I call the meeting to order.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we'll continue our study of consumer protection and oversight in relation to schedule I banks.
Today, we have with us, as an individual, Sally Watson. Members have copies of her remarks, which have been translated.
Also as an individual, we have Mr. Elford, who has remarks, but they haven't been distributed to committee members because we don't have them translated yet.
On the phone, from the Small Investor Protection Association, we have Stan Buell. He'll say hello when he comes on.
We will start with Ms. Watson.
Welcome. I believe some members have told you what the procedure is. You'll make an opening statement and then we'll go back and forth with questions. The floor is yours.
I would like to thank the chair for providing me with this opportunity to speak on such an important matter.
I was first hired by the CIBC in 1974 as a teller in Hamilton, Ontario. I was there for one year before I accepted a position at Scotiabank in 1975, also as a teller.
Tellers were historically paid at a bit above minimum wage by all banks. Let it be clear that I only worked for these two banks, but I had so many acquaintances throughout the bank system that I can comfortably state that the practices we are discussing here were pervasive throughout all the major banks.
I was an excellent teller. I never had a single unresolved difference and my customers, who were also my neighbours, found me friendly and approachable. Eventually, I became the head teller, the commercial teller, and the bulk teller. I was then moved to the back office, as an accounting clerk. The bank justified paying back office staff less money because they had no customer contact, thereby making it a less stressful job.
For the first four years of my employment, I was classified as part-time, even though I worked 40 hours per week. At that time, the branch that I worked at was open for extended hours, which meant until 8 p.m. on Thursdays and 6 p.m. on Fridays. I started at 9 a.m. every day and worked all extended hours. No overtime was ever paid. There was no such thing.
We were given a supper allowance of $5. I received no benefits, as I was classified as part-time. After several years of attempting to be reclassified as full-time, I finally went to the federal labour board, who contacted my manager, and I was subsequently made full-time. I was never quite sure if it was worth it, as I was labelled a troublemaker from that point on.
It is often standard practice at all banks for the staff to “volunteer” to make RSP calls during the months of January and February. Anyone who didn't offer to stay after hours to make these calls faced having a note put in their personnel file stating that they were not a team player. Payment for making these calls three times a week until 8 p.m. was a slice of pizza, eaten at your desk, and a can of pop.
I remained working at the same branch for 20 years. At that time we were totally convinced that we owed the bank for giving us employment, and we were unlikely to ever get jobs anywhere else. I suppose it was almost a case of Stockholm Syndrome, in which you become convinced that your very existence relies on the people who control you.
I eventually transferred to the Ontario central accounting unit in downtown Hamilton to escape an abusive supervisor, and things began to improve. For one thing, there were no sales goals.
Sales goals were an insidious thing for all branch employees. The number of cross-sells, upsells, and referrals for large credit products that were required in order to get an acceptable rating on your annual performance report was staggering. It simply wasn't attainable in the course of normal working hours; hence, more unpaid overtime, but that's another story.
I congratulate the women who came forward from both the CIBC and Scotiabank and successfully pursued class action lawsuits that at least resulted in some of their colleagues getting the lost wages that they deserved. Sadly, hundreds of employees were not in those numbers of the defined class, and they were left behind and will likely never be compensated for all the hours they worked.
The pressure to achieve sales goals did more than coerce staff into working for nothing. It also urged them to sell products to customers that they had no need for. Raising credit card limits, urging people to take out car loans, RSP loans, open a line of credit, or be approved for overdraft protection were commonplace. The one that disturbed me the most was approving people for much larger mortgages than they could afford—anything to raise the profit of the bank, whether the consumer could afford the product or not.
I can clearly remember the day when my husband and I went to get a pre-approved mortgage from the bank so that we could go house hunting. I was appalled at the amount they were willing to lend us, even though we had understated my husband's income. I saw the big smile on his face. When we got outside, I gave him the bad news that we could actually only handle a mortgage half that size and that he would have to lower his expectations. I also told him that there were going to be a lot of rough times ahead for a lot of people who were overburdening themselves with huge mortgages they might not be able to handle. That was in 1999.
