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On March 15, 2018, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) and the Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority of Saskatchewan (FCAAS) released highly anticipated reasons for a combined decision relating to Aurora Cannabis Inc.’s (Aurora) unsolicited take-over bid to acquire CanniMed Therapeutics Inc. (CanniMed). The reasons followed a December 21, 2017 decision in which the OSC and FCAAS, among other things:

  • Permitted Aurora’s use of “hard” lock-up agreements with other CanniMed shareholders to build support for its bid (finding that the locked-up shareholders were not “acting jointly or in concert” with Aurora).
  • Cease traded a tactical shareholder rights plan (poison pill) implemented by the CanniMed board in the face of the Aurora bid.
  • Declined to grant Aurora exemptive relief from the 105-day minimum deposit period.
  • Declined to restrict Aurora’s ability to rely on the exemption from the general restriction on purchases by a bidder to purchase up to 5% of the target company’s shares during the currency of its bid.


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In May 2016, sweeping changes to the Canadian take-over bid regime came into effect.  The stated purpose of the new rules included the goal of rebalancing the dynamics between hostile bidders and target boards by extending the minimum bid period to 105 days, and mandating a 50% mandatory minimum tender condition and a ten-day extension once all bid conditions have been satisfied or waived.  We published our Canadian Hostile Take-Over Bid Study in the spring of 2015, just over a year before the new rules came into force.  In that study, we expressed concern that strengthening a target board’s hand could result in a decrease in hostile bid activity.  Over the past year, various commentators have suggested that the new rules have had no adverse impact on hostile bid activity.  We are not so sure.

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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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In light of Donald Trump’s unorthodox campaign and unexpected victory, it may be worthwhile to consider whether there are any strategy lessons for those engaged in shareholder activism.  After all, a proxy contest is essentially a form of political campaign.

  1. Is angry rhetoric on the part of the activist more galvanizing than reasoned argument?
  2. In

On February 25, 2016, the CSA released the final version of the long-awaited changes to the Canadian take-over bid regime.  While the final rules are largely in line with the proposal that was released for comment almost a year ago, it is notable that the statutory minimum bid period has been shortened from

Most of the recent headlines concerning the unsolicited takeover bid by Suncor Energy Inc. (Suncor) for Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. (COS) surround the decision of the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) to allow COS’s tactical shareholder rights plan to remain in place until January 4, 2016.  While that decision is

As we have noted in our previous post, a special committee appointed to lead a company’s response to an activist can expect to receive a greater degree of public scrutiny, but may take comfort from the fact that the legal standard against which its members will be judged will not change.  While that should

As we discussed in our previous post, a special committee established in response to an activist’s approach should be comprised of independent board members with the relevant expertise and the time to participate meaningfully. While we have written about some of the benefits to the company of incorporating a special committee process into its

As we discussed in our previous post, when a board finds itself in the crosshairs of an activist, establishing a special committee of unconflicted directors with clear marching orders from the board may allow for more thoughtful decision-making under pressure and lend credibility to the company’s response, particularly where management’s performance is under attack. 

As we discussed in our previous post, a board faced with the arrival of an activist on the scene can benefit from establishing a special committee of independent directors.  While a quick response time is one of the more obvious benefits of having a small group of directors lead the charge, a committee of