Topic: Corporate Finance

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Share Buybacks & Executive Compensation: Aligning Management’s Incentives

As we previously discussed, the use of share buybacks has accelerated in recent years, both in Canada and the United States. This has sparked anxious debate over the extent to which buybacks can form part of an effective long-term growth strategy. Particularly in the United States—where buybacks hit a record of more than $1 trillion USD in 2018 following tax reforms—commentators have blamed buybacks for various ills, including wage stagnation, income inequality, and underinvestment in R&D. In response, some U.S. legislators have sought to curb their use, such as by tying buybacks to conditions including paying employees a certain … Continue Reading

The Buyback Bonanza Makes a Return

Recently, there has been a trend among both Canadian and United States companies to buy back their shares in order to boost stock prices. In the past – most notably during the “Buyback Bonanza” of 2007 – this strategy has been employed by companies as a mechanism to decrease the amount of outstanding shares, thereby increasing the value of the stock.

For years some have criticized share buybacks, asserting that focusing on short term increases in stock prices and profits is detrimental to long term economic growth. They argue that as individuals invest more in the short term, there … Continue Reading

TSX Adds New Website Disclosure Requirements

In October 2017, the TSX published updates under section 473 of the TSX Company Manual placing additional disclosure obligation requirements on non-exempted TSX-listed issuers.

These updates became effective on April 1, 2018.

The TSX’s updates mandate that each TSX-listed issuer (other than Non-Corporate Issuers, Eligible Interlisted Issuers and Eligible International Interlisted Issuers (as such terms are defined in the TSX Company Manual)) will be required to maintain a publicly accessible website. These issuers are also required to post constating documents (i.e. articles of incorporation or amalgamation and by-laws) as well as the following documents, if adopted:

  • any majority voting policy;
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Making Your Vote Count: New Developments on Proxy Voting in Canada

The majority of shareholders in Canada hold their shares through a broker or other intermediary which in turn holds their shares with the Canadian Depository for Securities Limited (CDS). Most voting at shareholder meetings therefore occurs within a layered, complex and opaque proxy system. This leads to uncertainty as to whether all of the votes of the true beneficial shareholders are properly tabulated. The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) have announced proposed changes to the process of vote counting and reconciliation, which will hopefully result in a more accurate, reliable and accountable voting system.

The CSA has proposed new protocols for … Continue Reading

Delaware North? The (potential) rise of appraisal litigation in Canada

This blog post originally appeared in Norton Rose Fulbright’s M&A blog.

Under Delaware law and most Canadian corporate statutes, a shareholder who votes against a fundamental transaction—such as a going-private transaction or a sale of all or substantially all of the corporation’s assets—is entitled to object to the consideration offered and in turn require payment of the “fair value” of his, her or its shares as appraised by court. Where an investor concludes that there is a significant gap between the price of a M&A transaction and the fair value of the shares, the threat of the exercise of … Continue Reading

Decision-making and Institutional Investors: Prevalent Factors and Key Market Distinctions

According to the recently published Global Institutional Investors Insight survey, shareholder activism is on the rise. The survey, which canvassed over 500 institutional investor and sell-side research analysts from across North American, European and Asian markets, reports that more than three quarters (77%) of those surveyed believe that activism levels will increase in the coming three years and become more prevalent worldwide.

The survey also highlights the four most prevalent factors that investors evaluate when considering whether to invest in a company:

  • Good track record in meeting earnings expectations (65% of investors).
  • An equity story that is clearly defined
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Proxy solicitation: Not a matter of right in Alberta

The increasing prevalence of shareholder activism in Canada has significantly impacted issuers and investors alike in the Canadian capital markets.

Consequently, an understanding of the Canadian regulatory landscape governing activist activities has become increasingly important for both sides of an activist struggle. A key element of this understanding is acknowledging that the regulatory landscape is not always uniform from province to province.

Proxy solicitation in respect of Alberta corporations which are reporting issuers is governed under two legislative schemes: Part 12 of the Business Corporations Act (Alberta) (the ABCA) and Part 9 of National Instrument 51‑102 – Continuous Disclosure Continue Reading

Corporate Governance 2014: Corporate Governance in Special Situations

Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP and Lexpert will again be co-hosting two full-day seminar sessions entitled “Corporate Governance 2014: Corporate Governance in Special Situations” on December 4th (Toronto) and December 8th  (Calgary). These seminars will include discussions on corporate governance developments in special situations, with specific focus on the trends, tools and defences used during proxy fights, M&A transactions, and situations of financial distress.

The seminars will be co-chaired by our partners, Walied Soliman and Orestes Pasparakis, who will be joined by the following speakers.

