The OSC Develops New Strategy Aimed at Protecting Seniors

2 April 2018

By Uri Snir

On March 20, 2018, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) published a report titled Seniors Strategy. The report develops initiatives and an action plan to better protect senior investors in Ontario. The report is the culmination of extensive research and data collection by the OSC, as it recognizes the growing challenges facing older investors. Babin Bessner Spry’s own Ellen Bessner served on the Seniors Expert Advisory Committee that consulted with the OSC in developing its Seniors Strategy.


Why Seniors? According to a November 2017 report by the Government of Ontario, people aged 65 or older will comprise 25% of Ontario’s population by 2041. As people age, they experience health, mobility and cognitive changes that may affect their ability to make sound judgments, and leaves them more susceptible to financial exploitation and fraud. At the same time, the OSC recognizes that seniors are not a homogeneous group, and that not all seniors have the same level of vulnerability.


The Seniors Strategy: Below is a summary of some key initiatives the OSC hopes to implement over the coming year:

  • Develop a flexible and responsive framework to address issues of financial exploitation and cognitive impairment among older investors. This may include:

  ° Requiring registered firms and their representatives to make reasonable efforts to obtain contact information for a client’s “trusted contact person”;

  ° Enabling registered firms and representatives to place a temporary hold on disbursements from a client’s account, or make disclosure to a trusted contact person when they have a reasonable belief that a client’s judgment may be impaired, or reasonable belief that financial exploitation or fraud has occurred or will be attempted; and

  ° Providing guidance to registered firms and their representatives on how to engage with older clients.

  • Address registered firms’ and their representatives’ use of confusing and misleading titles, designations, and marketing practices, including issues related to older investors.
  • Work with other regulators and organization to design policies and programs that serve the interests of older individuals in areas such as powers of attorney and privacy laws.
  • Improve the ways in which OSC staff work with older investors and undertake various enhancements to their operational activities. For instance, the OSC intends to establish dedicated staff in its Inquiries and Contact Centre to respond to questions and concerns from seniors.
  • Conduct further research on the challenges and issues faced by different segments of older investors.
  • Enhance education and outreach activities to provide tools and resources to older investors, their families and caregivers, as well as their registered firms and representatives. Among other things, this will include:

  ° Developing a series of white label resources (such as forms, discussion guides and educational materials) for firms to adopt and deploy to their representatives and clients;

  ° Creating a “resource hub” to aggregate and organize resources available to older Ontarians in a central online location; and

  ° Implementing an education and outreach strategy for new Canadians that includes a focus on older investors.

 

The Takeaway: The OSC plans to provide an update on its progress in one year. In the meantime, registered firms and representatives should keep an eye out for changes to the regulatory framework and increased scrutiny in this area.


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