Securities Law & Instruments


Headnote

U.S. registered broker-dealer exempted from dealer registration under paragraph 25(1) of the Act in respect of certain trades in debt securities with permitted clients, as defined under NI 31-103, where the debt securities are i) debt securities of Canadian issuers and are denominated in a currency other than the Canadian dollar; or ii) debt securities of any issuer, including a Canadian issuer, and were originally offered primarily in a foreign jurisdiction outside Canada and a prospectus was not filed with a Canadian securities regulatory authority for the distribution – relief is subject to sunset clause – relief as contemplated by CSA Staff Notice 31-346 Guidance as to the Scope of the International Dealer Exemption in relation to Foreign-Currency Fixed Income Offerings by Canadian Issuers.

Applicable Legislative Provisions

Statutes Cited

Securities Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. S.5, as am., ss. 25(1), 74(1).

Instruments Cited

Multilateral Instrument 11-102 Passport System, s. 4.7.
National Instrument 31-103 Registration Requirements, Exemptions and Ongoing Registrant Obligations, s. 8.18.

May 5, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF
THE SECURITIES LEGISLATION OF
ONTARIO
(the Jurisdiction)

AND

IN THE MATTER OF
THE PROCESS FOR EXEMPTIVE RELIEF
APPLICATIONS IN MULTIPLE JURISDICTIONS

AND

IN THE MATTER OF
WILLIAM BLAIR & COMPANY, L.L.C.
(the Filer)

DECISION

Background

The principal regulator in the Jurisdiction has received an application (the Application) from the Filer for a decision under the securities legislation of the Jurisdiction (the Legislation) exempting the Filer from the dealer regis-tration requirement under the Legislation in respect of trades in debt securities, other than during the distribution of such securities, with permitted clients, as defined under National Instrument 31-103 Registration Requirements, Exemptions and Ongoing Registrant Obligations (NI 31-103), where the debt securities are

(a)           debt securities of Canadian issuers and are denominated in a currency other than the Canadian dollar; or

(b)           debt securities of any issuer, including a Canadian issuer, and were originally offered primarily in a foreign jurisdiction outside Canada and a prospectus was not filed with a Canadian securities regulatory authority for the distribution (the Exemption Sought).

Under the Process for Exemptive Relief Applications in Multiple Jurisdictions (for a passport application):

(a)           the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) is the principal regulator for this Application, and

(b)           the Filer has provided notice that section 4.7(1) of Multilateral Instrument 11-102 Passport System (MI 11-102) is intended to be relied upon in each of the other provinces of Canada (the Passport Jurisdictions and together with the Jurisdiction, the Jurisdictions).

Interpretation

Terms defined in National Instrument 14-101 Definitions and MI 11-102 have the same meaning if used in this decision, unless otherwise defined.

Representations

This decision is based on the following facts represented by the Filer:

1.             The Filer is a limited liability company organized under the laws of the State of Delaware. Its head office is located at 222 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL 60606, U.S. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of WBC Holdings, L.P., a Delaware limited partnership.

2.             The Filer is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a broker-dealer under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and a registered investment advisor under the Invest-ment Advisers Act of 1940, and is a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). This registration subjects William Blair to requirements over regulatory capital, lending of money, extension of credit and provision of margin, financial reporting to the SEC and FINRA, and segregation and custody of assets which provide protections that are substantially similar to the protections provided by the rules to which dealer-members of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) are subject.

3.             The Filer is a member of a number of major U.S. securities exchanges, including the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ.

4.             The Filer provides a variety of capital raising, investment banking, market making, brokerage, and advisory services, including fixed income and equity sales and research for governments, corporate and financial institutions.

5.             The Filer is currently relying on the “international dealer exemption” under section 8.18 of NI 31-103 (the international dealer exemption) in British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec.

6.             The Filer is in compliance in all material respects with U.S. securities laws and is not in default of Canadian securities laws.

7.             The Filer wishes to trade in debt securities of Canadian issuers with permitted clients other than during such securities’ distribution.

