A. Priorities for the Coming Year
On June 25, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) published its annual Statement of Priorities (SOP). As we mentioned in our April bulletin, COVID-19 and the related market uncertainty caused the OSC to forego its usual substantive consultation on priorities. Instead, the OSC used last year’s SOP, its plans flowing from its burden reduction initiative and its routine engagements with stakeholders to develop its 2020-21 priorities. Consequently, there are very few surprises in this year’s final SOP. We’ve summarized below key initiatives that we believe will be of interest to our readers.
Client-focused Reforms: The OSC will work with other members of the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) and the self-regulatory organizations (SROs) to help registrants operationalize the amendments.
Seniors Strategy: The OSC will continue to implement its Seniors Strategy, including continuing with its consultation on proposed changes to the regulatory framework to address financial exploitation and cognitive decline among older and vulnerable investors. (See our March 2020 article on this consultation.)
Leverage in the Asset Management Industry: Working with other members of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO), the OSC plans to design and implement enhanced data collection to monitor vulnerabilities associated with the asset management industry’s use of leverage.
OTC Derivatives: The OSC plans to:
- Publish (with Ministry pre-approval) amendments to the business conduct rule for over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives, limiting the rule’s scope and outlining jurisdictions that will be granted equivalency;
- Work with the CSA on the next version of the proposed OTC derivatives dealer registration rule;
- Conduct compliance reviews of the OTC derivatives rules on trade reporting, clearing, segregation and portability; and
- Develop and implement a framework to analyze OTC derivatives data for systemic risk and market conduct purposes.
Continue Policy Work on Embedded Commissions: The OSC will continue working within the CSA and on its own regarding rule reforms affecting mutual fund deferred sales charges (DSCs) and order execution-only embedded commissions.
Retrospective Reviews of Rulemaking: As part of its efforts to enhance its economically-focused rulemaking, the OSC plans to conduct restrospective reviews of past regulatory changes to see if the intended objectives were achieved.
Re-Consider the SRO Framework: As discussed elsewhere in this bulletin, the CSA has launched a consultation on the SRO framework. The OSC also plans to work on clarifying and streamlining the SROs’ recognition orders and memoranda of understanding.
Office of Economic Growth and Innovation (OEGI): The OSC plans to have the OEGI fully operational and delivering on its mandate by fiscal year-end 2021. This includes having the OEGI conduct outreach with market participants to identify further, potential burden reduction opportunities.
CSA National Systems: The OSC will support the CSA in its implementation of revised national systems (i.e. SEDAR, SEDI and NRD) under the name SEDAR+. It also will work with CSA members to amend the operational and fee rules governing CSA systems.
Modernize the OSC’s Technology Platform: The OSC will continue redeveloping its website, implementing its information security program, and adding more tools and technology to enable to staff to work more effectively and efficiently from home.
B. 2019-2020 Report Card
The OSC also published its 2019-2020 OSC Statement of Priorities Report Card (Report Card). Chief Compliance Officers (CCOs) may find it useful to skim the Report Card because it consolidates into a single document status reports on the OSC’s regulatory and operational initiatives from the past fiscal year. It also highlights some “in progress” initiatives that the OSC expects to deliver in the coming year. Notably, the Report Card indicates that the OSC expects proposed reforms to the regulatory framework governing registrants’ other business activities (OBAs) to be published for comment in the fall of 2020.
C. Be Prepared for the OSC to Shift Its Stated Priorities
Market participants should always be prepared for the OSC to adjust its priorities in light of significant emerging issues. This year more than ever, however, market participants should be prepared for surprises. The OSC has also indicated that it expects to adjust and re-align its priorities throughout the coming year to accommodate changes resulting from the impact of COVID-19 as well as the outcomes of the Ontario Government’s Capital Markets Modernization Task Force.
Please contact us if you would like to discuss how the OSC’s priorities and goals for the coming year might affect your business.
June 30, 2020
As we discussed in our October 2019 special bulletin, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) have finalized their client-focused reforms (CFRs) to National Instrument 31-103 Registration Requirements, Exemptions and Ongoing Registrant Obligations (NI 31-103). The CSA initially set an implementation deadline of December 31, 2020 for the conflict of interest provisions and related relationship disclosure information (RDI) requirements in the CFRs.
