The Syndic’s role focuses on maintaining professional discipline; it thus aligns with the ChAD’s mission to protect the public. One of the responsibilities of the Syndic’s Office is to examine complaints or accusations of wrongdoing made against ChAD members. It receives such information from the Autorité des marchés financiers or directly, via a
form filled out on the ChAD’s website
. It should be noted that the Syndic is also authorized to act on his1
own initiative and make inquiries regarding a member if he believes this member has committed an offense.
In all cases, the professional is notified in writing or by phone as soon as either a complaint is received or the Syndic has himself decided to open an investigation regarding him. But then what happens?
First, an investigator from the Syndic’s Office conducts certain preliminary verifications. The investigator contacts the professional by phone to take down his side of the story. He then contacts the complainant, and other parties, if necessary, to hear their version of the facts. He may also request certain documents. His role is to compile all the information that he believes is relevant and sheds light on the situation.
Once the verifications have been completed, the investigator presents his observations to the Syndic and makes recommendations on how to proceed with the complaint. Currently, the average pre-investigation of a complaint takes 90 days from the time of receipt.
The Syndic’s Decision
Upon completion of the pre-investigation, the Syndic may decide to close the file, recommend an administrative measure or conduct an ethics investigation. At this point, he may also decide to file a formal complaint before the Discipline Committee. He may thus decide to:
Close the file: The Syndic concludes that the professional has not committed any legal, regulatory or ethical offense and ends the investigation process.
- Close with
administrative measures: When the file reveals
shortcomings (though not offenses) in the quality of the professional services provided, the Syndic sends the professional a
warning or a formal notice. This preventive approach helps to correct shortcomings by reminding representatives of their ethical obligations. In 2017, the Syndic issued 60 warnings and 69 formal notices.
Ethics investigation: If necessary, the Syndic endeavours to obtain a more in-depth version of the facts by reconstructing the events based on the versions and documents of the various interested parties (representative, complainant, current or past insurer, bank, creditor, etc.). Currently, an in-depth investigation takes on average three months.
Formal complaint before the
Discipline Committee: When the Syndic has reason to believe that one or several offenses have been committed, he assumes responsibility for filing a formal complaint before the Discipline Committee. The Committee then rules on whether or not the professional is guilty of the alleged offenses and decides on sanctions to discourage repeat offenses. In 2017, the Syndic filed 23 formal complaints before the Discipline Committee.
The Disciplinary Process
Filing the Complaint
When the Syndic believes he holds conclusive proof that an offense has been committed, he goes to the secretary of the Discipline Committee to file a formal complaint against the professional. The complaint is made up of
charges, in other words, the offenses the professional is alleged to have committed, and the provisions of the Code of Ethics that he is alleged to have breached. This is the beginning of the disciplinary process and the point at which the professional may choose to seek legal representation.
Serving the Complaint
The secretary has a bailiff serve the complaint to the professional. Under the Act, this must take place at work. The complaint includes:
written appearance: Within 10 days of service, the professional must return the written appearance with a guilty or not guilty plea.
notice regarding disclosure of evidence: The documents and other items the Syndic puts in evidence are available for consultation. To view them, the professional must contact the lawyer whose name appears on the notice.
These documents are sent by courier so that the parties may review them prior to the
case management conference.
The Case Management Conference
The secretary of the Discipline Committee notifies the respondent by telephone or by e-mail that a conference call will take place to set the date of the hearing. A few weeks before the scheduled hearing, the professional receives—either from the bailiff or by e-mail—a
notice of hearing reminding him of the date.
Summoning of Witnesses
At least two weeks before the hearing, the respondent sends the secretary of the Discipline Committee the list of the witnesses he intends to have testify so that they may be summoned to appear before the Committee.
The Hearing before the Discipline Committee
Unless the respondent pleads guilty to the charges, the Syndic must prove the allegations against him. To do so, the Syndic may submit documents as evidence or call witnesses to testify; the professional may cross-examine them. Next, it is the professional’s turn to present his defense and call witnesses to testify. The hearing ends with arguments, where each party makes its case. Once the evidence has been heard, the Committee retires to deliberate; this may take several weeks.
The Discipline Committee then rules on whether the professional is guilty or not of each of the charges. This ruling must be made in writing and served by a bailiff.
If the professional’s guilt has been recognized and established, the Discipline Committee will hold a second hearing to decide upon the appropriate sanctions. At this hearing, the Syndic will make his recommendations regarding sanctions; the professional may also present his own arguments in this regard.
The Discipline Committee may deliberate for several weeks before deciding upon the sanction(s). The decision must be made in writing and is also served by a bailiff. In 2017, the ChAD’s Discipline Committee took on average 64 days following the last day of the hearing to hand down its decision; this is faster than the 90-day deadline stipulated in the
In accordance with certain legal criteria, the Syndic or the professional himself may appeal the Discipline Committee’s decisions. The right to appeal must be exercised within 30 days of the decision before the Court of Québec.
for FAQs on investigations conducted by the Syndic’s Office [in French only].
By Me Marie-Josée Belhumeur, LL.B., Syndic
1. Translator’s note: Use of the masculine pronoun shall be deemed to include usage of the feminine pronoun where appropriate.