OSC says its cash for whistleblowers program exceeds expectations

The securities regulator's program has been in operation for five years

OSC says its cash for whistleblowers program exceeds expectations
Steve Randall

Paying people to report wrongdoing has proven successful for the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC).

Five years after the regulator launched its Whistleblower Program, it says that it has received around 650 tips from across Canada and 15 international jurisdictions. The number of tips received has grown each year as awareness of the program rises.

These whistleblowers have led to monetary sanctions and voluntary payments of approximately $44 million. Meanwhile, the whistleblowers themselves have been awarded more than $8.6 million for their information.

The OSC program is the only one of its kind in Canada and helps the regulator’s staff in identifying misconduct, advancing enforcement investigations, and holding companies and individuals accountable for wrongdoing.

Industries where wrongdoing has been identified via the program include financial services, natural resources, and technology.

Personal and professional risk

The awards are paid out to those who provide specific, credible, and timely information on complex and hard-to-detect matters.

Typically, these whistleblowers are employees or company insiders but includes external analysts, industry professionals, and investors with unique knowledge about misconduct or the perpetrators of misconduct.

"These individuals take tremendous personal and professional risks in coming forward, and the protection of whistleblowers is, therefore, a critical component of our program," said Jeff Kehoe, Director of Enforcement at the OSC. "We expect employees to be free to voice their concerns about potential breaches of Ontario securities law, and will continue to take enforcement action against firms that retaliate against whistleblowers."

Some whistleblowers chose to act anonymously through a lawyer, although robust protections are built into the program with all reasonable efforts made to keep whistleblowers’ identities secret.

Better than expected

The program was launched in July 2016 and Grant Vingoe, chair and CEO of the OSC, says it has exceeded all expectations and delivered tangible results.

"I want to commend those who have come forward with information related to securities misconduct in Ontario. Their courage and determination enhance our ability to protect investors and achieve better enforcement outcomes for our markets."