On May 1, 2020, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) issued a news release, announcing local blanket orders (Blanket Orders) for market participants in connection with meetings delayed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. This relief is in addition to the relief announced March 23, 2020, by the CSA with

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

The author wishes to thank Jean-Michel Lapierre, Jean-Pierre Chamberland and Gilles Leclerc for their advice and contributions.

Everything has changed. Not so long ago, we were continuing the longest winning streak in market history -11 years of bull market. Now, things normally taken for granted are no longer possible: planes no longer fly, cars no longer circulate, supply chains no longer manufacture goods, and entire cities are shut down around the world.

Every day, the public is overwhelmed with information regarding COVID-19. Companies are actively monitoring the situation and are constantly assessing the impact of the pandemic on their businesses. With business conditions, epidemiological forecasts, and rules of conduct in near-perpetual flux, the need for frequent and transparent communication with investors and shareholders—now mostly digital—has only intensified in the last weeks.

On March 20, 2020, Fasken published an article relating to disclosure considerations in Annual Information Forms, Management’s Discussion & Analysis, and other public documents. In light of the rapidly evolving circumstances, we would like to provide an update regarding recent developments concerning the disclosure of risk factors.
Continue Reading Update – Public Disclosure in the Time of COVID-19

With the 2020 proxy season well underway, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many issuers to consider changing their annual shareholders’ meeting format from a customary in-person meeting to a virtual setting. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, specifically between March 1, 2020 and April 14, 2020, we monitored issuers listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (“TSX”) and the TSX Venture Exchange (“TSX-V”) with regards to their 2020 annual shareholders’ meetings. Our key takeaways are summarized below.

Continue Reading 2020 Virtual AGM Proxy Season : Key Takeaways to Date

At the time of previous financial crises, the TSX Venture Exchange (TSXV) granted blanket relief to listed issuers from its $0.05 per share minimum pricing requirement for various share issuances. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many TSXV issuers trading at less than $0.05, the TSXV issued a Bulletin on April 8, 2020 providing important relief (Temporary Relief) from certain requirements of the TSXV Corporate Finance Manual. In particular, the Temporary Relief removes in the specific cases set out below the TSXV’s $0.05 minimum price for share issuances by issuers whose “Market Price” is $0.05 or less, subject to a new minimum of $0.01, until September 30, 2020.

By way of background, a number of TSXV Policies, including Policy 4.1 Private Placements, incorporate the concepts of “Market Price” and “Discounted Market Price”. The terms are defined in TSXV Policy 1.1 Interpretation; “Market Price” is the last closing price of an issuer’s shares prior to the issuance of a news release or filing with the TSXV of Form 4A – Price Reservation Form for a share issuance, while “Discounted Market Price” is “Market Price” less maximum permitted discounts (for example, 25% if the closing price is up to $0.50), but subject in all cases to a minimum price per share of $0.05. This reflects a long-standing, fundamental rule of the TSXV – the TSXV does not permit shares to be issued from treasury at less than $0.05, so as to prevent excessive dilution.
Continue Reading Shades of Crises Past – The TSX Venture Exchange Provides Temporary Relief from the $0.05 Minimum Pricing Requirement

Timely Disclosure recently reported on the CSA’s previously announced and published local blanket orders (Blanket Orders) that provide a 45-day extension for periodic filings normally required to be made by market participants between March 23, 2020 and June 1, 2020. On April 3, 2020, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) released CSA Staff Notice 51-360 (Staff Notice) which includes useful guidance for market participants wishing to avail themselves of the relief provided by the Blanket Orders.

The following is a summary of certain of the guidance in the Staff Notice. It is important for issuers to review the local Blanket Orders in their jurisdiction. Issuers who intend to rely on the exemptions in the Blanket Orders should consider their applicable corporate statute, stock exchange requirements and other obligations to provide disclosure materials, including financial statements under any existing contractual obligations, as well as the events of default, covenants and other terms of any contracts including debt instruments. Issuers should also review their ongoing corporate finance activities when considering reliance on the Blanket Orders.

Continue Reading CSA Provides Guidance on Previously Announced Blanket Orders in Response to COVID-19

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

On March 30, 2020, in connection with its state of emergency declared on March 17, 2020 (Declared Emergency), the Ontario government issued an order (Order) under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (Ontario) to temporarily suspend and replace, among other things, certain provisions of the Business Corporations Act (Ontario) (