OSC should focus on protecting whistleblowers from retaliation: SEC

TORONTO – The head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission says its Ontario counterpart should focus on protecting corporate whistleblowers from retaliation if it wants its new program aimed at fighting white collar crime to be successful.

Mary Jo White says the SEC’s whistleblower program has been a “game changer,” bringing in high-quality tips and helping the regulator successfully prosecute cases.

However, White says it’s very difficult for corporate whistleblowers to come forward given the potential repercussions that they face.

The Ontario Securities Commission launched its own whistleblower program, modeled partly on the SEC’s, in July.

Under the program, the Ontario regulator offers rewards of up to $5 million for tips that lead to successful prosecution of serious securities law violations such as insider trading, accounting tricks and market manipulation.

The introduction of the whistleblower program was accompanied by amendments to the province’s securities act that aim to protect employees who report misconduct from retaliation.

During a conference hosted by the OSC in Toronto on Wednesday, White was asked what lessons the Ontario securities watchdog could take from the SEC’s experiences south of the border.

“One big lesson is it’s not easy to come forward, for a whistleblower,” said White.

“Stay very closely in touch with the whistleblowers. It’s not an easy space for them to be in. And really be focused on your powers to deal with retaliation.”

Last September, OSC CEO Maureen Jensen said the new program had already garnered more than 30 tips in just the first few months since its launch.

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