On March 15, 2021, the Investment Funds and Structured Products Branch (IFSP Branch) of the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) issued an eNews communication advising that the IFSP Branch will consider requests for filing date extensions on a case-by-case basis for investment fund issuers that are unable to meet filing requirements as
On January 14, 2021, Laurel Hill Advisory Group (“Laurel Hill”) and Fasken hosted a webinar on ESG (environmental, social and governance) considerations of which companies should be aware for the upcoming 2021 proxy season. The webinar’s panelists were David Salmon of Laurel Hill and Emilie Bundock, Stephen Erlichman and Grant McGlaughlin of Fasken and was moderated by Gordon Raman of Fasken. Set out below are some of the comments made by the speakers on the webinar.
The importance of ESG considerations in today’s corporate governance model has developed over the past 50 years. In the early 1970’s the Milton Friedman view of corporations was the dominant business mindset. In a forceful New York Times article he said that business leaders that “believed business is not concerned ‘merely’ with profit but also with promoting desirable ‘social’ ends …[were]… preaching pure and unadulterated socialism”. Since that time, certainly in North America, corporations have assumed a central role in the growth of economies. With that central role has come the recognition that corporations play a greater role in society, as noted in 2017 by Larry Fink, the head of Blackrock. In his annual letter to CEOs he wrote: “ To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”…
Continue Reading Proxy Season Preview 2021: ESG Considerations
On January 14, 2021, the Toronto Stock Exchange (“TSX”), Laurel Hill Advisory Group (“Laurel Hill”) and Fasken hosted a conversation on important disclosure and corporate governance considerations for issuers leading into the 2021 proxy season. The panel discussed four discrete areas of recent developments in corporate governance which companies should be aware of before this upcoming 2021 proxy season:
- An Update from Proxy Advisory Firms
- An Update from the TSX
- Diversity Disclosure
- COVID-19: Lasting Repercussions
The webinar discussion featured Bill Zawada of Laurel Hill, Valérie Douville of the TSX, and Sarah Gingrich and Neil Kravitz of Fasken and was moderated by Gordon Raman of Fasken.…
Continue Reading Proxy Season Preview 2021
On June 25, 2020 the Canadian Securities Administrators (“CSA”) released their Consultation Paper 25-402 – Consultation on the Self-Regulation Organization Framework (“Consultation Paper”). The Consultation Paper discusses seven key issues of the existing framework for self-regulatory organizations (“SROs”) and is seeking feedback from industry representatives, investor advocates, and the public on how the innovation…
On May 12th 2020 the Ontario Government not only extended the province’s declaration of emergencies, but also passed Bill 190, the COVID-19 Response and Reforms to Modernize Ontario Act, 2020 (Bill 190). Bill 190 makes slight, but significant, changes to many statutes to provide flexibility and relief to businesses and corporations at…
On May 20, 2020, Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) issued a news release to announce that the CSA has published new local blanket orders (New Blanket Orders) for market participants that provide a 45-day extension for periodic filings normally required to be made by non-investment fund issuers between June 2, 2020 and…
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the novel challenges with which public companies around the world have been faced, Glass Lewis & Co. (“Glass Lewis”) and Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”), two established proxy advisory firms, have released updates in connection with how their voting policies will be applied in the course of the 2020 proxy season. The central themes from both advisors are that the COVID-19 pandemic is creating exceptional and difficult circumstances for Boards to navigate, and that the firms will have an increased flexibility in their approach to proxy contest reviews, with an emphasis on the quality of companies’ decision-making, disclosure and reasoning in respect of any changes to governance, compensation and capital structure.
On July 27, 2017, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) announced in CSA Staff Notice 51-351 Continuous Disclosure Review Program Activities for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2017 that a CSA Staff Notice detailing the results of the continuous disclosure review program (CD Review Program) will be published every two years instead of annually. As a result, there will be no CSA Staff Notice related to the CD Review Program for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2017 and instead the next CSA Staff Notice will be for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2018.
CSA Staff Notices regarding the results of the CD Review Program are aimed at providing an overview of common continuous disclosure deficiencies. Further details regarding the CD Review Program can be found in CSA Staff Notice 51-312 (revised) Harmonized Continuous Disclosure Review Program and have been summarized below.
