par
Sarah D. Pinsonnault
Articles du même auteur
14 Jan 2015

The Scope of the Prohibition on the Disclosure of Information Provided to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions

Par Sarah D. Pinsonnault, avocate

By Sarah D. Pinsonnault
In Société financière Manuvie c. D’Alessandro,
2014 QCCA 2332, an appeal is brought forth by Société Financière Manuvie
(“Manuvie”) of an interlocutory Superior
Court decision
that dismissed its objection, following an examination on
discovery after defence, to the communication of certain documents it deemed
highly confidential. Manuvie claimed that these documents – being documents that
were provided to the Superintendent of Financial Institutions as part of its supervision
and regulation mandate (“prescribed supervisory information”) – were subject to
an absolute ban on disclosure pursuant to sections 2 and 3 of the Prescribed supervisory information
(Insurance Companies) Regulations
, SOR/2001-56 (the “Regulation”) which state
that a company “shall not, directly or indirectly, disclose” such information.
The majority of the Court of Appeal of Quebec however agreed with the trial
judge and held that the scope of this prohibition on disclosure of prescribed supervisory
information consists more of a statutory obligation of confidentiality as
opposed to an absolute one.

Context

The present interlocutory
proceedings fall within a larger class-action lawsuit that the Respondents, Mouvement d’éducation et de défense des
actionnaires and Marc Lamoureux, were authorised to institute against
Manuvie and certain of its officers. The Respondents allege that the latter, inter alia, breached their continuous
disclosure obligations pursuant to the Securities
Act
, CQLR c V-1.1 and its associated regulation.

Manuvie’s aforementioned qualification
of the prohibition on disclosure prescribed in the Regulation was based on both
the modern rules of interpretation and its claim that the communication of
these documents could have a negative effect on the overarching objectives of
the legislator behind its monitoring of the financial sector. It argued that the
disclosure of prescribed supervisory information would threaten the quality of
the exchanges between companies and the Superintendent of Financial
Institutions. This would, in turn, undermine companies’ confidence in the Regulation’s
disclosure regime, and thus erode the overall efficiency of the government’s
monitoring of the Canadian financial system.

The Respondents argued however
that sections 2 and 3 of the Regulation prescribed a simple obligation of
confidentiality and backed this argument with the notion under Quebec Civil Law that parties have the right to
obtain all relevant evidence in civil proceedings.


Decision

The majority of the Court of
Appeal reviewed the general principles of law that governed these proceedings,
such as the “cardinal principle” in civil proceedings that allows for the
disclosure of all evidence that is relevant and that leads to the discovery of
the truth, save when an exception to this rule is either prescribed in
legislation or established by the courts.

It was however found that no such exception (i.e. immunity from disclosure)
existed in the Regulation at hand and, accordingly, that the prohibition on the
disclosure of prescribed supervisory information was not absolute:

“[37] Malgré l’établissement de ce canal de communication privilégié
entre les assujettis et le surintendant, certains éléments portent à croire que
nous ne sommes pas en présence d’une interdiction absolue de divulgation pour
les sociétés assujetties. »
This conclusion
was arrived at in part because exceptions to this prohibition on disclosure already
exist in the Regulation:

“[35] Certaines exceptions sont cependant prévues au Règlement. Elles autorisent expressément
la communication d’informations autrement confidentielles à un cercle restreint
de personnes qui doivent, elles aussi, assurer leur confidentialité. De plus,
il serait possible pour la société, sous réserve de certaines conditions, de
révéler les informations à un éventuel acquéreur. »
The majority of
the Court of Appeal then proceeded with an overview of the modification brought
to the relevant provision of law (section 39.1 of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act, RSC
1985, c 18 (3rd Supp)) and concluded as follows:
« [39] … [C]e n’est pas parce qu’une disposition statutaire met en
place un régime de confidentialité que l’on doit en conclure que le législateur
a voulu pour autant imposer une interdiction absolue de divulgation, y compris
une divulgation en justice. 
[…]
[45] Or, si le législateur avait voulu mettre en place une interdiction
absolue, il aurait spécifié que toute communication, « même en justice », est
interdite…
[46] En terminant sur ce point, je souligne l’opinion émise par les
professeurs Ducharme et Panaccio qui estiment avec justesse que « [L]orsqu’une
loi se limite à déclarer qu’un document est confidentiel, il faut […] présumer
que cette confidentialité s’applique uniquement dans un contexte
extrajudiciaire comme devoir de discrétion, sauf s’il est manifeste que
l’intention du législateur est de lui conférer une immunité de divulgation en
justice ».
[47] J’estime ne pas être en présence de l’un de ces rares cas où il est
manifeste que le législateur a voulu conférer une immunité de divulgation, même
en justice.» (références omises)
In closing, we are reminded
once again of the fundamental rule of evidence which dictates that all relevant
evidence – whether it is public or confidential – is admissible and must be
communicated to the opposing party (except for the cases specifically provided
for under article 2858 of the Civil Code
of Quebec
). With respect to evidence that is deemed confidential, parameters may be put in
place (as was done in the case at bar) in order to ensure the preservation of its
confidentiality throughout the judicial proceedings.
To read this decision in its
entirety, along with the dissenting reasons of Justice Morin, click here

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