Probe launched into alleged fraud, insider trading by Vancouver real estate agents

VANCOUVER - The independent office charged with overseeing the British Columbia real estate market will investigate allegations of fraud and insider trading by some Metro Vancouver real estate agents, the provincial government said Monday.

See Full Article

Superintendent of Real Estate Carolyn Rogers will work with an advisory group being set up by the Real Estate Council of B.C. to look into concerns raised by media reports and Opposition politicians, said B.C. Minister Peter Fassbender.

“The reason we have an independent superintendent's office is that they are charged with ensuring that best practices are in place,” he said in an interview.

“Any regulatory changes that might be required will be brought forward, and so we are encouraging that any issues that come up be directed to the superintendent or to the real estate council, to make sure the public is protected on every front.”

The government dismissed calls from the Opposition New Democrats to launch a formal arm's-length inquiry. Fassbender said the superintendent is independent and the government will take “very seriously” any recommendations that are issued.

Fassbender said the government will also be taking measures in the upcoming budget intended to address concerns about housing supply, pricing and affordability.

NDP housing critic David Eby claimed Monday that some real estate agents have been avoiding property transfer and capital gains taxes while exploiting a clause in contracts that allows for a series of home flips, increasing the final price by hundreds of thousands.

He also alleged that some real estate agents have been helping clients hide the foreign origins of money used in transactions by putting the broker's location instead of the purchaser's address on federal anti-money laundering forms.

“Both of these independent issues would be serious enough on their own,” Eby said at a news conference. “But together, with so many widespread reports coming from different sources, they lead us to the inevitable conclusion that oversight of the real estate industry in British Columbia is woefully inadequate.”

He said the province has fallen “asleep at the switch” and could be losing millions in tax revenue, while allowing realtors to have an unfair advantage in insider trading and defeat anti-money laundering protections.

“There are many Realtors who conduct themselves professionally ... and are valued members of our communities,” he said. “Their reputations are directly impugned by this kind of conduct.”

Eby sent two letters in January to the Real Estate Council of B.C., which regulates licensed agents, after a real estate agent came forward as a whistleblower.

He outlined allegations that some agents and investors were exploiting a clause that permits contracts to be sold multiple times before the closing date.

The practice allows agents to enjoy what's called a “lift,” or an increase in price each time the contract changes hands, as well as a commission on each sale. Only the final buyer pays the property transfer tax.

The council initially declined to investigate, stating in a Jan. 19 letter to Eby that “no specifics have been provided that would suggest that your informant's concerns are warranted.”

But in a statement on Monday the council said it was deeply concerned by the allegations. An advisory group will investigate whether the so-called assignment clauses are being used appropriately and develop recommendations to increase enforcement and oversight, it said.

“We realize that this is an urgent matter and expect to announce the members of the multi-stakeholder advisory group within the coming two weeks,” it said.

The group will report back to the council with initial recommendations in 60 days.

The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, or FINTRAC, is the federal agency responsible for policing attempts to launder money in Canada. Realtors are required to fill out a FINTRAC form for every transaction.

Using the broker's Canadian address on the form instead of the purchaser's foreign address reduces the level of risk perceived by FINTRAC as they do their audits, Eby said.

Renee Bercier, speaking for the federal agency, said it is legally barred from commenting on any information it has received or enforcement actions it has taken.

“That being said, FINTRAC considers the allegations made to be serious.”



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • What's in your chicken? CBC's Marketplace consumer cheat sheet

    Economic CBC News
    Miss something this week? We've got you. Here's this week's consumer cheat sheet. Get the Marketplace newsletter in your inbox every week. Sign up here. Inflatable mattress (prices) So, that bed you got for a bargain? That deal may be less dreamy than you thought. Source
  • Vatican stakes out copyright to Pope Francis' image

    Economic CTV News
    VATICAN CITY -- God's love may be free, but the Vatican says it has a copyright on the pope. Unnerved by the proliferation of papal-themed T-shirts, snow globes and tea towels around the world, the Vatican has warned it intends to "protect" the image of Pope Francis and "stop situations of illegality that may be discovered. Source
  • Is the Ivanka Trump brand boycott anti-feminist?

    Economic CBC News
    After Nordstrom dropped Ivanka Trump's fashion line this month, a Fox News host blasted women boycotting stores that carry the brand. In an opening rant on her show, Jeanine Pirro called the boycotters "loud, classless women" who were unfairly picking on a fellow female simply because they dislike her dad, U.S. Source
  • Last BlackBerry-designed phone with physical keyboard to hit stores in April

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- Fans of BlackBerry's classic physical keyboard will have reason to celebrate when the last product designed in part by the former smartphone leader becomes available in April. The Waterloo, Ont.-based firm played a role in developing the KEYone, named for the return of the QWERTY keyboard that other smartphone designers have mostly long retired. Source
  • Final cleanup begins at Dakota Access pipeline protest camp

    Economic CTV News
    BISMARCK, N.D. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has moved into the evacuated Dakota Access pipeline protest camp to finish the cleanup started weeks ago by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. A Florida-based company has been hired to provide trash removal and environmental cleanup in the main Oceti Sakowin camp on the north side of the Cannonball River and the smaller Rosebud camp on the south side. Source
  • Appealing to millennials, Las Vegas gets e-sports arena

    Economic CTV News
    LAS VEGAS -- The arena has all the features that a professional sports venue needs: stands, warm-up areas for teams, massive screens for spectators and a broadcast platform for commentators. But what distinguishes this new Las Vegas arena is its dozens of video game consoles. Source
  • Warren Buffett says don't waste money on investment fees

    Economic CTV News
    OMAHA, Neb. -- Billionaire Warren Buffett wants investors to be wary of the high fees Wall Street routinely charges because of the damage they do to investment returns, and he emphasized his confident outlook in the U.S. Source
  • 'We always find a way': N.L.'s oil-dependent economy is hurting, but there is hope on the horizon

    Economic CBC News
    Dwight Ball, the affable pharmacist who has been Newfoundland and Labrador's premier for the last 15 months, said something remarkable Wednesday while swinging an axe through several hundred government jobs. "We're human, too. This impacts us," said Ball, who clearly has shown no relish for the more brutal parts of dealing with an oil-dependent economy during a collapse in petroleum prices. Source
  • Deciphering Trump's curious comments on Keystone XL pipeline

    Economic CBC News
    In his nearly hour-long speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday morning, U.S. President Trump talked about a lot of things — the media, Obamacare, trade and crime. But he also ventured into pipelines. Source
  • Ontario police looking for 'large quantity' of stolen cheese

    Economic CTV News
    SOUTH WEST OXFORD TOWNSHIP, Ont. - Police in southwestern Ontario are looking for thieves who made off with a lot of cheese. Ontario Provincial Police say the Village Cheese Mill in South West Oxford Township, east of London, Ont. Source