Category: Mortgage and Real Estate Investment Vehicles
On December 7, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) released the final amendments to OSC Rule 45-501 Ontario Prospectus and Registration Exemptions (Amendments). The Amendments are a part of the proposed changes across Canada which, in Ontario, will have as one of their effects the transfer from the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) to the OSC of regulatory oversight over the distribution of non-qualified syndicated mortgages (NQSMIs) to persons that are not permitted clients. The final version of the Amendments contain no substantive changes from the earlier version released on August 6 other than coming into effect on July 1, 2021, a few months later than the originally scheduled effective date of March 1, 2021. A firm that intends to engage in trades of NQSMIs to persons other than permitted clients on or after July 1, 2021 will be required to 1) either meet the prospectus requirements (or rely on an available exemption) and 2) either be registered as an exempt market dealer (EMD) or engage the services of a third-party EMD (or rely on an available exemption).
December 11, 2020
How do you summarize a year like no other in history? Well, the shift to a remote work environment didn’t do much to slow our regulators who, along with the Canadian asset management industry, rose to meet the multi-faceted challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A. Burden Reduction and Capital Markets Modernization Initiatives
Regulators moved forward with initiatives intended to reduce regulatory burdens and modernize the regulatory framework, including the following:
Crowdfunding: In February, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) proposed a harmonized, start-up crowdfunding regime. In July, after the comment period closed on the CSA proposal, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) issued an interim class order (Order) providing prospectus and registration exemptions for start-up crowdfunding that are similar to the exemptions already in place in a number of other provinces. The Order is expected to remain in place until the earlier of the date the new CSA regime is adopted or January 31, 2022.
SRO Reform: When market participants and regulators weren’t coming to grips with remote work arrangements, they were debating whether and how to reform Canada’s self-regulatory organizations (SROs) for registrants. The Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada (MFDA) kicked things off in February when it published its Proposal for a Modern SRO. The CSA followed up in June with its own consultation paper on SRO reform, and the Ontario Government’s Capital Markets Modernization Task Force (Task Force) set out its draft recommendations on the subject in its July consultation report.
OSC Burden Reduction Initiatives: In early 2019, the OSC kicked off a multi-year process to identify and implement actions to reduce regulatory burdens in Ontario and improve the investor experience. Check out our December 2019 regulatory recap if you’d like to refresh your memory. In May 2020, the OSC provided a progress report on its regulatory burden reduction initiatives and provided a further update in the June 2020 Interim Progress Report on its 2019-2022 priorities. We also reported on several specific projects, including the following:
- In June, the CSA announced changes designed to make it easier for advising representatives (ARs) of portfolio managers (PMs) to register as client relationship management (CRM) specialists.
- In July, the CSA published guidance on flexible CCO arrangements.
- In August, the CSA published final amendments that raise the threshold for when non-venture reporting issuers are required to file business acquisition reports.
- In October, the Ontario government proposed changes to the Business Corporations Act (OBCA) that, if enacted, will eliminate director residency requirements for OBCA corporations and introduce a more flexible regime for privately held OBCA corporations regarding written shareholder resolutions.
B. Business Continuity and Risk Management
Business continuity planning and risk management have been top of mind for firms and regulators this year, and not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In March we discussed pandemic-related business continuity issues for firms to consider in the short and medium and term.
- In July, we highlighted an interesting publication by the North American Association of Securities Administrators (NAASA) focusing on the need for firms to be prepared to deal with colleagues experiencing diminished capacity.
- In September, we discussed the CSA’s guidance on liquidity risk management for investment fund managers as well the discussion paper issued by Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) on core principles for operational resilience in a digital world.
C. Crypto Assets
Crypto-currency issues remained in the news in 2020.
- In January, we highlighted CSA Staff Notice 21-327 Guidance on the Application of Securities Legislation to Entities Facilitating the Trading of Crypto Assets.
- In February, we discussed U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Commissioner Hester Pierce’s informal proposal for a safe harbour for token offerings.
- In July, we wrote about the OSC’s approval of a settlement agreement with Coinsquare Ltd and its executives regarding market manipulation on a crypto-asset trading platform.
- In August, we highlighted the CSA’s first decision registering a crypto-asset trading platform under its regulatory sandbox program.
- In October, we discussed the settlement reached by Kik Interactive with the SEC regarding its unregistered token offering.
