You ASC'd Blog
We’ve created this blog to present you with answers to some of the more common questions we receive from investors. We'll have different subject matter experts blogging about what they know best and we'll update it as new blog topics arise. We hope you'll find it interesting and helpful.
Investment opportunities can be as unique as individuals. Indeed, what’s perfect for one person may not work at all for another. There are different types of investments available, and numerous individuals and firms offering them. Each will offer different opportunities, have different characteristics that make them unique. It’s important to find the one that is right for you, and to check first before choosing to work with any financial professional or firm.* Once you have, however, some rights that you have as an investor are consistent across Canada. We’re listing them today in honour of World Consumer Rights Day.
*Not all investments must be sold by an individual or firm registered under the Securities Act (Alberta) - for example, segregated funds or GICs. However, generally anyone, regardless of what title they use, who is in the business of selling or advising on an investment that is a security (for example a mutual fund, share, stock, bond) must be registered under the Securities Act (Alberta)), and for the purposes of this blog, we are referring to individuals and firms who are registered.
Know your rights:
When opening a new investment account – A financial professional is required to provide a description of the following: the type of account you are opening; the services offered (not all registered firms and individuals can offer all types of services or products); the risks you should consider when making an investment decision; any potential conflicts of interest; the types of charges you will pay in relation to your account; any compensation paid to them by third parties in relation to your account; and the content and frequency of reporting you will receive in relation to your account. This information must be provided to you before you are provided with any services. If, at any time during which you hold the account, this information changes, the financial professional must provide you with notice of any applicable changes.
When making a transaction – With certain types of accounts, the following information must be disclosed to you even before a security can be bought or sold on your behalf: any charges you will have to pay for the purchase or sale; whether or not you will be required to pay a deferred sales charge on any subsequent sale of the security and the fees that will apply; and whether the financial professional will receive any trailing commissions for the transaction. With certain types of securities, including mutual funds, investors have up to 48 hours after agreeing to a purchase to change their minds and cancel the transaction. (Note that this is not applicable to all investment transactions, particularly those on an exchange.)
On an ongoing basis – In addition to account statements and trade confirmations, many financial professionals are required to provide you an Investment Performance Report and an Annual Charges and Compensation Report on a yearly basis. The Investment Performance Report should list the market value of your investments as at the beginning and end of the 12-month period covered by the report; a summary of the change in value of your account; and the rates of return of your account over time. The Annual Charges and Compensation Report should list the compensation that the financial professional received directly and indirectly in relation to you account. This includes charges that you paid directly to them and compensation that they received from third parties.
When investing in a mutual fund – There is a document that is specific to mutual funds that must be provided to all potential investors. Known as “Fund Facts,” it lists: the costs of buying, owning and selling the fund; sales charge information (illustrating the differences if multiple series of the fund exist); fund expenses (investors don’t pay these directly, but they affect you because they reduce the fund’s returns); any other fee information; and other information about the fund including who to contact, and how to get a copy of the simplified prospectus or other disclosure documents about the fund.
Remember, it’s our job at the Alberta Securities Commission to regulate people and companies offering investments – so contact our Public Inquiries Office toll-free at 1-877-355-0585 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org with concerns you may have about an investment you’re considering. If you have a consumer issue or question that is not investment-related, it would be best directed to the Government of Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs.
CSA Tools for the Client-Adviser Relationship
Another jam-packed Fraud Prevention Month is upon us, with a focus this year on improving Albertans’ financial literacy as a means to help them avoid investment scams.
Early this month we released the results of on online survey we commissioned that uncovered some of the negative and uncomfortable feelings that Albertans have related to their finances. In fact, when asked Albertans how they would rate being tested on their financial literacy to other common fears, their view is that it’s comparable to swimming with sharks or presenting in front of a large audience. These are big fears!
That’s why during the month of March we’re encouraging Albertans to increase their financial literacy. We’re doing so via an online campaign that demonstrates that learning about ‘The F-Word’ – in this case, finances – does not have to be a negative experience. We’re encouraging Albertans to visit our newly re-launched consumer website, CheckFirst.ca, which hosts a series of Investor 101 videos as well as other free tools to learn about investing. These resources can help Albertans arm themselves against investment scams by learning key financial concepts and becoming aware of some of the red flags of investment fraud. As a way to test what Albertans have learned through the month, on March 28 we’ll be hosting a Facebook live video event with financial expert Kelley Keehn.