In 2004, the CSA established the CD Review Program. The goal of the CD Review Program is to improve the completeness, quality and timeliness of continuous disclosure by reporting issuers in Canada. The CD Review Program educates issuers during continuous disclosure reviews and identifies material disclosure deficiencies and questionable transactions that affect the reliability and accuracy of an issuer’s disclosure record.
Under the CD Review program, the principal regulator is responsible for reviewing the issuer’s continuous disclosure record and taking further steps related to continuous disclosure compliance. The CSA uses a risk-based approach to select issuers to review and to determine the type of reviews to conduct, which can either be a “full” review or an “issue-oriented” review. Staff review the overall quality of the issuer’s disclosure, and in particular, assess whether there is sufficient information for the reader to understand the issuer’s financial performance, financial position, business risks and future prospects. Issues identified during the review are typically communicated to the issuer through a comment letter, which then invites the issuer to provide a written response.
In late May 2016, the TSX proposed amendments to the TSX Company Manual (Initial Proposal), most notably in Part IV, which contains the requirements for maintaining a listing. In our earlier post, we provided an overview of the Initial Proposal, which was to introduce a requirement for certain corporate documents to be disclosed, and publicly accessible, on a listed issuer’s website. In the Initial Proposal, the TSX pointed out that while many relevant corporate documents are already publicly available (typically on SEDAR), they are often difficult to find and categorize.
At the conclusion of the initial comment period, the TSX identified concerns from market participants regarding the potential increased regulatory burden and the general uncertainty surrounding the types of documents that fall within the scope of the Initial Proposal. As a result, the proposed amendments were revised (Revised Proposal) and the TSX has issued a further request for comments, to be completed by May 8, 2017. While the rationale of providing participants with easy centralized access to key information remains unchanged, the Revised Proposal attempts to remedy the potential regulatory burden and clarity issues of the Initial Proposal.
The Initial Proposal created ambiguity by providing for broad categories of documents, with short non-exhaustive lists as guidance, that an issuer would be required to post online. For example, an issuer was required to post “constating documents including articles, trust indentures, partnership agreements, by-laws and other similar documents” and “corporate policies that may impact meetings of security holders and voting, including advance notice and majority voting policies.” The Revised Proposal attempts to address the ambiguity by providing specific lists (for example, “articles of incorporation, amalgamation, continuation…”) and in some cases, a catch-all for documents of a similar nature.
Shareholder Control over Executive Compensation under Bill 101
Bill 101, An Act to Amend the Business Corporations Act (Bill 101), proposes a number of updates to the Ontario Business Corporations Act (OBCA). Introduced as a private member’s bill in early March, Bill 101 aims to shift power to shareholders through amendments in areas such as shareholder meetings, shareholder proxies, as well as the election and diversity requirements of directors. Among Bill 101’s most ambitious changes is to provide shareholders with power over executive compensation. These executive compensation amendments build on a trend in which many public companies are voluntarily providing shareholders with a “say-on-pay”. Bill 101’s proposal in this area, however, goes much further by providing shareholders with the unprecedented ability to both propose and approve executive remuneration policies. The implications of this power raises important questions regarding the respective responsibilities and duties of directors and shareholders.
Shareholders’ Current Say-On-Pay
Most Canadian business statutes, including the OBCA and the Canada Business Corporations Act, explicitly provide directors with the authority to fix compensation for directors, officers and employees, subject only to the company’s articles, by-laws and any unanimous shareholder agreement. Today in Canada there are no corporate or securities laws that provide shareholders with the ability to approve, much less propose, executive compensation.
While not legally required to do so, a trend in recent years has seen many publicly listed Canadian companies voluntarily provide shareholders with a vote on executive compensation. These say-on-pay motions are advisory only, with the results not binding the directors’ decisions. Although non-binding, the say-on-pay process is seen as providing shareholders with value by encouraging directors to consider and clearly explain compensation policies to shareholders.
While the voluntary adoption of non-binding advisory votes is steadily increasing, Canada lags behind certain other jurisdictions in both mandating say-on-pay votes and in providing teeth to the votes through binding outcomes (see a recent Timely Disclosure post). For example, the United Kingdom and Australia have mandated periodic shareholder votes on executive compensation policies.