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.
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.
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.
On October 10, 2014, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) provided an update on the status of proposed amendments to Canada’s early warning reporting (EWR) system first published in March 2013. After extensive public consultation, the CSA announced that they will proceed with the amendments except for two important proposals: to reduce the reporting threshold from 10% to 5% and to include “equity equivalent derivatives” for the purposes of determining the threshold for EWR disclosure. The CSA intends to publish final amendments to the EWR system and related guidance in the second quarter of 2015, subject to the receipt of necessary approvals.
The CSA’s decision to abandon its original proposals regarding the beneficial ownership reporting threshold and equity equivalent derivatives appears to be based on concerns raised by some commentators including the large number of smaller issuers in Canada relative to other jurisdictions and the limited liquidity of those issuers and the Canadian capital markets; the possibility that those proposals would hinder an investor’s ability to rapidly accumulate or reduce a large position and the signalling of investment strategies to the market; and the complexity and difficulty of applying a new early warning trigger in respect of equity equivalent derivatives.
Shareholder activists are increasingly influential in Canada’s M&A landscape, but expect that trend to intensify with a proposal to list Pershing Square Holdings on the Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange. The listing is expected to complete Bill Ackman’s capitalization of the new $5 billion fund associated with Pershing Square Capital Management. The listing, which is likely to be complete by mid-October, will provide Mr. Ackman with the stable pool of capital he has long believed his investment strategy would benefit from.
In his 2014 Q2 letter to investors, Mr. Ackman expressed frustration that the Pershing Square group of funds must keep a substantial portion of its assets in cash. Shareholder activism requires taking a position in a company for at least long enough to exert pressure on management and see the results reflected in the company’s share price – a proposition sometimes measured in years. Operating without a strong capital reserve can ruin an overextended fund if too many investors request their money back at the wrong time, as nearly happened during the financial crisis when investors withdrew 27% of their assets from Pershing Square.