Regulators responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in impressive fashion by, among other things, extending regulatory deadlines, granting temporary relief from certain requirements, and scaling back certain initiatives. They also turned their attention to compliance and other risks affecting market participants that were specific to, or exacerbated by, the pandemic.
A number of the pandemic-related regulatory actions we wrote about in 2020 were temporary in scope, so we have highlighted below the pandemic-related articles we wrote in 2020 that continue to be relevant for market participants.
- In March, we wrote about factors for registered firms to consider in the short to medium term after they activated their business continuity plans.
- In April, we reported that the CSA had extended the deadline for implementing the CFRs concerning conflicts of interest and related relationship disclosure information (RDI) reporting requirements by six months to June 30, 2021.
- In May, we wrote about guidance provided by the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) to mortgage brokers and administrators regarding their disclosure and other obligations in respect of mortgage-based investments during significant market disruptions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In August, we wrote about the U.S. SEC’s risk alert on COVID-related compliance risks relevant to dealers and advisers as well as the task force established by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) to target COVID-19 fraudsters.
- The CSA and FSRA extended the expected deadline for implementation of changes to the regulatory framework for syndicated mortgages in April and again in August. As recently announced, the new framework is now expected to take effect on July 1, 2021.
- In October, we wrote about the CSA’s biennial report on their continuous disclosure review program, which included guidance for reporting issuers on how to disclose COVID-19 impacts.
E. Cyber-Security and Data Privacy
Cyber-security and data privacy continued to be hot topics, with the shift to remote work arrangements due to the pandemic presenting increased risks for inadvertent cyber-security failures as well as opportunities for hacking. AUM Law addressed these and other privacy and cyber-security issues in a number of articles, including the following:
- Cyber-Resilience: We touched on cyber-resilience in our March FAQ on business continuity planning and wrote a more detailed article in our April bulletin. In September, we reported on the Office of Superintendent of Financial Institutions’ consultation paper on operational resilience in a digital world, which includes recommendations regarding cyber-resilience, and in October, we reported that the international Financial Stability Board (FSB) had finalized its cyber incident recovery and response toolkit.
- Artificial Intelligence: In February we wrote about the consultation paper on the regulation of artificial intelligence published by the federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC), and in June we discussed the consultation paper published by the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) regarding potential regulatory measures addressing asset managers’ and market intermediaries’ use of artificial intelligence.
- Privacy: In August, we reported that the Ontario government had launched a consultation to determine whether reforms to Ontario privacy legislation are warranted. See also our article in this bulletin regarding the Canadian government’s proposed Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2020.
F. Compliance Review and Enforcement Report Cards
The summary reports that regulatory staff publish about their oversight of market participants are valuable tools that can help firms learn more about recent and proposed regulatory initiatives, what staff consider to be problematic (or, conversely, beneficial) practices, and how staff interpret legislation and rules. In 2020, we wrote about:
- Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) staff’s review of issuers’ and registrants’ compliance with the offering memorandum exemption (January);
- Insights from staff of the OSC’s Compliance and Registrant Regulation (CRR) Branch regarding their compliance program, shared during a webinar hosted by the Portfolio Management Association of Canada (PMAC) in May;
- The annual enforcement report published by the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) in May;
- The CRR Branch’s annual Summary Report for Dealers, Advisers and Investment Fund Managers (September) – a ‘must read’;
- The CSA’s biennial report card on reporting issuers’ continuous disclosure practices (October); and
- The OSC’s Corporate Finance 2020 Annual Report (discussed later in this bulletin).
G. Cases and Enforcement Sweeps
In 2020, we wrote about a number of regulatory decisions that we think offer lessons for our readers.
- In January, we wrote about IIROC’s decision to fine a representative for his failure to follow through on red flags regarding a client account being handled under a power of attorney.
- In March, we discussed the IIROC decision to fine TD Waterhouse $4 million for deliberate non-compliance with relationship disclosure information requirements. In the same month, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld Daniel Tiffin’s conviction for trading in promissory notes without registration and distributing securities without a prospectus, but overturned the lower court’s decision sentencing him to six months in jail. (PS: if you’re ever tempted to conclude that a particular instrument is not a security, first read Tiffin).
