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.