Jarislowsky, Fraser Ltd., a Montreal-based investment firm, has agreed to pay $235,850 to the B.C. Securities Commission for unregistered trading over 13 years.
Founding partner Stephen Jarislowsky admitted Monday his firm made a mistake, but he is ticked off at a process that he says shows why the country needs a single securities regulator - an issue that has simmered for years without resolution.
"It's very ironic," said Mr. Jarislowsky, initiator of the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance, which represent Canadian institutional shareholders.
"Apparently, they know how to ding people like us, but they're not very good at pursuing people who really do misdemeanours or worse. For some reason, they have decided they're going to make an example of us."
Mr. Jarislowsky said his firm previously thought it was sufficient to register in the three provinces where it has offices - Montreal, Toronto and Calgary - as well as with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
After getting a notice from New Brunswick saying the firm had to register there as well, Jarislowsky wrote to all 13 provincial and territorial regulators to find out if his firm was compliant. It registered last August as a portfolio manager and investment counsel in British Columbia.
But it was fined for advising up to 43 clients in that province over the previous 13 years.
The sum includes $35,850 in back registration fees, a $195,000 payment to the BCSC Education Fund and $5,000 towards the cost of the investigation.
Mr. Jarislowsky said it is ironic the money is going to a commission-run charity for the education of investors.
"We feel a little bit hurt by this, as you can imagine."
Mr. Jarislowsky's firm, which manages some $47-billion in assets, has been active on shareholders rights issues involving Hollinger Inc. and the Molson Inc.-Adolph Coors Ltd. breweries merger, among others.
He said it's long overdue for the country to adopt a single SEC-type regulator, "not commissions in 13 provinces that basically do the square root of nothing."
The provinces have been negotiating over the regulation issue for years, with Ontario pushing for a single regulator, opposed by Quebec and some western provinces.
All the provinces except Ontario gave tentative approval this fall to a so-called passport system, under which public companies and securities firms would work with their provincial or territorial regulators, and all the commissions would recognize each other's approvals.
Federal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale said last week the passport proposal "still leaves us with a system that is largely fragmented and certainly less sophisticated than that of virtually every country around the world."