Topic: Securities regulatory decisions

Subscribe to Securities regulatory decisions RSS feed

Re Meharchand: An affirmation of fundamental securities law principles

On October 19, 2018, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) issued reasons for Re Meharchand, a case confirming core concepts in securities law including the definition of an “investment contract”, registration when in the business of selling securities, and the test for fraud.

Background

The respondents, Mr. Meharchand and his company, Valt.X were in the business of cybersecurity. Valt.X purportedly developed, produced and sold cybersecurity hardware and software products. However, over the relevant time, Valt.X had very little sales ($15,000 relative to 1,600,000 contributed by investors). OSC Staff (Staff) brought an enforcement action alleging that Valt.X … Continue Reading

The Quebec Court of Appeal rules that dissident rights do not apply to trust unitholders

On January 21, 2019, the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled  in O’Leary Funds Management c. Boralex Inc., 2019 QCCA 84, that dissident rights under business corporations acts do not apply to trusts. Unitholders of a trust must therefore ensure that their rights are recognized under the trust agreement or the Civil Code of Quebec. The Court was very clear that unitholders may not invoke the rights and protections of shareholders, even by analogy.

Background

In the fall of 2010, Boralex Inc. (Boralex) decided to acquire its income trust fund, the Boralex Power Income Fund (Power FundContinue Reading

Be Careful What You Say – SEC successfully concludes enforcement proceedings against robo-advisors for false advertising and misleading disclosures

On December 21, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) settled proceedings against two robo-advisors for making false statements about investment products and publishing misleading advertising. The proceedings were the SEC’s first enforcement actions against robo-advisors, providing guidance on some of the disclosure issues robo-advisors may face going forward.

Wealthfront proceedings

The first action involved Wealthfront Advisers, LLC  (Wealthfront), a robo-advisor holding approximately $11 billion USD in client assets under management. Among other things, the SEC found that Wealthfront made false statements regarding a proprietary tax loss harvesting program (the Tax Program) it applied … Continue Reading

Ontario Court of Appeal Grants Leave to Appeal Tiffin Decision: Will Determine Role of the “Family Resemblance” Test in Defining Securities under the Securities Act

It seems that the saga of the Ontario Securities Commission’s prosecution of Daniel Emerson Tiffin and Tiffin Financial Corporation is not over yet.  On November 28, 2018 (2018 ONCA 953), the Ontario Court of Appeal granted leave to appeal the May 15, 2018 merits decision of Charney, J which rejected the “family resemblance” test and found that certain promissory notes were “securities” within the meaning of the Securities Act (the Act).

Background

As we’ve previously discussed, Mr. Tiffin and his company, Tiffin Financial Corporation (TFC), were charged with three offences under the Act related … Continue Reading

Stop the presses! Canadian securities regulators raise concerns about press releases and other promotional activities

The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) have issued a notice regarding misleading promotional activities by issuers.  The notice includes examples such as press releases, presentations, social media posts and other marketing materials that provide insufficient or unbalanced information or that include unsubstantiated claims about the issuer.

Problematic Promotional Practices

Examples of potentially misleading promotional activities identified by the CSA include:

  • describing early-stage plans with “unwarranted certainty”, or making unsupported predictions about growth of the market or future product demand;
  • issuing multiple press releases that do not disclose any new material facts;
  • compensating third parties for promotion through social media
Continue Reading

Crime Doesn’t Pay: OSC Permanently Bans Convicted Fraudster

On November 26, 2018, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) issued an order permanently prohibiting Daniel Reeve, a financial planner based in the Kitchener, Ontario area, from participation in Ontario’s capital markets, including trading in any securities and becoming or acting as a registrant.

The permanent ban came after Reeve was convicted in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in 2017 for having defrauded at least 41 investors of nearly $10 million (see R v Reeve, 2018 ONSC 3744). Justice Skarcica found Reeve’s conduct to have “presented virtually every aggravating circumstances recognized by the Criminal Code and the … Continue Reading

When Will Referral Arrangements Constitute Trading under the BC Securities Act?

