Canadian Lawyer InHouse

October/November 2020

Legal news and trends for Canadian in-house counsel and c-suite executives

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18 www.canadianlawyermag.com/inhouse FEATURE LIKE MANY SECTORS, the financial services industry has been turned on its head by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic fallout. The financial regulatory environment has seen a slew of new relief measures, regulations and guidelines in an effort to stabilize the economy. The most important measures to date have been on the regulatory relief side, according to Michael Garellek, a partner and co-leader of the financial services regulatory group at Gowling WLG. Many reporting deadlines have been extended while measures have been relaxed to encourage lending from banks. "It takes greater vigilance and a greater effort in consulting the websites of regulators because relief measures and restrictions were coming out more than once a week at one point," says Garellek. Despite the numerous economic chal- lenges faced by financial institutions due to Financial institutions embrace new regulations Legal departments take lead role in navigating rapidly evolving regulatory landscape the pandemic, some have also benefited from new opportunities. Throughout the crisis, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario has been very active in responding quickly to market changes and issuing guidance to the financial services sector in the province. Supporting businesses and making sure that there is a viability for each sector has been a priority together with protecting consumers and plan beneficiaries. Extensions to regulatory filings of financial statements were granted to pension plan administrators and beneficiaries, for example, while guidance surrounding access to federal emergency loans by businesses through regulated entities was also clarified. "A lot of our work has been about trying to find the balance in making sure we're doing things quickly and enabling our sectors to do what they need to do as well as protecting consumers during this uncertain time," says Alena Thouin, corporate secretary and deputy general counsel at FSRA. "The role of the FSRA is to be there to make sure we're providing financial safety, fairness and choice for Ontarians and to ensure that we are responsive to whatever economic changes occur." As legal departments are critical partners in the implementation of guidance and regulations, Thouin suggests that general counsel closely monitor changing regulations and sign up for FSRA newsletters. "I've noticed that legal departments are taking on a more prominent role in terms of overall organizational response during these turbulent times, ensuring that whatever comes down from the regulators and the government is being introduced and properly operationalized within their organizations — particularly in regulated areas like financial services, insurance companies, banks and credit unions," she says. As global general counsel at Associated Foreign Exchange, Alice Abbott navigates the regulatory environment by focusing on internal communication to keep on top of regulatory enquiries and subpoenas that are arising at AFEX — a provider of global payment solutions. "It's really about making sure that our compliance partners and our operations partners and finance communicate freely with legal so we can get a sense of where the focus "The role of the FSRA is to be there to make sure we're providing financial safety, fairness and choice for Ontarians and to ensure that we are responsive to whatever economic changes occur." Alena Thouin, Financial Services Regulatory Authority

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