Here are some frequently asked questions that we get at the ASC. You can also find step by step "How Do I" processes in For Companies and For Investors.Complaints: Adviser: Companies: Other:
How do I make a complaint to the ASC?
View our File a Complaint page for details.
What does the ASC do when it receives a complaint?
The ASC reviews complaints made against individuals or companies involved in trading securities in Alberta. If the actions of these individuals or companies suggest possible breaches of Alberta securities laws, further investigation may be warranted. Documents will be reviewed, investors and others may be interviewed, and evidence will be gathered and analyzed to determine whether one or more breaches have occurred. A formal hearing may then be initiated, where a tribunal will rule whether breaches took place and, if so, whether to impose administrative sanctions to protect the public and enforce compliance with regulatory requirements. The ASC can also prosecute individuals or companies in the Provincial Court of Alberta.
If I file a complaint with the ASC, when can I expect to receive notification regarding the outcome?
Generally, complaints may take several weeks to several months to investigate. Complex complaints may take longer to resolve. Many complaints do not lead to enforcement action by the ASC, for jurisdictional or other reasons. If enforcement action has been taken against an individual or a company, this information is a matter of public record and available from the Enforcement Orders database or Scheduled Proceedings on the ASC website. However, unless and until such public proceedings occur, our confidentiality rules mean that we do not reveal the status of investigations, even to complainants.
How do I find out if there have been complaints or investigations about an individual or company?
As with other regulatory or enforcement agencies, the Alberta Securities Commission must release information to the fullest extent possible, while ensuring the process of investigations and conduct of the proceedings are not prejudiced.
Under the Securities Act, the Commission cannot comment publicly as to the existence, status, or nature of an investigation being conducted. This is intended to protect the integrity of the investigation, ensure the complaint process is not used to affect the market and be just to those who are the subject of investigations.
If enforcement action has been taken against an individual or a company, this information is a matter of public record and available from the Enforcement Orders database or Scheduled Proceedings.
Can I make an anonymous complaint?
We must be able to contact complainants for more information, so we strongly urge complainants to provide contact information. Further, the identity of complainants is kept confidential to the extent permitted by law. While we do not prohibit anonymous complaints, it is rare that we can take effective follow-up action on complaints that are submitted anonymously.
How long do I have to make a complaint to the ASC?
Due to the limitation period set out in the Securities Act, the ASC can only take proceedings respecting breaches that occurred within the preceding six years. If you have a complaint, you should forward it to the ASC as soon as possible.
I lost money on my investments. Can the ASC get my money back
The ASC does not have the authority to get your money back for you. The ASC can only proceed with enforcement action against individuals or companies who have breached the Alberta securities laws. Typical sanctions for breaches involve orders prohibiting certain securities activities, administrative penalties, and hearing costs. If you have lost money due to a violation of securities law, you should obtain legal advice to determine what options are available to you.
I have a complaint against my investment dealer, adviser or mutual fund salesperson. What do I do?
If your complaint is of a minor nature and does not reflect on the integrity of your adviser or salesperson, you should talk to your salesperson or adviser as soon as possible. If this does not resolve the matter, or if your complaint is of a serious nature, send a written complaint to the firm that employs the individual you are dealing with. Request a meeting with the branch manager or compliance officer of the firm to discuss your concerns. If the matter still remains unresolved, you should file a written complaint with one of the governing regulatory organizations:
If the investment adviser is employed by a member firm by the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) you should file your complaint directly with them. Visit their website at www.iiroc.ca to search whether the firm is an IIROC member.
If the salesperson is employed by a member firm of the Mutual Fund Dealers Association (MFDA), you should file your complaint directly with them. Visit their website at www.mfda.ca to search whether the firm is a member of the MFDA.
If your dealer/adviser or salesperson is employed by a firm that is NOT an IIROC or MFDA member, file the complaint with the ASC. If you are unclear as to which organization to contact, you can contact the ASC's Information Officer at (403) 355-4151 and he or she may be able to tell you what regulatory body can best address your complaint.
My financial adviser has requested that I provide him with personal financial information. Do I have to give it to him?
Under the Securities Act, all financial advisers must ensure that they collect sufficient information about their client so that they can determine if a trade is suitable. This information is known as Know Your Client (or KYC) information. When providing this information to your financial adviser, you should ensure that it is as accurate as possible, as your adviser will use this information to make investment recommendations. If you are unsure about any of your KYC answers, discuss them with your financial adviser before you make any investments.
There is also a requirement under the new proceeds of crime and anti-terrorism laws for your financial adviser to ask you the source of the funds. However, you are not required to divulge information like credit card numbers or bank PINs to these individuals.
