Registrant Conduct Team recommends that an application be granted subject to terms and conditions or that the application be refused, the applicant will be given an opportunity to be heard (OTBH), except in the rare situation where the matter is referred to the OSC’s Enforcement Branch.
- Before an OTBH commences, the applicant can accept the proposed terms and conditions if the sponsoring firm agrees. If the OTBH goes forward, the Director of CRR will make a decision and give written reasons. If the Director refuses the application or grants it subject to terms and conditions, the applicant can ask an OSC panel to review the Director’s decision.
AUM Law has extensive experience helping firms get their employees prepare a strong application package and engage with regulators should any challenging situations arise. Please contact us to discuss how we can help.
D. Policy Initiatives
As usual, the Report summarizes certain policy initiatives affecting registrants and provides links to the relevant publications. This year, the Report covers:
- Burden reduction initiatives (see our bulletin article here);
- A status update on the client-focused reforms (see our bulletin article here and our recently updated publication In a Nutshell: Implementing the Client-Focused Reforms);
- Crowdfunding (see our bulletin article here); and
- Syndicated mortgages (see our article on the most recent developments here).
If you would like to discuss the themes highlighted in our article above or any other aspect of the Report and its relevance for your business, please do not hesitate to contact us.
September 30, 2020
On September 17, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) published for comment proposed changes to the offering memorandum (OM) prospectus exemption (OM Exemption) in National Instrument 45-106 Prospectus Exemptions (NI 45-106) and related guidance in Companion Policy 45-106CP (Proposed Amendments). The principal changes introduce new disclosure requirements for issuers engaged in real estate activities and issuers that are collective investment vehicles.
A. New Requirements for Issuers with Real Estate Activities
“Real estate activities” are defined, subject to certain exceptions, as “an undertaking, the purpose of which is primarily to generate for security holders income or gain from the lease, sale or other disposition of real property.” Activities relating to mineral, oil and gas projects are excluded from the definition, as are distributions in Québec of certain products that provide a real right of ownership in an immovable or give the holder of a security a right of exclusive use of a residential unit and space in an immovable owned by the security’s issuer.
Independent Appraisal: Issuers that engage in real estate activities and wish to rely on the OM Exemption will have to provide to the purchaser and file with the relevant securities regulatory authorities an independent appraisal of any interest in real property if:
- The issuer has acquired or proposes to acquire an interest in real property from a related party (as that term is defined in NI 45-106);
- A value for an interest in real property is disclosed in the offering memorandum (OM); and/or
- The issuer intends to spend a material amount of the proceeds from the offering on an interest in real property.
New Disclosure Schedule: Subject to the de minimis exemption noted below, issuers engaging in real estate activities also will have to complete new Schedule 1 Additional Disclosure Requirements for an Issuer Engaged in Real Estate Activities to Form 45-106F2:
- Issuers that develop real property will have to provide detailed disclosure about the project, such as descriptions of milestones and required permissions/approvals.
- Issuers that own and operate real property will have to provide detailed disclosure about matters such as the property’s age, condition and occupancy level.
- All issuers engaged in real estate activities will have to disclose the purchase and sale history of any of the issuer’s real property involving a related party.
- All issuers engaged in real estate activities will have to disclose penalties, sanctions, criminal or quasi-criminal proceedings, and/or bankruptcy or insolvency proceedings for parties such as the developer.
De Minimis Exemption: The disclosure requirements in Schedule 1 will not apply to an interest in real property, or more than one interest in real property taken together, that when considered in relation to all interests in real property held by the issuer, is not significant enough to influence a decision by a reasonable investor to buy, hold or sell a security of the issuer.
B. New Requirements for Collective Investment Vehicles
“Collective Investment Vehicle” is defined very broadly in the Proposed Amendments to mean an issuer whose primary purpose is to invest money provided by its security holders in a portfolio of securities. This definition will include issuers that hold portfolios of mortgages, other loans, or receivables. Also, the definition will include investment funds, to the extent they are permitted to use the OM Exemption.
New Disclosure Schedule: New Schedule 2 Additional Disclosure Requirements for an Issuer That is a Collective Investment Vehicle to Form 45-106F2 will require such issuers to disclose, among other things:
- The issuer’s investment objectives;
- Detailed information about the portfolio;
- Information about the portfolio’s performance; and
- Penalties, sanctions, criminal or quasi-criminal proceedings, and/or bankruptcy or insolvency proceedings for persons involved in the selection and management of the investments.
C. Other Amendments
The Proposed Amendments also include some general amendments, which are meant to clarify or streamline parts of NI 45-106 or improve disclosure for investors. For example, to make reading and reviewing OMs more efficient, the filed copy will have to be formatted so that words can be search electronically.