Our investor education team will also be popping up at tradeshows in Calgary and Edmonton to serve coffee and investor education tips to show-goers. We’ll be connecting with Albertans at the Edmonton Boat and Sportsman show from March 15 – 18 and the Calgary Outdoor Adventure show from March 24 -25 to chat about the importance of researching and checking registration before investing.
What’s new on Checkfirst.ca?
We’ve have an updated Investor Protection section, with information to help Albertans learn ways to recognize and avoid investment fraud. You’ll also find an Emerging Trends section, which includes information on topics such as cryptocurrencies and crowdfunding.
To support investor protection, we’ve also added a Financial Literacy section to help visitors learn key investing concepts (and more) to help them make safe and suitable investment decisions.
Our Educational Videos section includes brand new financial literacy videos featuring personal finance expert Kelley Keehn, as well as other informative videos.
We’ve also added a helpful Tools & Calculators section, which includes quizzes, calculators and worksheets to help with financial planning and test your investment knowledge.
Be sure to visit the new and improved checkfirst.ca to discover all that we have to offer to help Albertans make suitable and informed investment decisions, and improve their financial literacy.
2017 was an eventful year in the financial markets, both worldwide and closer to home here in Alberta. While we were dealing with the ongoing economic slump in the oil and gas industry, there were also emerging industries and currencies, political events and natural disasters affecting markets worldwide. We covered a lot of subject matter on our blog in 2017, and had intended to showcase our top five posts. However there was a tie for the fifth and sixth most popular posts, so without further ado — our six most popular You ASC’d blog posts of 2017:
In a tie for fifth/sixth most popular blog posts last year were: Get curious about investing - #ASKASC
This post kicked off our Investor Education Month contest, where individuals were invited to submit their questions about investing and financial literacy. This was a win-win for everyone involved, as we used the questions to help build an FAQ library for our Checkfirst.ca page, participants got their questions answered, and one lucky winner received a smartwatch! To stay up to date on future ASC contest and investor education initiatives, keep reading You ASC’d and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
And: “Mindful” investing — How are we impacted by investment fraud?
This post, in honour of Mental Health Week, explores the impact that being a victim of investment fraud can have on one’s psychological well-being. The importance of protecting yourself from investment fraud, and seeking help if you have been victimized, is highlighted by the story of an Alberta man who became a victim of binary options fraud.
The fourth: Investing risks in the marijuana industry
With the federal government intending to legalize marijuana, it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of interest in the industry as a potential investment. In this blog, we highlight some particular considerations for those who are interested in this new industry.
The third: Alberta seniors — tips to protect your nest egg
One of a series of posts for seniors in honour of June events such as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and Grandparents Day, we highlighted tips that, although useful for anyone, are particular applicable to those in or approaching their retirement years.
The second: Lights, camera, fraud! Shining a spotlight on famous investment scams
This post, inspired by the 18th annual Calgary International Film Festival, highlighted two of the most famous frauds of all time — the original Ponzi scheme from which that type of fraud takes its name, and Bre-X Minerals, which, although it started in Alberta, received worldwide attention and was recently used as inspiration for a major motion picture.
And (drumroll please!)….the most popular YouASC’d blog post of the year is:.
Briefing you on bitcoin
Considering that cryptocurrency captured many headlines in financial news in 2017, it’s no surprise that our most popular post this year explained bitcoin. While new developments are ongoing with regards to cryptocurrencies and their regulation, this post offers a good primer including what bitcoin is, and what some of the risks surrounding it are.
There you have it – our top six most popular blog posts of 2017!
While we consider a number of factors when deciding which topics we blog about, from what’s in the news to what initiatives we have on the go, we are always open to hearing what questions you want answered. If you have a topic you’d like to see us blog about, let us know via social media or reach out our via our public inquiries office — we’re here and we’re listening.
Happy New Year –here’s to a well-informed and financially healthy 2018!