My financial adviser invested all of my money in one risky security, which has since declined in value. What should I do?
At the time of opening your account, you and your financial adviser should have filled out a New Client Account Form, which asks you for your investment needs and objectives, your investment knowledge level, and your personal risk tolerance level. This information is known as Know Your Client (or KYC) information and is very important, as it will allow the financial adviser to determine what investments are suitable for you. When providing this information to your financial adviser, you should ensure that it is accurate, as your adviser will use this information to make their investment recommendations. If you are unsure about any of your KYC answers, discuss them with your financial adviser before you make any trades.
If you feel that your financial adviser purchased securities that are not in line with your KYC information, you should contact your financial adviser to discuss the matter. If your financial adviser does not adequately satisfy your concerns, you should contact the branch manager or compliance officer of the firm to discuss your complaint. If the matter still remains unresolved, you will need to contact IIROC, the MFDA, or the ASC with specific details of the investment, your KYC information, and any steps you have taken to resolve the issue.
My financial adviser bought and sold securities in my account without first obtaining my permission to do so. What should I do
The practice of buying and selling securities without contacting the client beforehand is called discretionary trading. Mutual fund salespeople are not allowed to conduct discretionary trades on your account and must contact you prior to making any transactions. If your mutual fund salesperson has ordered transactions in your account without your express permission, you should contact the compliance department of the mutual fund dealer that employs your adviser. If this does not satisfy your concerns, please contact the MFDA with specific details of your complaint.
Some investment advisers may be able to conduct discretionary trades, provided that you have given them explicit written consent. These accounts are called discretionary or managed accounts. If your account is not a discretionary or managed account, you should contact the firm’s Branch Manager and/or Compliance Officer to discuss the trades that occurred on your account. If the matter still remains unresolved, contact either IIROC or the ASC with specific details of the complaint.
What should I do if my financial adviser did not place my order when I told him to do so?
If you have concerns over the length of time it took your financial adviser to place your order, you should contact him and ask for an explanation of the delay. If the delay was a relatively short period of time, your financial adviser may have a reasonable explanation for you (i.e. depending on the time your order was placed, the type of order, etc.). However, if your order was not placed for an extended period, you should contact the branch manager or compliance officer of the firm to discuss the order in question. If the matter still remains unresolved, contact IIROC or the MFDA.
A few weeks ago, I requested my investment account be transferred to my new dealer; however, the transfer has still not taken place. What should I do?
When you transfer from one dealer to another, it will take some time for your accounts to be transferred. This should usually take about one month dependant on the type of account and/or investment. If your transfer has not been completed, you should have your new financial adviser contact your former dealer to determine the status of the transfer. There may be fees involved in transferring your account out and these will need to be settled prior to your accounts being moved. If your financial adviser is unable to resolve the matter, you should contact the branch manager or compliance officer of your former dealer. If your accounts have still not been transferred, contact the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC), the Mutual Fund Dealers Association (MFDA), or the ASC.
How can I find out if an adviser is registered?
With some limited, specific exemptions, anyone who sells securities in Alberta or provides advice about investing in securities must be registered with the MFDA, IIROC or ASC.
You can check registration on the ASC website or contact the ASC to find out if a person or company is registered.
My financial adviser convinced me to engage in a “leveraging strategy”. Now I owe money on investments that have declined in value. What can I do?
Leveraging, or using borrowed money to invest, can be appropriate in some situations and inappropriate in others. You should discuss with your Adviser, Branch Manager and/or Compliance Officer any concerns you have related to your account handling. If not resolved, contact the MFDA, IIROC, or ASC dependant on the firm.
I believe that I have been approached about an investment scheme that appears to be fraudulent and possibly illegal. What should I do?
There are several options for reporting potentially fraudulent investment schemes. You can contact your local police department, the RCMP, or the ASC. Additionally, you can use an internet-based tool for reporting economic crimes online (“RECOL”), located at www.recol.ca, to make a complaint regarding any fraud, like identity theft, fraudulent letter or telemarketing scams, and other white-collar crimes.
With the increasing awareness of investment fraud, it is particularly useful to submit to Recol information regarding four specific areas that are described as follows:
- Misrepresentations of Investment Information (including false prospectus), which would include concealment or misrepresentation of a material fact, which generates a scheme to obtain money or benefit.
- Prime Bank Instrument Investment Scheme, which are often seen as falsely generated or fictitious bank documents purporting to support very large currency amounts.
- Fraudulent manipulation of stock exchange transactions. Some individuals may artificially influence the market prices of shares for personal gain, or to minimize losses.
- Insider trader, using information that is not available to the public for personal gain or to minimize losses.
