In late June, Québec’s financial market regulator, the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), launched its very first whistleblower program. According to Jean-François Fortin, the AMF’s executive director of enforcement, the program’s focus is two-fold: to generate more tips and to generate better tips. Fortin will be speaking about the new program, as well a cooperative governance model the AMF created, at the upcoming 2016 ACFE Fraud Conference Canada next month in Montréal.
“We want to uncover situations that we would not have been able to uncover, and intervene in cases of which we would not have been aware of,” Fortin said. “We want to be able to intervene sooner and before there is harm caused to investors.”
Since its launch in late June, the AMF has already received tips that otherwise would not have been received. Fortin is foreseeing the program to build on its already proven success in both the short-term and the long-term by creating a foundation of trust between regulators and investors. “We want the industry and consumers to be aware that the program exists,” Fortin said. “We want the people to trust the program so that they will come to us and know they will be protected. Once we have success, we can build that trust.”
One aspect about the program that is different from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) program, and Ontario’s whistleblower program, is that the AMF will not offer monetary incentives for people coming forward with information. This incentive, as Fortin said, is only one element of the potential incentives for people to come forward. “Everyone agrees that confidentiality is the most important incentive,” Fortin said. “So far, we have not seen any data that the rewards bring better tips or better quality tips. We believe that the protection of confidentiality, combined with anti-retaliation measures, as part of a structured, well-publicized program, will have a definite impact on the quantity and quality of tips.” One way the AMF is working to begin to build that trust is by communicating through press and interviews that the program exists, and making the process to report transparent.
Fortin will also discuss a credible deterrence paper published by the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) in 2015 that identified seven key factors that contribute to deterrence. “This paper brings to the table real-life examples of actual initiatives that have been put forward and put in place,” Fortin said. “We want to use this document to inspire emerging markets. The key principals are concrete examples that regulators could put in their own program.” In fact, this is one key point that Fortin hopes attendees at the upcoming conference will take away from his keynote address. “Credible deterrence will occur when white-collar criminals will foresee that they will be caught and that the punishment will be severe.”
Finally, Fortin will discuss the cooperative, formalized relationship he created a few years ago between the AMF, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Sûreté du Québec and local prosecutors. The AMF was the first governing body in Canada to create a joint coalition like this that brings together many of the key contributors to a white-collar crime investigation. The organized communications and teamwork embodies what it means to work together. “Informally, we work on a day-to-day basis,” Fortin said. “We work with intelligence units and share what comes from our files, and we have two investigation and prosecution integrated teams. We discuss cases and we decide whether to criminally investigate and who will take it over. We avoid duplicate work. We have one single investigation with the best expertise shared between organizations.”
Fortin is excited to share more about the AMF’s new whistleblower program and the governance model in Montréal, September 12-14 at the 2016 ACFE Fraud Conference Canada. “The attendees are people that have an interest in fighting fraud because you want to have an impact and you want to protect investors,” Fortin said. “We have that common interest. We care about the consequences of fraud on people.”
Read more about Fortin and other keynote speakers at FraudConference.com/Canada.