Social media has revolutionized how stakeholders receive information about companies. An estimated 1.79 billion people used social media in 2014; 2.44 billion will by 2018. Despite such staggering statistics, social media has not been leveraged to its full potential in Canadian proxy contests. According to a 2013 survey, a majority of directors on the boards of Canada’s largest companies acknowledged that they did not know much about social media.
This is the first of two posts about harnessing social media in Canadian proxy contests. It reviews the use of social media to influence public discourse and proxy contests in the U.S. and Canada. Our second post will review some legal considerations applicable to the use of social media in Canadian proxy contests.
On March 31, 2015, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) published a CSA Notice and Request for Comment with respect to proposed amendments to Multilateral Instrument 62-104 – Take-Over Bids and Issuer Bids (MI 62-104) and changes to National Policy 62-203 – Take-Over Bids and Issuer Bids.
The proposed amendments codify and in some cases clarify the concepts previously announced by the CSA in September 2014 and result in some significant changes to the take-over bid regime. Please see our detailed report Amendments to Take-Over Bid Rules Will Deliver More Support to Boards for an in-depth review of some of the key features of the proposed amendments.
There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent precedent-setting judgement, Bhasin v. Hrynew, 2014 SCC 71, in which the Court recognized, for the first time, a new common law duty that applies to the performance of contracts throughout Canada. The new common law duty is a duty of honest performance, and is a manifestation of the general organizing principle of good faith. The implication is that parties must perform their contractual duties honestly and reasonably, and that they must have appropriate regard to the legitimate contractual interests of the other parties to the contract. For an overview of the Bhasin decision, click here.
The Competition Bureau has announced that the pre-merger notification transaction-size threshold for 2015 will increase to $86 million from the 2014 threshold of $82 million. The 2015 threshold will come into effect immediately following publication in the Canada Gazette Part 1 (anticipated to occur on February 7, 2015). As per the indexing mechanism set out in the Competition Act (Act), the pre-merger notification threshold is reviewed annually.
The threshold is based on the book value of assets in Canada of the target (or in the case of an asset purchase, of the assets in Canada being acquired), or the gross revenues from sales “in or from” Canada generated by those assets, calculated in accordance with the Notifiable Transactions Regulations under the Act. The Competition Bureau must generally be given advance notice of proposed transactions when the acquired assets in Canada or revenues generated in or from Canada from such assets exceed $86 million, and when the combined Canadian assets or revenues in, from or into Canada of the parties together with their respective affiliates exceed $400 million. This amount has not been reviewed and remains the same as in 2014.
Because of the growing risk of litigation by unhappy (or simply opportunistic) shareholders following the sale or acquisition of a company, corporate governance practices during the M&A process face increasing scrutiny.
In a recent article titled “Documenting the Deal: How Quality Control and Candor Can Improve Boardroom Decision-making And Reduce The Litigation Target Zone”, forthcoming in The Business Lawyer, Leo Strine, Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, sets forth some best practices for directors and legal and financial advisors “to conduct an M&A process in a manner that: i) promotes making better decisions; ii) reduces conflicts of interests and addresses those that exist more effectively; iii) accurately records what happened so that advisors and their clients will be able to recount events in approximately the same way; and iv) as a result reduces the target zone for plaintiffs’ lawyers”.
Industry Canada has announced that the 2015 Investment Canada Act (“Act”) threshold that applies to most direct acquisitions of Canadian businesses by non-Canadians will be C$369 million. This is an increase from last year’s $354 million threshold. The threshold applies to the gross book value of the target’s assets. Note that under the Act, a non-Canadian includes a Canadian-incorporated entity that is ultimately controlled outside of Canada.
The existing lower threshold of C$5 million will continue to apply to transactions that relate to cultural businesses or where none of the parties are from a country that is a WTO member. Continue Reading
With the 2015 Proxy Season close at hand, Glass, Lewis & Co., LLC (Glass Lewis) and Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS) recently released their updated Canadian proxy voting guidelines. Changes and clarifications have been made to their guidelines in such areas as advance notice policies and by-laws, shareholder rights plans and majority voting.
This is the final article in our mini-tender trilogy. We have previously discussed mini-tender offers from the perspectives of the offeror, and the issuer and shareholders. This article considers how mini-tenders might be strategically used in proxy contests.
As shareholder activism rises, the activists’ toolkit keeps evolving. The strategic use of a mini-tender offer in a recent proxy contest suggests that such offers may increasingly be considered as a means of influencing the outcome of proxy contests.
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 activist directors, not re-elected incumbent directors. See our prior articles for more background, ISS’s position, and the Council of Institutional Investors’ position.
The following Canadian Appeals Monitor blog post by Brandon Kain and Neil Finkelstein may be of interest to readers of this blog:
SCC Delivers Ground-Breaking Decision in Canadian Contract Law
The Supreme Court of Canada has released a precedent-setting judgment in which it recognized, for the first time, that there is a general organizing principle of good faith in the performance of contracts throughout Canada: Bhasin v. Hrynew, 2014 SCC 71. The Bhasin case, which was successfully argued by Neil Finkelstein and Brandon Kain of McCarthy Tétrault’s Toronto litigation group, will be very important for Canadian businesses going forward. As a result of Bhasin, all contracts throughout Canada are now subject to a duty of, at a bare minimum, honest performance, which cannot be excluded by the terms of an agreement. Read More.