Tag archives: corporate governance

A UK dispute sheds light on the duties of a dissident director

A recent decision of the UK’s High Court — Stobart v Tinkler [2019] EWHC 258 (Comm) — has been released following a dispute between directors of a large infrastructure company (the “Company”). The decision, and the circumstances preceding it, serve as a cautionary tale about the duties of a dissident director and of board members in the context of proxy contests.

The board dispute was initiated by a founder and significant shareholder of the company (the “Dissident Director”). After his resignation from the office of CEO in 2017, the Dissident Director remained with the Company as … Continue Reading

When defamation in hostile proceedings leads to serious consequences

It will come as no surprise to those who have participated in a proxy fight to learn that these disputes can be heated affairs.   Parties to a fight will routinely seek to discredit the other side to bolster their own narrative or otherwise gain a strategic advantage.  In such an atmosphere, it can be difficult to draw the line between behaviour that’s merely aggressive and behaviour that crosses into unethical or illegal territory.  A recent U.S. District Court case, Eshelman v. Auerbach et al, ­provides an example of the serious consequences that can ensue for those who cross this … Continue Reading

Access to Corporate Records Amidst Controversy

The rights of shareholders and directors to access corporate books and records is undisputed, but what about the rights of a former Chief Executive Officer, especially when the termination was contentious?

US Jurisprudence:

In the United States, a recent decision by the Delaware Court of Chancery dealt with this scenario. In that case, the CEO was involved in a highly publicized controversy believed to be injurious to the company’s image. An investigation was launched, and a special committee was formed, and the relationship quickly deteriorated. The board severed contractual ties with him, and sought his resignation despite him being the … Continue Reading

Lesson Learned: An Examination of Trends in Shareholder Proposals

Shareholder proposals are often viewed as an essential tool for maintaining corporate accountability, but what role do they play in shaping corporate governance? ISS Analytics recently published a study  (the Study) that reviewed the impact of shareholder proposals on corporate governance practices among U.S. companies since 2000. The Study offers helpful insights into shifting trends in corporate governance and investor attitudes, and provides important lessons for Canadian issuers.

A brief history of shareholder proposals in the U.S.

According to the Study, after a significant surge in the number of governance proposals in the early 2000s, the number of proposals … Continue Reading

The Importance of Corporate Governance in Cannabis Companies

Every year The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business ranks governance of Canada’s corporate boards in the “Board Games.” In the recently published 2018 edition, the boards of directors of 242 companies and trusts in the S&P/TSX index were assessed. The companies are awarded points for various categories, namely, board composition, shareholding and compensation, shareholder rights, and disclosure. Companies with more stringent governance policies in place are awarded higher points. For example, a company with two-thirds independent directors will be awarded more points for that category than a company that has the majority of its directors being related … Continue Reading

Webinar – Corporate governance, shareholder activism, and hostile M&A: Key developments in 2018 and a look ahead

Walied Soliman and Orestes Pasparakis, co-chairs of Norton Rose Fulbright’s Canadian Special Situations team, will host a 60-minute webinar on corporate governance, shareholder activism, and hostile M&A on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at 12 p.m. EST. To sign up, please click here.

Our Special Situations team played a leading role in some of the most complex and high-profile corporate governance, shareholder activism and hostile M&A matters of 2018. The webinar will highlight some of the key trends and developments in 2018 and trends taking shape in 2019.

This will be essential viewing for directors and executives at public companies, … Continue Reading

Global and Canadian Trends of Corporate Governance in 2019 and Beyond

Recently, public company boards are facing increasing scrutiny and greater expectations from various stakeholders, particularly in light of society’s elevated concerns regarding corporate culture, gender equality and climate change and sustainability. In its report entitled “2019 Global & Regional Trends in Corporate Governance” (the Report), Russell Reynolds Associates noted that in 2019 “[t]he demand for board quality, effectiveness, and accountability to shareholders will continue to accelerate across all global markets.”  The Report discussed five major global trends that are expected to define the corporate governance landscape in 2019:

  • Improved board quality and composition continues to be the essence of
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CEO Activism: A Double-Edged Sword?

In a recent study published on SSRN by the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, authors David F. Larcker, Stephen Miles, Brian Tayan and Kim Wright-Violich argue that CEO activism – the practice of CEOs taking public positions on environmental, social and political issues not directly related to their business – is a “double-edged sword”: CEOs who take public positions might build loyalty with employees, customers or constituents, but these same positions can inadvertently alienate important segments of those populations.

The authors – who aimed to better understand the implications of CEO activism by examining its prevalence, the … Continue Reading

The Digital Dilemma: Cybersecurity and Boardroom Best Practices in the Technological Age

Earlier this year, Commissioner Robert Jackson Jr. of the US Securities and Exchange Commission declared that cybersecurity is “the most pressing issue in corporate governance today.” Indeed, widespread digitization has fundamentally transformed the way that people do business, ushering in new heights of efficiency and connectivity. It has also created significant risk management issues for public companies in all sectors, from securing consumer information to responding to data breaches.

However, despite the growth of digitization and its concomitant risks for public companies, it appears that many board members still rely on outdated and unsafe software to protect sensitive materials and … Continue Reading

Activist Insight Monthly features interview with Co-Chairs of Canadian Special Situations team

This month’s edition of Activist Insight Monthly, which focuses on Canada, features an in-depth interview with Walied Soliman and Orestes Pasparakis, Co-Chairs of Norton Rose Fulbright’s Canadian Special Situations team. The interview focuses on recent trends our team is seeing in the Canadian marketplace, including activist short selling, settlements, and the continued rise of “nice” activists.

The publication can be found here (sign-up required).… Continue Reading

Corporate Governance in the Cannabis Sector

Since the introduction of Bill C-45 to legalize the production, distribution and sale of cannabis for recreational use, the cannabis sector (the Sector) has been thriving. Despite many unknowns and uncertainties surrounding the Sector, investors appear unfazed as share prices continue to surge.

Some key features of the Sector

Even though Bill C-45 has not yet passed and has been the subject of some controversy, investor reticence appears to be at a minimum. However, mirroring the volatility of the cannabis market itself, the nature of these investors has changed. Whereas in the nascent stages of the Sector investors … Continue Reading

Best Practices for Board Oversight and Disclosure of Environmental and Social Issues

In a recent post, we discussed investors’ growing interest in environmental and social (E&S) governance. As a recent report published by the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance (CCGG) demonstrates, public company boards are no less attentive to growing shareholder interest in E&S issues. The Directors’ E&S Guidebook (Guidebook), which is the product of consultations with industry leaders in the management of E&S factors, provides practical insights and recommendations for effective board oversight and disclosure of E&S matters.

Companies have good cause to respond to investor interest in E&S matters. For some, past incidents … Continue Reading

Canadian Securities Administrators are seeking comments on soliciting dealer arrangements

The Canadian Securities Administrators (the “CSA”) have issued CSA Staff Notice 61-303 and Request for Comment – Soliciting Dealer Arrangements (the “Notice”) on the use of soliciting dealer arrangements. “Soliciting dealer arrangements” generally refer to agreements entered into between issuers and investment dealers under which the issuer agrees to pay to the dealers a fee for each security successfully solicited to tender to a bid in the case of a take-over bid, or to vote in favour of a matter requiring securityholder approval. In many cases, the payment of any fee is contingent on “success” and/or … Continue Reading

Trends in Environmental Social Governance

Corporations are facing increasing pressure to offer more transparency and disclosure with respect to their governance practices that promote environmental and social sustainability. This year’s trends in Environment Social Governance (ESG) in the context of Canadian corporate governance indicate that more and more corporations are including ESG as part of their core mandates and that investors are looking and asking for more ESG-related disclosures in making investment decisions.

What is ESG?

ESG is a general term used in the capital markets referring to non-financial performance indicators including sustainability, ethics and corporate governance factors, which measure the sustainability and … Continue Reading

Governance Oversight – Is Your Board An Active One?

In a recent interview with Christopher P. Skroupa on Forbes.com, Walied Soliman (Chair of Norton Rose Fulbright Canada, LLP and Co-Chair of Norton Rose Fulbright’s Canadian special situations team) weighs in on what it means to be an active director. The interview can be viewed here.

Stay connected with Special Situations Law and subscribe to the blog today.Continue Reading

5 Key Developments in Canadian Corporate Governance Rules in 2017

Members of Norton Rose Fulbright’s Canadian Special Situations team have published an article on the firm’s website highlighting key developments in Canadian corporate governance rules in 2017. The article can be found here: http://www.nortonrosefulbright.com/files/ca-5-key-developments-in-canadian-corporate-governance-rules-in-2017-161267.pdf.

Stay connected with Special Situations Law and subscribe to the blog today.

