In a much-anticipated announcement, the Ontario Securities Commission said on June 16th that it will officially launch its rewards-based Whistleblower Program on July 14, 2016, less than a month from now. The newly-created Office of the Whistleblower will be open and ready to receive tips on that date. The OSC release noted that Kelly Gorman, currently Deputy Director of the OSC’s Enforcement Branch, will head up the program.
Osler has written extensively on the OSC’s proposed Whistleblower Program and the significant impact it will have on businesses, including their management and directors, in-house counsel and compliance personnel. While the final terms of the Program have not yet been released, the key elements of the Program are unlikely to change significantly from the most recent proposal. In particular, the OSC’s June 16th press release confirmed that the regulator will offer compensation up to $5-million to whistleblowers who come forward with tips that lead to successful enforcement action. In addition, the OSC has indicated it is working with the Ontario government to seek amendments to the Securities Act that would bolster whistleblower protections, and said in its release that these provisions are “expected to be in place” by the time the Program is launched in mid-July.
As the first program of its kind for a securities regulator in Canada, we expect that the OSC program will attract significant attention. As we previously discussed, the OSC suggested in April that it had already received a number of calls from would-be tipsters enquiring about when the Program would be online. Given that the Program will not require whistleblowers to first report wrongdoing internally within their organizations, the Office of the Whistleblower will likely be the first stop for many tipsters looking to report wrongdoing and to position themselves to receive potentially significant awards. While the $5-million award cap will preclude the astronomical awards we have seen issued by regulators in the U.S. (including recent awards from the SEC and the CFTC), it would not be surprising if the OSC begins to announce major awards in the near future.