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  • Community Economic Development in Manitoba - a new film January 16, 2018
    Cinameteque, Jan 23.  7:00 pm - Free event Film Trailer CCEDNET-MB, CCPA-MB, The Manitoba Research Alliance and Rebel Sky Media presents: The Inclusive Economy:  Stories of Community Economic Development in Manitoba
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Winnipeg's State of the Inner City 2018 January 3, 2018
    Winnipeg's community-based organizations are standing on shakey ground and confused about how to proceed with current provincial governement measurements.  Read the 2018 State of the Inner City Report.
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Our Schools/Our Selves: Winter 2018 is online now! December 18, 2017
    For the first time, this winter we are making Our Schools/Our Selves available in its entirety online. This issue of Our Schools/Our Selves focuses on a number of key issues that education workers, parents, students, and public education advocates are confronting in schools and communities, and offers on-the-ground commentary and analysis of what needs to […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Charting a path to $15/hour for all BC workers November 22, 2017
    In our submission to the BC Fair Wages Commission, the CCPA-BC highlighted the urgency for British Columbia to adopt a $15 minimum wage by March 2019. Read the submission. BC’s current minimum wage is a poverty-level wage. Low-wage workers need a significant boost to their income and they have been waiting a long time. Over 400,000 […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • CCPA-BC joins community, First Nation, environmental groups in call for public inquiry into fracking November 5, 2017
    Today the CCPA's BC Office joined with 16 other community, First Nation and environmental organizations to call for a full public inquiry into fracking in Britsh Columbia. The call on the new BC government is to broaden a promise first made by the NDP during the lead-up to the spring provincial election, and comes on […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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The Progressive Economics Forum

Stock Market Swindles Galore

This past weekend (March 31st), Sino-Forest Corp. announced it was filing for bankruptcy protection. The Chinese-Canadian company, once the largest publicly-traded forestry firm on the TSX, collapsed under allegations it was nothing more than a sophisticated fraud and Ponzi scheme. Sino-Forest’s demise wiped out about $6-billion in shareholders’ value, making it a catastrophe on par with Bre-X Minerals back in the ’90s.

And yet the news of Sino-Forest’s bankruptcy was relegated to the inner pages of business sections, reflecting how the entire scandal is not being given its due, fading out of earshot. After the company was accused of being a fraud by the short-selling investment firm Muddy Waters LLC last summer, all hell broke loose. Sino-Forest’s top management resigned, its shares were halted from trading by the OSC,  and the RCMP opened a file. Sino-Forest condemned its critics and set up an internal committee to clear its name, only to concede it could not prove Muddy Waters was entirely mistaken in its allegations.

Yet there were no calls for inquiry to determine how did the company manage to raise so much money on the Canadian markets for more than 15 years. Where was the due diligence by its underwriters – the brokerage houses of our chartered banks? Is the OSC going to investigate them?

Sino-Forest is just the latest in a long line of stock market calamities that have plagued  Canada’s capital markets. Diane Urquhart, who spent 20 years working on Bay Street as a research analyst, and now works for investors’ groups, argues that Canadians lose as much as $20-billion a year to investment fraud. From Bre-X, Livent, Portus, Norshield, Crocus, Nortel, Norbourg, Sino-Forest, Conrad Black, ABCP and countless others, the scandals come thick and fast. And yet, year in and year out, there is little done to clean up the markets.

Canada is one of only two countries (the other being Bosnia-Hergovia) that belongs to the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) that does not have a national securities regulator. Instead we have 13 provincial and territorial securities commissions. We prosecute stock market fraud cases at a rate of 10 times less than the US, and 20 times less in the case of insider trading violations. We levy smaller fines and have jailed only an estimated 20 investment fraud criminals over the past 25 years.

What it adds up is bad economics. As Utpal Bhattacharya, a well-regarded academic and expert on stock market regulation, has said, poor regulation means that corporations don’t invest in your country. Why would they when they don’t have any guarantee of getting their money back in the event they are robbed?

The Harper government has moved to set up a national securities regulator. But last year, the Supreme Court of Canada threw out the legislation the government had drafted to establish the agency, calling it unconstitutional. It was a terrible and blinkered decision by justices who clearly don’t understand our economy and markets.

And as long as this situation is allowed to fester, the Sino-Forest debacles will keep showing up.

(My  exposé of the crimes of Canada’s financial industry, “Thieves of Bay Street” is being published by Random House Canada and is now hitting bookstores and e-books.

My website for it is here:

http://thievesofbaystreet.ca/

You can read about it here:

http://www.randomhouse.ca/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780307359636

Or order it here:

http://www.amazon.ca/Thieves-Bay-Street-Brokerages-Canadians/dp/0307359638)

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