On April 16, CSA members announced that they are shifting that implementation deadline to June 30, 2021. Registrants will have to comply in the interim period with the comparable provisions in NI 31-103, as they read on December 20, 2020.
Although we expect registrants to welcome this extension of the deadline, we encourage firms to continue making steady progress toward implementation of the new requirements. In the current environment, where so many registrants and their service providers have their employees working remotely and are dealing with emerging risks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, projects like these may take longer than expected to complete. AUM Law is already helping many of our clients systematically prepare for the new regime and we can help you, too. Please do not hesitate to contact us.
April 30, 2020
To make your life easier, we have consolidated the articles we’ve written to date on the client-focused reforms (CFRs) to National Instrument 31-103 Registration Requirements, Exemptions and Ongoing Registrant Obligations into a snappy, little(ish) guide, Client-Focused Reforms in a Nutshell. If you would like to receive a copy, please contact us and we’ll subscribe you to our publications (if you haven’t already signed up).
February 28, 2020
On February 20, the Canadian Securities Administrators except the Ontario Securities Commission (Participating Jurisdictions) published a notice (Multilateral Notice) announcing amendments to National Instrument 81-105 Mutual Fund Sales Practices and related instruments to prohibit deferred sales charges (DSCs) for investment funds (Amendments). The OSC, like somebody who someone in Fleetwood Mac was dating unhappily, has decided to go its own way and restrict rather than ban DSCs outright. We’ve set out below the key features of the Participating Jurisdictions’ ban, and the OSC’s proposed restrictions, on DSCs.
A. Participating Jurisdictions
- In the Participating Jurisdictions, the Amendments will prohibit fund organizations from paying upfront sales commissions to dealers, which will result in the discontinuation of all DSC options.
- The Amendments will take effect on June 1, 2022 (Effective Date). The redemption schedules for mutual fund investments purchased under a DSC option before the Effective Date will be allowed to run their course until their scheduled expiry.
- As we discussed in our October 2019 bulletin, the conflict of interest provisions in the client-focused reforms (CFRs) to National Instrument 31-103 Registration Requirements, Exemptions and Ongoing Registrant Obligations (NI 31-103) come into effect on December 31, 2020. Regulators in the Participating Jurisdictions will exempt dealers from these new requirements as they apply to DSC options until the Effective Date. Instead, dealers will be required to comply with the conflict of interest provisions that are currently in effect under NI 31-103 in relation to DSC options.
- Regulators in the Participating Jurisdictions view the discontinuance of the DSC option as a material change. So, for prospectuses that contemplate a DSC option, are receipted before the Effective Date, and lapse after the Effective Date, disclosure can be handled in one of two ways.
- Option 1: Amend the simplified prospectus and fund facts documents as of the Effective Date to remove references to the DSC option.
- Option 2: Include disclosure in simplified prospectus and fund facts documents indicating that the DSC option will not be available in the Participating Jurisdictions after the Effective Date.
B. Proposed OSC Rule 81-502 – Restrictions on the Use of the Deferred Sale Charge Option for Mutual Funds
- Proposed OSC Rule 81-502 is intended to address the “lock-in” effect associated with the DSC option and reduce the potential for miss-selling while continuing to allow dealers to offer the DSC option to clients with smaller accounts. Restrictions will be imposed at the investment fund manager (IFM) and dealer levels.
- IFM-level restrictions: OSC Rule 81-502 will limit the redemption schedule to three years. Clients will be permitted to redeem up to 10% of their investment annually without redemption fees (on a cumulative basis). IFMs will have to create a separate DSC series so that investors who purchase funds on a no-load or front-end charge basis do not incur any costs related to financing the upfront commissions typically associated with the DSC option.
- Dealer-level restrictions: Dealers won’t be able to sell funds with a DSC option to clients who are either aged 60 or over or have an investment horizon that is shorter than the DSC schedule. In addition, DSC option funds can only be sold to clients with accounts not exceeding $50,000, and clients will not be able to use borrowed money to buy mutual funds with a DSC option. Upfront commissions will be permitted only for new contributions to client accounts and no such commissions will be payable on reinvested distributions. Finally, no redemption fees will be payable in connection with investor redemptions in specified circumstances (g. involuntary loss of full-time employment, permanent disability, critical illness, or death).
