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Since it costs a lot to win, and even more to lose,

You and me bound to spend some time wondering what to choose.

Deal – The Grateful Dead

IIROC recently published guidance regarding managing conflicts of interest arising from soliciting dealer arrangements. The guidance elaborates on existing conflict of interest rules in the context of takeover bids, plans of arrangement, proxy contests and other securities transactions involving various types of solicitation fees.


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As of June 13, 2019, private corporations incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA) must maintain a register regarding individuals who have “significant control” over the corporation through direct or indirect influence. This requirement was one of several new initiatives included in Bill C-86, the Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 2 which received Royal Assent on December 13, 2018.


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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 March 7, 2017, 1891868 Alberta Ltd., a wholly-owned indirect subsidiary of Sprott Inc. (Sprott, and together with its wholly-owned subsidiaries, Sprott Group), filed an originating application (Application) in the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta (Court) for an order approving a proposed plan of arrangement (Arrangement) with Central Fund of Canada Limited (Target), Sprott Physical Gold and Silver Trust (to be formed and managed by Sprott Asset Management LP (Trust)), the holders of class A non-voting shares (Class A Shares) of the Target and, as applicable, the holders of common shares (Common Shares) of the Target pursuant to Section 193(2) of the Business Corporations Act (Alberta) (Act).  The Application has been scheduled to be heard by the Court on September 7, 2017.

The Application

The Application seeks an interim order for the calling and holding of a meeting of shareholders (Target Shareholders) of the Target to approve the Arrangement proposed by the Sprott Group.  It should be noted that applications for court orders approving arrangements are typically made by target companies.  Accordingly, this application, which is not supported by the Target, could be characterized as a “hostile” plan of arrangement.  At an application held in April, the Court agreed to set a date in September for the interim application.

According to the Sprott Group, there are a number of qualitative and quantitative benefits to the Target Shareholders which are anticipated to result from the Arrangement and the transactions contemplated thereby, including eliminating the dual-class share structure, continued exposure to the future growth of the Target’s portfolio of assets, the availability of a physical redemption feature, and the potential for the Class A Shares to trade at, near or above their net asset value (instead of at a discount to net asset value, which is currently the case).

According to the Target, the Application is one of numerous steps already taken by the Sprott Group to seek control of the Target. Among other measures taken, the Sprott Group has previously attempted to requisition a meeting of the Target to, among other things, elect a slate of directors (Requisition), commenced a derivative action against the Target and appealed to the Court of Appeal the Court’s finding that the Requisition was invalid.  All of these attempts were unsuccessful.

In this context, a take-over bid made directly to the holders of Common Shares and Class A Shares would likely be ineffective since, according to Sprott, at least 75% of the Common Shares are held by directors and officer of the Target and such persons are not expected to tender to the bid.


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On August 24, 2017, the staff of the Canadian Securities Administrators other than Saskatchewan (CSA) published CSA Staff Notice 46-307 Cryptocurrency Offerings (the Staff Notice) in response to increased activity within the distributed ledger technology or “blockchain” industry. The Staff Notice provides guidance regarding the application of Canadian securities laws to businesses operating in that industry, in particular those undertaking initial “coin” or “token” offerings (ICOs), exchanges on which those coins, tokens and cryptocurrencies are traded and investment funds that invest in such assets.

The Staff Notice provides that in the CSA’s view many coins, tokens and cryptocurrencies fall within the definition of “securities” under Canadian securities laws. An offering of such tokens would therefore require a prospectus or exemption from prospectus requirements and businesses supporting and operating ancillary to such tokens could be subject to registration requirements. The Staff Notice also provides that such products may also be derivatives and subject to the derivatives laws adopted by the Canadian securities regulatory authorities.

The Staff Notice confirms speculation among industry participants and advisors that Canadian regulators would take this approach, which is similar to the positions articulated by the United States Securities & Exchange Commission and securities regulators in Singapore.

With respect to ICOs, the Staff Notice provides that, from the CSA’s perspective, many of the ICOs completed to date involved the sale of securities and that securities laws in Canada will apply if the person or company selling the securities is conducting business from within Canada or there are Canadian investors in the tokens.

The CSA are aware of businesses marketing their tokens as software products and taking the position that the tokens are not subject to securities laws.  It appears to be the CSA’s view, however, that in many cases, when the totality of the offering or arrangement is considered, the tokens should properly be considered securities.  In assessing whether or not securities laws apply, the Staff Notice states that the CSA will consider substance over form and apply a purposive interpretation to the law with the objective of investor protection in mind.


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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