Timely Disclosure

Timely Disclosure

Updates and Commentary on Current issues in M&A, Corporate Finance and Capital Markets

Canada’s Move to a T-2 Settlement Cycle

Effective September 5, 2017, the settlement cycle in the Canadian and US securities markets will be shortened from three days after the date of a trade (T+3) to two days after the date of a trade (T+2). In Canada, this change follows the announcement on April 27, 2017 by the Canadian Securities Administrators of their intentions to adopt amendments to National Instrument 24-101 Institutional Trade Matching and Settlement and its companion policy, to achieve a smooth transition to T+2 for equity and long-term debt market trades.

Benefits of the Change to T+2

The change from T+3 to T+2 will keep Canadian markets in line with simultaneous changes in the US markets, providing a uniform period for settling securities by T+2. It will also harmonize Canadian markets with the markets in Asia-Pacific, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, which have already made the move to T+2 settlement cycle. Overall, the move to T+2 is expected to enhance market efficiency, simplify cross-border trading, and reduce counterparty, market and liquidity risks.

Transition Period  

The change to a T+2 settlement cycle will result in ex-dates for dividends, distributions and other corporate actions changing from two business days prior to the record date to one business day prior to the record date. As a result of this transition, no listed security will commence ex trading on Tuesday, September 5, 2017. The chart below provides examples of the ex-dates under the new T+2 settlement cycle:

Record Date Ex-Date
September 1, 2017(1) August 30, 2017
September 5, 2017(2) August 31, 2017(3)
September 6, 2017 September 1, 2017(3)
September 7, 2017 September 6, 2017

(1) Last day of T+3 settlement cycle.
(2) First day of T+2 settlement cycle.
(3) September 4, 2017 is a holiday and there will be no ex-date on this date.

Public Company Directors Take Note: Canadian Securities Regulators weigh in on Material Conflict of Interest Transactions

On Thursday, July 27, 2017, staff of the Ontario Securities Commission and its counterparts in Québec, Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick (Staff) published important guidance on Staff’s expectations of market participants, including boards and their advisors, in material conflict of interest transactions.[1]  The guidance highlights the important role of public company directors in such transactions, including conducting a sufficiently rigorous and independent process while appropriately addressing the interests of minority security holders and ensuring detailed public disclosure of the board’s review and approval process.  In addition, the guidance confirms that Staff are actively reviewing such transactions “on a real-time basis” to assess compliance, to determine whether a transaction raises potential public interest concerns, and, if appropriate, to intervene on a timely basis prior to any security holder vote or closing of the transaction.

“material conflict of interest transactions” and “minority security holders”

Staff note that a “material conflict of interest transaction” is a transaction governed by Multilateral Instrument 61-101 Protection of Minority Security Holders in Special Transactions (MI 61-101) that gives rise to substantive concerns as to the protection of minority security holders, being equity security holders who are not “interested parties” in the transaction.  For example, a transaction pursuant to which an insider of the company acquires the company would be considered to be a material conflict of interest transaction.  Among other things, MI 61-101 prescribes detailed procedural safeguards when a company undertakes an insider bid, issuer bid, business combination, or related party transaction, including enhanced disclosure and, absent an exemption, a requirement to obtain “minority approval” (essentially an affirmative vote by a majority of the votes cast by minority security holders) and a formal valuation of the subject matter of the transaction.  In interpreting MI 61-101, Staff note that they apply a “broad and purposive interpretation” to these requirements that emphasizes the instrument’s underlying policy rationale.

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SEC Concludes that Slock.It’s DAO Digital Currency Tokens are Securities

On July 25, 2017, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a report of investigation (Report) concluding that the digital currency “tokens” sold by DAO (DAO Tokens) in a 2016 initial coin offering (ICO) are securities for purposes of federal United States securities laws. This conclusion could have far-reaching implications for businesses that have completed or are contemplating an ICO, businesses dealing with tokens or cryptocurrencies, such as cryptocurrency exchanges, as well as the still-developing legal landscape relating to ICOs and distributed ledger or “blockchain” technology.

Beginning in 2013, many entities that use blockchain technology as their operational foundation have raised funds through ICOs. While precise data is not available, various sources estimate that since the beginning of 2016, between 84 and 139 ICOs have been completed, raising gross proceeds of between U.S.$281 million and U.S.$1.35 billion.(1) In some cases, ICOs have sold out in a matter of seconds, such as the Basic Attention Token ICO in May 2017 which raised U.S.$35 million in less than 30 seconds.(2)

Pursuant to an ICO, an entity offers digital currency tokens to purchasers, typically in exchange for digital consideration such as Bitcoin or Ether. The rights attaching to these tokens vary greatly, with some resembling “kick-starter” style crowd-funding in that token holders have pre-paid for goods or services offered by the entity and others resembling common shares in a company in that token holders have certain voting rights and certain rights to dividend-like payments from the entity.