- Effective date: OSC Rule 81-502 is expected come into effect when the DSC ban comes into effect in the Participating Jurisdictions.
- Conflict of interest: The OSC considers it a conflict of interest for registrants to accept upfront commissions associated with the sale of securities under a DSC option. Therefore, it expects registrants to address that conflict consistent with their obligations under NI 31-103, in its current state, and as amended by the CFRs, when those amendments take effect at the end of this year.
- Deadline for comments: Comments are due on proposed OSC Rule 81-502 by May 21, 2020.
In light of the forthcoming ban on DSC options in most jurisdictions and the narrowly defined scope for them contemplated in OSC Rule 81-502, we imagine that fund organizations and dealers are assessing whether it will be worth it to continue DSC option funds in Ontario once the ban in the Participating Jurisdictions takes effect. If you would like to discuss how the Amendments and OSC Rule 81-502 might affect your business, please contact us.
February 28, 2020
In this bulletin:
- Client-Focused Reforms: A Closer Look at the Misleading Communications, RDI, Compliance Training and Record-Keeping Rules
- IIROC and FINRA Publish Their Compliance Priorities for 2020
- Get Ready to RAQ and Roll
- IIROC Fines Registered Representative for His Shoulda Woulda Could KYC
- ASC Schools Registrants on Compliance with OM Exemption
- Like Rats in a Maze: Navigating the Application of Securities Laws to Crypto Assets
FAQ Corner: Can an advising representative act as the executor of an estate on behalf of a client?
In Brief: CSA Consults on Access Equals Delivery Model for Disclosure Documents
News and Events: Lexology Recognizes AUM Law Again for Thought Leadership in Our Publications
Click the link to access a PDF of our full, monthly bulletin summarizing these recent developments. >> Monthly Bulletin | Year of the Rat | January 2020
As we reported in our October 2019 special bulletin, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) have finalized their client-focused reforms (CFRs) to National Instrument 31-103 Registration Requirements, Exemptions and Ongoing Registrant Obligations (NI 31-103) and its related Companion Policy (NI 31-103CP) (Policy). These provisions came into force late last year and will take effect in two phases, beginning on December 31, 2019.
This month, we highlight the new prohibitions on misleading communications as well as the relationship disclosure information (RDI), compliance training and record-keeping requirements. The RDI requirements will come into effect on December 31, 2020 and the other provisions discussed in this article will come into effect on December 31, 2021. To streamline our discussion, we refer to NI 31-103 and NI 31-103CP in their current form as the Current Rules and Policy and to the amended versions as the Revised Rules and Policy.
This article is the third in our series of closer looks at the CFRs. We discussed the conflict of interest provisions in our October 2019 bulletin and the know-your-client (KYC), know-your-product (KYP) and suitability provisions in our November 2019 bulletin.
A. Misleading Communications
Securities regulators and investor advocates have been concerned for years that some registered firms and individuals use confusing or misleading titles, designations, awards and/or other descriptions of themselves and their services. The securities regulatory framework already incorporates prohibitions that are broad enough to capture at least some of this conduct. For example, subsection 44(1) of the Ontario Securities Act prohibits people and companies from making statements that a reasonable investor would consider relevant in deciding whether to enter into or maintain a trading or advising relationship with that person or company if that statement is untrue or omits information necessary to prevent the statement from being false or misleading. Section 2.1 of National Instrument 31-505 Conditions of Registration requires registered dealers, advisers and representatives to deal fairly, honestly and in good faith with clients. And in 2011, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) outlined their specific concerns and provided guidance to portfolio managers regarding the use of trade names and individual titles in marketing materials in Staff Notice 31-325 Marketing Practices of Portfolio Managers.