Norton Rose Fulbright Speakers:

  • Ava Yaskiel, Partner
  • Justin Ferrara, Partner
  • Cathy
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‘Wolf Packs’ and Other Recent Trends in Hedge Fund Activism

The recent increase in hedge fund activism is “hyperbolic” and should be carefully assessed, according to two notable scholars, John C. Coffee Jr. (corporate law; Columbia) and Darius Palia (corporate finance; Rutgers), who have just published on comprehensive study on hedge fund activism entitled, “The Impact of Hedge Fund Activism: Evidence and Implications.” The authors address various perspectives on the benefits and repercussions of hedge fund-led corporate change, relying on statistical analysis and market data to answer four questions:

  • Who are the targets of activism?
  • Does hedge fund activism create real value?
  • What are the sources of gains
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2014 Q3 Proxy Update

The 2015 proxy season is fast approaching, PwC and Broadridge released a quarterly research report  which reviews proxy related data from 4,113 shareholder meetings
held between January 1 and June 30, 2014 and  highlights several themes and trends that may inform how shareholders and companies will interact on four key issues:

Director Elections: Director elections continue to attract widespread voting, with 93% of elections at large companies garnering votes between 90-100%. In contrast, only 75% of voted shares were cast in the 90-100% range for small-cap firms. Moreover, of the 22,554 directors up for election, roughly 5% failed to … Continue Reading

Defensive Tools in Shareholder Activism: The “Voting Pill”

In today’s Financial Post,  Barbara Shecter highlighted the use of modified shareholder rights plans (colloquially known as “poison pills”) as an emerging defensive tool against opportunistic shareholder activism in Canada.  Traditionally, poison pills are used by boards of target companies as defensive tools to guard against unsolicited takeover bids.  By expanding the typical definition of “beneficial ownership” in a poison pill (which is typically limited to concepts of ownership and is used to determine whether the poison pill is triggered) by including securities that a shareholder does not own but has a right to vote or the right to … Continue Reading

Enhanced Disclosure Requirements on Women in the Boardroom

The securities regulators in 7 provinces and 2 territories announced on Wednesday, October 15, 2014, that the final version of the amendments to National Instrument 58-101 Disclosure of Corporate Governance Practices (NI 58-101) and Form 58-101F1 Corporate Governance Disclosure (Form 58-101F1) would include stringent requirements pertaining to female representation on boards and in executive officer positions. Securities regulators in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan have all signed on to the long-awaited amendments.

Disclosure Requirements

The enhanced disclosure requirements pertaining to females on boards, while significant, … Continue Reading

Golden Leashes: Is Regulatory Intervention Warranted?

In the most recent volume of the Canadian Business Law Journal, Edward M. Iacobucci, Professor with the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto, addresses certain arguments against dissident shareholders providing their director nominees with a future incentive if the target company’s share price increases following such nominee’s election to the board.1  These special compensation arrangements (or “golden leashes” as they are sometimes called) are hereafter referred to as “arrangements” and first emerged in Canada during the 2013 Agrium/Jana proxy fight, which was recently discussed by my colleague, Saeed Teebi, here.

Iacobucci explores some of the arguments … Continue Reading

CSA Drops Early Warning Report Proposals

The Canadian Securities Administrators (the CSA) provided an update today on its proposed amendments to the early warning system regime. Specifically, the CSA announced that it has determined that they will not proceed with: (a) the proposal to reduce the reporting threshold from 10% to 5%; and (b) the proposal to include “equity equivalent derivatives” for the purposes of determining the threshold for early warning reporting disclosure.

The CSA made their determination, in part, based on the views expressed by various market participants in the over 70 comment letters that the CSA received, which included views of concern about: … Continue Reading

Trends and Predictions in Canadian Proxy Contests

Kingsdale Shareholder Services has released its 2014 Proxy Season Review.  In its report, Kingsdale discusses trends observed in 2014, predictions for the future, and gives its key recommendations for companies in the Canadian marketplace.  In reviewing 2014 and comparing it to the previous year, Kingsdale observes:

  • By the numbers – the total number of proxy contests observed in 2014 remained at the elevated level seen beginning in 2008, but was down slightly from 2013.  Kingsdale suggests a number of factors for the relative decline, including stronger capital markets which have helped to mask under-performers’ deficiencies, the implementation of structural
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Canadian Securities Administrators to Propose Amendments to Canadian Take-over Regime

The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) have announced that they intend to publish for comment significant amendments to the Canadian take-over bid regime in the first quarter of 2015. The amendments are an initiative of all CSA members and are intended to strike a fair balance between the interests of bidders and the boards of directors and shareholders of target issuers in hostile take-over bids.

While the proposals do not recognize a target board’s right to “just say no” to and block a hostile bid, the proposals will provide boards of directors of target issuers with additional time to respond to … Continue Reading

Shareholder Activism in 2014: Half Year Review

Activist Insight recently released its half-year review.  Activist Insight, which provides market analysis and chronicles critical developments in activist investing, made the following observations regarding U.S. activist investing trends for the first half of 2014, including:

  • While the US continued to dominate public instances of activism (with 127 campaigns initiated), a significant number were waged throughout Europe, Canada and the rest of the world.
  • The average US stock held by an activist for at least two months in H1 2014 appreciated by an annualized 51.0%*, compared with 16.4% for the S&P 500.
  • The proportion of activists seeking board representation
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The Rise of Policy Activists?

In a recent twist on activist investing, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) purchased shares in SeaWorld in an effort to address conduct it considers animal cruelty.  According to PETA, it bought “the smallest number of shares necessary” to give it “the right to attend and speak at annual meetings and to submit shareholder resolutions asking for policy changes”.

SeaWorld is not the only corporation PETA has claimed ownership in.  PETA is using this same strategy with companies such as General Electric, Schering-Plough and 3M, and with fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Wendy’s.  Although … Continue Reading

Dual-Class Shares May Increase Value for Shareholders

A significant issue regarding the corporate governance of public companies arises from questions regarding the optimal role of shareholders in navigating a company’s direction.  The one share, one vote view of the world posits that shareholder democracy is best achieved when the division of control amongst shareholders holds true with the division of economic ownership.  In contrast, a number of major corporate players have governance and share ownership structures that allow certain classes of shareholders a disproportionate amount, relative to their economic ownership, of control with respect to strategic decision-making.  While these kinds of structures may initially appear contradictory to … Continue Reading

Shareholder Activism in M&A: 2014 Trends

Buoyed by an improved economic climate and unprecedented success in 2013, shareholder activists are expected to significantly influence the 2014 M&A landscape. As shareholder activism becomes more widespread, activists are becoming increasingly ambitious and creative in their approach.

Last year saw a rise in the power and influence of activist hedge funds. In 2013, activist hedge funds managed over $93 billion, a 42% increase from 2012. With more capital, activist hedge funds have been able to target larger and more sophisticated companies.

Shareholder activists are also looking to expand their geographic reach. Despite confidence in the North American market, in … Continue Reading

Affirming Your Poison Pill To Keep It Alive

On May 2, 2014, the British Columbia Securities Commission (the Commission) extended the life of the shareholder rights plan of Augusta Resource Corporation (Augusta) until July 15, 2014, provided that Hudbay Minerals Inc. (Hudbay) held its bid for Augusta shares open until July 16, 2014 and agreed to a ten-day extension in the event any shares were taken up by Hudbay. On June 24, 2014, the Commission released detailed reasons for the lengthy extension, which was, in part,  responsive to Augusta needing until June 30, 2014 to obtain certain project permits that would help it … Continue Reading

Battles for Control of a Company: Practical Lessons from Wells v. Bioniche Life Sciences Inc.

In Wells v. Bioniche Life Sciences Inc., a group of dissident shareholders attempted to gain control of Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. (the “Company”) by requisitioning a shareholders’ meeting to replace the Company’s management. Bioniche’s Board of Directors resisted the Dissidents, and the parties eventually came before Justice D. M. Brown of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to have him determine several issues relating to a shareholder’s right to requisition or call meetings under s. 143 of the Canadian Business Corporations Act.  An article summarizing Justice’s Brown’s findings and analyzing the practical implications of the decision was recently … Continue Reading

Exercising Appraisal Rights – An Effective Tool for Canadian Activists?

In the wake of Dole Food Co.’s $2.4 billion management buyout, the question of whether the exercise of shareholder appraisal rights is an effective tool in the Canadian shareholder activism scene emerges.

In late 2013, management of Dole Foods offered to purchase the remaining 60% of shares not already owned by CEO and founder, David Murdock at what the market and analysts deemed an “underwhelming” offer. The buyout was accepted by a majority of the minority shareholders (barely!) however, certain shareholders (hedge funds following the lead of Carl Icahn), reserved and exercised their appraisal rights during the process. Ultimately, about … Continue Reading

Is Shareholder Activism Hurting Bondholders?

A recently released research report by Moody’s Investors Service examines the credit impacts of activist shareholder activity, arguing that shareholder initiatives do not always benefit bondholders. In fact, the report suggests that the means by which shareholders drive change in capitalization and strategy, including through share repurchases, increased dividends and divestitures of cash-generating assets, often stresses credit metrics, increasing the risk of holding corporate bonds.

Moody’s argues the risk for bondholders is growing as activists increasingly identify opportunities in larger credit rated companies and as these companies take more proactive steps to avoid being targeted. The report found the industries … Continue Reading

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