Topic: Governance and directors’ liability

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A no-shop provision can be a buyer’s best friend, while exceptions may be the target’s best friend

Deal protections are an important aspect of M&A transactions. Buyers will typically negotiate with the target of the transaction to include all kinds of deal protections mechanisms, including no-shop provisions, matching rights, and break fees payable to the buyer. No-shop provisions in particular restrict the ability of the target board to solicit alternative proposals (including negotiations with third parties) and recommend alternative transactions to shareholders. Receipt of an unsolicited proposal may trigger a notice requirement. However, no-shop provisions can be limited in scope. Three common and interrelated “exceptions” to no-shop provisions are fiduciary out, go-shop, and window-shop provisions. While the … Continue Reading

New share register requirements! Working towards greater corporate transparency

In November 2018, the Standing Committee on Finance released a report to address the issue of money laundering and terrorist financing in Canada. The Committee’s first recommendation emanated from the corporate registry regime in the United Kingdom (“UK”). In an attempt to emulate the UK’s system, the Committee recommended that the Canadian government work with the provinces and territories to maintain a register for all legal persons and entities with significant control over a corporation.

Requirements for share registers

On June 13, 2019, previous amendments to the Canada Business Corporations Act (“CBCA) came into force. These amendments, introduced … Continue Reading

Full disclosure: financial assistance and related corporations

Many transactions involve financial assistance by means of a loan, guarantee or otherwise between related corporations. Often, an important consideration in these circumstances is: does such financial assistance trigger any disclosure obligations? Generally, a corporation may give financial assistance to any person (including an individual, partnership, association, body corporate, trustee, executor, administrator or legal representative) for any purpose (s. 45(2) of the Business Corporations Act (Alberta) (the Act)). However, a corporation must disclose to its shareholders financial assistance that the corporation gives to:

  1. a shareholder or director of the corporation or of an affiliated corporation;
  2. an associate of a
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Bill C-97 amendments to the CBCA: broadening the scope of management considerations

The 2019 budget implementation bill (Bill C-97) contains significant amendments to the Canadian Business Corporations Act (CBCA), which should be noted by organizations wishing to acquire Canadian targets. On April 30, 2019, Bill C-97 passed its second reading and was referred to Committee in the House of Commons. The amendments to the CBCA create the following new considerations and/or obligations for the management of corporations governed under the CBCA.

“Best Interests of the Corporation” – more than solely shareholder interests

Bill C-97 aims to consolidate the law on the fiduciary duty of directors and officers by codifying … Continue Reading

Cannabis and corporate governance: time for grow ops to grow up?

Since the legalization of recreational cannabis on October 17, 2018, the Canadian cannabis industry has experienced a significant boom. In its 2018 Cannabis Report, Deloitte predicted that legal sales of marijuana are expected to generate up to $4.34 billion in 2019. Moreover, and as previously discussed, Health Canada has introduced draft regulations governing the production and sale of edibles, extracts, and topicals, potentially providing additional growth opportunities for Cannabis companies to partner with the traditional food and beverage industry.

As the industry continues to grow, it is worth asking the question, how do these companies stack up from … Continue Reading

A pragmatic approach to climate risk

Climate change is a reality we cannot ignore. Media report season after season record-breaking heat, drought, bushfires, etc. The impact on businesses is real, and investors are increasingly pushing for more detailed disclosure on climate change-related issues.

According to the Wall Street Journal, companies are expected to face 75 climate-related shareholder proposals this AGM season. Generally, the questions investors are asking can be divided into two categories:

  1. What corporate social responsibility initiatives are you adopting to mitigate your company’s contribution to climate change?
  2. Is your company particularly exposed to any risks that climate change is expected to exacerbate?
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Corporate governance 101: increasing minority shareholder voting power

If you are a minority shareholder you may feel a lack of control over corporate matters because majority shareholders, well, hold the majority of the voting rights. Certain shareholder agreements can help alleviate this lack of control and provide you with greater voting power.

Shareholder Agreements

Simply put, a shareholder agreement is a private contract between two or more shareholders of a corporation that supplements the corporation’s governing statute(s) and constating documents (i.e. articles of incorporation and by-laws). A shareholder agreement, particularly where it is not a unanimous shareholder agreement, should never contradict or conflict in any way with the … Continue Reading

Shareholder responsibility over auditor tenure

Concerns about the term or length of auditor tenure have returned to relevance following the recent fall of industry giants, providing good reason for Canadian companies to reconsider their audit and governance practices.