ASC Investor Alerts
1. Set a budget and stick to it. December can be a more expensive month than others, due to the holidays and the festivities that come with them. Before you start your holiday spending, create a budget so you know how much you have to spend. And remember, gifts aren’t the only additional item on your budget in December. In addition to gift buying, make sure to budget for other holiday expenditures, such as taxi fares, any travel expenses and that new outfit for the holiday party.
2. Before buying, do your research. As with investments, do your research before buying gifts. Make sure to compare prices between retailers and look for coupons so you don’t overpay. Stay in-the-know about retailer’s sales by subscribing to their email lists or following them on social media.
3. Don’t let feelings of goodwill get the best of you. Scam artists will prey on feelings of goodwill and generosity during the holiday season by encouraging potential victims to donate money to a phony charity or cause. On the flip side, many legitimate charities do require increased generosity from donors during December, so how do you tell which is which? If you’re inclined to donate, be cautious and check out the organization you’re considering before you do. Find out here if a charity is registered in Canada to help you with your donation decisions.
4. Be wary of online shopping. As soon as Cyber Monday hits, the internet is full of holiday sales, enticing consumers with unbelievable deals. While many of these online deals are from legitimate retailers, scam artists may also be luring you onto a spoofed website that is fake. Be sure to check the authenticity of a website before putting your personal information at risk. Learn more about shopping safely online here.
5. If you overspend, tweak your budget to keep it balanced. If you find yourself overspending on the holidays in December, consider cutting back on discretionary items such as lunch at the sandwich shop or paying for parking – make your meals at home and take transit instead. The holidays are also a great time to pick up part-time seasonal employment if you are in need of extra cash.
RCMP Scams and Fraud
Government of Canada,
Get Cyber Safe
CRA Charities Listings
Our team of gurus has been busy over the last month answering the great investing questions Albertans had during our #ASKASC contest. We received over 150 questions on Twitter and Facebook!
Many participants had questions about how to start investing, spotting investment scams, new and developing securities regulations in Alberta and RESPs, TSFAs and RRSP’s. Increasing your financial literacy and educating yourself about investing concepts, whether basic or advanced, is an important step to take towards becoming a more informed, mindful investor.
Congratulations to Tristan Davies, our #ASKASC contest winner who walked away with a brand new smartwatch ! Tristan’s winning question, “What's a good way to teach children about money and investing for their future, including post-secondary?” exemplified the spirit of this contest and our desire to continuously enhance investor knowledge in current and future generations. Check out the answer here.
Thank you to all of the Albertans who participated! Your input helped us develop a robust Q&A page that will help many Albertans educate themselves about investing. Check out the CheckFirst Q&A page, jointly curated by all of our participants of the #ASKASC contest.
Remember, even though the contest is over, our team of experts at the ASC is always available to answer your investing related questions.
Emerging markets like the commercial marijuana industry often attract investors looking to capitalize on a new sector; however, investing in U.S. marijuana companies may expose investors to risk. As business models and laws continue to evolve there is a large amount of uncertainty in this emerging sector, leading to a number of risks that could negatively impact investors.
While all investments come with a certain amount of risk, investment in the marijuana industry exposes investors to different types of risk that can impact their potential return. Some common risks include:
No guarantee of success
Despite the rapidly growing number of companies in the marijuana sector, there remains no guarantee that their businesses are profitable or will be in the future. Many marijuana companies are speculating about their success on future distribution; however, many rules and regulations about distribution and sales are still being established.
Government and legal considerations
Many jurisdictions in which marijuana laws are being considered have yet to establish a framework for how and where products can be sold. There may be restrictions on stores that are permitted to sell marijuana, as well as rules about advertising which could impact a company’s ability to make a profit, thereby reducing the value of the investment.
While the sale and distribution of marijuana is authorized in certain states, it is currently illegal under U.S. federal law. Although this federal law it is not strictly enforced currently, authorities in the U.S. could choose to enforce it at any time, putting the company at risk of prosecution and seizure of assets. Investing in a company that does business in a place where the regulatory and legal frameworks are unclear, or inconsistent, puts investors’ money at risk.
