On October 21, 2019, the BC provincial government announced sweeping and significant changes to the BC Securities Act which are intended to give the BC Securities Commission (BCSC) the strongest powers in the country to impose tougher consequences for wrongdoers.
Bill 33-2019, the Securities Amendment Act, 2019, sets out over 100 proposed amendments, many of which are new to securities regulators in Canada. These include:
- expanding the BCSC’s investigative powers;
- broader powers to collect financial sanctions when there are assets to collect, including enhancements to the current ability to freeze property and new measures, such as seizing registered retirement savings plans and the power to authorize investigations into property ownership or property transactions that may have occurred to avoid property being claimed under an enforcement order;
- mandatory minimum jail sentences for certain types of securities fraud, including for people convicted of significant offences multiple times or where the fraud exceeds a specified value;
- increased penalties for certain types of misconduct;
- new prohibitions on false or misleading statements; and
- tighter rules around promotional activities.
The amendments also add whistleblower protection for employees, establish a regulatory regime for over-the-counter derivatives, and provide the ability to regulate benchmarks which is consistent with the framework already in place in other jurisdictions including Alberta and Ontario.
This update is the latest step in the BC government’s campaign against white collar crime. Measures earlier this year included a review of money laundering in real estate, legislation to end hidden ownership in corporations and real estate, and the establishment of a working group with the federal government on tax fraud and money laundering.
The Securities Amendment Act, 2019 received first reading on October 21, and will come into force by regulation.