Thank you very much, sir. I'm grateful to this committee for allowing the opportunity for my voice to be heard.
I began working in the financial industry in Canada in 1984. By the 1990s, most of the investment firms in Canada had been purchased by the big banks. I worked inside those financial firms for 20 years and I participated in one of the first investment offices to be housed inside a Royal Bank branch at that time. I'm well versed in the sales practices and incentives for employees and the codes of conduct and regulatory systems.
Before I get into my presentation, I must first tell you why I believe this topic is of utmost importance to Canadians and could be important to listeners.
The reason I believe this topic is important is that systemic cheating and short-changing of Canadians by financial institutions costs Canada as much money as the cost of all criminal acts in the country combined. Those are criminal acts measured by the Government of Canada and Statistics Canada. If this belief of mine were found to be true, then the topic you are charged with hearing is far more important to Canada than we could ever imagine.
To begin, point number one is that nobody whom I knew in the financial industry went into that business with the intention to harm clients or to violate them financially. Point number two is, I know that I did not go into the financial industry in order to do financial harm to my clients, nor did I expect that to be the case.
I also know that I did not join a top Canadian financial institution with the understanding that they would require me to harm my clients financially in any way. I did not enter the field with the understanding that any bank would do harm to me as an employee if I refused to do harm to my clients financially, if I refused to step outside the rules, which required that I deal honestly, fairly, and in good faith with my clients. I did not expect to be harmed by my bank if I refused to do so.
Last, if I could get around the first two, I did not enter the financial industry in Canada to stand by silently while 70% or 80% of my sales associates made themselves richer by harming their clients financially.
All those things took place and take place today in the financial industry to make financial firms richer. They take place in secret and are invisible on the radar of all current attempts to regulate and protect Canadians from these harms.
I've worked in a bank branch environment; however, my background was on the investment industry side. Starting in the early 1990s, Canada's largest banks purchased 90% of the investment brokerage firms in the country. The banking industry thus also owns the largest portion of the investment industry in Canada. That is important, because my truck driver friend in Taber tells me that we're not talking about rich people; we're talking about every single person who works, saves, and hopes to invest to retire some day—every person in Canada.
When my firm was taken over, we had 1,000 investment sales persons. They were legally licensed as salespersons under the law up until 2009. The bank had between 12,000 and 15,000 account managers. I don't know what their licence was. That's a different area. What I've discovered is that the bank objective was to force those 12,000 to 15,000 account managers to step out of their old role of helping people and become licensed as salespersons and begin the process of pushing clients into bank investment products. The profits could soar if we could get all of our clients to go into bank investment products.
In 2007, the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management did pension studies led by Canada's foremost expert, Dr. Keith Ambachtsheer. They found that clever marketing and not necessarily good financial advice was gouging Canadians, not serving Canadians—and I'm talking about the gouge only—by $25 billion a year. That was in 2007. the $25 billion was the benefit to the dealers and the harm to investors at that time. His calculation was that 3.8% was how much more retail investors were paying for financial products than they needed to be paying when compared with professional investors or institutions.
If I update Dr. Ambachtsheer's numbers to 2017, I can easily estimate $40 billion to $50 billion per year in financial harm to investors. This number is from the abuse of market dominance that allows banks and their dealers to control the market to the extent that they can deceive and harm Canadians.
I repeat, I'm not talking about a fair fee, a 1% fee to manage money. I'm talking about an overcharge, or an excessive fee that clients know nothing about, so that they're getting added costs without added value.
This mutual funds example from the Rotman School of Management is only on one investment product, mutual funds, and is one marketing tactic out of hundreds. There are easily another dozen methods of harming Canadians that allow the financial harm to Canada to exceed the harm from all other crime in the land. A study on demonstrating that is under way, and the results so far support the premise.
