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Poonam Puri, IPC academic director

COVID-19 created ‘perfect storm of market volatility,’ says director of investor clinic

Wednesday, September 15, 2021 @ 7:59 AM | By Amanda Jerome

The Osgoode Investor Protection Clinic (IPC) has seen legal aid inquiries more than double over the course of the pandemic, showing how COVID-19 has created a “perfect storm of market volatility.”

According to the IPC’s 2021 annual report, the clinic has “completed 57 intake interviews between May 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021, up from 18 in the same period last year.”

 Poonam Puri, IPC

Poonam Puri, IPC’s academic director

“The pandemic has created a perfect storm of market volatility and isolation that has contributed to a significant increase in the number of potentially fraudulent cases,” said Poonam Puri, the clinic’s academic director, in a statement.

A York University press release noted that Puri and her team “documented an uptick in complaints from people who saw their investments decline and not recover with the market, prompting clients to question whether the investment products and advice were suitable.”

“The cases were often exacerbated by physical distancing and quarantine measures that left investors cut off from trusted sources and vulnerable to unsuitable and high-risk investment products,” the release explained.

IPC students have assisted “a number of low-income clients who were left with substantial debt after their advisers inappropriately recommended that they borrow to invest” and they noted a “prevalence of cases involving affinity fraud, often targeting immigrant groups that identify with the fraudster based on a shared ethnicity, culture, language and/or religion.”

Puri said the team “continues to work very hard to respond to the increasing number of retail investor concerns.”

According to the release, the IPC is also “committed to helping prevent losses before they happen.”

“The Retail Investors Guide to COVID-19 provides a list of dos and don’ts for retail investors, and highlights common scams related to COVID-19, including get-rich-quick schemes and investment products marketed as ‘higher returns with no extra risk,’ ” the release explained.

The IPC, launched in 2016, is the first clinic of its kind in Canada. It aims to provide “pro bono legal advice to people who believe their investments were mishandled and who cannot afford a lawyer. “

The clinic pairs 14 second- and third-year Osgoode JD students with supervising lawyers from leading business law firms in Ontario.

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