There are two Committees involved in the complaints process, the Complaints Committee and the Discipline Committee. The committees are composed of brokers and public members, appointed by the government to protect the public interest. All of the latter proceedings take place at the RIBO office, however RIBO staff are not involved in the decision making process.
The Complaints Committee consists of two Brokers and a Public Member. They evaluate the evidence and merit of a complaint. If it is determined that there is sufficient evidence to indicate a possible misconduct, the matter is referred to the Discipline Committee.
The Discipline Committee consists of four Brokers and a Public Member and conducts hearings very similar to that of a court of law. Evidence is introduced during the hearing and testimony is given under oath in the presence of a court reporter. The Committee determines the facts and makes findings of innocence or guilt based on the evidence presented. In the event a broker is found guilty of misconduct, this Committee has the authority to reprimand, impose additional educational or financial reporting requirements, restrict, suspend, fines up to a maximum of $25,000 for an individual broker and $100,000 for brokerage firms, or revoke a registration.
There are two types of complaints addressed by RIBO: consumer and financial. Consumer inquiries may originate from various sources including brokers, consumers, lawyers and law enforcement. Of these complaints, 95% may be resolved informally by mediating the issues while the remaining 5% require the formal complaint process. Financial complaints are usually generated by RIBO and result from financial reports submitted by the brokerage or from a random spot-check performed by a RIBO financial investigator.
Every written complaint that alleges wrong-doing on the part of a broker is carefully investigated. When a formal inquiry into a complaint is necessary, the process is as follows:
- A copy of the written letter of complaint or a summary of the complaint is sent to the broker with the request that the broker provide a written response to the allegation. The broker is also advised of who the assigned investigator will be.
- During the investigation, if matters can be clarified by correspondence and phone calls, a completed investigation report is submitted to the Manager of Complaints & Investigation for direction and authorization to close the complaint investigation file and to notify the complainants of the result.
- If matters cannot be satisfactorily concluded, the complaint and investigation file may then be filed with the Manager for consideration by a Complaints Committee.
- A Notice of Complaint is then sent to the broker involved outlining the allegations, the section of the RIB Act that may have been violated, the date of the hearing and opportunity for the broker to submit further written explanation/information.
- At the Complaints Hearing, evidence from all parties is presented to the panel by RIBO staff and any of the parties who are present to speak to their claims. A copy of all documentation provided by the parties is distributed to the panel members for their review and deliberation.
- Following deliberation by the panel members, the matter may be dismissed, resolved on a Consent basis or referred to a Discipline Committee.
During a Complaints Hearing, a broker has an opportunity to acknowledge guilt or “Consent” to a guilty finding and agree to a penalty. Before a Consent can become official, the Discipline Committee must first agree to the Consent and penalty. Once a Consent is approved, the Consent becomes an Order of the Discipline Committee. Should the Committee not agree to the Consent, the matter is scheduled for hearing at a later before a different panel of the Discipline Committee. This Consent procedure saves both time and the expense of a Discipline Hearing at a later date.
When a matter is referred to the Discipline Committee, a Notice of Hearing is sent to the broker 30 days in advance of the hearing date to allow the broker sufficient time to prepare. It includes an explanation of the powers of the Committee and a Direction from the Complaints Committee outlining the charges and particulars of the allegations. The broker is usually in attendance at the Discipline Hearing, however, the proceedings may take place even in the broker’s absence if there is no response to the Notice of Hearing.
It is important to realize that in all complaint cases there is a presumption of innocence and RIBO is required to prove the alleged misconduct in accordance with the RIB Act, Regulations and By-laws.