Big Changes In Financial Regulation: Dialogue With The OSC 2020

Lenczner Slaght | Shara N. Roy and Isabel Dávila Pereira | Nov 12, 2020

OSC dialogue event - Big Changes In Financial Regulation: Dialogue With The OSC 2020On November 4, 2020, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) held its annual OSC Dialogue. Financial industry leaders, senior regulators and investors came together virtually to discuss changes in the industry and how they are working together.

This year, the current COVID-19 global pandemic informed both the virtual setting for and the theme of the OSC Dialogue. The main theme of the discussion was the link between the world's physical and financial health brought forth by the pandemic. The OSC Dialogue was divided into five sessions, and in spite of the different topics and perspectives, one key issue was at the forefront of the discussion: the role of the OSC in fostering economic growth, adapting to technological innovation, and incorporating principles of Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG).

The Capital Markets Modernization Taskforce and the Expansion of the OSC's Role

In February of this year, the Ontario government established the Capital Markets Modernization Taskforce, which is in charge of making recommendations to the Minister of Finance for the review and modernization of the province's capital markets regulations. Walied Soliman, Taskforce Chair and Canadian Chair of Norton Rose Fulbright, provided an update on the work of the Taskforce. He noted that the Taskforce's recommendations will focus on three pillars: (1) proper governance, (2) an expanded mandate for the OSC, and (3) harmonized regulation.

See: 

Ontario capital markets task force proposes big changes

Ontario’s Capital Markets Modernization Task force report draws criticism

One of the key discussions across the OSC Dialogue focused on the second of these pillars. In several panels, which included a conversation with former OSC chairs, a discussion about the role of regulation in rebuilding the economy, an update from the Ontario Capital Markets Modernization Taskforce and a discussion on fostering innovation, the participants discussed the proposed expansion of the OSC's mandate to include the fostering of capital formation and the protection of competition. This proposal, as pointed out by Soliman, is part of the Taskforce's recommendations and will be delivered to the provincial government in December in its final report.

The Taskforce's justification for this and other recommendations highlighted by Soliman is that, “Capital markets regulation is not an end to itself”; a phrase he repeated during his presentation, and a sentiment which aligns with the current Ontario government's view on regulation.

“Capital markets regulation is not an end to itself”

Walied Soliman, Taskforce Chair and Canadian Chair of Norton Rose Fulbright

Soliman stated that such regulation must respond to the social and public good it is meant to support and the economic well-being of the province. He pointed out that the inclusion and making of this recommendation was not a difficult decision to reach by the members and that it follows advances already occurring in other places, including changes made in the UK, Singapore and Australia, where regulators have mandates to promote economic growth and competition, allowing them to remove obstacles including fees and tackle anti-competitive behaviour.

However, not every panelist agreed with the Taskforce's easy adoption of this recommendation. On an earlier panel where several former OSC chairs discussed perspectives, Maureen Jensen, the previous OSC Chair until April of this year, had a word of caution for this proposed mandate expansion. Jensen warned that it can be very difficult to be both the regulator and a partner in fostering businesses, as it can affect the OSC's independence in subsequent regulatory and enforcement actions. She added that the OSC's current mandate already allows it to promote a fair and efficient market which allows the regulator to encourage innovation but without standing in the way by partnering in the innovation. Howard Wetston, Senator and former Chair of the OSC, agreed with Jensen's caution but noted that capital formation has always been a key role of the OSC and that what is needed in any case is more transparency in the OSC role.

See:  NCFA Response to the Modernizing Ontario’s Capital Markets Consultation Taskforce

Other recommendations that the Taskforce update revealed include an increase of OSC oversight over self-regulatory organizations (SROs). While Soliman recognized the importance of SROs in filling the gap left by the lack of a national securities regulator, he noted that their recommendation would be for the OSC and Minister of Finance to collaborate to ensure business plans and regulations align with public policy, avoid duplication of regulation, and ensure that all capital markets are rowing in the same direction. This recommendation follows policy discussion around the combination of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada and the Mutual Fund Dealers Association

Finally, Soliman made a call to the public to continue to engage with the Taskforce. In spite of the Taskforce's public consultation period ending in September of this year, he pointed out that stakeholders can still reach out to the Committee.

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