A move by British Columbia to block people with unpaid Securities Act fines from renewing a driver’s licence or registering a vehicle has not yet been emulated by Alberta, though this province’s securities regulator said it will pursue additional tools if necessary to enforce payment from financial fraudsters.
The British Columbia Securities Commission said in a news release earlier this week that it now has the power to block the issuance or renewal of a driver’s licence and vehicle licences and vehicle plates to anyone who has not fully paid a BCSC-imposed sanction for investment misconduct. B.C. is the first province in Canada to link unpaid fines from the provincial securities regulator to driving privileges, the BCSC said.
“If investors and our capital markets are harmed because of misconduct, there should be consequences,” Brenda Leong, chair and CEO of the British Columbia Securities Commission, said in the release. “If you don’t pay the sanctions we impose, it can have an impact on your everyday life.”
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The power to deny driving privileges was part of a package of amendments to B.C.’s Securities Act passed by the British Columbia government in October 2019. The amendments give the BCSC new and better tools to pursue violators of the Act, including broader powers to collect financial sanctions when there are assets to collect.
The Alberta Securities Commission, which maintains a publicly accessible “Unpaid Orders” list on its website providing information on debts owed to the ASC by respondents, could not provide a total dollar value Thursday of outstanding fines in this province. ASC spokeswoman Theresa Schroder said the ASC already has a number of tools to enforce payment of fines, including using collection agencies, working through the courts system or with law enforcement, and even garnishing wages or seizing and selling debtors’ assets.
However, Schroder added the ASC is actively looking at what is being done in other jurisdictions to enforce payment of fines.
“We are examining whether statutory powers that exist elsewhere, including B.C., may strengthen our ability to hold debtors accountable and will pursue additional tools as warranted,” she said in an email.
Collecting on fines is important, Schroder said, because when money can be retrieved by perpetrators of fraud or other securities act violations, the regulators give priority to returning money to investors and victims.
However, she added that in many cases, there may be no money to retrieve. Respondents may not have retained the amount of money they are required to pay, they may be bankrupt, or they may have moved funds to an offshore location from which they are not recoverable.
The ASC is the regulatory agency responsible for administering Alberta’s securities laws. It has the power to impose fines known as “administrative penalties” of up to $1 million per contravention of the Securities Act. It can also freeze assets and ban perpetrators from the market, and can even pursue offenders in provincial court as an agent of the Crown, with the power to seek jail terms of up to five years and fines of up to $5 million per offence committed.