Canadian legislators to hear ABCP complaints

Tue Apr 8, 2008 1:15pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Disgruntled retail investors in Canada's frozen asset-backed commercial paper market will have a chance to air their concerns to politicians at special hearings set to begin this week, legislators said on Tuesday.

The finance committee of Parliament has invited at least six individual investors to give testimony at a three-hour session on Thursday morning.

"If there is anybody that we want to hear from, most importantly it's the investors," said Ted Menzies, a Conservative committee member and parliamentary secretary to the finance minister.

But Menzies was quick to caution that the committee did not want to meddle in the thorny ABCP restructuring process being crafted by a committee led by lawyer Purdy Crawford.

"We don't want to be offering advice, we just want to provide a venue for these people to be able to raise their concerns and find out if they understood what they were buying," Menzies told Reuters.

"This committee can't interfere with a private sector-led process that is ongoing."

About C$32 billion ($31.6 billion) worth of ABCP issued by groups other than Canada's big banks has been choked up since August, when investors lost confidence in the instruments on concerns about ties to the U.S. subprime mortgage market.

Investors are due to vote on Crawford's restructuring plan on April 25, amid signs that individual investors could derail the accord because they are unhappy that they might not get all their money back and may also have to wait for their funds for up to nine years.

Individual investors represent only about 1 percent of the total ABCP value falling under the plan, but they get one vote each and far outnumber big corporate investors.   Continued...