If you’ve suffered a financial loss because your investment advisor or firm acted improperly, you will likely ask, “How can I get my money back?”
First of all, it’s important you act promptly. There are time limits attached to all of the options available to you.
The first step in seeking compensation is to make a written complaint directly to your investment advisor and their firm. The firm must provide you with a substantive response to your claim within 90 days.
Still not satisfied?
Please go directly to OBSI or consider the other options outlined below.
You can contact OBSI at:
20 Queen Street West, Suite 2400
P.O. Box 8
Toronto, ON M5H 3R3
The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI)
OBSI is Canada’s free, independent service for resolving investment and banking disputes with participating firms.
CIRO requires all the investment firms it regulates to take part in the OBSI process.
If you’ve already formally complained to your investment firm and feel your complaint wasn’t resolved to your satisfaction, or you have not received a response within 90 days, you have up to 180 days from the time you receive the firm’s written response (or the 90 day period has passed without a response) to submit a complaint to OBSI.
Some firms may suggest you use their own internal complaint appeal process first, but it is your choice whether or not to participate in that process. It is voluntary.
It is important to know that if you choose to use a firm’s internal complaint appeal process, you will have less than 180 days to complain to OBSI as the 180 time limit begins to apply after the firm’s written response to you. You do not need to appeal the firm’s decision to their internal complaint appeal process before going to OBSI.
Your time limit for taking the complaint to court (the “limitation period”) will also continue during the internal complaint appeal process. When you complain to OBSI, the limitation period for suing the firm in court is typically suspended while OBSI reviews your complaint.
OBSI can recommend compensation up to $350,000 but its decisions are not legally binding. Many firms will compensate the complainant but some choose not to. In this case, OBSI will “name and shame” the firm by publishing their investigation report naming the firm and describing what happened. You will never be identified.
Going to Court
There is no limit to the amount of compensation you can claim. It is a good idea to get advice from a lawyer before pursuing legal action, as this can be an expensive option.
There is also a limitation period (i.e. statute of limitations) on legal action. This means there are legal time limits and you could run out of time to pursue some of your claims in court.
If you choose legal action, your provincial law society can help you find a lawyer. For a list of provincial law societies, go to www.flsc.ca.
Arbitration is a process where a qualified arbitrator – chosen in consultation with both you and the investment firm – hears both sides and makes a final, legally binding decision about your complaint. This option is available if your CIRO firm is an investment dealer.
The arbitrator acts as the judge in the proceedings and reviews facts presented by each side of the dispute. Either side can choose to be represented by a lawyer, though this is not required. Arbitrators can award up to $500,000.
There are costs to using arbitration, often less than the cost of going to court. The arbitration fees themselves are usually divided between the two parties. When you file your claim, you can decide whether to give the arbitrator the added power to award legal costs on top of any other award, in which case the unsuccessful party would pay the other party’s legal costs.
CIRO has designated two independent arbitration organizations:
Canadian Investment Regulatory Organization – Arbitrations
In Québec: Canadian Commercial Arbitration Centre
Canadian Commercial Arbitration Centre
|CHANNEL||TIME LIMIT TO COMPLAIN||AWARD LIMIT||COST||DECISION BINDING|
|OBSI||Yes||Up to $350,000||No||No|
|Arbitration||Yes||Up to $500,000||Yes||Yes|
|Québec / AMF||Yes|
None for conciliation and mediation services.
Up to $200,000 for losses related to fraud covered by the Fonds d’indemnisation des services financiers.
*It is important to understand the time limits of each option
If you live in Québec you can use the free services of the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF). The AMF can assist you throughout your complaint process. If you are dissatisfied with the firm’s processing of the complaint or the outcome, you can request the firm to have the complaint record examined by the AMF.
The AMF will assess the complaint and may offer conciliation and mediation services, though firms are not required to participate.
If you think you are a victim of fraud, fraudulent tactics or embezzlement, you can contact the AMF to see if you meet the eligibility to submit a claim to the Fonds d’indemnisation des services financiers (“Financial Services Compensation Fund”). Up to $200,000 can be payable through monies accumulated in the fund for an eligible claim.
For more information on the AMF:
Other Options if You Live in Manitoba, New Brunswick or Saskatchewan
Securities regulators in these provinces can, in certain cases, seek an order that a person or company that has broken provincial securities law pay compensation to a claimant. These orders are enforced similar to court judgments.
For more information, contact:
Manitoba Securities Commission
New Brunswick Financial and Consumer Services Commission
Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority of Saskatchewan
Other Legal Assistance
Investor Protection Clinics
The Investor Protection Clinics at Osgoode Hall Law School and University of Toronto Faculty of Law provide free legal advice to investors across Canada who cannot afford a lawyer and who believe their investments were mishandled.
For more information, visit the Investor Protection Clinics at:
The Osgoode Hall Law School Investor Protection Clinic released a video series for more information on the following topics: