On February 3, 2015 the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) published Staff Consultation Paper 15-401 Proposed Framework for an OSC Whistleblower Program (Paper). The Paper outlines the OSC’s proposal for an award-based whistleblower program (Program). The OSC is welcoming written comments on the Program until May 4, 2015.
The purpose of the Program is to encourage individuals to come forward with information regarding breaches of Ontario securities law. The Program would offer a discretionary financial award to individuals who provide information of misconduct that leads to monetary penalties or settlements of over $1,000,000.
The Paper follows OSC Staff Notice 15-704 Request for Comments on Proposed Enforcement Initiatives published for comment in October 2011. The Program would be the first of its kind amongst Canadian securities commissions. It follows the example of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) whistleblower program established in 2011.
Objectives of the Program
The Program is part of an effort by the OSC’s Enforcement Branch to obtain information regarding securities law transgressions quickly and effectively. The Paper outlines certain specific objectives of the Program, including:
- motivating those most likely to have information to come forward;
- increasing the number and efficiency of securities law cases handled by the OSC;
- increasing the quality of the information used in investigations and proceedings;
- encouraging cooperation from the whistleblower throughout the investigation and proceedings; and
- encouraging issuers to self-report misconduct.
In pursuing these objectives, the OSC aims to investigate more securities law cases involving sophisticated players and complex issues, with better information.
Under the Program the OSC would offer awards to individuals who provide information that lead to monetary sanctions or settlements under section 127 of the Securities Act (Ontario) of over $1,000,000. Where penalties exceed this amount, the OSC would have the discretion to award the whistleblower up to 15% of the total sanction or settlement, excluding costs, capped at a maximum award of $1,500,000.
In order to be eligible for the award, the whistleblower must be an individual and the information must be original, provided voluntarily (i.e. not compelled or requested from the individual) and be of high quality. The Paper describes “high quality information” as information that is timely, relates to serious misconduct, is detailed, may stop further harm and is likely to save the OSC significant time and resources. In particular the OSC is looking for information regarding securities law transgressions that are extensive, abusive, create significant risks to investors and are perpetrated by individual in positions of authority.
Continue Reading Feedback sought for the OSC’s Proposed Whistleblower Program