After taking a break this past proxy season, “golden leash” arrangements are back in the spotlight. A few days ago, Third Point LLC proposed so-called “golden leash” arrangements for their two nominees to the board of Dow Chemical Co.
“Golden leash” arrangements arise when a shareholder activist privately offers to compensate its nominee directors in connection with such nominees’ service as a director of the target corporation. Arrangements vary but include compensating activist directors who are elected based on achieving benchmarks, such as an increase in share price over a fixed term. Shareholder activists only provide such incentives to elected … Continue Reading
In our previous article, we introduced mini-tenders and discussed the factors that should be considered before launching a mini-tender offer. As a refresher, a mini-tender is an offer to purchase securities below the threshold that triggers regulatory rules for take-over bids. Such an offer is not specifically regulated and can be used to acquire small but not insignificant positions in public companies, often at a discount to the prevailing market price.
In this article, we discuss mini-tenders from the perspective of issuers and shareholders.
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Mini-tenders have a bad reputation, which may explain why they are used infrequently. This is the first in a trilogy of articles about mini-tender offers from the perspectives of offerors, issuers and shareholders. It reviews factors that an offeror should consider before launching a mini-tender offer.
A mini-tender is simply an offer to purchase securities below the threshold that triggers regulatory rules for take-over bids. Such an offer is not specifically regulated and can be used to acquire small but not insignificant positions in public companies, often at a discount to the prevailing market price.
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A duty to negotiate in good faith appears to run counter to the adversarial nature of bargaining. However, parties may have a duty to negotiate in good faith according to the recent decision in SCM Insurance Services Inc. v. Medisys Corporate Health LP, 2014 ONSC 2632, where the Ontario Superior Court held that the parties had intended to create “an enforceable obligation” to negotiate in good faith despite no express covenant to do so.
Summary of Facts
In 2011, Medisys sold its independent medical examinations (IME) business to the Plaintiffs and agreed to a five year non-compete and non-solicit … Continue Reading
The debate about so-called “golden leash” arrangements has picked up again. The Council of Institutional Investors (“CII”), an influential association of institutional investors, recently wrote a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) expressing its concerns regarding the transparency of compensation paid in “golden leash” arrangements.
As discussed in our previous post, “golden leash” arrangements arise when a shareholder activist privately offers to compensate its nominee directors in connection with such nominees’ service as a director of a target corporation. In January, 2014, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. provided its views on by-laws designed to prohibit “golden leash” … Continue Reading
The recent outcome of the Augusta/HudBay poison pill hearing provides some insight into how a shareholder rights plan may withstand scrutiny from a Canadian securities regulator for an extended period of time in the right circumstances. Though perhaps the result of somewhat unique facts, including insufficient initial support for the price being offered by the bidder and an active process being conducted by the target company, the British Columbia Securities Commission’s decision in Augusta/HudBay is also of interest in the context of the ongoing debates sparked by the proposed National Instrument 62-105 on Security Holder Rights Plans.… Continue Reading
During a proxy contest, strategic consideration should be given to strictly abiding by proxy solicitation rules and hawkishly assessing whether your opponent is doing the same. A recent decision provides guidance on factors that a court will consider in determining a seldom litigated issue – when is communication by the company during a proxy contest an illegal proxy solicitation?
Generally speaking, corporate statutes in Canada prohibit the solicitation of proxies unless the sender (board or dissident) provides shareholders with a proxy circular containing prescribed information. Under the Canada Business Corporations Act, “solicitation” is broadly defined to include communication with … Continue Reading
There are important lessons in a recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision examining shotgun buy-sell provisions, and in particular, the enforceability of a buy-sell offer that does not perfectly comply with the terms and conditions of the shotgun provision.
Unanimous shareholder agreements, partnership agreements, and joint venture agreements often contain what is commonly known as a “shotgun buy-sell provision”, which provides a mechanism for involuntarily expelling one or more parties from the business venture when the business relationship between them sours.… Continue Reading
There are important lessons in a recent Ontario Superior Court decision examining defensive tactics taken by a board in the context of a contested shareholders’ meeting.
