Canada’s financial consumer watchdog facing leadership limbo

Canada’s financial consumer watchdog facing leadership limbo

June 11, 2019 Off By administrator

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada appears to be without a leader despite a year-long search by the federal government for a replacement for the regulator’s outgoing commissioner.

Lucie Tedesco’s term at the helm of the FCAC — already extended twice past its original September 2018 expiry date — ended June 3.

Ottawa began seeking applications for the commissioner’s job last June as Tedesco’s initial five-year term drew nearer to its close. A link on the FCAC’s webpage to the posting for the now-vacant position was still up Tuesday, offering applicants a salary of $242,700 to $285,500 a year.

The position of deputy commissioner, which the commissioner generally fills, is also vacant.

An FCAC spokesperson said that, during the “period of vacancy in the Commissioner’s office,” an assistant commissioner is authorized to carry out their duties.

“The Government will announce when the next Commissioner is appointed,” the federal finance department said in a statement to the Financial Post on Tuesday.

No such announcement has been made. And the vacuum atop the agency — which is supposed to ensure that federally regulated financial institutions follow consumer-protection rules — comes as the FCAC is being granted new powers in the wake of its report on sales practices at Canada’s six biggest banks.

The March 2018 report found an aggressive retail culture at the banks, increasing the risk that customers would be sold unsuitable or unnecessary products. It did not find, however, “widespread mis-selling,” a finding welcomed by banks but irking some consumer advocates.

More than a year after the sales report, “the progress is virtually zero,” said Ken Kivenko, president of Kenmar Associates.

Kivenko also criticized the salary offered for the commissioner’s job, which he suggested would make it tough to attract “cracker-jack” candidates. There are, for instance, at least a handful of Ontario Securities Commission officials earning more than the FCAC commissioner’s maximum possible salary.

This year, though, promises to be an “important” one for the FCAC, the agency says.

According to its 2019-2020 business plan, the FCAC expects to add employees and office space. It is getting new powers as well, including the ability to order banks to refund wrongful charges. Publishing names of banks that break the rules will also become mandatory.

The organization took seriously the issues of seniors, as well as other key groups, but on the whole has been quite muted in what they have been able to do

Laura Tamblyn Watts, chief public policy officer, Canadian Association for Retired Persons

“The organization took seriously the issues of seniors, as well as other key groups, but on the whole has been quite muted in what they have been able to do,” said Laura Tamblyn Watts, chief public policy officer for CARP, the Canadian Association for Retired Persons.

Meantime, an FCAC spokesperson said the agency is bound to…

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