In early March, a number of registrants were selected by staff at the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) to undergo a focused review on their conflict of interest policies and procedures. The OSC is searching for information on how firms have operationalized the amendments introduced through the Client Focused Reforms initiative, the first part of which came into force on June 30, 2021. We plan to keep you updated on guidance and commentary that comes out of this focused review but, in the interim, the information request itself and the questions it contains may provide some helpful guidance in reviewing your own conflicts regime:
- The OSC is going beyond confirming the existence of policies and procedures concerning conflicts of interest. They are looking for evidence of:
- employee training;
- client disclosure; and
- the creation and maintenance of an inventory/matrix that identify, assess, and address material conflicts.
- The OSC is specifically requesting information on conflicts that firms previously dealt with through disclosure and, post CFR implementation, now avoid outright. It is possible that the OSC may be looking to collect trend information to develop an industry standard on what conflicts should be avoided. We anticipate that staff will provide disclosure of any such trends in future guidance, and firms should look out for any such information if such guidance is released.
- The OSC questions appear to focus around the two main thematic conflicts of: i) proprietary conflicts (i.e. selling related products); and ii) compensation arrangements. Firms should be reviewing their approaches to these conflicts to ensure they are robust.
As always, if you wish to better understand the questions contained in the OSC information request or want to generally discuss your conflict of interest compliance regime, please contact your usual lawyer at AUM Law.
April 29, 2022