Pricing and taxation
Government-mandated pricing and taxation on marijuana products may also pose a risk to the success of a marijuana company. Marijuana products, especially those intended for recreational use, should be priced below their black market value in order to attract consumers. If the government prices marijuana products too high, or if black market dealers undercut prices of products available in stores, the companies growing and selling the products may not be able to sell enough product to make a profit.
Inflated share prices
The marijuana industry has generated a great deal of interest among investors with the expectation of quick growth. However, these investments can be highly speculative and based upon expectations of future success, rather than current performance. Investors risk paying an inflated price for an investment that may not increase in value.
High operating costs and share dilution
The costs of developing and operating a commercial marijuana company can be considerable as it requires specialized, large-scale facilities and enormous amounts of power and capital to operate. As these high operating costs begin to accumulate, companies may choose to raise capital by issuing additional shares. This issuance comes at the expense of current investors whose percentage ownership decreases proportionally to the number of shares issued, leading to a decrease in investment value.
Before investing in a marijuana company, investors should research the investment opportunity, evaluate the risks, and consider how the investment will meet their financial goals. For more information on investing in U.S. marijuana companies, please visit a recent article published by the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC).
Wondering how to properly research an investment opportunity? Or what the difference is between a TFSA and an RRSP? Chances are, if you have these questions about investing, someone else does too. Here’s another question, have you ever searched a Q&A page on a website and couldn’t find what you were looking for? On CheckFirst.ca, we’re building our Q&A page using real questions from real Albertans with responses from our team of subject matter experts at the ASC.
To encourage all of your questions and help get us started, we’ve developed our #ASKASC campaign and contest, here’s how it works:
From October 3 to 31, post your investing questions to our wall on Facebook or Twitter tag us @ASCUpdates and include the hashtag #ASKASC.
Once your question has been submitted, our team of gurus will start working on the response and you will be automatically entered into a draw to win a smartwatch! We’ll also be sure to notify you once your question has been answered and where you can find it on Checkfirst.ca. It’s simple – just #ASKASC all of your investing questions and take this opportunity to increase your investor knowledge and help other Albertans do the same.
Before you post, make sure your question is eligible. We can only help with general questions about investing and we can’t provide investment advice. Below are some examples of eligible questions:
1. If I invest in a fraudulent company, can I get my money back?
2. What rights do I have as a shareholder?
3. What is insider trading?
4. Where can I find information about a company I want to invest in?
And here are a few examples of questions we can’t answer:
1. Should I invest in XYZ Company?
2. Can you tell me if and when XYZ Company is going to launch an IPO?
3. Can you recommend any good financial advisers in my area?
Thank you for helping us help Albertans increase their investor education. We’re looking forward to answering your questions!
For full contest rules and regulations, click here.
#ASCASC Landing Page
The 18th annual Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) opens next week, and is the largest film festival in Alberta. CIFF showcases approximately 200 short films over 12 days hosted at locations throughout the city. In the spirit of CIFF, we’re shining the spotlight on some of the most famous investment frauds in history.
You may recognize the names – Ponzi and Bre-X - but are you familiar with the frauds that led to their fame?
Charles Ponzi, The Securities Exchange Company
If this character’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he operated one of the most notorious Ponzi schemes ever - in 1919. While he did not actually invent the concept of the Ponzi scheme, his scam was so large and successful that it drew national attention to that type of fraud, for the very first time.
Ponzis’ scheme, which was initially legitimate, involved international reply coupons. These were vouchers individuals could purchase to include with their overseas mail to cover the cost of the return postage required by the recipient to reply back. Ponzi would purchase these coupons in other countries where postage was cheaper and then sell them in the United States at a profit.
His “business” turned into an investment fraud when he expanded the scheme and began to recruit people to invest, claiming their investments would fund the purchase of more international reply coupons. Now operating under the name Securities Exchange Company, he would lure investors in with promised returns of 50 to 90 per cent in only 90 days. Inevitably attracted to such a lucrative offer, investors flocked, providing Ponzi with enough new business that he could pay existing investors with the new funds, while also pocketing millions of dollars for himself.
Ponzi’s scheme was discovered and exposed in 1920 when speculations about him and his business made front-page news in the Boston Post and he was subsequently investigated. Ponzi was charged with 86 counts of mail fraud; he pled guilty and spent 14 years in prison. In total, he defrauded investors of roughly $20 million.