Form 45-106F2 Offering Memorandum for Non-Qualifying Issuers (Form 45-106F2) will be revised to include new cover page disclosure items, such as working capital deficiencies, payments to related parties, payments to finders and sellers, restrictions on redemption and retraction rights, and insufficiency of funds to accomplish the proposed objectives. Other changes to Form 45-106F2 include:
- Enhanced disclosure if a material amount of the offering proceeds will be transferred to another issuer that is not one of the issuer’s subsidiaries;
- Disclosure of purchase and/or sale histories of the issuer’s business or assets (other than real estate) involving a related party;
- The addition of related parties that receive compensation to the compensation disclosure and securities ownership table;
- Requirements to disclose criminal and quasi-criminal convictions;
- Additional disclosure regarding fees or limitations on redemption or retraction rights;
- More disclosure regarding redemption and retraction activities, including requests made to or fulfilled by the issuer, including the price paid, source of funds, and outstanding requests;
- Disclosure of the source of funds for dividends or distributions paid that exceed cash flow from operations; and
- Cautionary disclosure where expert reports, statements or opinions are included in an OM and the expert is not subject to statutory liability.
Interim Financial Reports for Ongoing Distributions: OMs will have to be amended to include an interim financial report for the most recently completed 6-month interim period when a distribution of securities under an OM is ongoing.
Form 45-106F4 Risk Acknowledgement (Form 45-106F4) will be amended, with the intention of making the form more understandable and useful to investors and to align the form with risk acknowledgment forms required with other prospectus exemptions.
Related Local Amendments Are Contemplated in Certain Jurisdictions. For example, the Alberta and British Columbia Securities Commissions expect to repeal local rules that require additional disclosure in OMs that relate to real estate projects. These local matters are disclosed, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, in Annex E of the version of the Notice of Proposed Amendments published in that jurisdiction. In Ontario, no local amendments are contemplated but the Ontario Securities Commission has included an Ontario-specific regulatory impact analysis in Annex E of the Notice published in Ontario.
D. Our Takeaways
The Proposed Amendments will make it more cumbersome for issuers with real estate activities or that are collective investment vehicles (including mortgage investment entities) to use the OM Exemption. The deadline for comments is December 16, 2020. If you have questions or would like to discuss how the Proposed Amendments might affect your business, please contact us.
September 30, 2020
On September 17, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) published final rule amendments (Amendments) to National Instrument 81-105 Mutual Fund Sales Practices (NI 81-105) and certain other instruments to prohibit:
- The payment of trailing commissions by members of the organization of any publicly offered mutual fund (Fund Organizations) to participating dealers who do not make a suitability determination in connection with the client’s purchase and ownership of prospectus-qualified mutual fund securities (Payment Ban); and
- The solicitation or acceptance of trailing commissions by participating dealers from Fund Organizations in connection with the securities of a mutual fund held in the account of a client of a participating dealer if that dealer wasn’t required to make a suitability determination in respect of that client for those securities (Dealer Ban and, collectively with the Payment Ban, the Trailing Commission Bans).
The Trailing Commission Bans are expected to take effect on June 1, 2022 (Effective Date), which is also when the ban on deferred sales charges (DSCs) for investment funds (DSC Ban) is expected to take effect in all Canadian jurisdictions except Ontario (Participating Jurisdictions). Unlike the DSC Ban, which will apply only in the Participating Jurisdictions, the Trailing Commission Ban will take effect across Canada.
Changes to the Final Rules: In response to comments received on its September 2018 proposals (2018 Proposals), the CSA made a number of changes that it considers “non-material” to the final rule amendments, including the following:
- What’s a Suitability Determination? A definition of “suitability determination” has been added to NI 81-105 to specify where a suitability determination is required under securities legislation and/or the rules and policies of self-regulatory organizations (SROs).
- Ban on Dealers Clarified: In the 2018 Proposals, the prohibition on participating dealers accepting or soliciting certain types of trailing commissions came about indirectly through existing subsection 2.2(2) of NI 81-105, which permits a participating dealer to solicit and accept certain payments, benefits and reimbursements from a mutual fund organization if that organization is permitted to provide the payments or benefits. The Amendments make this prohibition explicit in new subsection 2.2(3).
- Knowledge Qualifier Added to Payment Ban: In response to the 2018 Proposals, some Fund Organizations stated that they sometimes do not know whether a suitability determination is required to be made in connection with a mutual fund purchase, for example because they use the same dealer code for multiple affiliated dealers, including full-service and order execution only (OEO) dealers. To address this situation, the Payment Ban in subsection 3.2(4) of NI 81-105 has been amended to clarify that it applies only if the Fund Organization knows or ought reasonably to know that the participating dealer is not required to make a suitability determination.
