The BCSC introduces new whistleblower program offering monetary rewards in exchange for useful information
Effective November 7, 2023, the British Columbia Securities Commission (the “Commission”) introduced a new Whistleblower Program to encourage individuals to voluntarily provide information to the Commission’s Office of the Whistleblower (“OWB”) by financially rewarding them for the information (BC Policy 15-604). With the introduction of this new Program, British Columbia joins Ontario as the only other province offering cash rewards for tips to the Securities Commission.
An individual who provides information will be eligible to receive awards that range from $1,000 to $250,000 for information that meaningfully contributes to a variety of enforcement results, including Administrative Penalties or settlement agreements.
To qualify for the Program, the information provided must be about someone else’s wrongdoing, and must not be false or misleading, acquired illegally, or subject to solicitor client privilege that has not been waived. If a whistleblower has information about their own wrongdoing, they may instead qualify for a credit for their cooperation under the Commission’s separate Credit for Cooperation program (BC Notice 15-701).
The minimum and maximum amount of an award will depend on the result. For example, the maximum award that results in a halt trade order is $25,000, whereas the maximum award that results in a settlement agreement is $250,000.
If information meaningfully contributes to multiple occurrences of different results (for example, information leads to a halt trade order, a notice of hearing, and a settlement agreement) the maximum amount of the award is increased to $500,000. If there are multiple whistleblowers on the same matter, the maximum total payout of all whistleblowers for that matter is $500,000.
Where the amount of the award will land within the possible range for any result will be determined by relevant factors, including:
- how quickly the matter is reported;
- how clear, accurate, organized and complete the information is;
- the amount of cooperation with the OWB after providing information;
- how much the information contributes to an important result;
- how serious the misconduct being reported is;
- whether the whistleblower experienced any hardship as a result of exposing the wrongdoing; and
- the involvement of the whistleblower in the misconduct being reported.
The Commission’s executive director will be responsible for determining the amount of the award, if any, based upon the recommendation of OWB staff. It will not be possible for an individual to challenge the determination.
Individuals with information about investment fraud and other serious types of market misconduct can submit their information to the OWB by completing the online whistleblower form and submitting the form and supporting documents through the Commission’s online portal, by mail, or, can provide their information by calling the whistleblower hotline at 1-866-BCSC-TIP. Whistleblowers can provide tips anonymously, but must reveal their identity in order to receive an award.
The Commission does not provide a guarantee or assurance to whistleblowers of confidential informer privilege. However, the Commission states it will not share the information and identity of whistleblowers unless it is required to, or the whistleblower consents. Additionally, whistleblowers are protected by anti-reprisal protections under British Columbia’s Securities Act, which prohibits a person from taking a measure of reprisal such as a disciplinary measure, demotion or termination against a whistleblower solely for the individual having provided information to the Commission.
The goal of this new Program is certainly to incentivize more and better tips from whistleblowers to assist the Securities Commission in the enforcement of non-compliance under the Securities Act. Organizations subject to the Securities Act should recognize that their employees and others with information about non-compliance have a financial incentive to report to the Securities Commission, rather than internally to the employer. As such, organizations should consider reviewing their own whistleblower programs and general compliance with applicable securities laws.