New section 13.18 of NI 31-103 reflects the securities regulators’ conclusions that this principles-based approach is inadequate. The new rule, scheduled to come into effect on December 31, 2021, will prohibit registrants from holding out their services in any manner that could reasonably be expected to deceive or mislead any person as to:
- Their proficiency, experience or qualifications;
- The nature of the person’s relationship or potential relationship with the registrant; or
- The products or services provided or that might be provided.
It also will prohibit registered individuals who interact with clients from using from any title or designation without their sponsoring firm’s approval. In addition, they will be prohibited from using corporate officer titles unless appointed to that office under corporate law, and they will not be able to use any title, designation, award or recognition based on their sales activity or revenue generation.
The Revised Policy emphasizes that particular scrutiny should be given to titles that may convey an expertise in seniors’ issues or retirement planning. It also recommends that firms consider whether a particular designation has a rigorous curriculum, examination process and experience requirements issued by a reputable or accredited organization when deciding whether to approve the designation’s use.
As registrants develop their project plan for implementing these new requirements, they should also take into account the following:
- The CSA has indicated that there is potential for further rulemaking on the use of titles and designations. And in 2020, the Financial Services Regulatory Agency of Ontario (FSRA) intends to consult stakeholders and publish draft rules to implement the Financial Professionals Title Protection Act, which will regulate individuals’ use of “financial planner” and “financial advisor” titles in Ontario. AUM Law will monitor these developments and keep you informed.
- As noted above, there are principles-based laws already on the books that could support enforcement action against a firm or individual for misleading communications. Therefore, although the official effective date for the new rules is December 31, 2021, we encourage firms to review their policies, procedures and practices in this area sooner rather than later.
B. Updated RDI Requirements
Section 14.2 of NI 31-103 has been amended to reflect changes with other CFRs (e.g. relating to conflicts of interest, KYC, KYP and suitability determination requirements) and, according to the CSA, to “better implement” the principle in subsection 14.2(1) that a registrant must deliver to the client “all information that a reasonable investor would consider important about the client’s relationship with the registrant.” Among other things, when revised section 14.2 comes into effect it will:
- Expand the existing requirement for registrants to provide a general description of the products and services that the firm offers to the client to include, as applicable, descriptions of any restrictions on the client’s ability to liquidate or resell a security and any investment fund management expense fees or other ongoing fees the client may incur;
- Require registered firms to describe generally any limits on the selection of products or services that the registrant will offer to the client, including whether the firm will primarily or exclusively use proprietary products in the client’s account;
- Require registered firms to explain generally the potential impact of operating charges, transaction charges, investment fund management fees, and any other ongoing fees the client might occur; and
- Expand the requirement for pre-trade disclosure to expressly require disclosure of investment fund management expense fees or other ongoing fees that the client may incur.
Also, the existing requirement to describe compensation paid to the registered firm in relation to the types of products a client might purchase will be broadened. It will require a general description of any benefits received or expected to be received by the registrant from anyone other than the registrant’s client, in connection with the client’s purchase or ownership of a security through the registrant.
The Revised Policy includes expanded sections on:
- Information to be included in the description of the nature or type of a client’s account;
- Factors to consider in describing limits on the selection of products or services, including guidance emphasizing that a registrant is required to tell a client if it does not have products or services suitable for them; and
- When a firm is expected to provide a client with the KYC information it has collected (i.e. at the time of account opening and when the firm collects updated information).
The new RDI rules will take effect on December 31, 2020. AUM Law can help you prepare for the new regime by reviewing and updating your existing disclosure materials for clients, as well as the related policies, procedures and controls.
C. Compliance Training
Under the Current Rules and Policy, training is specifically addressed through:
- Prohibitions on registered individuals performing registrable activities, and chief compliance officers (CCOs) performing their responsibilities as CCOs, without having the education, training and experience that a reasonable person would consider necessary to perform the activity competently; and
- Language in the Current Policy indicating that registered firms should provide training, including ongoing communication and training on changes in regulatory requirements or the firm’s policies and procedures, to ensure that everyone at the firm understands the standards of conduct and their role in the compliance system.
