Osgoode clinic provides free legal assistance to aggrieved investors

Osgoode Hall Law School

The Investor Protection Clinic at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School wants to hear from investors who believe that their funds have been mishandled and who cannot afford a lawyer to help them sort out the problem.

The newly launched clinic – the first of its kind in Canada – is staffed by Osgoode students who are paired with supervising lawyers from leading business law firms in Ontario. The student-lawyer teams provide free legal advice to qualifying investors on a range of issues. The Investor Protection Clinic was founded by FAIR Canada and Osgoode Hall Law School, with funding from the Law Foundation of Ontario Access to Justice Fund.

“We’d like to hear from investors who believe they have suffered an investment loss as a result of someone else’s wrongdoing,” said Professor Poonam Puri, director of the Investor Protection Clinic.

Common issues that the clinic may be able to help with include cases of an advisor, teller or customer service representative at a bank, insurance company or investment firm misrepresenting the risk of a client’s investments; funds being used in ways that a client was unaware of; an advisor making too many trades, resulting in high commissions or trading fees; a firm charging fees that were not explained to a client; and an advisor signing forms on a client’s behalf without their permission. However, the clinic is unable to help clients with losses that occurred as a result of market forces and risks inherent in investing.

Puri said the clinic’s student-lawyer teams might assist an investor by, for example, writing a complaint letter on their behalf to the company or the regulator; giving a client options on how to proceed with their issues; or even representing the client at a hearing.

“Institutional investors can take care of themselves for the most part,” Puri said. “But most people are not going to have the funds to hire a lawyer when things go wrong with their investments, and a regulator like the Ontario Securities Commission can’t help everybody.”

Puri added the clinic will decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not to accept a client and will consider factors such as income, assets, net worth and the nature of the concerns.

According to lawyer Marian Passmore, director of Policy and COO at FAIR Canada, the clinic “will help Ontarians navigate a very complicated area involving securities, banking and insurance products and the firms who sell them – average investors who have experienced some sort of loss of their investments in some way often don’t know where to start when that happens to them.”

For more information about the Investor Protection Clinic, call 416-736-5538 or email ipc@osgoode.yorku.ca.

View a short video interview with Puri about the clinic (below).