Introduction

In a number of recent cases, Canadian courts have demonstrated a willingness to vest mining claims free of royalty rights notwithstanding that those rights might constitute interests in land. One such case before the courts in Ontario is Third Eye Capital Corporation v. Ressources Dianor Inc./Dianor Resources Inc.


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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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berlin-2018056_1280A recent case in Manitoba has explored certain issues relating to the use of proxies within the context of a limited partnership.  The case, 177061 Canada Ltd. et al. v. 5771723 Manitoba Ltd. et al., 2016 MBQB 40, discusses two points of interests relating to proxies in a limited partnership setting (and, by logical extension, a partnership setting): (1) whether, under Manitoba law, a unit holder in a limited partnership can give to another person an irrevocable proxy to vote, which extends beyond a single meeting or adjourned meeting, and (2) if so, whether such irrevocable proxy can be revoked.

The case concerns proxies that were created in 1998 as part of a payment for debt for various transactions between two sophisticated business parties (Lount and Shelter).  One of the parties, Lount, a respondent in this case, received two  “irrevocable voting proxies” from a company controlled by the other sophisticated party, Shelter, and from the wife of a business associate of Shelter (Sikora), each an applicant in this case, for voting rights of a limited partnership (unrelated to the transactions) which beneficially owned an apartment building in Winnipeg.

Lount proceeded to use the proxies until 2011.  An annual and special meeting of the limited partnership was scheduled for December 2013 in which significant changes to the limited partnership agreement were to be considered.


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In its decision Mennillo v. Intramodal inc., 2016 SCC 51 (Intramodal), the Supreme Court of Canada (Court) was asked whether a corporation’s failure to comply with statutory formalities was oppressive against a shareholder. The majority ruled that based on the facts the company’s failure to comply with certain Canada Business Corporation Act (CBCA) requirements did not trigger the oppression remedy. In the words of Justice Cromwell, who provided reasons for the majority, “sloppy paperwork on its own does not constitute oppression” (para 5).

Companies, directors and their shareholders should be cautious, however, not to draw the wrong lesson from the majority’s decision in Intramodal. Compliance with corporate statutes, whether federal or provincial, is not optional. In addition to violating the law, a failure to comply with corporate statutory formalities can still trigger an oppression remedy where the violation frustrates the reasonable expectations of a company stakeholder, which includes a company’s shareholders, directors, officers and creditors.

As this post will discuss, the decision in Intramodal did not establish a precedent that statutory non-compliance on its own cannot result in an oppression remedy.


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In today’s marketplace, most shareholder voting is done by way of proxy. Few shareholders choose to attend shareholder meetings in person. Under the current rules of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), shareholders who attend meetings in person typically receive a universal ballot, which allows shareholders to choose from a complete list of all

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

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OSC and BCSC on Defensive Private Placements Under the New Take-Over Bids Regime

As discussed in our previous post, the first hostile take-over bid under the new Canadian take-over bid rules was launched by Hecla Mining Company (Hecla) in July 2016 for the purchase of all of the outstanding shares of Dolly Varden Silver Corporation (Dolly), a TSX Venture Exchange listed issuer. Since our initial post, this take-over bid has become of particular interest to capital market participants because applications were made by each of Hecla and Dolly to the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) and the British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC) related to the take-over bid and the subsequent private placement announced by Dolly. Many hoped that the OSC and BCSC (collectively, the Commissions) in deciding these applications would bring additional clarity on how regulators would review alleged defensive tactics in light of the new take-over bid rules.

A simultaneous hearing in front of the OSC and the BCSC was held on July 20 and 21, 2016 and while the applicable orders were rendered on July 22, 2016 by each of the Commissions, the highly anticipated joint reasons were not issued until October 24, 2016. In their reasons, the Commissions concluded that the question of whether a private placement is an abusive defensive tactic requiring regulator intervention is a fact-dependent balance between policy considerations and bona fide corporate objectives and outlined a two-step test for regulators to weigh the relevant factors.

Defensive Private Placements

The most anticipated portion of the Commissions’ reasons relates to Hecla’s application to cease-trade the private placement Dolly announced after Hecla announced its take-over bid. In its application, Hecla argued that the private placement should be cease-traded either as an abusive defensive tactic under National Policy 62-202 Take-Over Bids – Defensive Tactics (NP 62-202) or under the Commissions’ broader public interest mandate.


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Seagate Technology’s Unusual Alliance with ValueAct Capital: Is There Method in Seagate’s Madness in Inviting an Activist Wolf into the Fold?

Last month, Seagate Technology plc, an $11 billion company in the data-storage business, announced a secondary block trade in which it facilitated the transfer of roughly 9.5 million ordinary shares, representing an approximate 4%

Nordex Explosives Ltd. (Nordex), a Canadian explosives manufacturer listed on the TSX Venture Exchange, and Société Anonyme d’Explosifs et de Produits Chimiques (EPC) entered into a private placement and subsequent going private transaction on June 15, 2016. EPC was to purchase Nordex shares for $0.12 per share.

However, subsequent to Nordex’s announcement of the EPC