Fisher Asset Management, LLC
Pursuant to National Policy 11-203 Process for Exemptive Relief Applications in Multiple Jurisdictions -- Relief from the prohibition on the use of corporate officer titles by certain registered individuals in respect of institutional clients -- Relief does not extend to interactions by registered individuals with retail clients.
Applicable Legislative Provisions
Multilateral Instrument 11-102 Passport System, s. 4.7(1).
National Instrument 31-103 Registration Requirements, Exemptions and Ongoing Registrant Obligations, ss. 13.18(2)(b) and 15.1(2).
May 31, 2023
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 FISHER ASSET MANAGEMENT, LLC (the Filer)
The principal regulator in the Jurisdiction has received an application from the Filer for a decision under the securities legislation of the Jurisdiction (the Legislation) that pursuant to section 15.1 of National Instrument 31-103 Registration Requirements, Exemptions and Ongoing Registrant Obligations (NI 31-103), the Filer and its Registered Individuals (as defined below) are exempt from the prohibition in paragraph 13.18(2)(b) of NI 31-103 that a registered individual may not use a corporate officer title when interacting with clients, unless the individual has been appointed to that corporate office by their sponsoring firm pursuant to applicable corporate law, in respect of Institutional Clients (as defined below) (the Exemption Sought).
Under the Process for Exemptive Relief Applications in Multiple Jurisdictions (for a passport application):
(a) the Ontario Securities Commission is the principal regulator for this application, and
(b) the Filer has provided notice that subsection 4.7(1) of Multilateral Instrument 11102Passport System (MI 11-102) is intended to be relied upon by the Filer and its Registered Individuals (as defined below) in each of the other provinces (together with the Jurisdiction, the Jurisdictions) in respect of the Exemption Sought.
Terms defined in MI 11-102 and National Instrument 14-101 Definitions have the same meaning if used in this decision, unless otherwise defined.
This decision is based on the following facts represented by the Filer:
1. The Filer is registered as a portfolio manager in each of Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Québec and Saskatchewan. The head office of the Filer is in Plano, Texas. The Filer is also registered as an investment adviser with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
2. The Filer, in its capacity as an adviser, offers investment advisory services to a range of institutional clients in Canada, including corporate, public and multi-employer pension plans, foundations and endowments, insurance companies, healthcare organizations, governments and investment companies.
3. Other than with respect to the subject of this decision, the Filer is not in default of securities legislation in any of the Jurisdictions.
4. The Filer is the sponsoring firm for registered individuals that interact with clients and use a corporate officer title without being appointed to the corporate office of the Filer pursuant to applicable corporate law (the Registered Individuals). The number of Registered Individuals may increase or decrease from time to time as the business of the Filer changes. As of the date of this decision, the Filer has approximately three Registered Individuals.
5. The current titles used by the Registered Individuals include the words "Group Vice President", "Executive Vice President" or "Senior Executive Vice President", and the Registered Individuals may use additional corporate officer titles in the future (collectively, the Titles). The Titles used by the Registered Individuals are consistent with the titles used by the Filer's affiliates.
6. The Filer has a process in place for awarding the Titles, which sets out the criteria for each of the Titles. The Titles are based on criteria including seniority and experience, and a Registered Individual's sales activity or revenue generation is not a primary factor in the decision by the Filer to award one of the Titles.
7. The Registered Individuals interact only with institutional clients that are, each, a non-individual "permitted client" as defined in subsection 1.1 of NI 31-103 (the Institutional Clients).
8. To the extent a Registered Individual interacts with clients that are not Institutional Clients (the Retail Clients), the Filer has policies, procedures and controls in place to ensure that such Registered Individual will only use a Title when interacting with Institutional Clients, and will not use a Title in any interaction with Retail Clients, including in any communications, such as written and verbal communications, that are directed at, or may be received by, Retail Clients.
9. The Filer will not grant any registered individual that interacts primarily with Retail Clients, nor will such registered individual be permitted by the Filer to use, a corporate officer title other than in compliance with paragraph 13.18(2)(b) of NI 31-103.
10. Section 13.18 of NI 31-103 prohibits registered individuals in their client-facing relationships from, among other things, using titles or designations that could reasonably be expected to deceive or mislead existing and prospective clients. Paragraph 13.18(2)(b) of NI 31-103 specifically prohibits the use of corporate officer titles by registered individuals who interact with clients unless the individuals have been appointed to those corporate offices by their sponsoring firms pursuant to applicable corporate law.
11. There would be significant operational and human resources challenges for the Filer to comply with the prohibition in paragraph 13.18(2)(b). In addition, the Titles are widely used and recognized throughout the institutional segment of the financial services industry within Canada and globally, and being unable to use the Titles has the potential to put the Filer and its Registered Individuals at a competitive disadvantage as compared to non-Canadian firms that are not subject to the prohibition and who compete for the same institutional clients.
12. Given their nature and sophistication, the use of the Titles by the Registered Individuals would not be expected to deceive or mislead existing and prospective Institutional Clients.
13. For the reasons provided above, it would not be prejudicial to the public interest to grant the Exemption Sought.
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, when using the Titles, the Filer and its Registered Individuals interact only with existing and prospective clients that are exclusively non-individual "permitted clients" as defined in NI 31-103.
This decision will terminate six months, or such other transition period as may be provided by law, after the coming into force of any amendment to NI 31-103 or other applicable securities law that affects the ability of the Registered Individuals to use the Titles in the circumstances described in this decision.
Director, Compliance and Registrant Regulation Branch
Ontario Securities Commission
OSC File #: 2023/0101