Friday, 17 June 2011

Protecting the Investor Protector - Threat to Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments

Yesterday I added my voice to the chorus (Ken Kivenko of Kenmar, Fair Canada, Rob Carrick of the Globe and Mail, Ellen Roseman of the Toronto Star) objecting to the attempt by a number of financial industry players RBC, TD, Manulife, Investors Group and Macquarie Group to bypass the OBSI as arbitrator in resolving these firms' disputes with individual investors.

Here is what I wrote:

Dear Mr Flaherty et al,
This is to state my voice of support in the strongest terms for the continued mandatory involvement of the OBSI as a means of redress for ordinary investors.

Do not allow the banks and investment dealers to opt out of OBSI. The odds are already heavily stacked in favour of the industry in permitting abuses to take place and then to avoid responsibility and compensation for wrongs. Both as an investor with financial scars and as a personal finance / investment blogger looking closely at the many complexities of financial products, it is critical that ordinary individuals be able to count on fair treatment by the financial industry. The OBSI is an important mechanism to keep the industry in line. Recent efforts by various industry players to opt out of OBSI confirm that its decisions sometimes hurt them and that it is doing a worthwhile job.

Jean Lespérance

As a completely self-directed investor I hope never to be obliged to use the OBSI but I want it to be there, even in a stronger form than it is now. I directly or indirectly (and so does everyone else who buys ETFs like iShares' S&P TSX 60 Index) own shares in RBC's parent and in all the public financial industry players who make more profit, at least in the short term, from avoiding their moral obligations to compensate accidental or deliberate screw-ups of client portfolios. But friends and family who use brokerage advisors need the protection of OBSI. I also think it's good business in the long term for the firms themselves to have a strong counterbalance keeping them in check.

PS Why doesn't the Ontario Securities Commission post any email addresses to receive comments - see the Contact Us page? I had to guess at Chairman Howard Wetston's. Looks a lot like hiding behind a wall. If Minister Flaherty can do it, surely the OSC can too. The next step is to actually respond. I hate to think this is a case of "Speak to the hand".

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