I heard that a company I am thinking about investing in is named in a Cease Trade Order. What does this mean and what impact will it have on me being able to buy the shares of this company?
A Cease-Trade Order (sometimes called a “CTO”) means a company cannot sell any of its shares. This includes private placements and exchanging loans for shares. While a Cease Trade Order is in effect, the company cannot promote its shares or perform any sales functions in anticipation of the CTO being revoked.
If a company has been cease-traded by the Commission, it is often because the company has been delinquent in filing its financial statements. In other situations, it may mean the company has failed to file other required documents with the Commission, or that there are errors or deficiencies with such documents. The Cease Trade Order will remain in effect until such time that the company files acceptable financials or otherwise corrects the deficiencies, and successfully makes an application to the Commission for a Revocation Order. If you believe a company might be subject to a Cease Trade Order, you can search the National Cease Trade Orders Database.
A company that I invested in now has a cease trade order issued against it. How can I sell my shares?
You are not able to sell your shares while the company is cease traded. You have to wait until the company’s cease trade order has been revoked. Contact the company or monitor the National CTO website for more information regarding the revocation.
A company that I invested in was supposed to go public, but I haven’t heard anything. What happens?
Beware of investment opportunities that state that they will let you invest early, when the company is still private, and then reap large rewards when the company is listed on a public exchange. Under securities law, companies cannot state that they are going to be listed before the appropriate exchange/securities commission gives them permission to do so.
If you have invested in a company like this and have not heard anything, you should contact the individual who sold the investment to you. They may be able to offer some information to you on the status of the company. You should also contact the ASC with details about exactly what you were told.
What should I do if I have not received my share certificates from the publicly traded company I invested in.
Depending on how your shares are registered, you may not receive actual share certificates. If your shares are registered in “street” form, the transfer agent holds these securities in trust for you. If your shares are registered in “bearer” form, your name should be on the certificates. If you would like to receive the actual share certificates of a publicly traded company, contact the investor relations department of the company or the company's transfer agent. Please note that you may be charged a fee for this service.
What should I do if I have not received any shareholder or proxy-related materials from the company in which I hold shares?
If you are a shareholder and have not received any shareholder or proxy-related materials from a company, you should contact your investment adviser to determine whether you have completed the required forms to have your name placed on the company's mailing list. If you have filled out the appropriate forms and have not received these materials, you should contact the investor relations department of the company.
How do I know if my share certificate has value?
You will need to know the current name of the company and if the company is still active. You can search the ASC’s reporting issuer list; you can seek the assistance of a financial adviser; and you can contact a local branch of Alberta Registries. Sometimes the company itself can provide guidance, through its website or by contacting its head office. You may also contact the ASC Public Inquiries Office for assistance.
What rights do I have as a shareholder?
Shareholder rights are set out in the corporate law under which a company is incorporated. Shareholders can take legal action against a company through the courts. For a company incorporated in Alberta, the Alberta Business Corporations Act is the applicable law. For a company incorporated federally, the Canada Business Corporations Act is the applicable law.
You may wish to consult with legal counsel to determine what your rights as a shareholder are and what remedies may be available to you.
Where can I find information about a public company?
You can find out information about a company from its disclosure documents, which include financial statements, prospectuses, news releases, material change reports, information circulars, and other documents.
Public companies are required to file their disclosure documents on the System for Electronic Disclosure Analysis and Retrieval (SEDAR). You can access these documents via the following link - SEDAR
What is insider trading?
Insider trading can be either legal or illegal. Legal insider trading occurs when company “insiders” (generally senior officers and/or directors of a company) trade securities in compliance with securities rules and make proper disclosure. In Alberta, as in many Canadian jurisdictions, insiders are required to report their trades within 10 days. You can access insider trading data on the System for Electronic Disclosure by Insiders (SEDI).
Illegal insider trading occurs when an “insider”, or another person who is in a “special relationship” with a company, buys or sells securities on material information that has not been publicly disclosed. The ASC investigates and enforces laws prohibiting such trading. If individuals are found to be buying or selling securities on non-public information they could face serious monetary and other sanctions by the ASC.
If an individual tells you about a hot tip, be careful. If the tip is from someone in a special relationship with the company and is based on information has not been disclosed to the public, you could be involved in illegal insider trading and could become the subject of an investigation and prosecution.
How do I receive a copy of the transcript from an ASC hearing?
We hire court reporters from Dicta Court Reporting Inc. to transcribe oral evidence given in public hearings. If you wish to obtain a copy of the transcript of a public ASC hearing, you may contact Dicta Court Reporting Inc. to obtain it for a fee.