In a recent decision of the BC Securities Commission (BCSC), the BCSC provides helpful guidance concerning when referral arrangements cross the line and become trading for which registration is required.

Chien-Hua Liu (Liu) and two affiliated corporations referred BC and Hong Kong investors to two issuers, leading to the purchase of over $6.5 million in securities, and earning nearly $450,000 in commissions.

In Re Liu, 2018 BCSECCOM 372, the BCSC scrutinized the details of the referral arrangements and determined that Liu and the corporate respondents had contravened section 34(a) of the BC Securities Act (the ActContinue Reading

Divisional Court Upholds OSC Finding that Trading Software License Contracts are Securities Within Meaning of Securities Act

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Furtak v Ontario (Securities Commission), 2018 ONSC 6616, has upheld the Ontario Securities Commission’s (OSC) merits and sanctions decisions with respect to the Strictrade Offering, which we previously reported on here.

Background

In 2015, OSC Staff brought enforcement proceedings against Edward Furtak, Axton 2010 Finance Corp., (Axton), Strict Trading Limited (STL), Strictrade Marketing Inc. (SMI), Trafalgar Associates Limited (TAL), Ronald Olsthoorn, and Lorne Allen (collectively the Strictrade Parties) arising out a scheme that involved the marketing and offering of … Continue Reading

The Hard Way – SEC announces first penalties and compliance roadmap for unregistered ICOs

On November 16, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced consent orders settling actions in respect of two unregistered initial coin offerings (ICOs), including the first fines levied against non-compliant ICO issuers made by the SEC to date.

The consent orders demonstrate the SEC’s willingness to follow through with enforcement proceedings against issuers of ICOs not in compliance with securities laws, and provide a roadmap for how existing ICOs can bring themselves into compliance going forward.

The parties – Airfox and Paragon

The issuers charged in the two SEC enforcement actions each raised substantial amounts … Continue Reading

Re Fauth: A Primer on ss. 75(1)(a), 92(4.1) and 93(b) of Alberta’s Securities Act

The Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) recently released its decision in the matter of Re Fauth, finding the respondent, Vernon Ray Fauth (Fauth), in breach of ss. 75(1)(a), 92(4.1) and 93(b) of Alberta’s Securities Act, RSA 2000, c S-4 (the Act). The decision offers some important insight on issues regarding limitation periods, illegal dealing, misrepresentations, and fraud under the Act. The decision also discusses the use of hearsay evidence in proceedings before the Commission; specifically, the use of transcripts of witness interviews conducted by the Alberta Securities Commission Staff (Staff) in the … Continue Reading

Time is of the Essence: Public Interest Considerations on a Motion for Standing to bring a s. 127 Proceeding Before the Ontario Securities Commission

A private party cannot commence a proceeding under s. 127 of the Ontario Securities Act (the “Act”) seeking enforcement remedies as a matter of right.  In Pearson (Re), 2018 ONSEC 53 the Ontario Securities Commission provides further guidance concerning when it will permit someone other than Enforcement Staff to commence such a proceeding before it.

The Facts

In Pearson (Re), the Commission refused a motion by a disgruntled minority shareholder of LeadFX Inc. (“LeadFX”), for standing to bring a s. 127 proceeding against that company.  Pearson was seeking orders under s. 127, including an order restraining LeadFX from … Continue Reading

Supreme Court of Canada Rules that Proposed Canadian Cooperative Capital Markets Regulatory System is Constitutional

Today the Supreme Court of Canada (the Supreme Court) released its much-anticipated decision on the reference regarding the proposed Canadian Cooperative Capital Markets Regulatory System, finding that the proposed national regulatory system is constitutional.

