Quebec’s financial watchdog is cracking down on businesses that illegally run a money-services business.
The Quebec Financial Markets Administrative Tribunal issued a series of expansive ex parte orders prohibiting Dominic Lacroix and several of his companies from promoting and soliciting investors for a new virtual currency set to be launched.
In a move that caught the business and legal community by surprise, Quebec became the first jurisdiction in Canada to regulate the digital currency sector by requiring businesses that operate virtual currency automated teller machines or trading platforms to obtain a licence to operate in the province.
But the recently published amendments to the Policy Statement of the Money Services Businesses Act (Act) by Quebec’s financial watchdog has drawn criticism from industry observers who assert that it is brimming with ambiguities and risks hindering the burgeoning digital currency industry.
Independent risk management advisors must be registered with the provincial securities regulator in order to carry on advisory activities related to insurance product offerings, following a precedent-setting ruling by the Court of Quebec that is being hailed as a victory for Quebec consumers by insurance and legal experts.
A ruling that ordered an insurance company to pay $460,000 to a Quebec couple after their financial advisor invested their retirement nest egg in promissory notes in scandal-plagued Montreal financial group Mount Real Corp. has raised questions over the scope of professional liability insurance coverage in the province and ostensibly broadened investor’s protection.
Quebec’s financial and insurance sectors are now worried over the impact of a Quebec Court of Appeal unanimous decision that declared inoperative clauses excluding gross negligence in professional liability insurance policies under the Act respecting the distribution of financial products and services (ADFPS). Law insurance experts are speculating that the finding may have a reach beyond the ADFPS, and affect professional liability insurance policies held by the indemnity funds of Quebec’s 44 professional corporations, including the Barreau du Québec. The Quebec legal society declined to comment.
A recently passed bill that made Quebec the first province to regulate the money-services industry has elicited mixed reactions, drawing praise by some who see it as a blessing for legitimate small businesses catering to ethnic communities, unease by others who are concerned about the potential broad reach of the law, and baffled some legal observers who wonder why the provincial government appears to be duplicating an already existing federal law.
Days after an agreement in principle was reached in the Norbourg class action suit, opening the door for thousands of investors to recover nearly all the money they lost in one of the biggest investment frauds in the country, questions surrounding the efficacy and scope of investor protection provided by the debt-ridden indemnity fund overseen by Quebec’s financial watchdog have surfaced.
A group of investor advocates, financial professionals, and the body that oversees financial professionals in Quebec are beckoning the provincial government to cast a critical eye on the financial services compensation fund administered by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), a call that Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand seems to have heard. The finance minister recently requested the securities regulator to “see if something different should be put in place, how it should be done, while listening to industry.”
Thanks to an economy that is still in doldrums and equity markets showing few signs of solid recovery, a growing number of investors faced with the prospect of shrinking investment portfolios are lodging complaints with provincial and federal bodies that oversee the investment community.
The federal Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) and the Quebec Chambre de la sécurité financière are reporting dramatic increases in investor complaints since the beginning of the year while Quebec’s financial watchdog, the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), has received a surging number of calls requesting information over investment products.