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

On October 5, 2017, the staff of securities regulatory authorities (SRA) in Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Yukon published CSA Multilateral Staff Notice 58-309, Staff Review of Women on Boards and in Executive Officer Positions – Compliance with NI 58-101 Disclosure of Corporate Governance Practices. The Staff Notice provides this year’s summary of the disclosure reviewed by the SRA relating to the Women on Boards and in Executive Positions Rules (WB/EP Rules).

The WB/EP Rules require that, on an annual basis, each non-venture issuer disclose:

  • the number and percentage of women on the issuer’s board of directors and in executive officer positions;
  • whether it has a policy relating to the identification and nomination of women directors;
  • whether it has director term limits or other mechanisms of board renewal;
  • whether it has targets for women on its board and in its executive officer positions; and
  • if it considers the representation of women in its director identification and selection process and in its executive officer appointments.

The Staff Notice focused on the disclosure of 660 TSX-listed issuers with year-ends between December 31, 2016 and March 31, 2017, who had filed information circulars or annual information forms by July 31, 2017. This is down from the 722 issuers who provided disclosure as part of the 2015 initial review. The SRA noted that Canadian banks, who are often early adopters of diversity programs, are not included in this summary. This is the third such annual review to have taken place.


Continue Reading CSA Review of Women on Boards and in Executive Officer Positions

chairs-1840377_1280Stephen Erlichman recently wrote “Majority Voting: Latest Developments in Canada”, a short piece published in the March 22 edition of the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation. The article explains the latest developments in Canada with respect to 1) the Toronto Stock Exchange’s new guidance with respect to its

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Disclosure requirements regarding the representation of women on boards and in senior management adopted in Alberta

The Adoption

On December 15, 2016 the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) adopted amendments to National Instrument 58-101 Disclosure of Corporate Governance Practices (NI 58-101) and Form 58-101F1 Corporate Governance Disclosure (together with NI 58-101, Amendments