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Originally published: February 11, 2021
Wendy Berman was appointed in June 2020 as one of two Vice-Chairs at the OSC. The Investor Office recently sat down with Wendy to talk about her background, her role at the OSC, and her priorities as Vice-Chair.
I practiced as a litigator and have over 28 years of experience in securities regulatory matters. I’m currently on sabbatical from the law firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, where I am a partner and served as Chair of the Securities Litigation Group and White Collar Crime & Regulatory Response Group.
Early in my career, I represented investors trying to recoup investment losses from negligence, fraud, and mishandling. I also worked as outside legal counsel for the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) prosecuting enforcement matters, as in those days, the OSC did not have a full-fledged, in-house enforcement counsel group. And after some time, I switched to the private sector to work on complex commercial and securities-related litigation cases, class action proceedings and in litigation relating to proxy contests, takeover bids and other mergers and acquisitions.
In my personal life, I have four children and two dogs including a recent “COVID puppy.” I come from a family of five children and being the third of five, I sometimes joke that I was destined to become a litigator so I would have a forum to speak and an opportunity to be heard.
On the role of Vice-Chair…
Serving in the public interest is what attracted me to this role. The OSC’s mandate which includes investor protection and fostering fair and efficient capital markets, and confidence in those markets continues to be very important to the welfare of Ontarians, especially given the challenging times that we find ourselves in. We’re dealing with a global pandemic, and political uncertainty in some parts of the world. It is an important time for maintaining stability, managing systemic risks in the capital markets and ensuring investor safety and resilience.
As Vice-Chair, I act as an executive sponsor for various projects including the development of securities policy and rules. I really enjoy this aspect of the role, as I am a bridge between the Commission and management on particular projects and I work with management to ensure timely advancement of specific policy projects. It is a tremendous opportunity to work closely with Staff, to participate in the analysis and study of potential changes to the regulatory regime to better address the needs and challenges facing the capital markets, investors and other capital markets stakeholders. If it’s a matter that would benefit from harmonization across the country, then I will assist in advocating for that harmonization with other securities regulators.
Financial stability is key, no matter the length of the pandemic. In addition to the health and general welfare of Canadians as well as people around the world, ensuring financial resilience will be critical. And, so I think, there’s going to be a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure continued confidence and stability in the capital markets, and it will be very interesting.
On priorities as Vice-Chair…
Investor confidence, investor resilience and investor protection are key pillars during these times of crisis.
One of my priorities is to support the Chair and OSC staff in addressing the challenges to investors brought about by the pandemic. I think that given those challenges, there is increased importance for timely action, collaboration and coordination – not just within the OSC but across Canada’s financial sector regulators.
Protecting investors against financial scams and ensuring that investors have the information they need to make informed investment decisions are also priorities. And part of this, for example, is the quality of disclosure related to the impacts from the pandemic on risks for a public company or its outlook.
I also think the enhancements to our regulatory regime for protecting vulnerable investors, not only during the pandemic, are very important. We are an aging population and there are potential issues in the system that should be addressed.
On the OSC and CSA’s work…
I am pleased by how frequently and fully the OSC’s branches collaborate together. Since being appointed in June 2020, I’ve worked closely with staff from the Corporate Finance Branch, Compliance & Registrant Regulation Branch, Investor Office and other groups. I am impressed by their caliber, dedication and professionalism.
The OSC’s work on investor education and outreach is incredibly important, especially during these difficult times as many people in Ontario face financial pressures and uncertainty.
On a national level, I’ve also seen incredible level of national collaboration through the work of the Canadian Securities Administrators, the council of the securities regulators of Canada’s provinces and territories. There is respect and collegiality, and we’re always looking to find ways to get to a harmonized solution. And, I think that is very good for Canada’s capital markets, investors and financial growth for the country as a whole.
Any final thoughts?
I had very hardworking parents. My father had only an elementary school education, but he really emphasized to me and my siblings the importance of having an inquisitive mind and pursuing higher education. My parents also taught us the importance of hard work, community and integrity. My father used to tell me, “Trust is something that is very hard to build, but very easy to break.” So, I’d like to think that those are values that continue to guide me today.
Latest investor and consumer information related to the impact of COVID-19: GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca/COVID-19
Latest developments on the impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s capital markets: https://www.osc.gov.on.ca/en/covid-19-update.htm