John Felderhof, Bre-X Minerals Ltd.
The recent film Gold (2017) starring Matthew McConaughey dramatized true events from the Bre-X Minerals Ltd. scam that took place in 1997.
Bre-X was a junior exploration company based in Calgary, Alberta. Originally a penny stock when it was first listed on the Alberta Stock Exchange in 1989, the company was eventually valued at $6 billion at its peak in 1996. Unfortunately, this valuation was based on a series of falsified samples that made it appear as if the Bre-X site in Busang, Indonesia held one of the biggest deposits of gold ever reported.
When David Walsh, the founder of Bre-X, wanted to revive the company in 1993 he contacted his colleague and well-known geologist John Felderhof. Felderhof recommended mining in Busang, an isolated piece of rainforest on the Island of Borneo, Indonesia. Convinced the site was a rich, untapped gold mine, he assembled a team of geologists to explore the property. One of them, Michael de Guzman, engaged in salting the initial core samples using gold from his wedding band. He continued to shave gold from different sources into the samples for over two years, while Walsh wildly promoted the Bre-X stock.
The fraud unravelled quickly when an independent consultant tested the samples and found the gold estimates were exaggerated. Around the same time in 1997, de Guzman fell to his death from a helicopter flying over the Indonesian jungle. The stock plunged, investors lost hundreds of millions of dollars and Felderhof (the only perpetrator still alive) was charged with eight counts of violating the Ontario Securities Act, including allegations of insider trading and misleading investors. After a lengthy trial, he was acquitted of all charges. Even after his death in 1998, there continues to be great uncertainty surrounding Walsh’s involvement and potential knowledge of the scam. To this day, no one has been convicted, fined or claimed responsibility for the fraud.
Bre-X: The real story and scandal that inspired the movie Gold
How Stuff Works – Charles Ponzi
You ASC’d – Ponzi Schemes
There are many events to attend in Alberta this season, ranging from football games to music festivals and horse-jumping and more. One thing they all have in common (aside from being fun to attend) is that they accept advertising and/or sponsorships from companies in order to finance their events.
Companies purchase advertising for many reasons, including attracting new customers and even new investors. We often talk about victims of investment fraud being approached by phone or online, but victims have been introduced to fraudulent investment opportunities at Alberta events in the past, through solicitation and advertising/sponsorship. It’s important not to give a potential investment more legitimacy than it deserves just because it is associated with an event you enjoy.
Things to remember to avoid getting scammed:
Don’t assume anything – The organizers of a music festival are focused on stage setup - they aren’t required to know securities laws. In an ideal world, the group hosting an event would investigate the business practices of companies before accepting sponsorship from them, but in reality, that’s generally not the case. Don’t assume that just because a legitimate event accepts advertising or sponsorship from a company that the company doing the advertising is legitimate. Even if they are, investing with them may or may not be the right choice for you.
A company that supports the same events you do does not necessarily share your values – It’s great to support and invest in businesses that participate in your community, but just because a company supports a sport or event you believe in does not mean that company exhibits good values. Also, don’t buy into the belief that all scams are big, cosmopolitan endeavours. Frauds can be small and local, so be aware that even events and individuals in small communities can pose a risk. In particular, affinity fraud is a type of scam that deliberately looks to infiltrate tight-knit communities or groups.
Meeting someone in person doesn’t ensure they’re trustworthy – Often, sponsors and advertisers will be in attendance at events. For instance, a company that sponsors a beer garden at an event may have representatives in the tent to talk to those in attendance. If you attend such an event and meet someone offering an investment, that’s not sufficient knowledge to decide to hand over your money. Be sure to do your own research on the person or company, starting with checking to see if they are actually registered to sell investments, and if they’ve had disciplinary action taken against them in the past.
Remember, it’s our job at the Alberta Securities Commission to regulate people and companies offering investments – so contact our Public Inquiries Office toll-free at 1-877-355-0585 or via email at email@example.com with questions you may have about an investment you’re considering. In an interesting coincidence, we share our ‘ASC’ moniker with the Advertising Standards Council – you can direct advertising questions that are not investment-related there.
Check out a Potential Investment