8.             Subsection 8.18(2)(b) of NI 31-103 provides that, subject to subsections 8.18(3) and 8.18(4), the dealer registration requirement does not apply in respect of a trade in a debt security with a permitted client during the security’s distribution, if the debt security is offered primarily in a foreign jurisdiction and a prospectus has not been filed with a Canadian securities regulatory authority for the distribution. Subsection 8.18(2)(c) of NI 31-103 provides that, subject to subsections 8.18(3) and 8.18(4), the dealer registration requirement does not apply in respect of a trade in a debt security that is a foreign security with a permitted client, other than during the security’s distribution.

9.             The permitted activities under subsection 8.18(2) of NI 31-103 do not include a trade in a debt security of a Canadian issuer with a permitted client, other than during the security’s distribution in the limited circumstances described above.

10.          On September 1, 2016, the Staff of the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA Staff) published CSA Staff Notice 31-346 Guidance as to the Scope of the International Dealer Exemption in relation to Foreign-Currency Fixed Income Offerings by Canadian Issuers (the Staff Notice). 

11.          CSA Staff stated in the Staff Notice that they did not believe there was a policy reason to limit the exemption in subsection 8.18(2) of NI 31-103 to trades that occur during the initial period of the securities’ distribution or to conclude that an international dealer should be permitted to sell a debt security to a Canadian institutional investor but not be permitted to act for the institutional investor in connection with the resale of the security. CSA Staff further stated that they were prepared to recommend exemptive relief to permit international dealers to deal with institutional investors to facilitate resales of debt securities, subject to conditions the CSA consider appropriate.

12.          Accordingly, the Filer is seeking exemptive relief as contemplated by the Staff Notice to permit the Filer to deal with Canadian permitted clients in connection with resales of debt securities that may be distributed to the permitted clients in reliance on the international dealer exemption in section 8.18 of NI 31-103.

13.          It may be difficult at the time of a resale of a debt security to determine whether the debt security was originally offered as part of an offering that was made primarily in a foreign jurisdiction or whether a prospectus was filed in Canada in connection with such offering.  However, the Filer believes, based on its experience with foreign-currency-denominated fixed income offerings by Canadian issuers (Canadian foreign-currency fixed income offerings), that such offerings are generally made primarily outside of Canada. Accordingly, the Filer believes that the denomination of an offering of debt securities in a foreign currency will be a reasonable proxy for determining whether the offering was originally made primarily outside of Canada.

14.          Similarly, the Filer believes, based on its experience with Canadian foreign-currency fixed income offerings, that, to the extent that debt securities that are the subject of such offerings are listed on a stock exchange, they will typically not be listed on a stock exchange situated in Canada. To the extent that foreign-currency-denominated debt securities of a Canadian issuer are listed on a stock exchange situated in Canada, investors will be required to trade such debt securities through an IIROC registered dealer.

15.          The Filer is a “market participant” as defined under subsection 1(1) of the OSA. As a market participant, among other requirements, the Filer is required to comply with the record keeping and provision of information provisions under section 19 of the OSA, which include the requirement to keep such books, records and other documents (a) as are necessary for the proper recording of business transactions and financial affairs, and the transactions executed on behalf of others, (b) as may otherwise be required under Ontario securities law, and (c) as may reasonably be required to demonstrate compliance with Ontario securities laws, and to deliver such records to the OSC if required.

Decision

The principal regulator is satisfied that the decision meets the test set out in the Legislation for the principal regulator to make the decision.

The decision of the principal regulator under the Legislation is that the Exemption Sought is granted provided that the Filer complies with the terms and conditions described in section 8.18 of NI 31-103 as if the Filer had made the trades in reliance on an exemption contained in section 8.18.

It is further the decision of the principal regulator that the Exemption Sought shall expire on the date that is the earlier of:

(a)           the date on which amendments to the international dealer exemption in section 8.18 of NI 31-103 come into force that address the ability of international dealers to trade debt securities of Canadian issuers; and

(b)           five years after the date of this decision.

“Grant Vingoe”
Vice Chair or Commissioner
Ontario Securities Commission

“Monica Kowal”
Vice Chair or Commissioner
Ontario Securities Commission