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Canadian Securities Administrators chair Bill Rice is seen during a presentation at the TSX Broadcast Centre in this file photo.Tim Fraser/The Globe and Mail

Canada's securities commissions launched fewer new enforcement cases against wrongdoers last year and said many matters are becoming more complex to investigate.

The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA), an umbrella group for Canada's 13 provincial and territorial securities commissions, said regulators across the country launched 112 new enforcement cases last year, a drop from 145 new cases in 2012 and 126 in 2011.

The number of individuals and companies named in the cases also fell last year to 270 from 388 in 2012 and 352 in 2011, according to the CSA's annual enforcement report released Thursday.

CSA chair Bill Rice, who is also chair of the Alberta Securities Commission, said he does not believe the numbers indicate securities regulators are easing off on enforcement investigations, saying cases occur in no set pattern and investigations take varying lengths of time to complete depending on their complexity.

"When you see a number drop, there's a concern that we are getting slower or not getting on top of things, but I don't think that's the way it is," he said in an interview Thursday. "I think we are getting better at what we do and faster at what we do."

As in prior years, over half of new cases in 2013 involved illegal distributions of securities, while new fraud cases fell to 56 from 113 in 2012 and illegal insider trading cases dropped to 13 last year from 19 in 2012. The CSA said there is always wide variability in types of cases each year, so changes in a category should not be seen as indicative of a long-term trend.

Mr. Rice said crimes – and therefore investigations – are getting more complex each year and increasingly involve Internet-based schemes. He said a team of investigators may handle one larger, complex investigation in the same time they could do 15 small cases, so simple case numbers can be misleading.

He said the CSA began preparing the national enforcement report to counter a criticism that Canadian regulators do little in the enforcement realm. "We all say, 'that's ridiculous, so why don't we tell the story a little bit better in aggregate."

Regulators said they concluded 133 cases in 2013, which was similar to 135 cases concluded in 2012. Many of those cases were originally launched in prior years, and finally came to a conclusion in 2013. In cases that involve multiple individuals or companies, the CSA counts them as completed for its statistics when the first person reaches a conclusion even if others are still continuing.

Looking alternatively at conclusions reached with each individual or company separately, the CSA said 382 respondents concluded their cases in 2013 compared with 322 in 2012.

The CSA said 41 per cent of cases were concluded by a contested hearing before a securities commission, 39 per cent were completed by a settlement agreement and 20 per cent were concluded with a court decision in a case launched under provincial securities act legislation.

Fines and monetary penalties across Canada totalled $35.4-million in 2013 compared to $36.6-million last year. Regulators ordered restitution and "disgorgement" of proceeds of crime totalling a further $55-million last year, compared with $121-million in 2012. The 2012 total included a single disgorgement order of $49-million in a case involving Arbour Energy Inc.

Eight people were sentenced to jail last year for terms ranging from six months to two years for violations of provincial securities acts in 2013. The data does not include fraud or other charges laid by police under the Criminal Code.

Regulators said 10 cases were appealed last year, a drop from 30 appeals launched in 2012.

Canada's self-regulatory organizations – including the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada, the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada and Quebec's Chambre de la sécurité financière – concluded 132 enforcement cases last year compared with 128 in 2012, the report said.