Your first question as a committee might be, “But, Larry, shouldn't our regulators require Canadian financial institutions to deal with clients only in a manner that is fair, honest, and in good faith?” That's what they'll tell you next week when they come here, and the answer to that is obviously, yes, it should, but in practice, no, it doesn't.
A regulator should require financial institutions to deal fairly, honestly, and in good faith as is required by rules, the laws, and the codes of conduct of every industry member who will speak to you, but as I said, they don't. I have not yet met a regulator who was not picked and paid by the very financial institutions who pay the regulators salaries. The regulators have their hands on the wheel and are paid by the industry they are charged with policing. I repeat, they are paid by the industry they are charged with policing. As no one can serve two masters, they have a record of ignoring the public interest when their job security is at stake. Regulators' job security is every bit as much at stake as bank employees' job security can be, and regulatory employees thus face ethical double binds similar to those placed on bank or financial system employees.
Regulatory capture by paycheques that are only funded by those who are being regulated is a highly unskilful and suspect system. It is not professional. It almost seems designed to fail, and if it does, then it is a huge success to the industry by being a failure to Canadian investors.
Good afternoon. I will be brief.
SIPA, or the Small Investor Protection Association, is incorporated as a national non-profit organization. We are fortunate to have the support of many volunteers who devote their time and energy to our work as we try to raise awareness among Canadians.
Three decades ago I lost my life savings due to fraud and wrongdoing by a major financial institution. Like most Canadians, I trusted them to look after my best interests. The impact was devastating and life-altering. It was another 10 years before I suspected anything wrong was done. I investigated for six months. What I found was distressing. It was not unusual. It was commonplace. I found that my adviser had been disciplined and fined several times. I tracked down a half-dozen of his victims. All had received the same treatment. He had been doing the same things for 15 years.
One of his victims had died during the legal process. Who knows how many were victimized? When I spoke with his widow, Shirley, I knew I must do something to try to help other Canadians. She is the reason SIPA was founded in 1998. Shirley and her husband had operated a family business for 25 years. He contracted terminal cancer. The business and the house were sold, and the proceeds and all of their savings were placed in the care of this adviser. About $1 million in total she trusted to him. It seemed enough to support a senior widow. Three years later, she was called into their office to hear them explain that her money was gone. They were sorry, but they could do nothing.
Since founding SIPA, I've talked with many hundreds of victims. Their stories are all quite similar: lives are ruined, health is harmed, families are broken up, many talk of committing suicide, and some do.
The CBC Go Public TV and radio programs over the last two months have raised public awareness more than SIPA has been able to do in two decades. There's a new awareness that is building. Any government inquiry must talk to the victims to hear the truth.
It is not the bank teller upselling or being pushed to meet sales targets that is the major issue, but it is indicative of the culture and attitude of the financial institutions that extends to their financial advisers, who are motivated by sales targets and the need to generate commissions to satisfy the commission grid. The soothing words of codes of ethics and regulators' rules and guidelines do little to save Canadians from harm. Self-regulation in this industry does little to protect Canadian consumers. Rather, it adds to the deception that encourages Canadians to place their trust in the financial institutions.
SIPA has issued a series of reports that reveal some of the facets of strategic insidious deception. Members of the committee are urged to peruse some of these reports. However, it is most important that you talk with many witnesses—CBC's Go Public has heard from thousands—and then try to reconcile what you're hearing from the industry and what you hear from Canadian citizens.
Recognizing that there are provincial and federal regulatory jurisdictions, we believe it is essential that the Government of Canada establish a national consumer protection authority that will work with all the regulators, but have the power to order investigations and to pay restitution when it's found to be appropriate.
It's not great, because of this huge competitive thing. Everybody's trying to grab a new customer whenever they come in the door. You're forced to sell products to people.
You see the same customers every day, day in and day out. How many times can you sell that one person another product? You've just run out of things to sell them. When you do, you're in big trouble, because if you don't meet those sales goals of selling x number of accounts per month or per week, or sometimes even per day, you're in big trouble. You have things put in your file saying that you're not adequate, you're not up to the job, and you're not a team member. Eventually, when it comes time for your performance appraisal to be written, you get absolutely no raise. There is nothing. If you get no raise two or three times in a row, the next thing is the door.