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Update on Use of the Rights Offering Exemption

On April 20, 2017, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) released Staff Notice 45-323 (Notice). The Notice provided an update on the use of the rights offering exemption available to reporting issuers (Exemption) under section 2.1 of National Instrument 45-106 Prospectus Exemptions, as of December 31, 2016, approximately one year after it was adopted in its current form.

A rights offering is intended to allow reporting issuers to raise capital, while providing an opportunity for existing security holders to protect themselves from dilution by participating in the offering on the basis of their proportional interest. In its original form, prospectus-exempt rights offerings were underutilized, as the excessive time and costs associated with such offerings made them an unappealing option for issuers. On December 8, 2015, in an effort to encourage greater use of prospectus-exempt rights offerings, the Exemption was amended to require simplified plain-language offering materials, often using a question and answer format, and allowing for an increased dilution limit of 100%.

In the Notice, the CSA noted that in the first year of the amended Exemption, the time required to complete a rights offering was reduced from approximately 85 days to approximately 38 days. It is therefore not surprising that a total of 30 rights offerings were completed across all industries, raising approximately $247.6 million – a marked increase from the past average of 13 rights offerings per year. In these 30 rights offerings, an average of 39% of the outstanding securities of a certain class were issued and 48% of the amounts being raised were from insiders who often acted as stand-by guarantors.

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Securities Regulators to IIROC: Get Tougher!

The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) have demanded that the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) boost business conduct compliance activities after the CSA noted serious deficiencies in multiple consecutive oversight reviews. In an Oversight Review Report on IIROC published July 4, 2017 (Report), CSA flagged ‘Business Conduct Compliance’ as a high priority area requiring immediate action. This public censure will likely result in stricter enforcement of IIROC dealer members.

The Report comes out of an oversight review of IIROC conducted by staff of seven provincial securities regulators, covering a period from April 1, 2015 to July 31, 2016. The purpose of the review was to assess whether the selected regulatory processes of IIROC were “effective, efficient, and applied consistently and fairly, and whether IIROC complied with the terms and conditions of the [CSA members’] recognition orders.” The Report also evaluated whether recommendations in the previous Oversight Review Report published on March 3, 2016 (covering the year before the period addressed by the current Report) (Previous Report) had been dealt with satisfactorily. The Report categorized deficiencies as high, medium, or low priority. High priority items “will result in IIROC not meeting its mandate” and require IIROC to “immediately put in place an action plan,” the implementation of which is to be directly monitored by the CSA.

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The Supreme Court of Canada rules on the personal liability of corporate directors

(The full version of this bulletin was originally published on Fasken.com – “The Supreme Court of Canada rules on the personal liability of directors in the context of the oppression remedy” – July 17th, 2017.)

The Supreme Court of Canada rendered a decision in Wilson v. Alharayeri, in which it discusses situations that could lead to the personal liability of a corporate director in the context of an action for corporate oppression under section 241 of the Canada Business Corporations Act (‘‘CBCA’’).

The Court stated that there is no doubt that a director can be held personally liable under this provision, as it confers broad powers to the courts and provides an impressive number of remedies in favour of the complainant. The Court added, however, that section 241 does not identify the situations in which an order for compensation may properly lie against the corporate directors personally, as opposed to the corporation itself. This question was the focus of the Supreme Court’s decision.

In line with the decisions rendered by the Superior Court and the Quebec Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court held that the two directors were personally liable considering that (i) the oppressive conduct was properly attributable to them because of their personal involvement in the oppressive conduct and (ii) this personal liability was relevant in light of the circumstances. In doing so, the Supreme Court refused to depart from the lessons learned from the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision in Budd v. Gentra Inc (hereafter ‘‘Budd’’).

In reaching this conclusion, the Supreme Court of Canada reiterates that the remedial purpose of the oppression remedy is one of commercial fairness. As such, the slavish respect of rigid criteria is to be avoided in favor of an analysis of the circumstances of each particular case. Having said this, the good or bad faith of the director and whether or not he obtained personal gain are factors to consider.

Continue reading to learn how this SCC decision affects the personal liability of a corporate director in the context of oppression remedy.

A Review of CSA Consultation Paper 52-403: Auditor Oversight Issues in Foreign Jurisdictions

On April 25, 2017, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) published a consultation paper to obtain stakeholders’ views on introducing enhanced oversight requirements for foreign audit firms. Specifically, the paper discusses a proposal by the Canadian Public Accountability Board (CPAB) to amend National Instrument 52-108 Auditor Oversight (NI 52-108) to require foreign audit firms to register with CPAB as a Participating Audit Firm (PAF) should they be auditing a reporting issuers’ financial statements.

