On July 14, 2016, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) launched the Whistleblower Program (the Program). Under the Program, individuals that provide information on violations of Ontario’s securities law to the OSC are eligible for awards of between 5% and 15% of total monetary sanctions or voluntary payments. The maximum amount a whistleblower can collect is $1.5 million when sanctions and/or payments are not collected and $5 million when sanctions and/or payments are collected. By June 2018, the Program had generated 200 tips. Tips may be submitted anonymously through counsel and the OSC makes all reasonable efforts to protect the identity of the whistleblowers.
On February 27, 2019, the OSC announced the first payout under the Program, making it the first ever award by a Canadian securities regulator. A total of $7.5 million was paid out to three whistleblowers in separate matters for voluntarily providing high-quality, timely, specific and credible information that resulted in monetary payments to the OSC. In order to protect the whistleblowers’ identities and preserve confidentiality, further information regarding the whistleblowers was not released.
The Program initially drew some criticism because of the cap on potential payouts and its impact on the quality of tips that would be received. By comparison, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Whistleblower Program, which launched in 2011, has no cap on payouts, and awards range between 10% and 30% of the money collected as a result of the information. In 2018, the SEC awarded more than $168 million in awards to 13 whistleblowers. In addition, the SEC made two of its largest whistleblower awards totalling $83 million shared by three whistleblowers and $54 million shared by two whistleblowers.
Nonetheless, the Program is a step in the right direction for the OSC to attract credible tips. The size of the OSC’s first ever payout under the Program not only indicates the significance of the information provided by the whistleblowers, but also emphasizes the crucial role that whistleblowers play in protecting investors from improper and fraudulent practices.
The author would like to thank Sadaf Samim, Articling Student, for her contribution to this article.