It creates a lot of tension and a lot of pressure. In my very early bank days, when I worked for Scotiabank 40 years ago, I changed the coding on 100 bank accounts to be what they called Scotia 59er accounts. They were retirement accounts. They had extra perks for senior citizens. I got points for selling that account. All I did was go into the system and recode them all. It was something I felt I could do without feeling guilty, because it was a benefit to those people to have those accounts, but at the same time, I got points for selling all those new products.
That's the kind of thing I had to figure out, how to be able to this and still be able to sleep at night.
The problem I see is this sales culture is not what employees expect when they go to the bank. They feel they're providing a bank service that is good for clients, and I think most Canadians do trust the banks and financial institutions. However, the requirements of the positions have changed so it's more of a retail sales outlet.
I've not talked to a lot of bank employees, but I have talked to a lot of financial advisers, who would turn to me as a father confessor almost, because they were explaining how they had taken advantage of 75-year-old widows. They would list all the bad things they had done, but I have no record of that, just telephone conversations.
What I do know from talking to hundreds of people is that a culture exists where people are driven to create sales. They're paid on commission, so they do things to generate income because they have to feed their families. They're forced to do this, but it's against their human nature. That is what is happening with the tellers.
I have heard of people who have joined the bank and have been pushed to do things. For example, one young fellow suggested to his client that the client get a line of credit to pay off his credit card debt to get control over his finances. The next day he was called in by the manager and told he shouldn't do that because the bank made more money from credit cards than they did on lines of credit. This young man left the job and went to work at another organization.
Two years ago, TD caused all of their commission grid payout to be adjusted. If you were a salesman for TD Wealth Management, and you did not produce more than $2,000 a day in fees or commissions, your pay would be cut by 60%.
This is the kind of thing that happened in the last two years to every employee of the wealth management division. My recollection of the policy—and it's online or it's available; it's a public policy—is, “Okay, guys, you either produce over $2,000 a day...”. I'm paraphrasing. I think $400,000 was the annual fee or commission generation required to be at a certain level of payout. Anybody below that is old fruit. You're ready for the grave. “Your fees, your commissions are cut? Sorry, your payout is cut 60% from what it used to be.”
Just last year, two or three people I know in my community in Scotia were unceremoniously met at the office at 8 a.m. and told they no longer had jobs, because they were people who weren't producing a minimum of $500,000. That was the level across Canada. I don't know how many, but I'm told it was between 50 and 100 people across Canada at Scotia. Again, I don't have the details on this, except for knowing of the three individuals in my community who weren't producing $500,000 and were let go.
Yes, in many instances the fees are as opaque or as well hidden as is the licence of the person calling himself an adviser. In the time that I've been in the business, the licence has been kept behind the back of representatives. No one in the industry wants to tell you, “I'm a salesperson.” No one wants to disclose that. They say, “I'm a wealth manager. I'm a financial adviser. I'm a retirement specialist. I'm an elder estate planning specialist”, any name in the book to prevent them from having to say to you, “I'm sorry, but I'm just a salesperson, and I don't have to place your interests first.”
The concealment applies to the fees as well. There are any number of ways to double-charge a person, triple-charge a person, churn their account so that they pay a fee today, and then move their investment six months from now and they pay another fee.
The latest and the greatest trend in the banking and financial industry is to put all investment clients on an adviser account, with advisory fees, on which they pay 1% or 2% extra on every dollar, in every client account, every day, for the rest of their lives. That would take place whether or not they even have a licensed adviser, so it's a fairly large harvest.
In 2001 RBC's numbers included $35 billion under that process—a fee every day, in every account, for every dollar.
First of all, thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Buell, for participating over the phone.
I would like to explore that aspect of things, but not the vivid imagery, Mr. Elford. All of your testimony comes back to the notion that there is a lot of internal pressure to achieve certain sales targets at the risk of poor job evaluations or, in several cases, actual termination of employment.
