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“Golden Leashes” are back: Will shareholder activists win this round?

Posted in Public M&A, Shareholders, Strategy

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

Mini-Tenders 201: Responding to Mini-Tender Offers

Posted in Public M&A, Shareholders, Strategy

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 101: Factors to Consider Before Launching a Mini-Tender Offer

Posted in Public M&A, Shareholders, Strategy

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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Early Warning Reporting Threshold Remains at 10% While Other Changes to Enhance Transparency Will Be Implemented

Posted in Public M&A, Shareholders, Strategy

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.[1]  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 … Continue Reading

CETA Will Create a Two-Tiered System for Investment Canada Act Reviews

Posted in Private Transactions, Public M&A, Strategy

The text of the Canada and European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is due to be released soon, but it remains to be seen if the Canadian government will clarify which countries, in addition to those in the EU, will benefit from the higher $1.5-billion threshold for review under the Investment Canada Act (ICA).

On October 29, 2013, the Canadian government released the Technical Summary of Final Negotiated Outcomes of CETA, in which it indicated that the ICA threshold would be raised to $1.5 billion for EU investors and that investors from Canada’s other free trade agreement … Continue Reading

Bitcoin Accepted Here? Funding M&A Transactions by Way of Bitcoin

Posted in Private Equity, Private Transactions, Strategy

There is no denying the increasing popularity and notoriety of the virtual currency Bitcoin.  Bitcoin market capitalization currently stands in the billions of dollars, with over 13 million Bitcoins having been mined and made available for circulation.  An increasing number of merchants, including Dell, have begun accepting payment by way of Bitcoin.  The list of goods and services that have been purchased with Bitcoin now includes university tuition, airline tickets, cars, and pizza delivery.  Some companies have started paying employees in Bitcoins.  Canada in particular has been a world leader in Bitcoin ATM’s: the first Bitcoin ATM in the world … Continue Reading

Proposed Changes to Takeover Bid Regime in Canada Would Put More Time in the Hands of Target Boards

Posted in Public M&A, Shareholders, Strategy

On September 11, 2014, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) published CSA Notice 62-306 – Update on Proposed National Instrument 62-105 Security Holder Rights Plans (Notice) and the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) Consultation Paper An Alternative Approach to Securities Regulators’ Intervention in Defensive Tactics. The notice indicates that the CSA intend to publish for comment a new harmonized proposal based on amendments to the takeover bid regime which will aim to facilitate the ability of shareholders to make voluntary, informed and coordinated tender decisions and provide target boards with additional time to respond to hostile bids, with the objective … Continue Reading

GOOD FAITH BARGAINING? Recent Decision Implies a Duty to Negotiate in Good Faith

Posted in Contractual Matters, Private Equity, Private Transactions, Strategy

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

Reasonable Efforts vs. Best Efforts – Why the Fuss?

Posted in Contractual Matters, Strategy

Last fall, we featured a blog post that offered a Canadian perspective on the interpretation and use of benchmarking in efforts clauses. Some of the commentary that ensued suggests that Canadian courts were “doomed to incoherence” by distinguishing between best efforts and reasonable efforts.[i]

Yet this distinction between efforts clauses has existed for some time in Canadian jurisprudence[ii] and Canadian courts have continued to render coherent decisions with very little difficulty in applying the standards of performance to efforts clauses.[iii] This leads to the reasonable conclusion that, in fact, there is no crisis and no reason to … Continue Reading

More on “Golden Leash” Arrangements

Institutional investor organization urges SEC to require disclosure

Posted in Public M&A, Shareholders, Strategy

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

Augusta/HudBay – A model for target boards to say “not now”?

Posted in Public M&A, Shareholders, Strategy

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

SHOTGUN! You should know this before triggering a buy-sell provision

Posted in Contractual Matters, Private Equity, Private Transactions, Shareholders, Strategy

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

DEFENSIVE TACTICS DURING A PROXY CONTEST: lessons from the Oremex saga

Posted in Private Equity, Private Transactions, Shareholders, Strategy

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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By-laws counteracting “Golden Leash” arrangements: ISS speaks

Posted in Public M&A, Shareholders, Strategy

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

New 2014 Investment Canada Act WTO Review Threshold

Posted in Contractual Matters, Private Equity, Private Transactions, Public M&A, Shareholders, Strategy

Industry Canada has announced that the Investment Canada Act (Act) threshold for 2014 that applies to most direct acquisitions of Canadian businesses by non-Canadian investors from World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries is $354 million (an increase from last year’s $344 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 lower threshold of $5 million continues to apply to direct investments that relate to cultural businesses or where none of the non-Canadian parties comes from a … Continue Reading

A Guide to Canadian M&A in the Second Half of 2013

Posted in Awards and Recognitions, Contractual Matters, Private Equity, Private Transactions, Public M&A, Shareholders, Strategy

In July, we published a blog post on the Canadian M&A landscape in the first half of 2013.  As 2013 has now come to an end, it seems appropriate to recap what happened in the second half of 2013.  McCarthy Tétrault advised on seven of Lexpert’s top ten deals of 2013, published in the January issue of Lexpert.  Below, we’ve highlighted some of the major trends and deals that transpired during Q3 and Q4 of 2013.

Second Half Sees Fewer but Larger Deals

Canadian companies were involved in 2,325 announced deals valued at $158.2 billion in 2013, down Continue Reading

“Golden Leashes”

The Controversy from this Proxy Season

Posted in Public M&A, Shareholders, Strategy

“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

TSX Proposes to Loosen Shareholder Approval Requirements for New Security-Based Compensation Arrangements in M&A Transactions

Posted in Public M&A, Shareholders, Strategy

On November 28, 2013, the Toronto Stock Exchange published proposed amendments to the TSX Company Manual that would permit a listed issuer to adopt new security-based compensation arrangements for employees of a target company in the context of an M&A transaction without the need to obtain shareholder approval provided that certain conditions are met.

The TSX Company Manual provides that a listed issuer must obtain shareholder approval to adopt a security-based compensation arrangement unless the arrangement is provided as an inducement for employment to an officer of the listed issuer or the listed issuer assumes the compensation arrangement of a … Continue Reading

Should a Seller Care About Due Diligence?

Yes. And here are a few MORE reasons why.

Posted in Contractual Matters, Private Equity, Private Transactions, Public M&A, Strategy

In our recent post we considered, to what extent, the seller in the context of an M&A transaction should care about legal due diligence, and suggested that there are a number of important reasons why a seller should concern itself with legal due diligence in the face of an acquisition.

In addition to our thoughts on the utility of seller due diligence for the purpose of uncovering potential barriers to the sale of the target business, the seller will also want to ensure that it can actually make the representations and warranties that it has been asked to make in … Continue Reading

Should a Seller Care About Due Diligence?

Yes. And here’s a few reasons why.

Posted in Contractual Matters, Private Equity, Private Transactions, Public M&A, Strategy

Legal due diligence is typically a key part of an acquisition, but historically the focus has been on diligence from the perspective of the buyer, and less frequently from the perspective of the seller. Of course, this is natural given it’s the buyer who will want to uncover everything it can about the business it plans to acquire before a definitive agreement is entered into. But does this mean that sellers shouldn’t also care about legal due diligence?

There are a number of important reasons why a seller should concern itself with legal due diligence in the face of a … Continue Reading

Are you meeting expectations? A Case for Benchmarking

A Canadian perspective on the interpretation and use of benchmarking in an efforts clause

Posted in Contractual Matters, Private Equity, Private Transactions, Public M&A, Strategy

The authors of a recent US article appearing in Corporate Counsel explored how efforts clauses – that is, contractual provisions that require one party to a contract to exercise some standard of effort to maximize the benefits to be received by the other party to the contract – may be improved. Their hypothesis is simple: parties often expend far too much time negotiating over the adjectives “reasonable” or “best” and far too little time drafting benchmarks into the agreement as an objective measure of how efforts are to be applied. Their conclusion is that open-ended benchmarking assists in ensuring parties … Continue Reading

A Guide to Canadian M&A in the First Half of 2013

Recovery Hits Roadblock: 2013 sees decline in Canadian and Global deal volume and value

Posted in Contractual Matters, Private Equity, Private Transactions, Public M&A, Shareholders, Strategy

As we move into the second half of 2013, it seems appropriate to look back at what has gone on so far this year across the Canadian M&A landscape. Below we’ve highlighted some of the major news items and deals that have taken place so far.

First Half Sees Fewer and Smaller Deals. The first quarter of 2013 ended with the fewest number of Canadian M&A transactions in a particular quarter since Q1 2011. By value, it was the quietest quarter in three years. A first quarter Mergermarket report found an 11.4% reduction in deal volume (124 announced transactions) and … Continue Reading

Deal or No Deal?

The importance of knowing when you have an agreement

Posted in Contractual Matters, Private Equity, Private Transactions, Public M&A, Shareholders, Strategy

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, [2013] 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

What’s so “Special” about a “Special Committee”?

The importance of context when evaluating the need to establish a special committee

Posted in Private Equity, Private Transactions, Public M&A, Shareholders, Strategy

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