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.

Background

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:

  1. An Update from Proxy Advisory Firms
  2. An Update from the TSX
  3. Diversity Disclosure
  4. 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

Further to our earlier post discussing COVID-19 and Material Adverse Change (“MAC”) provisions in merger and acquisition agreements, and the procedural ruling in respect of the dispute involving Rifco Inc. (“Rifco”), ACC Holdings Inc. (“Purchaser”), and the Purchaser’s parent company, CanCap Management Inc. (“CanCap”), each of Rifco, the Purchaser and CanCap, (collectively, the “Parties”) settled

Further to our earlier post discussing COVID-19 and Material Adverse Change (“MAC”) provisions in mergers and acquisitions agreements and the hearing held last week in connection with an application for the final order (“Final Order Application”) in respect of the proposed plan of arrangement (the “Arrangement”) involving Rifco Inc. (“Rifco”), an alternative auto financing company

Further to our earlier post discussing COVID-19 and Material Adverse Change (“MAC”) provisions in M&A Agreements that addressed the lack of relevant Canadian court decisions and the associated uncertainty in their interpretation, Canadian capital market participants are watching with keen interest the dispute between Rifco Inc. (“Rifco”), an alternative auto financing company that trades on

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.


Continue Reading Proxy Voting Guidelines in the COVID-19 Context

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised a fundamental question for M&A participants: does the outbreak of COVID-19 and the impact on a business constitute a “Material Adverse Change” (referred to as a “MAC”) under merger agreements? The answer is important because if the pandemic is a MAC, then buyers can typically walk away from a deal without penalty or legal exposure. On the other hand, if it is not a MAC and buyers try to walk the seller can seek damages and/or seek specific performance of the agreement to force the buyer to close.

The law on MACs

In Canada there is virtually no case law on what constitutes a MAC, so most M&A practitioners look to the jurisprudence from Delaware for assistance (where there are several thoughtful and well-articulated decisions). Not wanting to empower buyer’s remorse at the expense of public shareholders, Delaware courts have been extremely reluctant to find a MAC to have occurred. In fact, there is only one case in which a Delaware court has found a MAC and allowed a buyer to walk from a merger agreement. See our previous blog post for reference.

Although difficult to establish, the case law has focused on two key elements: that the adverse change is “material” and “durationally significant.” Put differently, a MAC needs to be much more than a short-term drop and essentially reflect a fundamental change in the business to be acquired.
Continue Reading COVID-19 and Material Adverse Change Provisions in M&A Agreements

Recently, a group of prominent executives released an open letter and document known as Commonsense Principles 2.0. Signatories include Mark Machin of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway. The purpose of the letter and the principles is to encourage companies to embrace a long-term view and enhance trust

It’s fall, which means it’s time for the annual Canadian Securities Administrators staff review of disclosure made by public companies under Form 58-101F1 Corporate Governance Disclosure, particularly as it relates to gender diversity among corporate leadership. The 2018 review is the fourth such annual review, with previous reviews having been published in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Here are the five things you should know about the 2018 staff review. For more details, access the full publication of CSA Multilateral Staff Notice 58-310 Report on Fourth Staff Review of Disclosure regarding Women on Boards and in Executive Officer Positions. Publication of the review’s full dataset follows later in the fall. In this post, the term “public company” refers to a reporting issuer captured in the 2018 staff review.[1]


Continue Reading 5 things you should know about the latest CSA staff review on gender diversity

Bill C-25 is a federal government bill that would, if adopted, introduce sweeping changes to the corporate governance regime for reporting issuers incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA). Like the proverbial tortoise, the bill has moved unhurriedly through the legislative process, in part due to several changes made to the bill since our previous post that discussed Bill C-25. The bill’s enactment would be just one of many “finish lines”, and it may take several years for all provisions of the bill and accompanying regulations to be drafted and brought into force. This post will canvass the amendments made so far to Bill C-25, with a focus on the proposed gender diversity disclosure framework, and will show a path forward to its eventual coming into force.

Continue Reading Bill C-25 and its Amendments to the CBCA: A Legislative Tortoise Approaches a Finish Line