Ethics watchdog clears Morneau on timing of 2015 sale of shares

The federal ethics commissioner has cleared Finance Minister Bill Morneau of allegations that he and his father benefited from insider information to save half a million dollars on the sale of shares in their family-built company.

Political opponents asked ethics commissioner Mary Dawson to look into the sales of millions of dollars worth of shares in Morneau Shepell Inc. in late 2015 by Morneau and his father, a sale that came just days before a major tax announcement that critics say triggered a dip in the stock market.

They argued that Morneau's December 2015 announcement raising income taxes on the highest earners had a wide-reaching market impact, because it encouraged wealthier shareholders to sell off some their stock before the changes came into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

In a letter to Morneau, Dawson says no privileged information was used because the tax increase was first announced publicly as early as Nov. 4, 2015, ``well in advance'' of the stock sale.

In a separate review, Dawson is also clearing Morneau of allegations that he was involved in the Bank of Canada's renewal of its contract with Morneau Shepell to manage its employee pension plan.

She says she's satisfied Morneau was not involved in the Bank of Canada's decision to renew its contract with the company in February 2017.