Mr. Speaker, I want to put a few points on the record in regard to Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code in relation to capital markets fraud, and to enable the authorities to investigate, prosecute and imprison for wrongdoing.
A short time ago I was talking about an article I happened to be reading in the latest edition of Business Week. The bill is in response to what has happened in the United States and, to a lesser degree, obviously, to what has happened in Canada.
The United States congress, which is the equivalent of our Parliament, recently passed a bill called the Sarbanes-Oxley act of 2002 that will tighten up the criminal code in relation to some of the wrongdoings in the business world, and in the investment world in particular.
One of the famous cases, which I am sure everyone has heard about, was Kozlowski of Tyco International, an individual who was reported to have stolen $170 million from the company he represented as chief executive officer. In addition to that, there were unauthorized loans and bonuses to fraud investors of that company of another $430 million. The trial is underway in Manhattan as we speak.
That is not the only case. There have been many. We have all heard of the Enron scandal where individuals cooked the books and used accounting deceptions and procedures to make it appear as though the company was making money instead of losing money. As a result of that, companies like Enron and WorldCom have gone broke and the employees and shareholders have been left penniless, with the exception of the chief executive officers of those companies. Some of those trials are still ongoing and we have yet to know what the outcome of those will be.
The most famous example of alleged wrongdoing in the marketplace is Martha Stewart. The article I was reading from the latest edition of Business Week talks about some of the improprieties that might have been conducted by Martha Stewart and her company in terms of insider trading.
I only have to remind the House of when the bubble burst for Dotcom and how some of the investment companies themselves worked the system to drive up the initial price offerings of companies, only to cash in the initial offerings that they received at brokerage houses. It was discovered there were no earnings behind those inflated prices, no history of earning money and no potential to earn money. As a result of that a lot of people suffered needlessly. Innocent investors suffered. You and I know some of those people, Madam Speaker. They are our friends and neighbours who were, the term which is often used is not very sophisticated, sucked into that type of investment thinking they were good investments but which were not good investments.
The bill before us now would attempt to crack down on some of that illegal activity. It would increase the maximum sentences for existing fraud offences, establish a list of aggravating factors to aid the courts in sentencing, allow the courts to issue production orders to obtain data and documents from persons not under investigation and establish concurrent federal jurisdiction to prosecute certain capital market fraud cases. That is where the act would have to work in conjunction with the provinces, which would have the lead in any of those prosecutions because of the jurisdiction the provinces enjoy in these areas.
One point I briefly touched on was insider trader. This is where people within the industry provide information to allow their friends to buy shares at a particular price, knowing full well the price will be driven up by a certain announcement, an approval or whatever.
Bill C-46 creates a new criminal offence of insider trading. It is already illegal. It would create a new criminal offence with harsher penalties. This is a topic that members have heard me speak to time and time again in the House.
In fact I have a bill before the House now, Bill C-241, entitled the whistleblower's bill. It would provide whistleblowers within the public service a level of protection. When they see something wrong within government, public servants can in fact blow the whistle. In other words, they can report that wrongdoing knowing full well that their jobs will be protected. They will not be run out of the government or dismissed from the government or treated unfairly in any way for uncovering wrongdoing.
One thing Bill C-46 would do is provide whistleblowing protection to employees who expose wrongdoing under federal or provincial law. A new criminal offence of employment related threats or retaliation would carry a maximum term of five years. In other words, people within the corporate structure could in fact be prosecuted under criminal law for subjecting their employees to that type of harassment or punishment simply because they were reporting wrongdoing. I think that would allow many more people to come forward when they see that happening within capital markets or within investment houses.
One of the best examples of that I believe was with one of the top executives of Merrill Lynch. Knowing full well what was going on within Enron, he was very reluctant to classify Enron as a good buy in the investment market. He was punished by his own company. He was ostracized and humiliated. Eventually he had to leave the corporation simply because he was telling the truth. This type of legislation would protect individuals like him.
The current maximum sentence for fraud and fraud affecting the public market would rise from 10 years to 14 years. The sentences would be stiffened up. The maximum term for fraudulent manipulation of stock exchange transactions would rise to ten years from five years.
The other component of Bill C-46, which I never thought of myself until going through this legislation and understanding some of the work the committee did and how it actually arrived at this specific component, is it adds a list of specific aggravating factors that would result in harsher penalties, such as the extent of economic damage caused or the impact on market stability.
Again, if we look at Enron, it is the biggest corporate collapse in the history of the United States. The penalty for that would be much more severe because a lot of hardship was imposed on an awful lot of people, not only its employees but individual investors who had put their entire life savings into some of Enron's stock. They wreaked havoc on the lives of a lot of people, including some of their employees. Those types of aggravating factors would be considered when sentencing was handed out.
A person's reputation and status in the community or workplace can no longer be considered as a mitigating factor in lower penalties in cases where those who commit capital markets fraud rely on those very factors to carry out their crimes. Let us take the example of Martha Stewart. I hate to pick on her. I am not sure that is fair.
However, we could argue that Ms. Stewart has done some good in the community, even though we do not see all of it. No one would argue that in terms of donations or sponsoring specific groups. What now will happen is her profile in the community will no longer be considered a factor in terms of the sentencing. In other words, all the good we do will not be part of the sentencing. We will be treated as harshly as the next person, despite some of the public good we may have done.
If we look at the Enron case, that was the defence some of the executives used; look at the public good and how well they had behaved themselves in the community in terms of charitable donations, et cetera. This would discourage that. In other words, it really boils down to the fact that they can not hide under that cover. They would be sentenced on the severity of the offence they perpetrated and could not hide under the cover of a public name or having done public good in the past.
We support the bill and hope that it can be strengthened as we go along. Normally this would be left up to our justice critic to debate this but our justice critic now just happens to be our party leader. I am not sure where it is in terms of parliamentary committee.
I do know the Senate banking committee spent about a year looking at the bill. During its study, it examined other jurisdictions like the United States. The U.S. Congress passed a bill, which mentioned earlier, about a year ago now. Some of the things that were recommended are not in this bill, and I just want to put those on the record.
There are obviously a lot of good things in the bill, but some things have been left out and here are just a few of them.
Code of ethics--