I want to back this up now to another aspect. What is the effect of that pressure on you, either on the investment side or the teller's side? What is the effect on how you treat your customers? In other words, how do you achieve those targets through your customers? Do your customers understand what products they're buying or engaging with? Do they have informed consent or are there efforts to just get to that sale?
Thank you. It's a great question.
The clients don't know they're being harmed. The fees, commissions, and trailer fees, all those things, are not fairly and fully disclosed. Again, it's just like the licence I held when I was with the bank. During the entire time I worked at the bank—a period of 20 years—my licence, my agency duty, and my duty of care were not disclosed. If that's concealed, then of course the methods of concealment of fees, commissions, and charges are easily confusing. Clients don't know, and they're happy.
There's a difference between fraud and theft. In fraud, something has been taken from you; you don't know about it, and you're happy. In theft, something has been taken from you; you know about it, and you're sad. The types of deception that we are able to practise in the financial industry are a type of fraud that no one knows about.
In terms of the effects on the salespersons, the employees, they become stressed. They are put under pressure. They're told that they have to abuse their clients or be abused themselves by sales targets and those kinds of things.
That's where I'm trying to go. I understand in terms of the stress of the employees. Again, I'm trying to get down to how this plays out for ordinary Canadians who are clients of the bank.
Let me tell a story. One summer when I was 17 years old, I think, I couldn't find a summer job. It was late in the season so I went and joined a telephone service for a now-defunct Montreal newspaper. Boy, we had to sell, we just had to sell. We sold to people who didn't speak English or French and we got them
“abonnements”. I forget the word in English.
It's subscriptions. Thank you.
That wasn't informed consent. I kept that job for a couple of weeks.
Is it that same kind of high pressure tactics whereby Canadians, again, the clients of these banks, don't realize what they're getting? They're being sold products and services they don't need and have no benefit to them. As a matter of fact, it will cost them money.
The only codes of conduct that I recall—and I've put this in my talking points—while I was working at Scotiabank, where I worked for 33 years, is there was, one, a code of conduct pertaining to customer confidentiality. There was absolute adherence to that and if you didn't, you were fired, which was totally appropriate. There was a code of conduct pertaining to money laundering prevention rules. We had to sit down and watch videos every year and write tests. We were very well-versed in how to prevent money laundering. Also, there was a code of conduct about discrimination in the workplace. That was also very strict.
I remember no code of conduct whatsoever when it came to how you sold your products. There may have been one, but it was not something that I was ever made privy to in 33 years. I never had any training, never watched a video about it. We never had a meeting about it. You were simply given your goals and told to meet them.
To all three witnesses, I certainly thank you for your testimony. This is a very important study, and I appreciate your frank and honest responses.
I'm going to start first with Ms. Watson.
I was able to serve on a special committee for pay equity. One of the areas under examination was pay equity for women, but we also examined the federal labour standards in the federally regulated market. From our view of it, banks have really beefed up in the area around making sure people are properly compensated for any time and whatnot, and there are better mechanisms now, through implementation of a variety of new labour code standards.
I'm going to speak in general to all three, and then I'll be asking each one of you to voice in. Obviously in banking, there is more competition than ever. Customers, consumers, can go very quickly from a low-cost bank to a virtual bank. If they want to deal with mutual funds, they can choose their own self-directed options through a separate organization while still having the convenience of online banking. For a lot of people, the onus is on the banks to treat their customers...if they want to continue to keep them.
I certainly agree that there are going to be individual cases, for example, your mysterious Mastercard account. There are codes of conduct federally put in place on ensuring that there is consent and plain language used. I just want to delineate that I don't think there is anything wrong with a business offering an extra service to a client. When you go into a car dealership, they will often try to upsell you on a feature. It's up to the individual customer to decide. Where I do draw the line, though, is with behaviour like you mentioned, Ms. Watson, where things were unsolicited. By the same token, I think we need to examine the incentive systems and what effect they may have.
Right now, I've heard some concerns on how the FCAC is conducting an investigation, and I'm not going to prejudice that, but some would ask, whom do you hold accountable? Do you hold accountable the person in your role? Do you hold accountable the manager? Do you hold accountable the upper management, as in the CEO, for the systems of compensation that are put in place? Do you hold the directors of the company accountable for that?
One of the biggest challenges in my mind is that you may have one employee who has figured out a way to increase his or her incentive pay or other options, and that might not be complicit with the management or with the CEO or with the board of directors.
Let's just start there. If the system were to be improved on oversight, who would you say would be first accountable?
Welcome, everyone. Stan, welcome on the line.
I'll ask two questions, and then please feel free to answer in the manner you feel appropriate.
With regard to the FCAC, they have announced a full review of the business practices by the banks and federally regulated institutions, to be technically correct, and I would like to know what you would individually like to see come out of that review.
The second question is on financial literacy. November is financial literacy month in Canada. We have a member in our caucus who is championing this, and I applaud her efforts. We also have the Province of Ontario adopting, beginning in September 2018, a requirement for students to undertake financial literacy in high school. I want to hear your take on that, because I think there is an education process that needs to go on with consumers in terms of financial products, which I have felt for a long time has not occurred.
I'll give you an example. You can get into a mutual fund and you'll be charged an MER, or you can buy an exchange-traded fund. Most people don't know that an exchange-traded fund is much cheaper to own. Your returns will be compounded much quicker if you buy an exchange-traded fund from a financial institution versus a mutual fund.
On the financial literacy component, then, and also on the broad review that FCAC is undertaking, what are your comments? Will each individual please answer?
No, I don't know that I'm extremely familiar with what the FCAC is able to do.
In response to that, however, I have not seen anything, from 1984 to 2017, nor including Monday's testimony, that gives me confidence that the FCAC, to answer your previous question, even understands or addresses the point that there is a systemic issue that costs Canadians more than all the crime in the land.
Page 4 of my submission shows one example in which $100 billion was removed from investors' pockets in one case of a systemic issue. Out of 14,000 such cases that research has come up with, one case removes $100 billion. I don't see the FCAC even being aware of those kinds of systemic issues. I'm shocked.
Thank you, witnesses, for being here.
Mr. Buell, my question is for you.
I have actually read some of the reports on your association's website. I have in front of me the report, “Above the Law”, wherein the issue of financial advisor/adviser, an “o” or an “e”, came up.
My colleague and I asked questions about that with the FCAC. Granted, the FCAC doesn't regulate on the investment side. However, there was a comment made along the lines of—and I'm definitely paraphrasing because I don't have the exact testimony in front of me—regardless of the spelling of the word, if the employee is acting in a regulated way, so if they're selling some type of investment, regardless of their title, they fall under the regulation.
That is not what we've heard or read about in certain things. Do you have any comments on that?
If the rules and regulations were followed and if the codes of ethics were adhered to, I would not see much of a problem.
The problem I see is all that information is made available to the public, so they believe they can put their trust in these financial institutions. However, the reality is people are losing billions of dollars every year when they place their trust in these institutions. That is why I've recommended that the committee listen to some witnesses, and what I think should result is the committee should be making a recommendation to the government that they have a public inquiry and not just to listen to one or two or a half-dozen witnesses, but listen to hundreds.
I know from talking to thousands of people within the industry, within the regulators, and the public. I just talked to a 75-year-old gentleman who's learning to use the Internet, and now he's finding out information. He had a line of credit for $70,000 that he took out to help his son years ago. He went into the bank and said he didn't use the line of credit anymore, that he didn't need it anymore, and he wanted to cancel it because it's showing up on his home as an obligation. He has no mortgage on his house and he doesn't need the line of credit. He wanted to cancel it. The bank said okay, but there's a $200 fee to cancel that unused line of credit. That is unreasonable.