 … Continue Reading

Overboard, under deliver?

We recently reported that Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) released its 2018 Americas Proxy Voting Guidelines Updates (the Policy Update), which, among other things, establishes modified guidelines for determining whether a director serving on the board of multiple public companies is “overboarded”.

Starting in 2019, ISS will recommend a withhold vote for (1) directors of TSX-listed companies who are CEOs and serve on two or more public boards and (2) any non-CEO director who serves on the board of five or more public companies.

Overboarding is a hot button topic in the realm of corporate governance. Questions arise … Continue Reading

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices are paving their way into the mainstream

As discussed in our earlier blog post, the Kingsdale Advisors’ (Kingsdale) annual Proxy Season Review for 2017 identified ESG trends as one of several issues on the horizon for public companies. Kingsdale noted that heightened scrutiny from investors could translate into a demand for enhanced disclosure on the part of issuers.

The three factors that form ESG are integrated into investment analyses to determine the sustainability and future financial performance of companies. These factors are also used as tools by companies to analyze, evaluate and to better understand the overall risks and opportunities that their businesses are … Continue Reading

Trends and predictions in Canadian proxy contests

Kingsdale Advisors (Kingsdale) recently released its annual Proxy Season Review for 2017. The report examines trends observed in 2017 and provides analysis on what the future may hold for Canadian proxy contests. The report also outlines strategic recommendations for Canadian companies.

Looking back – trends from 2017

  • Shareholder activism: alive and well. Kingsdale reports that despite a drop-off in the number of public campaigns so far in 2017 (21) as compared to 2015 (55) and 2016 (33), the number of public campaigns to-date demonstrates the continued prevalence of activism in Canada with respect to public companies. The
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Investors heating up the conversation on climate change

Shareholders are placing increased value on non-financial factors when making investment decisions. Some of these factors are environmental and social issues. In particular, shareholder proposals on climate change have recently gained some traction.

In 2016, a record breaking number of climate change resolutions were filed. This shift in focus is attributed to the 2015 Paris Accord, where 195 nations committed to take measures to mitigate global warming. The accord’s objective was to garner a global response to climate change, and it succeeded in enlisting a pledge from these nations to limit temperature increases to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Interestingly, … Continue Reading

How independent are independent directors?

Board independence is a pillar of good corporate governance. It ensures that a corporation’s management is properly monitored and that the corporation’s decisions effectively balance the various stakeholders’ interests. Over the past decades, Canadian regulators (with support from investors) have required companies to increase the number of independent directors on their boards and have created stricter requirements for what qualifies as ‘independent’. But are independent directors now truly independent?

In a US paper published by Kastiel and Nili, the authors argued that independent directors today, while technically independent, are functionally still very dependent on management. This is because of the … Continue Reading

The CCGG’s stewardship principles

Last month, the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance (CCGG) published its new Stewardship Principles paper designed to assist institutional investors fulfil their responsibilities to their beneficiaries or clients and enhance the value of their investments. The principles reflect what the CCGG believes are appropriate stewardship responsibilities for institutions investing in Canadian public equities and are directed to both asset owners and asset managers. While it is not the institutional investor’s role to manage the public companies in which it invests, in order to fulfil its role as fiduciary to its beneficiaries and clients, the CCGG believes an institutional … Continue Reading

Board watch: more complexity, more committees

As a result of the increasing and ever-evolving responsibilities falling on the shoulders of boards of directors, the traditional three key committee model (covering audit and financial reporting, executive compensation, and director nominations and board succession planning) can be inadequate. The creation of additional committees has been one way to manage the burden.  According to EY in its recent Board Matters post entitled “Board committees evolve to address new challenges”, the prevalence of additional committees reflects “changing board priorities and pressures, boardroom needs and company circumstances.”

The statistics support this: more than 75% of S&P 500 companies have … Continue Reading

Institutional investors managing US $17 trillion announce new corporate governance framework

In a move likely to have significant impacts on corporate governance, a group of institutional investors managing upwards of US $17 trillion has announced the formation of the Investor Stewardship Group (the Group). The Group has adopted a framework of certain non-binding investor-friendly principles, many of which are either common or already legally recognized in Canada, illustrating one of Canada’s greatest attractions as an investment destination: its strong protections of investor rights. On the other hand, the Group takes a skeptical view of a common practice in Canada: dual-class share structures.

The Group

The Group is a collective of … Continue Reading

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