Section 11.1 of NI 31-103 has been amended to introduce a broadly worded requirement for registered firms to provide training to their registered individuals on compliance with securities legislation, including without limitation the KYC, KYP, suitability determination and conflicts of interest requirements. This new rule is supplemented with guidance in the Revised Policy, which emphasizes the following concepts:
- A firm’s compliance training will depend on the nature, size and complexity of its business. For some small firms, a formal compliance training program or written training materials might be unnecessary. However, the CSA will expect firms to exercise professional judgment in determining what training is appropriate for their operations.
- Although Section 11.1 of the Revised Rules speaks only to the need for firms to train registered individuals, the Revised Policy retain the concept that CSA members expect firms’ training programs to ensure that everyone at the firm understands the standards of conduct when dealing with clients and understands their role in the compliance system. In our view, this broader definition of the firm’s training responsibility can be seen as flowing from the existing requirement in section 11.1 for registered firms to have a system of controls and supervision sufficient to provide reasonable assurance that the firm and every individual acting on its behalf complies with securities legislation.
- Although the Revised Rule calls for compliance training on securities legislation generally, it and the Revised Policy specifically highlight the need for compliance training on the KYC, KYP, suitability, and conflicts of interest provisions. According to the Revised Policy, training should provide examples of how to:
- Identify existing and reasonably foreseeable, material conflicts of interests between registered individuals and their clients;
- Address material conflicts of interest in the client’s best interest; and
- Put the client’s interest first when making suitability determinations.
- Consistent with the KYP requirements, firms also will be expected to assess whether any additional training or proficiency requirements are needed so that their registered individuals understand the securities and can make appropriate determinations.
- Firms can outsource elements of their training programs but remain responsible for demonstrating that their registered individuals have been trained on the firm’s policies and procedures.
- Training programs should include “ongoing” communication and training on changes in regulatory requirements or the firm’s policies and procedures.
- Firms will need to document their compliance training programs.
Although these specific, new compliance training requirements won’t come into effect until December 31, 2021, we recommend that firms begin enhancing their compliance training programs in 2020, so that your employees become familiar with the CFRs. AUM Law offers compliance training programs tailored to your firm’s needs. We can help you identify compliance gaps or topics that need reinforcement, determine who needs to be trained and when, develop the content for training sessions, update your compliance manual to reflect the new training requirements, and prepare the needed documentation to show that the compliance training requirements have been met.
D. Record-Keeping Requirements
Section 11.5 of NI 31-103 has been expanded so that registered firms will have to maintain records that:
- Demonstrate compliance with the new KYP and suitability determination requirements;
- Demonstrate compliance with the conflict of interest provisions in Part 13, Division 2;
- Demonstrate compliance with the requirements relating to misleading communications;
- Document training actions conducted by the firm; and
- Document the firm’s sales practices, compensation arrangements and incentive practices as well as any other compensation arrangements and incentive practices from which the firm, any of its registered individuals or any of its affiliates or associates, benefit.
The Revised Policy provides detailed guidance on the kinds of records that it expects registered firms to keep. It also stresses the importance of firms maintaining adequate documentation to support the firm’s supervision of its compliance processes in these areas. We expect that some of the more challenging aspects of these new requirements will include:
- Documenting suitability determinations and related supervisory measures (e.g. to address patterns of unsuitable trades); and
- Documenting the KYP process, including where the firm concludes that using proprietary products and services as opposed to a third party’s products and services puts the client’s interests first.
In addition to presenting some conceptual challenges, some of the new record-keeping requirements (such as those documentation of conflicts of interest, sales practices, compensation arrangements, incentive practices) will require a substantial deployment of firm resources to design and maintain.
AUM Law can help you implement these new requirements by, for example, assessing your existing record-keeping practices, identifying any gaps and developing new protocols and record types to cover the elements listed above.
E. Now What?
This is the last article in our introductory series highlighting the CFRs. Giving registered firms practical advice on compliance with NI 31-103 is one of AUM Law’s core services, and we have already started with working with some of our clients on implementation. We can help you understand the implications of the CFRs for your business, develop a pragmatic implementation plan, revise any of your policies and client-facing documentation that are looking a little “ratty” in light of the recent reforms, update your record-keeping protocols, and train your employees on the new requirements. Please contact your usual lawyer at AUM Law for assistance or, if you’re not already a client, request a free consultation.
January 31, 2020