Investor Protection & Dual Class Share Structures

The recent initial public offerings (IPOs) of major players in the Canadian market, including Aritzia in September 2016, Freshii in January 2017 and Canada Goose in March 2017, have sparked debate about the use of dual class share structures and whether regulatory reform is necessary in order to ensure adequate investor protection.

Corporate Legislation of Dual Class Share Structures:

Pursuant to section 24(3) of the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA),[1] when a corporation has only one class of shares, the rights of the holders of those shares are equal in all respects and include the right to vote at any meeting of shareholders of the corporation; to receive any dividend declared by the corporation; and to receive the remaining property of the corporation on dissolution.

Section 24(4) of the CBCA allows for a corporation to have more than one class of shares (Dual Class Share Structure).  The CBCA requires that the rights, privileges, restrictions and conditions attaching to each class of shares be set out; and that the rights to vote, to receive any dividend declared, and to receive the remaining property of the corporation on dissolution be attached to at least one class of shares, but all such rights are not required to be attached to one class.

Although the use of a Dual Class Share Structure is allowed by the CBCA (as well as by provincial corporate legislation, including the Business Corporations Act (Ontario)), securities regulators have imposed some regulations regarding the use of such a structure. For example, the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) requires that companies issuing a class of shares with multiple votes have a coattail provision in order to ensure that all investors are treated equally in the case of a takeover[2], and the Securities Act (Ontario) mandates various initial and continuous disclosure requirements for securities issuers.[3]


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As the New Year rolls along, so does commentary on executive compensation. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, by 11:47 am on the first working day of 2017 (January 3rd) Canada’s 100 highest paid CEOs on the TSX index had earned the equivalent of the average annual Canadian wage.

Shareholder votes on the executive compensation disclosed in management proxy circulars (“say on pay”) are not mandated in Canada. However, according to the Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations, 80% of the largest Canadian companies have adopted the practice voluntarily or as a result of pressure from investors.

Say on pay initiatives have been well under way in many jurisdictions for a number of years and the reviews are in.

International Say On Pay

In the US, under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Securities Exchange Commission requires a mandatory advisory say on pay for top executives compensation for public companies. Under the compensation discussion and analysis section of the proxy statement, shareholders do not vote on bonuses, stock options, retirement pay or other specific elements of compensation, simply an “up” or “down” to compensation.

In the UK, companies with shares on the Financial Services Authority’s List require a binding (rather than advisory) annual say on pay vote by shareholders.


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New Paper Discusses the Rise of Advance Notice Provisions in Canadian Corporate Bylaws

In recent years many Canadian firms have amended their corporate bylaws to include advance notice provisions (ANPs). ANPs provide for advance disclosure from shareholders who propose to nominate directors at a shareholders’ meeting. As recently as 2011, no Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX)-listed firm had adopted an ANP. Fast forward to today, and nearly half of all firms on the TSX have added an ANP in their bylaws.

What are ANPs and what accounts for their rapid adoption by Canadian public firms? A recent study and paper, An Empirical Analysis of Advance Notice Provisions in Corporate Bylaws: Evidence from Canada, by Anita Anand and Michele Dathan of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law and its School of Management, respectively, provides insight into the recent ANP trend. The authors analyze a sample of 1,156 TSX-listed firms to identify the shared characteristics and rationale among firms that have adopted ANPs.

What are ANPs?

ANPs are corporate bylaw provisions that stipulate advance disclosure requirements from shareholders who propose to nominate directors at a shareholders’ meeting. The disclosure must be circulated to all shareholders (typically at least 30 days in advance of the meeting), and pertain to information about the nominating shareholder and the proposed director or directors. The information required may include the nominating shareholder and proposed director’s name, occupation, residency, shareholdings in the company, descriptions of key agreements or arrangements between the nominating shareholder and proposed director, their relationship with competitors, as well as information that would be required in a dissident proxy circular.

What characterizes a firm likely to propose an ANP?


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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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Bill C-25: Major changes proposed to director elections and other governance matters for CBCA reporting issuers

On September 28, 2016, the federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development introduced Bill C-25, An Act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Canada Cooperatives Act, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and the Competition Act. Bill C-25, if enacted, would result in sweeping changes to the corporate governance regime for reporting issuers incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA).

The CBCA is the incorporating statute for nearly 270,000 corporations. Although most of these are small- or medium-sized and privately held, a large number of Canada’s largest reporting issuers are also governed by the CBCA. The amendments proposed in Bill C-25 stem from a House of Commons committee-led statutory review in 2010, which, in turn, led to a further consultation undertaken in 2014 by Industry Canada.


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