- Exemptions from Fund Facts and ETF Facts Delivery Requirements Added: National Instrument 41-101 Prospectus Requirements has been amended to exempt switches from a trailing commission-paying series or class of a mutual fund to a no-trailing commission series or class of the same fund in client accounts administered by dealers who are not required to make a suitability determination (Switch Exemptions).
Transitional Impacts: The notice accompanying the Amendments summarizes the potential impacts of the Trailing Commission Bans and outlines options for Fund Organizations and affected dealers to consider.
- DSC Holdings: As of the Effective Date, dealers who are not required to make a suitability determination may not accept trailing commissions for mutual fund securities purchased under the DSC option (DSC Holdings).
- As of the Effective Date, mutual fund securities subject to trailing commissions and not purchased under the DSC option must be switched to a no-trailing commission series or class of the same mutual fund, if the dealer who administers the client account was not required to make a suitability determination. If, however, the mutual fund does not have a no-trailing commission series or class, then other alternatives should be considered, such as transferring the holdings to a dealer required to make a suitability determination.
- Pre-authorized purchase plans that provide for the purchase of mutual fund securities subject to trailing commissions payable to dealers not required to make a suitability determination will have to be amended to switch over to the purchase of no-trailing commission mutual funds.
- Transfers from full-service to OEO accounts: The CSA expects OEO dealers to inform investors at or before the time of a proposed transfer of accounts that they cannot accept transfers of trailing commission-paying mutual fund securities, including DSC Holdings, into OEO accounts. The CSA also noted that DSC Holdings, which pay trailing fees and are subject to early redemption fees, should not be transferred to OEO dealers after the Effective Date.
Deadlines: The CSA expects the definition of “suitability determination” and the Switch Exemptions to take effect on December 31, 2020. The Trailing Commission Bans and other amendments are expected to take effect on June 1, 2022.
September 30, 2020
On September 18, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) published Staff Notice 81-333 Guidance on Effective Liquidity Risk Management for Investment Funds (Guidance) to help funds develop and maintain an effective liquidity risk management (LRM) framework. The Guidance is intended primarily for investment funds subject to National Instrument 81-102 Investment Funds (NI 81-102), but the CSA believes the practices and examples discussed in the Guidance may be relevant to other funds as well.
The Guidance summarizes key international regulatory developments in this area and the applicable Canadian securities framework. Under Canadian securities legislation, IFMs must establish and maintain an effective LRM framework and exercise due care, skill and diligence in managing the liquidity of their funds.
The Guidance discusses five key elements of an effective LRM framework:
- Strong and effective governance;
- Creation and ongoing maintenance of effective LRM processes;
- Stress testing (which is not specifically required under Canadian securities regulation but is encouraged);
- Disclosure of liquidity risks; and
- Use of LRM tools to manage potential and actual liquidity issues.
The Guidance also sets out six principles (LRM Principles) and related implementation strategies for investment funds to consider in connection with their creation and maintenance of effective LRM processes:
- At the design stage and on an ongoing basis, align the fund’s investment objectives, strategy, and redemption policy with the liquidity profile of the fund’s underlying portfolio assets and the redemption demands of the investor base.
- Create and adhere to robust policies and procedures that integrate LRM considerations.
- Perform active, ongoing portfolio monitoring using qualitative and quantitative metrics to ensure adequate levels of liquidity exist to meet redemption needs and other obligations. All relevant data should be used to actively manage liquidity risks.
- Set internal liquidity thresholds and targets that management of the fund can use to assess the liquidity profile of a fund and make any necessary adjustments.
- Report material liquidity events in a timely manner for consideration by relevant personnel of the IFM.
- Where possible, identify emerging liquidity concerns and potential liquidity shortages.
The Guidance also emphasizes that effective LRM approaches will vary, depending on the fund’s characteristics, and that the Guidance is not intended to suggest or endorse a “one size fits all” approach. If you would like to discuss the application of the Guidance to your business, please do not hesitate to contact us.
September 30, 2020
On September 24, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) published for comment 22 proposed service standards (Standards) for its operations. They include, among other things, performance targets for handling individual applications for mortgage broker licenses. For example, FSRA aims to issue individual licenses within 10 days of receipt of a complete application, where payment has been made and there are no suitability issues, at least 80% of the time.
The proposed Standards also outline timelines for handling complaints. Among other things, FSRA aims to assess and “action” at least 80% of complaints within 120 days and at least 95% of complaints within 270 days of receiving a complain containing all relevant information. In this context, “action” means a range of possible outcomes including escalation to other areas of FSRA, transfer of the complaint to a third-party dispute organization, the issuance of a warning or caution letter, or closure of the complaint with no action.
The deadline for comments on the proposed Standards is October 23, 2020.
September 30, 2020