In addition to that, one of the questions or concerns I think about, even for myself or my family members, is someone going into a bank.... You might go to one of the larger banks, if you have access, but I know in some communities you don't, and that's where credit unions come into play.
When we're talking about banks specifically, there is a level of trust and protection that when you put your money in, relatively speaking, you're going to be able to get it out when you need it. The concern is that it's almost an unfair advantage in the sense of this trust around protection of funds, the insurance that your funds are going to be there.
For Canadians who maybe decide not to invest through a large bank, what protections do they have? I was doing some research and I know there's the Canadian Investor Protection Fund. However, it goes back to that literacy. How do Canadians really know what their options are or do they just feel that the banks are the only option and those fees are just part of doing business? If they want to be investors, even small-time investors, then those are the options they're left with.
Mr. Elford, this is something I'm grappling with. What would be the average Canadian experience for someone like yourself who might have dealt with clients and things like that? Is that a fair assumption that some Canadians would worry about?
I want to come back to something I asked on Monday about the concept of name and shame when banks are found guilty of anything and that the FCAC should name the bank at fault more often.
If I use the food sector as an example, the last thing you want is to be named as a bad company and to have to recall products, or if you're in the auto sector, you also don't want those kinds of things and your name being in the newspapers. Do you think one of the solutions would be a recommendation to be doing more investigations, being more thorough in those investigations, and at the end of the day, making sure that the banks that are not acting in the best interests of consumers are named, and people know who they are, and they can choose which banks they will do business with in light of these investigations?
Mr. Elford and Madam Watson.
This is a committee, not a commission, Sally.
I'm going to come back to Mr. Liepert's question.
I think one of the difficulties that some of us are grappling with is what we can really do at the end of the day. I think a little over a year ago the government tried to put consumer protection from a federal standpoint into, I believe, it was the budget—I forget which bill it was. They had to pull it back because, as I think you said, Mr. Elford, there are 13 different systems in the country, and did we have the constitutional authority to do that, so that's a dilemma.
I would ask all three of you, including Mr. Buell in P.E.I. as well, if we were to make a recommendation, do you have any suggestions on where the federal government should go on this matter?
I'll start with you, Mr. Buell.
As I said many years ago, I could not see a national regulator happening in Canada, and I still feel that way. I don't have the solution for it. I had hoped the government might be able to take action to protect Canadians in working with the established regulatory silos.
There's no quick solution, but I do think a public inquiry is in order. Right now, due to CBC's Go Public, Canadians have learned more about what's going on than they ever knew before. We're seeing in the feedback we get from the public that they are becoming more aware, and I believe government must act. It's not enough to rely upon the regulators saying, “We have codes of conduct and all these rules and regulations and we believe that investors should be protected.” It's not enough to say that. Actions speak louder than words, and you have had thousands of witnesses come forward. What you've heard from Sally today is very revealing.
I think the government must pursue this. I agree, you could have made your challenge. As I said before, I don't envy you, Wayne. You have an impossible task, but what the committee should do is make a very strong recommendation to government that we really do need a public inquiry.
The government needs to listen to some of the thousands of witnesses who have come forward. There is no doubt in my mind that most of them are telling the truth.
There is no doubt in my mind that the regulators are trying to whitewash the situation and put forward lots of fanciful words that really have no impact on protecting the Canadian public.
For those who are paying attention to this issue as well, I know there have been several requests to hear from more witnesses. When we started this hearing, we wanted to limit the hearing to three sets of days, and that is what is in the motion. For those who want to have their voices heard—and I know we've been getting some requests to the clerk and to the rest of us—if you go to the Standing Committee on Finance website, the information is there. The deadline for briefs is midnight this Friday night, June 9, and I can assure you that if you do submit your thoughts in your brief, they will be read, and we will assess those comments as well. I don't think we're going to go beyond the three days, but I encourage people to get their thoughts in by way of briefs by that deadline.
On Monday we will hear from six of the major schedule I banks, as well, and then the committee will have to take it from there.
I thank the witnesses, and I thank the committee members.
The meeting is adjourned.