In Concept Capital Management Ltd. v. Oremex Silver Inc., 2013 ONSC 7820, the board of Oremex – during a contested election — postponed a shareholders’ meeting and issued shares to a third party, GRIT, in a financing transaction that closed in escrow on the same date as the revised record date for the meeting. Oremex took the view that the new shares could be voted at the contested meeting.
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On January 13, 2014, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”) issued FAQs explaining its views on by-laws designed to prohibit so-called “Golden Leash” arrangements. As discussed in our post last month, such arrangements arise when a shareholder activist privately offers to compensate its nominee directors in connection with such nominees’ service as a director of the target corporation.
ISS’ view is that, absent a shareholder vote, a by-law precluding a nominee director from being compensated by a third party “may be considered a material failure of governance”. Consequently, in such circumstances, ISS may “recommend a vote against or withhold from … Continue Reading
“Golden Leashes”, and by-laws designed to counteract such arrangements, have provoked significant controversy in the 2013 proxy season, and regulators, proxy advisors, and institutional shareholders have yet to take a definitive position in the debate. This post reviews what will certainly continue to be a hot button topic in 2014.… Continue Reading
The recent settlement in the United States between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Revlon highlights the importance of not appearing to obstruct the flow of material information to shareholders.
The SEC settled charges that Revlon misled shareholders during a going private transaction. The SEC’s order found that to avoid a potential disclosure obligation, Revlon engaged in “ring fencing” to avoid knowing that the transaction’s consideration had been deemed inadequate by a third party’s financial advisor.… Continue Reading
When negotiating a deal, it is critical for parties to be aware of when they have reached an agreement.
Recently, in Proton Energy Group SA v. Public Company Orlen Lietuva,  EWHC 334 (Comm), the English High Court found in a preliminary motion that it was “plausible” that an email with the word “confirmed” was sufficient to constitute the acceptance of an offer even though several terms remained subject to further negotiations.… Continue Reading
In a recent bench ruling in Re Plains Exploration, the Delaware Court held that a special committee was not required to take the lead in merger negotiations in circumstances where almost all of the members of the board were independent and free from conflict in connection with the transaction.
In Re Plains Exploration, the Delaware Court denied the plaintiff shareholders’ request to enjoin a merger between Plains Exploration & Production Company and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold even though the Plains’ board (a) did not shop Plains before agreeing to merge with Freeport, (b) did not conduct a “pre” and … Continue Reading
The recent Delaware ruling in In Ancestry.com Inc. Shareholder Litigation provides a cautionary tale relating to a target company developing aggressive projections during an auction process.
The Relevant Facts
Following the announcement of a going-private transaction, some shareholders of Ancestry.com filed suit in the Delaware Court of Chancery alleging, among other things, that the board preferred the interests of the winning bidder over shareholders. Previously:
- Ancestry hired Qatalyst Partners LLP as its financial advisor and initiated an auction process.
- Ancestry’s management prepared “bullish” projections for the auction process. Notably, Ancestry does not develop long-term projections in the usual course of
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The Quebec Court of Appeal’s decision in Francoeur v. 4417186 Canada Inc., 2013 QCCA 191, provides a cautionary tale on the dangers of entering into a share purchase agreement and subsequently closing a share purchase transaction, without ample due diligence.
The one-sided apportionment of risk
The Francoeur share purchase agreement (the “SPA”), which was signed by parties the court characterized as “fierce competitors”, contained the following key provisions.
- The purchaser acknowledged that (a) until closing, it did not have access to certain “key documents” held under seal, (b) it had not undertaken any due diligence, and (c)
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“Independent directors who step into these situations involving essentially the fiduciary oversight of assets in other parts of the world have a duty not to be dummy directors.” p. 21 of transcript, In re Puda Coal Stockholders Litigation, Del. Ch. C.A. 6476-CS (February 6, 2013).
A recent Delaware bench ruling considers some of the issues highlighted by fraud allegations against emerging market issuers like Sino-Forest Corporation and Zungui Haixi Corporation, and the Ontario Securities Commission’s recently issued Staff Notice 51-720 – Issuer Guide for Companies Operating in Emerging Markets.
In re Puda, shareholders … Continue Reading