In 2016, the European Union implemented mandatory rotations of audit firms for public companies, which was similarly considered, though rejected, in the United States. While Canada has not implemented mandatory auditor rotation, the annual appointment of auditors is an area in which shareholders have considerable power and responsibility, particularly following transactions that substantially change the nature and structure of a company.

Each year, business corporations legislation requires … Continue Reading

Look to the future: a tip for analyzing corporate culture in an era of evolving shareholder activism

2018 promises to be a year in which corporate culture will likely become an even more important focal point for investors and activists.

There’s no denying that social media has drastically altered the dynamic for public companies. Today, shareholders are increasingly calling upon corporations to take public stances on various social (and sometimes political) issues, some of which may be wholly unrelated to the corporation’s purpose. In a climate where shareholders are increasingly judging corporations based on non-traditional criteria, public companies can no longer spout platitudes about corporate governance and social values without risking being singled out. More than ever, … Continue Reading

Canadian Securities Administrators are seeking comments on soliciting dealer arrangements

The Canadian Securities Administrators (the “CSA”) have issued CSA Staff Notice 61-303 and Request for Comment – Soliciting Dealer Arrangements (the “Notice”) on the use of soliciting dealer arrangements. “Soliciting dealer arrangements” generally refer to agreements entered into between issuers and investment dealers under which the issuer agrees to pay to the dealers a fee for each security successfully solicited to tender to a bid in the case of a take-over bid, or to vote in favour of a matter requiring securityholder approval. In many cases, the payment of any fee is contingent on “success” and/or … Continue Reading

Shareholders’ agreements: right of first refusal versus right of first offer

It is common for shareholders of a closely held corporation to set out the rules that govern their relationship vis-à-vis one another in the form of a shareholder agreement. One key concern for shareholders when negotiating a shareholder agreement is controlling the transfer of shares to unknown or undesirable persons, while still maintaining liquidity in their shares. A common mechanism used to address this concern is a right of first refusal (ROFR).

Right of first refusal

A ROFR provides non-selling shareholders with the right to accept or refuse an offer by a selling shareholder after the selling shareholder … Continue Reading

Director distraction and successful M&A

Members of a board of directors play a crucial role in the decision making processes of a company, which shape the company’s practices, strategies, future goals and overall success. Directors who are not are primarily employed by the subject company or those who sit on multiple boards may be at a risk of neglecting some of their key director responsibilities if they are preoccupied with too many things at once. This is not to say that busy directors will inevitably get distracted and neglect their responsibilities, but that directors ought to be mindful of juggling too many roles at once … Continue Reading

Shareholder activism in M&A

As noted by Kingsdale Advisors in a recently published report, corporate directors and their legal advisors continue to pay insufficient attention to shareholder activism in M&A. The authors of the 2017 special report caution that not only have shareholder activists been emboldened by post-financial crisis legislative changes that afford shareholders greater say, but that these investors also enjoy access to ever more sophisticated playbooks. Further, they stress that activism in M&A is no longer the exclusive domain of entrepreneurial hedge funds; traditionally passive investors, including large asset managers and even pension funds, are increasingly willing to ensure that their … Continue Reading

Socially responsible investing: considerations for private companies

Certain consumers seeking out companies that have socially responsible products and services or that have a focus on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) is nothing new. Recently, however, evidence has emerged suggesting that investors, both retail and institutional, are increasingly taking these social factors into account when making decisions about how to allocate their investments.

Responsible investing

According to a recent study by the Responsible Investment Association, the Canadian market for responsible investments has grown by 49% over the past two years and has surpassed $1.5 trillion in assets under management. This suggests that Canadians are becoming … Continue Reading

The InterOil decision: robust and independent fairness opinion required

A recent decision of the Yukon Court of Appeal, InterOil Corporation v Mulacek, has potentially significant consequences for corporate governance practices in the context of plans of arrangement.

Fairness opinions in plans of arrangement

When a corporation proposes a plan of arrangement to its shareholders, it is generally considered a best practice of corporate governance to obtain a fairness opinion that assesses the financial fairness of the arrangement for affected shareholders. The fact that the directors sought expert financial advice evidences compliance with their fiduciary duties and, when applying for court approval, is an important factor in persuading the … Continue Reading

The role of the strategic board in value creation

It is not in dispute that the role of the board of directors is to provide oversight of management and advise on the strategic direction of the corporation. However, the delineation of roles and responsibilities between management and directors in setting corporate strategy can often become blurred.

In collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group and RBC Capital Markets, we have released a paper offering a fresh perspective on an enhanced role for the board of directors in value creation and setting corporate strategy. We recommend that board members should engage regularly with management to critically examine value creation alternatives with … Continue Reading

Management diversity: do women in management lower a firm’s risk profile?

This blog post originally appeared in Norton Rose Fulbright’s Special Situations blog.

In an earlier post, we commented on the formal amendments to National Instrument 58-101 – Disclosure of Corporate Governance Practices and Form 58-101F1 – Corporate Governance Disclosure imposing enhanced disclosure requirements with respect to female representation on the boards and in executive officer positions of TSX-listed issuers.  As we discussed earlier this year, the correlation between gender diversity on boards and company performance is compelling from an investment value perspective.

It is also beneficial for issuers to recruit women into upper management roles. In a … Continue Reading

Assessing corruption risks in M&A transactions

In a previous post, we discussed the importance of considering anti-corruption and bribery risks when engaging in international transactions. In connection with the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, Canada, the US and the UK, as well as an increasing number of legislatures around the world have implemented legislation forbidding the transfer of benefits for the purpose of influencing foreign officials. Companies charged under the Canadian Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA) are criminally prosecuted, and can be forced to pay unlimited fines in addition to suffering irreparable reputational … Continue Reading

Private equity investments and common governance rights in investee companies

Private equity investors (PEIs) are often a good source of capital for companies looking to start, maintain, or grow their operations and can also provide significant operational and transactional expertise. Like other investors, PEIs operate with a primary goal in mind; that is, to receive a favourable return on their investment. However, PEIs generally seek to have a greater level of involvement in an investee company than other investors.  Accordingly, PEIs commonly negotiate for certain governance rights in the company via a unanimous shareholder or limited partnership agreement in order to maintain a certain level of oversight over … Continue Reading

Changes of note to the Yukon Business Corporations Act

On May 1, 2015, a significant number of changes to the Yukon’s Business Corporations Act and Business Corporations Regulation were proclaimed in force. This was the culmination of an almost seven-year process undertaken to modernize the Yukon’s corporations and securities legislation.

While many of these changes simply bring the Yukon’s corporations and securities legislation in line with that of other Canadian jurisdictions, there are a number of amendments that are unique to the Yukon.

Amendments of note include:

  • “Safe harbour” provisions which allow directors, with the approval the majority of directors or shareholders, to pursue a “business opportunity” which might
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Common liquidity rights in private equity investments in early stage companies

Early stage companies face an uphill climb in growing their business and ensuring their viability going forward. Private equity firms can provide capital as well as significant operational and transactional expertise to aid in a company’s growth. However, private equity investors often intend to exit any investment within a defined time period. As a result, private equity investors frequently demand concessions prior to investment to avoid exposure to liquidity risk. Common liquidity mechanisms sought by private equity investors include drag-along rights, and registration rights.

Drag-along rights and tag-along rights 

Private equity investors will frequently attempt to negotiate the inclusion of … Continue Reading

M&A activism 101: top 3 tips for companies

There is a wide range of issues that a board and management team must face in considering an M&A transaction in the normal course.

Increasingly, however, a company that is considering a potential merger or acquisition, or asking its shareholders to consider such a transaction, needs to be aware of the motivations of the stakeholder community that will also be evaluating the prospects of any such transaction, whether at a shareholder meeting or in the court of public opinion.

Stakeholders who do not like the merits of a transaction that is being proposed are increasingly actively and publicly campaigning against … Continue Reading

What can private companies learn from shareholder activism? Our top 5 tips for companies and boards

As a new year begins, it is always a good time to take stock of the successes of the past year and look forward to doing even better in 2015. Shareholder activism will continue to be a “hot topic” for publicly listed issuers in 2015, but what lessons from the activism arena translate to companies that are not publicly listed? Here is a checklist of our top 5 tips to help ensure a smooth year to come: 

  1. Effective communication of corporate strategy to employees, customers and the public – Having a great strategy that no one knows about will not
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Golden parachutes on the rise during down economy

This post was contributed by Éric L’Italien, Lawyer, Norton Rose Canada

Given the shaky economy over the past couple of years and the reduced number of takeovers, mergers and acquisitions, one would have expected a decline in indirect compensation such as golden parachutes.

However, according to a recent Alvarez & Marsal study, there has been a 32% increase over the past two years in the average value of the change-in-control benefits (i.e., golden parachutes) provided to US executives. Considering that the evolution of change-in-control benefits in Canada tends to be influenced by what takes place in the United … Continue Reading

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