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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office-1209640_1280On January 10, 2017, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) issued for comment CSA Consultation Paper 81-408 – Consultation on the Option of Discontinuing Embedded Commissions (the Consultation Paper) for a 150-day comment period. The Consultation Paper presents for discussion, the CSA’s position regarding the effects of sales of investment fund securities or structured notes through commissions, including sales and trailing commissions, paid by investment fund managers (embedded commissions), and proposes that the use of embedded commissions be discontinued in favour of direct pay arrangements.

Proposed Changes

The Consultation Paper currently anticipates that the new regulatory framework would aim to

discontinue any payment of money to dealers in connection with an investor’s purchase or continued ownership of a security described above that is made directly or indirectly by a person other than the investor.

This would, at a minimum, include ongoing trailing commissions or service fees as well as upfront sales commissions for purchases made under a deferred sales commission (DSC) option.


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Further to our bulletin of January 17, 2012, describing proposed amendments to the prospectus rules, the Canadian Securities Administrators have approved amendments to National Instrument 41-101 General Prospectus Requirements and other rules and related policies.  Among other things, the amendments:

  • provide guidance from the CSA (through changes to the Companion Policies) of their views