Previous Attempts to Create National Securities Regulator

It has been suggested by the a number of governments, academic commentators and others that a national securities system in Canada would protect investors, foster fair, efficient and competitive capital markets, and contribute to the integrity and stability of Canada’s financial system.  As a result, various attempts have been made to centralize the regulation of securities in Canada … Continue Reading

The Scope of Securities Commission’s Public Interest Jurisdiction: What Constitutes Abuse of the Capital Markets?  

The Scope of Securities Commission’s Public Interest Jurisdiction: What Constitutes Abuse of the Capital Markets?

In Re Hamilton2018 BCSEECOM 290, the British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC) was called upon, yet again, to consider the scope of its public interest jurisdiction in an enforcement proceeding pursuant to s. 161 of the British Columbia Securities Act, RSBC 1996, c. 418 (the “Act”) in the absence of allegations of specific breaches of securities law.

The Allegations

Commission Staff alleged that the respondents created a publicly traded shell company for use in a securities manipulation by deceiving foreign … Continue Reading

Motions for Further Disclosure in OSC Proceedings: Privilege, Relevance and Proportionality

In a recent decision of the OSC in Re Caldwell Investment Management Ltd. (October 12, 2018), a hearing panel (the “Panel”) denied a motion by Caldwell Investment Management Inc. (“Caldwell”) for further pre-hearing disclosure from OSC Staff. The motion was made in the context of an upcoming enforcement proceeding alleging, among other things, that Caldwell had breached its best execution obligation under s. 4.2 of NI 23-101 by placing most of its trades for execution through a related dealer, without having adequate policies and procedures in place to ensure that Caldwell’s best execution obligation was being met.

Caldwell brought … Continue Reading

Even “Small Frauds” May Warrant the Imposition of Significant Sanctions by Securities Regulators

In Re Davis, 2018 BCSECCOM 284, the British Columbia Securities Commission upheld permanent market prohibitions against Mr. Davis who committed fraud on one investor in the aggregate amount of (only) $7,000.

Background

Mr. Davis, who was never registered under the Securities Act (B.C.), purported to sell shares that he did not own to an investor over a period of two years. Throughout that time, Davis continued to deceive the investor by providing false assurances regarding the status of the shares. Although the investor was successful in obtaining repayment of her $7,000 through court proceedings, the Commission, in its … Continue Reading

From boom to busted: TMF deems PlexCoins as investment contracts

The legal noose is tightening around the necks of rogue cryptocurrency issuers in Quebec. PlexCorps’s legal troubles, as covered in our previous post, have deepened.

In Autorité des marchés financiers c. PlexCorps, 2018 QCTMF 91, the Tribunal des Marchés Financier (TMF) qualified PlexCoin as an investment contract within the meaning of Quebec’s Securities Act. This should come as no surprise as all TMF decisions to date have qualified cryptocurrency products as investment contracts.[1]

Background: a Burgeoning Crypto-Fraud Business

PlexCorps offered a cryptocurrency called PlexCoin along with financial services such as the PlexCard, PlexWallet and PlexBank. It … Continue Reading

Ontario Court Imposes Custodial Sentence for Securities Act Offences

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has released what appears to be the final chapter in the Ontario Securities Commission’s (OSC) prosecution of Daniel Emerson Tiffin and Tiffin Financial Corporation.

Background

In July 2014, the Ontario Securities Commission’s administrative proceedings against Rezwealth Financial Services Inc., Pamela Ramoutar, Justin Ramoutar, Tiffin Financial Corporation, Daniel Tiffin, 2150129 Ontario Inc., Sylvan Blackett, 1778445 Ontario Inc. and Willoughby Smith, resulted in an order under s. 127 of the Securities Act (the Act) prohibiting Daniel Emerson Tiffin (Mr. Tiffin) and TFC from trading in securities or relying upon any exemption … Continue Reading

When do inferences become unreasonable and contrary to the rules of procedural fairness?

As there is almost never direct, ‘smoking gun’ type evidence of insider trading, securities regulators often rely on circumstantial evidence in enforcement proceedings, from which they invite the specialized securities tribunals to draw inferences.

What is the line not to cross for these inferences to become unreasonable and contrary to rules of procedural fairness?

