Every year, we “celebrate” October as Investor Education Month and November as Financial Literacy Month. This year, regulators should pledge to make December Investor Protection Month.

It’s been more than a year since the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) published its compelling discussion paper on the issue of fiduciary duty in retail investment markets. The first anniversary of the CSA’s mutual fund fee paper is also fast approaching. Regulators should observe these occasions with a commitment to decisive action to address the market failures and regulatory shortcomings that their papers revealed.

An update on their plans was promised for this past autumn. Yet, winter is almost upon us, and regulators have been alarmingly silent on the subject.

Indeed, the CSA seems determined to prove itself as dysfunctional and ineffective as ever on the policy front. Witness its most recent efforts at exempt-market reform. Despite the obvious benefit of adopting uniform exemptions across the country, the regulators appear to be heading in separate directions once again. Saskatchewan is going it alone with a proposed new exemption to allow equities crowdfunding. Ontario is considering its own, albeit different crowdfunding exemption. And most, but not all, of the provinces are now proposing a new exemption for venture issuers.

The CSA also carried out consultations on the impact of market data fees, but has yet to figure out how to proceed. In the 12 months since the regulators initiated that consultation, all they’ve managed to do is to narrow their options for further study.

It seems that the only things regulators can agree to support are harmless initiatives – such as Financial Literacy Month. So, it seems very unlikely that regulators across the country will meaningfully address the critical issues of fiduciary duty and mutual fund fees.

All of the time, effort and expense devoted to studying and debating these issues appears destined to be wasted. Investors will be left no better off. And regulators will have squandered what little credibility they may have earned for launching these efforts in the first place.

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