TORONTO–FAIR Canada has returned $2.4 million to the Jarislowsky Foundation because it was unable to meet the 200% matching condition, as governments, securities regulators and self-regulatory organizations have been generally unwilling to provide adequate support. FAIR Canada has applied to governments, regulators and SROs over the years to support its mission of enhancing the interests and rights of the everyday Canadians who comprise the retail investors and financial consumers in this country.
The Jarislowsky Foundation provided $2 million in 2012 for an Endowment Fund for FAIR Canada in support of its public service mission. The donation came with a 200% matching condition and a deadline of September 30, 2014. FAIR Canada was able to obtain $2 million in endowment funding from the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) in 2014 but has been unable to secure the remaining $2 million. The deadline has been extended several times with a final deadline of September 30, 2019. FAIR Canada has directed the return of the funds in the Endowment Fund (approximately $2.4 million) to the Jarislowsky Foundation. Stephen Jarislowsky (who is 94 as of last month) stepped down from our board of directors at the same time.
Over the years, FAIR has Canada reached out to government, regulators (OSC, AMF, BCSC, CSA) and self-regulatory organizations (IIROC and the MFDA) for general funding and Endowment Fund funding. Most regulatory or governmental organizations offered no support at all. In 2012, the OSC provided $1 million in funding for operations over two years, and in 2014 the OSC provided $2 million in funding for the Endowment Fund and another $0.5 million in funding for operations. We are grateful to the OSC for its leadership in investor protection initiatives, including its support of the only independent professional investor advocacy organization in Canada.
Besides financial support from the OSC, in recent years applications to self-regulatory organizations have been met with limited success. The MFDA has never offered financial support and has in excess of $5 million in its restricted funds based on the most recent published information.
The predecessors of IIROC (the IDA and RS) provided the initial funding for the creation of FAIR Canada in 2008 and IIROC made further donations over the years for total funding of $4.65 million. We acknowledge the enlightened senior management and boards of RS, the IDA and IIROC who recognized the need for investors to have a voice and who, back in 2008, were willing to fund an unproven concept. More recently IIROC has generally advised FAIR Canada to seek sustainable funding elsewhere. In 2018, as a last resort, FAIR Canada applied to IIROC for $2 million in endowment funding to enable it to meet the matching condition by the then deadline of September 30, 2019. The application was rejected by IIROC although IIROC agreed to $250,000 in operational funding on a reapplication following an initial rejection. The IIROC funding came from its restricted fund, which had in excess of $15 million, consisting of fines levied for regulatory breaches mostly involving harm to retail investors.
Industry is robustly represented directly by the companies that make up the multi-trillion dollar financial, banking, investment and insurance industries, as well as the 16 or more organized and mobilized lobbying or advocacy groups which include Advocis, IFIC, IIAC and CBA to name just a few. The financial industry and their many lobby organizations have incredible influence over government and regulators. Ordinary Canadians were virtually unrepresented when policy decisions were made. The everyday Canadians that make up retail investors lack the resources or platform to effectively advance their own interests in any material way. What little savings the average consumer has ends up going into some of the highest fee investment fund products in the world.
According to research firm Morningstar’s latest report, in terms of fees, Canadian retail funds rank “below average”. In previous years Canada was rated at the bottom. Products have become more alternative and incomprehensible. Professional advice remains out of reach. Many consumers are simply being sold high fee proprietary mutual funds when they think they are getting proper advice.
Government, regulators and the financial services industry have a responsibility to fund a professional investor rights organization who advocates on behalf of ordinary Canadians. The everyday investor and financial consumer represent a majority of the population and workforce of this country. Everyday investors have earned the right to be represented and heard.
The Jarislowsky Foundation Statement
The following is a statement by Mr. Jarislowsky, on behalf of the Jarislowsky Foundation, regarding the decision to not extend the deadline and to require the return of the endowment funds:
“It is the responsibility of government and regulators to fund an independent professional organization with the expertise to provide a voice to lawmakers for retail investors and financial consumers. Lawmakers have a legal obligation to balance all stakeholder interests and a moral obligation to support an organization to represent the interests of everyday Canadians. If they don’t fund such an organization then governments are not truly committed to investor protection in substance; they are satisfied with the “appearance” of investor protection.