- In May, we highlighted the enforcement action initiated by OSC staff against a mutual funding dealing representative who agreed to serve as executor for a client’s will even though he was alleged to have known that he was a beneficiary under that will. We also discussed undertakings given by two issuers to the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) regarding internal controls, training and other requirements to ensure compliance with prospectus exemptions.
- In June, we discussed a significant decision issued by the Federal Court of Appeal regarding the constitutionality and application of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).
- in July, we wrote about the OSC’s approval of a settlement agreement with Coinsquare Ltd and its executives regarding market manipulation on a crypto-asset trading platform.
- In September, we reported that the Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) had fined Fortress Real Developments for operating without a license.
- And, as mentioned in Section C above, we wrote about two crypto-asset-related enforcement decisions, concerning market manipulation on a crypto-asset trading platform (Coinsquare) and an unregistered token offering in the U.S. (Kik Interactive).
In 2020, we published a number of FAQs offering practical insights on various topics. Although many of them touched on issues arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we think the insights will continue to have relevance in other contexts.
- In January, we discussed whether an advising representative (AR) can act as the executor of an estate on behalf of a client.
- In February, we discussed things to watch out for when firms describe themselves and their representative on social media.
- In March, we outlined issues for registered firms to consider, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, regarding their know-your-client (KYC) and suitability determination obligations.
- In April, we discussed the use of electronic signatures for subscription documents, investment management agreements and similar agreements with the firm’s clients.
- In May, we addressed the issue of whether an associate advising representative can work remotely or in a one-person branch office.
- In July, we described how a registered firm’s ultimate designated person (UDP) can certify the firm’s RAQ responses if they do not have online access to the survey.
- In July, we also discussed whether registered individuals (and applicants for registration) have to disclose offenses they have been charged with, if the matter hasn’t adjudicated yet. (This issue was also covered later in the year in an Advisor’s Edge interview with our Erez Blumberger).
- In November, we published an FAQ video about regulatory and compliance factors to consider when setting up an investment vehicle.
In 2019, the CSA published its own FAQ guidance, this time focusing the client-focused reforms (CFRs). We discussed those FAQs in our September and October bulletins.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic delayed implementation of the revised oversight framework for syndicated mortgages to July 2021, the good folks at FSRA kept busy in 2020 with a number of initiatives, including:
- In August, FSRA published for comment an oversight framework, including proposed rules and guidance, regarding the use of financial planner and financial titles.
- Also in August, FSRA and the OSC published for comment proposed local rules and guidance regarding syndicated mortgages, while the CSA finalized its amendments for the syndicated mortgages regime.
- In September, FSRA published proposed service standard for comment.
- In October, FSRA published its 2021-22 Statement of Priorities for comment.
December 11, 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
As readers of our bulletin know, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) is a relatively new regulatory agency that, in 2019, took over regulatory oversight of mortgage brokers and administrators from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario. Earlier this month, FSRA announced that it was imposing a $250,000 penalty on Fortress Real Developments Inc. (Fortress) to settle enforcement proceedings against the firm. FSRA found that Fortress and its predecessor had been involved in helping borrowers raise more than $900 million in syndicated mortgage loans without being licensed to engage in such activity. This is one of the first administrative penalties FSRA has imposed on an entity and the largest administrative penalty it has imposed to date.
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
On August 6, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) published final amendments to national rules affecting the prospectus and registration exemptions for distributions of securities involving syndicated mortgages (National Amendments). In addition, some provinces including Ontario have proposed additional changes to their local prospectus and registration exemptions, and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) is consulting on draft guidance (FSRA Guidance) for its supervision of mortgage brokers and administrators dealing in certain syndicated mortgages. The National Amendments, proposed FSRA Guidance, and proposed Ontario-specific amendments prospectus and registration exemptions (Ontario Rules) are expected to come into effect on March 1, 2021. Below, we highlight key features of the reforms.
The National Amendments will amend National Instrument 45-106 Prospectus Exemptions (NI 45-106), National Instrument 31-103 Registration Requirements, Exemptions and Ongoing Registrant Obligations (NI 31-103), and the related companion policies. Among other things:
- The existing prospectus and registration exemptions in Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon for securities that are syndicated mortgages (Mortgage Exemptions) will be removed. This will align the regulatory frameworks in these jurisdictions with the rest of Canada.
- The private issuer prospectus exemption (Private Issuer Exemption) will be removed for distributions of syndicated mortgages.
