How a Canadian IIO with 500,000 members and a $20 million annual budget can be formed
WHAT IS THE INDIVIDUAL INVESTOR ORGANIZATION (IIO)?
The Individual Investor Organization (IIO) is a proposed federally-chartered, non-profit organization designed to represent and educate investors on investment issues worldwide.
The IIO proposal is based upon Citizen Utility Boards (CUBs) which have been established in four states in the U.S. In these states, utilities were required to enclose a one-page pamphlet in their billing envelopes inviting people to join the CUB. About five percent of consumers usually join the CUB at a $10-15 annual membership fee. CUBs are independent, broad-based watchdog groups that are run democratically by their members and represent consumers’ interests in the marketplace. For example, in Illinois the CUB has 150,000 members, a $1.5 million annual budget, and has saved consumers more than $20 billion since 1983 by opposing rate hikes by utilities.
According to a national survey, 64% of Canadians support the creation of the IIO using the pamphlet method, while only 27% oppose it.
In 2006, an Ontario legislative committee recommended that the Ontario government seriously consider establishing an IIO using the pamphlet method.
In addition, a national coalition made up of 31 citizen groups with a total membership of 3.5 million Canadians supports the creation of the IIO.
HOW WILL THE IIO BE SET UP AND HOW WILL IT WORK?
To set up the IIO, the Canadian federal government must require federally incorporated financial institutions (banks, trusts, insurance companies, pension plans and, working with each provincial government, pension plans and mutual fund companies) and a few other large corporations (that most investors hold shares in) to include a notice at the top of every email they send to their individual shareholders, and for every shareholder that receives a report by mail from the business, to also include a pamphlet in the same envelope.
Alternatively, financial institutions and corporations could volunteer to include the notice at the top of their emails and enclose the pamphlet in the envelopes they mail out, and as long as enough large institutions and corporations volunteered enough individual investors would receive the pamphlet to make the IIO viable.
The notice at the top of emails that these companies send their individual shareholders will say something like “Need help from an independent investor group dedicated only to helping you, click here to join the Individual Investor Organization (IIO).” The pamphlet will describe the IIO and invite individual investors to join at an annual membership fee of about $40 (with a lower fee for people with low incomes). The government can either lend or grant to the IIO the funds needed to print the first pamphlet. After the first pamphlet, however, the IIO will pay all the costs of the pamphlet. As a result, the IIO can be set up at little or no cost to government or the financial institutions.
If only five percent of financial institution investors join the IIO, it will have 500,000 members and a $20 million annual budget. With these resources and large membership base, the IIO will be strong enough to hold financial institutions and large corporations for their activities both in Canada and worldwide.
The IIO will be a democratic organization, controlled by its members through the election of regional delegates and the IIO’s board of directors. The board will hire the IIO’s professional staff and determine the group’s policies.
WHAT WILL THE IIO DO?
The IIO will hire economists, experts, organizers, lobbyists and attorneys to represent investors.
The IIO will also educate investors through price surveys, public forums, and investment guides.
WHY IS THE IIO NEEDED IN CANADA?
In the past 20 years, the big five Canadian banks have obtained control of a majority of investment banking assets (including mutual funds) in Canada, and now operate in more than 60 countries worldwide. Together with other large financial institutions and corporations, they offer more than 1,500 investment products and services.
The IIO will provide easily accessible information about investment products and responsible investing, encouraging competition in the marketplace and better service for all investors.
And while several groups try to track what Canadian banks and large corporations are doing worldwide, they all lack adequate funding and resources. With a $20 million annual budget, and 500,000 members, the IIO will have the funding needed to do the job.
Individual investors are an important part of Canada’s financial system, but their voice is not strong enough to be heard by government, especially given the enormous resources and strength of the investment and corporate Canada lobby. The IIO will also act as an umbrella group, giving investors an organized voice for their interests.
For more details, go to Democracy Watch’s Citizen Association Campaign