It is my view that neither the governments nor the financial services industry take seriously their obligation of investor protection. Industry and government do not want to support a professional organization with such a mandate that has independence.
It is my view that the governments, regulators and the financial industry do not want FAIR Canada to fulfill its mission as a positive force to make the financial consumer better protected and informed. They are satisfied to see the retail investor advocacy space limited mostly to seniors like myself and to a few other unstaffed advocacy groups. Corporations prefer to keep retail investors dependent and underinformed.
FAIR Canada is the only national, independent and professional retail investor voice and advocate, and it has been under-resourced at that. Governments, regulators and SROs (IIROC and the MFDA) have the financial means to enable FAIR Canada to be sustainable and to be effective in its mission of advocating for and furthering individual investor interests and rights. They collectively have over $100 million in fine money. They kept the organization alive but they have not provided adequate support for it to actually realize its potential or be operationally sustainable.
We do not feel that we should lend out more to an organization to advance a mission that is a governmental and regulator responsibility which governments and regulators refuse to fulfill. Government and industry are satisfied with industry monopolizing the financial services and wealth management public policy voice so that everyday Canadians do not have a real forum to be heard. After many years I have firmly come to that conclusion. A return of the money provided by the Jarislowsky Foundation has been required, the funds have been directed to the Foundation and my resignation from the board is effective.
I do not believe that I should remain associated with an organization that the securities commission and governments will not support, despite their “investor protection” mission and thousands of employees. If I remained as a director my association might be read by the public as an endorsement of the current unsustainable state of FAIR Canada. In my view, the commissions are satisfied, if FAIR Canada has barely the resources to respond to their requests for comment (and not to expose the many other problems in our financial markets) and even then only the OSC has provided any funding. Over the years the OSC has provided $2.0 million for the endowment fund and further funding for ongoing operations. The other CSA members enjoyed the benefits without paying any of the costs.
I still support the mission of FAIR Canada and have enjoyed working with Ermanno Pascutto and the directors over the years. FAIR Canada has done an admirable job as an organization on its limited budgets and funding. But this mission cannot and should not be accomplished by private funds like my foundation. This is the job of government. If the only national professional and independent financial consumer advocacy group does not receive support from governments and SROs then we do not believe that we should fill that responsibility.
If I am proven to be incorrect and more specifically if government, commissions, IIROC and the MFDA and the financial industry do step forward and provide enough funding to allow FAIR Canada to be sustainable and fulfill its mission and potential, then I am willing to consider recommending to my Foundation to support FAIR Canada financially again.”
About the Jarislowsky Foundation
The Jarislowsky Foundation was founded by Stephen Jarislowsky who is widely known to be one of Canada’s foremost philanthropists and entrepreneurs. He has been a long-time champion for investor rights, he co-founded the Canadian Coalition of Good Governance among other institutes in the area of corporate governance and other sectors of the Canadian economy. He has served on boards of many listed companies and the foundation he created, The Jarislowsky Foundation, has endowed research and academia in fields ranging from democracy and public sector management to medicine and the arts. Stephen is a Companion of The Order of Canada, a Grand Officer de l’Ordrenational du Québec and is also the recipient of 15 honorary doctorates and is listed on Canada’s Business Hall of Fame.
About FAIR Canada
FAIR Canada is a national, independent charitable organization dedicated to being a catalyst for the advancement of the rights of investors and financial consumers in Canada. As the voice of the Canadian investor and financial consumer, FAIR Canada advances its mission through outreach and education, public policy submissions to government and regulators, proactive identification of emerging issues and other initiatives. FAIR has a reputation for independence, thought leadership in public policy and moving the needle in the interests of retail investors and financial consumers.