Canada: Québec : Responsabilité du conseiller en investissements et de la compagnie qui l'emploie

Last Updated: September 29 2016
Article by Jo-Anne Demers and Frédéric Pagé

La crise financière ne brise pas le lien de causalité entre la faute et les dommages causés à des investisseurs par un conseiller financier. C'est ce qu'a statué la Cour d'appel du Québec dans l'arrêt London Life Insurance c. Long,1 retenant la responsabilité d'un conseiller en investissements qui a été fautif envers ses clients. La Cour d'appel a aussi décidé que pour qu'une compagnie soit tenue responsable pour un employé en raison d'un mandat apparent, il faut établir l'existence d'une croyance légitime, de la part de celui qui subit le préjudice, fondée sur la bonne foi. La Cour a statué que cela inclut l'obligation de se renseigner.

Les faits sont les suivants : À partir de 2005 deux migrants investisseurs, Yanping Long et Jianli Yang retiennent les services du conseiller en investissements, Dun (Victor) Wang. Ce dernier est représentant en matière d'assurance de personne pour la London Life Insurance Company. Il est aussi représentant de courtier en épargne collective pour Quadrus. De 2005 à 2008, les clients lui confient plus de 2 millions $US, une somme qu'il investit chez London et Quadrus. Les clients avaient précisé qu'ils désiraient être prudents et favorisaient un portefeuille équilibré.

En 2005, le courtier met sur pied son cabinet en assurance de personnes, Wang Inc., et démissionne de London Life. Il maintient toutefois ses activités en épargne collective, continuant d'opérer pour le compte de Quadrus. Il informe ses clients que cela ne change rien aux produits qu'il leur offre et vend.

Leur relation arrive à terme en 2008, alors que les clients s'aperçoivent que le courtier n'a pas respecté les instructions qu'ils lui ont données. Ils découvrent par la suite que Wang, depuis la fin 2006, a cessé de respecter le caractère équilibré du portefeuille, comme ils le souhaitaient. Les clients portent plainte auprès de London Life pour changer de conseiller financier. Ils procèdent aussi à la vente de leurs titres et intentent une poursuite afin d'obtenir réparation. Tous ces évènements ont lieu dans le contexte de la crise financière de 2008.

En Cour supérieure, le juge condamne solidairement Wang, Wang Inc., London Life ainsi que Quadrus, à réparer le préjudice subi par les deux investisseurs. Il conclut que le courtier a manqué à son obligation de respecter le profil d'investisseur de ses clients, n'ayant pas procédé à une évaluation adéquate de leurs besoins, objectifs et profils. Aussi Wang Inc., London Life et Quadrus sont tenues responsables des fautes du courtier qui travaillait pour elles. La cour conclut également que malgré la mise sur pied de l'entreprise Wang Inc., London Life demeure responsable en raison d'un mandat apparent. Elle évalue les dommages selon le profit réalisé si les investissements avaient été effectués en fonction des instructions des clients, et cela, dès 2005. Il se sert à cet effet de la méthode de portefeuille de référence.

La Cour d'appel

La Cour d'appel conclut qu'il était du devoir du courtier d'analyser les besoins de ses clients tout en connaissant et respectant leurs objectifs et leur niveau de connaissance. Wang n'a pas respecté ces critères en faisant évoluer le portefeuille des clients de manière non conforme à leur profil d'investisseurs. Par ailleurs, la crise financière ne brise pas le lien de causalité établi en première instance. Elle est simplement prise en compte dans le calcul des dommages.

La Cour d'appel estime que le juge de première instance avait raison d'ignorer la vente par les clients de leurs titres. Cette analyse doit avoir lieu de manière objective sur les bases des actions d'une personne raisonnablement prudente et diligente, placée dans les mêmes circonstances.

Par contre, la Cour estime que le tribunal de première instance a erré en établissant que London était responsable. Au moment où le portefeuille cessait d'être équilibré, Wang n'était plus un représentant de London Life. Quant à la théorie du mandat apparent, la Cour juge que les clients ont manqué à leur obligation de prudence et de diligence, soit qu'ils ont fait défaut de se renseigner quand ils auraient dû. Ainsi, ils n'ont pas su établir qu'ils pouvaient légitimement croire à l'existence d'un mandat apparent. De ce fait, le mandat apparent ne tient plus et aucune responsabilité ne peut être imputée à London.

Quant à Quadrus, il n'y a eu aucune modification dans les comptes des clients en 2006 et 2008. Les décisions du courtier préalable à 2006 étaient approuvées par ses clients. De ce fait, l'action contre Quadrus aurait aussi dû être rejetée.

Solidarité entre les parties

Le Tribunal rappelle le principe de la solidarité en vertu de l'article 1480 C.c.Q.: ce n'est qu'en situation où l'on ne peut partager le préjudice entre plusieurs personnes en proportion de leur faute respective que l'on impute la responsabilité collective. Lorsqu'il est possible de déterminer le quantum selon les proportions en pourcentage du portefeuille comme dans le cas présent, le Tribunal ne doit pas conclure à la solidarité des parties.

En somme, le Tribunal a maintenu en partie le jugement de première instance, en imputant Wang et Wang Inc. de leur responsabilité. Par contre, London ainsi que Quadrus ont été libérés et le quantum des dommages a été modifié.

Footnote

[1] London Life Insurance Company c. Long, 2016 QCCA 1434

Québec : Responsabilité du conseiller en investissements et de la compagnie qui l'emploie

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Jo-Anne Demers
Frédéric Pagé
 
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