Foreign auditors, also referred to as “component auditors”, are often engaged when a reporting issuer’s operations are in a jurisdiction different from that of the issuer’s head office. In such instances, the issuer or its primary auditor may decide to engage a component auditor to conduct an audit on financials related to foreign operations.

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New Themes and Direction Resulting from CSA Consultation Paper 33-404

 

On May 11, 2017, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) published CSA Staff Notice 33-319 Status Report on CSA Consultation Paper 33-404 Proposals to Enhance the Obligations of Advisers, Dealers, and Representatives Toward Their Clients (Notice).

The Notice provides a high level summary of the consultation process to date regarding CSA Consultation Paper 33-404 Proposals to Enhance the Obligations of Advisers, Dealers, and Representatives Toward Their Clients (Consultation Paper), and identifies certain high level themes arising in the process and gives a sense of the direction that the CSA will take in regards to certain of the proposals from the Consultation Paper.

Background

The Consultation Paper is part of the CSA’s effort in improving the relationship between clients and their advisers, dealers and representatives, and sought comments on proposed regulatory action aimed at enhancing same.  The Consultation Paper proposed two regulatory changes: (1) amendments to NI 31-103 Registration Requirements, Exemptions and Ongoing Registrant Obligations (NI 31-103) that would work together to better align the interests of registrants to the interests of their clients and enhance various specific obligations that registrants owe to their clients, and (2) a regulatory best interest standard, accompanied by guidance, that would form both an over-arching standard and the governing principle against which all other client-related obligations would be interpreted.  All CSA jurisdictions are participating in the consultation process on these topics, with the exception of the British Columbia Securities Commission who is only consulting on the proposed amendments to NI 31-103.

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CSA Proposed Amendments: Foreshadowing Future Changes to the Securities Resale Regime?

Downtown Hong Kong

CSA Proposed Amendments to Increase Canadian Investors’ Access to Exempt Market Offerings by Foreign Issuers

Background

On June 29, 2017, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) released proposed amendments to National Instrument 45-102 Resale of Securities (NI 45-102) and corresponding amendments to  Companion Policy 45-102CP to National Instrument 45-102 Resale of Securities for a 90-day comment period.  The proposed amendments relate primarily to section 2.14 of NI 45-102 which sets out a prospectus exemption permitting the resale of securities by an investor where the issuer of those securities is not a reporting issuer in any Canadian jurisdiction.

Currently, section 2.14 permits the resale of securities on a prospectus exempt basis only if the issuer was a non-reporting issuer at the time of the distribution or at the time of the resale; residents of Canada, at the distribution date, did not own more than 10% of the outstanding securities of the class or series and did not represent more than 10% of the total number of security holders (10% Ownership Ceiling); and the resale is made on an exchange or market outside of Canada or to a person or company outside of Canada.

The purpose of the existing section 2.14 exemption is to permit the resale of securities over foreign markets or to persons outside of Canada if the issuer has minimal connection to Canada and it is unlikely that a market for these securities would be developed in Canada.  The 10% Ownership Ceiling was initially intended to define when an issuer has minimal connection to Canada.  The proposed amendments to section 2.14 remove the 10% Ownership Ceiling for Canadian residents.

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Should Securities Regulators Play a Larger Role in Canadian Capital Markets?

Investor Protection & Dual Class Share Structures

The recent initial public offerings (IPOs) of major players in the Canadian market, including Aritzia in September 2016, Freshii in January 2017 and Canada Goose in March 2017, have sparked debate about the use of dual class share structures and whether regulatory reform is necessary in order to ensure adequate investor protection.

Corporate Legislation of Dual Class Share Structures:

Pursuant to section 24(3) of the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA),[1] when a corporation has only one class of shares, the rights of the holders of those shares are equal in all respects and include the right to vote at any meeting of shareholders of the corporation; to receive any dividend declared by the corporation; and to receive the remaining property of the corporation on dissolution.

Section 24(4) of the CBCA allows for a corporation to have more than one class of shares (Dual Class Share Structure).  The CBCA requires that the rights, privileges, restrictions and conditions attaching to each class of shares be set out; and that the rights to vote, to receive any dividend declared, and to receive the remaining property of the corporation on dissolution be attached to at least one class of shares, but all such rights are not required to be attached to one class.

Although the use of a Dual Class Share Structure is allowed by the CBCA (as well as by provincial corporate legislation, including the Business Corporations Act (Ontario)), securities regulators have imposed some regulations regarding the use of such a structure. For example, the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) requires that companies issuing a class of shares with multiple votes have a coattail provision in order to ensure that all investors are treated equally in the case of a takeover[2], and the Securities Act (Ontario) mandates various initial and continuous disclosure requirements for securities issuers.[3]

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