- Because of these changes, exempt distributions of syndicated mortgages in Canada will have to be effected under another prospectus exemption, such as the accredited investor exemption (AI Exemption), offering memorandum exemption (OM Exemption), or family, friends and business associates exemption (FFBA Exemption).
- Consistent with the current approach in British Columbia for syndicated mortgages distributed under the OM Exemption, the National Amendments will require supplemental disclosure tailored to syndicated mortgages.
- In Ontario and other jurisdictions where the Mortgage Exemptions currently apply to syndicated mortgages, market participants that are in the business of trading syndicated mortgages will need to determine whether the registration requirement applies to them.
Changes since 2019: The National Amendments are substantially similar to the proposed amendments published by the CSA for comment in March 2019 (2019 Proposal). But there have been a few changes. For example, Form 45-106F18 Supplemental Disclosure for Syndicated Mortgages will require disclosure of the potential subordination of the syndicated mortgage, clarify the calculation of the loan-to-value ratio, and include additional examples of risk factors.
Some jurisdictions have proposed further changes to their exemptions:
- Qualified syndicated mortgages: Ontario and New Brunswick have published for comment prospectus and registration exemptions for “qualified syndicated mortgages” (QSMs), and we expect Nova Scotia to introduce a similar pair of exemptions. Alberta and Québec have proposed a prospectus-only exemption for trades in QSMs.
- Distributions of non-qualified syndicated mortgage investments (NQSMIs) to permitted investors: Ontario and New Brunswick also have proposed prospectus and registration exemptions for distributions of NQSMIs to permitted clients (i.e. institutional and high net worth investors). Alberta has proposed a prospectus-only exemption for trades in NQSMIs to permitted clients, while Québec is asking for feedback on whether such an exemption should be introduced.
- Reports of exempt distribution: Ontario and New Brunswick will not require a Form 45-106F1 Report of Exemption Distribution to be filed for distributions of QSMs under their new prospectus exemptions or for distributions of NQSMIs sold to permitted clients.
Who will regulate what in Ontario beginning in March 2021? FSRA currently regulates all syndicated mortgage investments in Ontario. When the new regime comes into effect, FSRA will continue to supervise transactions involving qualified, syndicated mortgage investments and the mortgage brokers and administrators involved in such transactions. Oversight of NQSMIs will be split between FSRA and the OSC, depending on the status of the investor/lender and the type of transaction. In particular, FSRA will supervise:
- NQSMI transactions with permitted clients;
- NQSMI transactions with permitted and non-permitted clients before March 1, 2021 (Legacy NQSMIs); and
- Administrators of NQSMIs.
Mortgage brokerages that deal in mortgages and syndicated mortgages only with permitted clients will not have to register with the OSC and the distributions of these products to permitted clients will be exempt from the prospectus requirement. There will be dual oversight however, in some circumstances. For example, FSRA will have oversight over mortgage brokers dealing in NQSMIs when they act on behalf of the borrower who is not a permitted client, with the OSC having oversight over the trades with respect to that investor/lender.
The proposed FSRA Guidance describes FSRA’s forward-looking, risk-based approach to supervision of the firms and transactions over which it will have authority and outlines the data it plans to collect from firms to inform its risk assessments.
Comment Deadline: Comments on the proposed Ontario Rules and FSRA’s Proposed Guidance are due on September 21, 2020. If you are interested in submitting comments or have questions about how these changes to the syndicated mortgages regime could affect your business, please contact us.
August 31, 2020
As we discussed in our March 2019 bulletin and December 2019 bulletin, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) have proposed changes to the securities regulatory framework affecting participants in syndicated mortgage markets. Last December, the CSA announced that they expected the proposed changes to take effect in July 2020. On April 16, 2020, the CSA disclosed that in light of COVID-19, they now expect the amendments to take effect on January 1, 2021. They haven’t published final rules yet, stating only that additional details will be published later this year.
As well, on April 16 the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) and the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) announced a corresponding delay in the transfer of regulatory oversight over non-qualifying syndicated mortgages from FSRA to the OSC. The regulators now expect the transfer to take effect on January 1, 2021.
AUM Law is assisting clients affected by the evolving regulatory framework for mortgage investments. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about how the proposed changes and/or delays in implementation timelines will affect your business.
April 30, 2020