Highlights of Enforcement Report of the Autorité des marchés financiers

On May 28, 2020, the Autorité des marchés financiers, Quebec’s securities regulator, published its Enforcement Report for the period April 2019 to March 2020 (https://lautorite.qc.ca/en/general-public/publications/amf-publications/enforcement-report/)

Here are the highlights:

On the Sanctions front:

  • $17,648,318 in fines and administrative penalties were imposed in proceedings brought by the AMF, 75% of which were fines under the Act respecting the distribution of financial products and services
  • 83 individuals and firms were sanctioned for various offences
  • 6 individuals were given a total of more than 6 years of jail time in penal proceedings

On the Surveillance and Investigations front:

  • 16 cyber crime
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The Quebec Court of Appeal provides useful guidance as to when a regulatory audit may actually be a penal investigation in disguise

Introduction

If you are involved in securities litigation, you know how important it is to distinguish between regulatory audit and penal investigation.

If the regulator is conducting an audit to ascertain whether a corporation or its officers comply with securities legislation, it may usually rely on broad investigative powers to obtain documents and information upon request.

However, if the dominant purpose of the investigation is to determine whether a penal offence has been committed, then the protection afforded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms kicks in, including the right of every person to be secure against unreasonable search … Continue Reading

COVID-19 Scams on the Rise and Enforcement on the Horizon

As COVID-19 continues to impact capital markets around the world, securities regulators in North America are responding to an increasing number of securities-related scams. Provincial securities regulators across Canada, as well as the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, have now issued official warnings about fraudulent investment offerings and other scams that target investors.

Many of the alleged scams involve “pump and dump” tactics, where the perpetrators artificially inflate the price of a stock by releasing false information, then sell their stock before the market learns that the information was false. For example, on April 23, 2020, the Ontario Securities … Continue Reading

Another nail in PlexCoin’s crypto-coffer: TMF decision affirmed on appeal

As discussed in our previous post, the Financial Markets Administrative Tribunal (TMF) had provided clarity in the application of the “investment contract” criteria, first enunciated in Pacific Coast Coin Exchange v. Ontario Securities Commission and codified under article 1 of the Quebec Securities Act, CQLR c V-1.1 (QSA), by finding that PlexCorps’ project was an investment contract.

On appeal, the Court of Quebec affirmed in Lacroix c. Autorité des marchés financiers, 2020 QCCQ 1467, the TMF’s decision that PlexCorps’ project was an investment contract.

Facts

PlexCorps offered a cryptocurrency called PlexCoin along with … Continue Reading

Securities Commission Administrative Fines Are Forever

As we discussed in a previous post, administrative penalties levied by securities commissions may survive a discharge in bankruptcy. A recent decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia (Court), Poonian (Re), 2020 BCSC 547 (Re Poonian), highlights that in addition, such administrative penalties may also prevent a discharge from bankruptcy altogether.

In Re Poonian, the Court denied an attempt by Thalbinder Singh Poonian and Shailu Poonian (the Applicants) to obtain a discharge from bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, RSC 1985, c. B-3 (BIA).

The Applicants made a … Continue Reading

Ontario Court of Appeal Rejects “Family Resemblance Test”; Sets Aside Custodial Sentence

On March 16, 2020, the Ontario Court of Appeal released its highly anticipated decision in the saga concerning the Ontario Securities Commission’s (OSC) prosecution of Daniel Tiffin (Mr. Tiffin). The Court’s decision helps clarify the analysis used to determine whether a financial instrument falls within the meaning of “security” under the Ontario Securities Act (the Act), and confirms that certain promissory notes are considered “securities” under the Act.

Background

Pursuant to a s. 127 order made under the Act in 2014, Mr. Tiffin and his company, Tiffin Financial Corporation (TFC), were prohibited from … Continue Reading

Class members opting out of secondary-market liability class actions and instituting their own claims – Are there prescription or forfeiture defences available under the Quebec regime?

The Quebec Superior Court, in California States Teachers’ Retirement System v. Bausch Health Companies Inc. (2020 QCCS 275), recently clarified the rules applicable to limitation periods in the context of secondary-market liability actions under the Quebec Securities Act (QSA).

Much like its Ontario counterpart, s. 225.4 QSA provides for an authorization mechanism whereby applicants wishing to institute a secondary-market liability claim against a public issuer must convince the court that their actions are taken in good faith and have a “reasonable possibility of success”. While such actions can take on the form of class … Continue Reading

Unreasonable delay and Jordan’s presumptive ceilings – different approach from the SCC on verdict deliberation time

Canadian securities regulators have jurisdiction to lay charges under provincial securities legislation, and have prosecuted serious securities offences criminally. The persons so charged have a right to be tried within a reasonable time. Questions have arisen as to whether or not a court’s deliberation time was to be factored in the timelines identified in the now seminal case R. v. Jordan, 2016 SCC 27 (“Jordan”). Despite the fact that the R. v. K.G.K., 2020 SCC 7 (“KGK”) case is a criminal case, the teachings of the Supreme Court of Canada described below are transposable … Continue Reading

The Show Must Go On: The OSC Requires Enforcement Hearing to Continue Notwithstanding COVID-19

In a decision released on March 23, 2020, a Hearing Panel of the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) ruled, over the objections of the respondents, that an oral hearing that had commenced under s. 127 of the Ontario Securities Act into allegations of fraud, misleading investors, unregistered trading and the illegal distributions of securities would continue at least partly in writing due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Re Paramount, 2020 ONSEC 9).

History of the Proceeding

The merits hearing began on March 10, 2020 and had been scheduled to resume on March 23.  It had proceeded for … Continue Reading

Quebec Court of Appeal confirms administrative penalties applications not subject to general rules of prescription

The Quebec Court of Appeal recently dismissed the appeals launched by directors and officers of a reporting issuer, Nstein Technologies, against two judgments rendered by the Court of Quebec in a statutory appeal of a judgment by the Quebec securities tribunal, the Tribunal administratif des marchés financiers (the TMF).

The TMF had granted an application by the Quebec securities regulator, the Autorité des marchés financiers (the AMF), to impose administrative penalties against the appellants for breaches to insider trading and tipping provisions under the Québec Securities Act (the QSA). The AMF’s application essentially stemmed from a decision … Continue Reading

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