Canadian Securities Regulator Tries Public Shaming To Increase Fine Collections

A Canadian securities regulator frustrated with unpaid fines for financial crimes has tried a new tactic: publishing the names of individuals and entities that have been fined for financial-related crimes but have failed to pay.  The Alberta Securities Commission has published a list of individuals or entities with unpaid administrative penalties, disgorgement orders and/or costs that were ordered after enforcement proceedings in Alberta.  The list, which comes on the heels of similar efforts by regulators in other Canadian provinces, contains over 100 names that have collectively failed to pay over $100 million.

In proceedings brought by a civil regulator such as ASC, a prison sentence is not an available penalty.  Instead, the convicted fraudster can be ordered to pay a hefty sum in disgorgement and/or penalties.  Unfortunately, oftentimes any available funds have long since been squandered by the fraudster, and the orders to pay have little effect other than a hollow victory.  These sums can be significant; the ASC handed down nearly $7 million in penalties in 2014 and nearly $6 million in 2013.  However, the ASC collected less than $250,000 in 2013 and approximately $2 million in 2014 - amounting to an average annual collection of less than 20% of the levied fines.  While the agency operated at a budget deficit in 2013 and 2014, a stronger recovery could have possibly vaulted the agency to a surplus.  

In a Recovery of Unpaid Orders page available on the ASC's website here, an alphabetical list denotes 136 individuals and entities - some listed twice - with unpaid or partially-paid violations.  The list does not include the actual amount owing - perhaps due to the potential upkeep required to constantly update the amounts as funds come in - but instead links to the decision imposing the fines.  The list is updated quarterly, with the incentive that the ASC will remove the names of those who fully satisfy their obligations.  According to the Financial Post, the list's collective obligations total over $100 million while regulators have collected less than $23 million.  

The move comes on the heels of a recent passage of legislation by Utah legislators creating a White Collar Crime Registry consisting of a database of individuals convicted of various white collar crimes.  Utah's database, modeled loosely off of the well-known registry used to identify convicted sex offenders, was conceived in an effort to combat an unusually high incidence of financial fraud occurring in Utah in what some attribute to the state's high Mormon population.  Under that law, a first-time offender would have their information included in the registry for ten years.