Referring to the Alberta Court of Appeal judgment in Walton v Alberta (Securities Commission), 2014 ABCA 273 (CanLII), the Court of Quebec, sitting in judicial review of the Financial Markets Administrative Tribunal’s decision in Dionne-Bourassa v. Autorité des marchés financiers, 2018 QCCQ 5749 (CanLII) … Continue Reading

Targets of investigations by Quebec’s security regulator not protected by Charter

The creator of a new cryptocurrency made headlines last year for all the wrong reasons as the target of an investigation by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), Quebec’s securities regulator, and of various court orders.

Dominic Lacroix fought back against the AMF and the judgment in Autorité des marchés financiers v. Lacroix2018 QCCS 3894 is compelling for two reasons.

First, it provides an insight into the powers of the receiver appointed at the request of the AMF.  Second, it holds that the target of an ongoing AMF investigation cannot avail itself of Charter rights such … Continue Reading

Quebec Court of Appeal clarifies the essential elements of the offences of market manipulation and complicity under the Quebec Securities Act

On September 5, 2018, the Quebec Court of Appeal rendered a unanimous judgment in Autorité des marchés financiers c. Forget, 2018 QCCA 1419 (Forget) clarifying the essential elements of the mens rea offence of market manipulation set out at section 195.2 of the Quebec Securities Act (QSA):

195.2. Influencing or attempting to influence the market price or the value of securities by means of unfair, improper or fraudulent practices is an offence.

and of the offence of complicity set out at section 208 QSA :

208. Every person who, by act or omission, aids a

Continue Reading

SEC to Resume Administrative Law Proceedings Following Supreme Court Ruling

In response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 21, 2018 decision in Lucia v. SEC, No. 17-130, holding that administrative law judges (ALJs) at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had been improperly appointed because they had been appointed by SEC staff rather than the President or the full SEC, which was discussed in our June 27, 2018 blog post, the SEC issued an August 22, 2018 order explaining how it would now proceed on pending cases affected by the Lucia ruling.

The SEC order stated that the SEC would begin to rehear some 128 cases that … Continue Reading

Ontario Securities Commission confirms test for severance

In a decision issued on July 24, 2018, the Ontario Securities Commission held that the test to determine whether a respondent’s case should be severed and heard separately is the same test used in criminal proceedings.

The decision, Hutchinson (Re), 2018 ONSEC 40, is available here.

Allegations of insider trading and insider tipping

The OSC commenced proceedings against four individuals alleging insider trading and insider tipping with respect to the securities of eight companies.

Commission staff alleged that Donna Hutchinson, a legal assistant at a law firm, provided material non-public information to her friend Cameron Edward Cornish regarding … Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Holds SEC Administrative Law Judges Improperly Appointed

On June 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that administrative law judges (ALJs) at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had been improperly appointed because they qualified as “Officers of the United States” under the “Appointments Clause” of the U.S. Constitution, who under the Constitution may be appointed only by the President, a court of law, or heads of departments.  Lucia v. SEC, No. 17-130Because the SEC’s ALJs had been selected merely by SEC staff, the Court held that they had not been lawfully appointed and therefore lacked constitutional authority to issue sanctions and penalties … Continue Reading

Alberta Securities Commission Policy 15-601: Credit for Exemplary Cooperation in Enforcement Matters – New Provision for No-Contest Settlement Agreements

On October 25, 2017, we wrote about the Alberta Securities Commission’s (ASC) new Policy 15-601 which “explains the use of discretion by ASC staff when considering the appropriate enforcement action and assessing the appropriate sanction for misconduct.”  A link to the publication is here.

As we predicted in October, the ASC recently issued a press release announcing a “new tool in the expanding ASC Enforcement toolbox” – the “opportunity to enter into no-contest settlement agreements in certain and limited circumstances”.

This new “tool” was created by amendments to Policy 15-601, including a new section 14. Section 14 … Continue Reading

LexBlog