The Ontario government has tapped Kevan Cowan to serve as chair of the province’s securities regulator after the unexpected departure of its last chair, Heather Zordel.
Mr. Cowan most recently served as the chief executive officer of the Capital Markets Authority Implementation Organization, the latest attempt by a collection of provinces at establishing a pan-Canadian securities regulator. A lawyer, Mr. Cowan also served on an advisory panel to Ontario’s Capital Markets Modernization Task Force, which proposed a series of recommendations in 2021 that brought about sweeping structural changes to the Ontario Securities Commission.
The Globe reported last week that Mr. Cowan and Cindy Tripp, who co-founded investment bank GMP Securities LP in 1995 and served on the modernization task force, were the front-runners for the position. Both are currently directors at the OSC.
The chair position was left vacant because of the unexpected resignation of Ms. Zordel, the government’s last pick for the position. Ms. Zordel, a corporate and securities lawyer at Gardiner Roberts LP, resigned in late October, after only seven months in the role.
Her appointment caused an immediate stir. When Ms. Zordel’s selection was announced in March, two sitting OSC commissioners – then lead director Lorie Haber and Craig Hayman, then the chair of the OSC’s governance and nominating committee – resigned in protest. Ms. Zordel had a previous, contentious term as a commissioner between 2019 and 2021, which ended not long after a majority of commissioner peers recommended against her reappointment.
Mr. Cowan will be the second chair of the newly structured OSC. Among the reforms brought in by the modernization task force were significant governance changes.
Previously, the regulator was overseen by a group of commissioners who functioned like a traditional board of directors, but who also acted as adjudicators in enforcement proceedings. The new structure separated those duties by creating a group of dedicated adjudicators, known as the Capital Markets Tribunal, who are independent from the regulator’s board.
Prior to his time at the Capital Markets Authority Implementation Organization, which was shut down in 2021 because of a lack of government support, Mr. Cowan was a senior executive at TMX Group Ltd., which owns the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Before Mr. Cowan’s appointment is finalized, it must pass review by the legislature’s standing committee on government agencies.
In a press release, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said: “Our government looks forward to continuing to work with Mr. Cowan and the leadership at OSC to continue to protect investors and ensure that Ontario remains an attractive jurisdiction to invest and raise capital.”