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BC Supreme Court examines validity of release and injunction clauses affecting third party rights in plans of arrangement

Summary

In iAnthus Capital Holdings, Inc.(Re)[1], Gomery J. of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, approved an amended plan of arrangement (the Amended Plan) after he invited the petitioners to narrow the release and injunction clauses of the first plan the petitioners had applied for (the First Plan).[2]

The initial release clause was broad enough to make Gomery J. declare that he did not have the power to make it an ancillary order under British Columbia’s Business Corporations Act (BCA), and that it rendered the otherwise acceptable plan unfair and unreasonable. The clause had the effect … Continue Reading

First Global Data Ltd (Re): OSC requires merits hearing to proceed via videoconference despite respondents’ objections

COVID-19 continues to pose unique challenges to Canada’s legal system, including questions about how the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) will conduct its proceedings.  In a recent decision, a Hearing Panel of the OSC ordered a merits hearing to proceed by videoconference (First Global Data Ltd (Re), 2000 ONSEC 23), despite the respondents’ strenuous objections. This decision, which follows a determination on March 23, 2020 that an unrelated merits hearing would continue partly in writing (discussed in our previous post), highlights the evolution of the OSC’s response to COVID-19 in conducting its proceedings.

Commission’s Current Continue Reading

Significant amendments coming to Ontario’s Class Proceedings Act, 1992

On July 8, Bill 161, the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act, 2020 (the SSJA), passed a third reading in the Ontario provincial legislature and received royal assent, becoming law.

The SSJA includes significant amendments to Ontario’s Class Proceedings Act, 1992 (CPA), marking the first time that Ontario’s class action legislation has undergone major changes since its enactment over 27 years ago.

To learn more about these amendments, please refer to our legal update.… Continue Reading

Passive Reliance on Fellow Director is Insufficient for Due Diligence Defence

In a judgment dated June 9, 2020, the Superior Court of Quebec in Autorité des marchés financiers v. Descheneaux, 2020 QCCS 1779 (Justice R. Mongeon) confirmed that passive reliance on a fellow director, more knowledgeable and experienced with the legal requirements of raising capital under applicable securities laws, is insufficient to ground a due diligence defence to a strict liability offence such as breaches to the Quebec Securities Act.

Mr. Descheneaux, an officer and director of delSECUR, faced 18 counts of breaches of the Securities Act, for distributing securities without a prospectus and for acting as an … Continue Reading

Wright v Horizons ETFS Management (Canada) Inc.: Exchange-traded funds may attract statutory cause of action under section 130 of Securities Act

The recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Wright v. Horizons ETFS Management (Canada) Inc. (2020 ONCA 337) is significant for two reasons. First, it recognizes the existence of a duty of care owed by a fund manager to purchasers of units of the fund in relation to the allegedly negligent design of the fund. In addition, it opens the door to potential claims under s. 130 of the Ontario Securities Act against fund managers in relation to misrepresentations in the fund’s prospectus notwithstanding that the funds are sold over a stock exchange.

The proposed class … Continue Reading

Highlights of Enforcement Report of the Autorité des marchés financiers

On May 28, 2020, the Autorité des marchés financiers, Quebec’s securities regulator, published its Enforcement Report for the period April 2019 to March 2020 (https://lautorite.qc.ca/en/general-public/publications/amf-publications/enforcement-report/)

Here are the highlights:

On the Sanctions front:

  • $17,648,318 in fines and administrative penalties were imposed in proceedings brought by the AMF, 75% of which were fines under the Act respecting the distribution of financial products and services
  • 83 individuals and firms were sanctioned for various offences
  • 6 individuals were given a total of more than 6 years of jail time in penal proceedings

On the Surveillance and Investigations front:

  • 16 cyber crime
Continue Reading

The Quebec Court of Appeal provides useful guidance as to when a regulatory audit may actually be a penal investigation in disguise

Introduction

If you are involved in securities litigation, you know how important it is to distinguish between regulatory audit and penal investigation.

If the regulator is conducting an audit to ascertain whether a corporation or its officers comply with securities legislation, it may usually rely on broad investigative powers to obtain documents and information upon request.

However, if the dominant purpose of the investigation is to determine whether a penal offence has been committed, then the protection afforded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms kicks in, including the right of every person to be secure against unreasonable search … Continue Reading

COVID-19 Scams on the Rise and Enforcement on the Horizon

As COVID-19 continues to impact capital markets around the world, securities regulators in North America are responding to an increasing number of securities-related scams. Provincial securities regulators across Canada, as well as the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, have now issued official warnings about fraudulent investment offerings and other scams that target investors.

Many of the alleged scams involve “pump and dump” tactics, where the perpetrators artificially inflate the price of a stock by releasing false information, then sell their stock before the market learns that the information was false. For example, on April 23, 2020, the Ontario Securities … Continue Reading

Securities Commission Administrative Fines Are Forever

As we discussed in a previous post, administrative penalties levied by securities commissions may survive a discharge in bankruptcy. A recent decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia (Court), Poonian (Re), 2020 BCSC 547 (Re Poonian), highlights that in addition, such administrative penalties may also prevent a discharge from bankruptcy altogether.

In Re Poonian, the Court denied an attempt by Thalbinder Singh Poonian and Shailu Poonian (the Applicants) to obtain a discharge from bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, RSC 1985, c. B-3 (BIA).

The Applicants made a … Continue Reading

Ontario Court of Appeal Rejects “Family Resemblance Test”; Sets Aside Custodial Sentence

On March 16, 2020, the Ontario Court of Appeal released its highly anticipated decision in the saga concerning the Ontario Securities Commission’s (OSC) prosecution of Daniel Tiffin (Mr. Tiffin). The Court’s decision helps clarify the analysis used to determine whether a financial instrument falls within the meaning of “security” under the Ontario Securities Act (the Act), and confirms that certain promissory notes are considered “securities” under the Act.

Background

Pursuant to a s. 127 order made under the Act in 2014, Mr. Tiffin and his company, Tiffin Financial Corporation (TFC), were prohibited from … Continue Reading

Class members opting out of secondary-market liability class actions and instituting their own claims – Are there prescription or forfeiture defences available under the Quebec regime?

The Quebec Superior Court, in California States Teachers’ Retirement System v. Bausch Health Companies Inc. (2020 QCCS 275), recently clarified the rules applicable to limitation periods in the context of secondary-market liability actions under the Quebec Securities Act (QSA).

Much like its Ontario counterpart, s. 225.4 QSA provides for an authorization mechanism whereby applicants wishing to institute a secondary-market liability claim against a public issuer must convince the court that their actions are taken in good faith and have a “reasonable possibility of success”. While such actions can take on the form of class … Continue Reading

Unreasonable delay and Jordan’s presumptive ceilings – different approach from the SCC on verdict deliberation time

Canadian securities regulators have jurisdiction to lay charges under provincial securities legislation, and have prosecuted serious securities offences criminally. The persons so charged have a right to be tried within a reasonable time. Questions have arisen as to whether or not a court’s deliberation time was to be factored in the timelines identified in the now seminal case R. v. Jordan, 2016 SCC 27 (“Jordan”). Despite the fact that the R. v. K.G.K., 2020 SCC 7 (“KGK”) case is a criminal case, the teachings of the Supreme Court of Canada described below are transposable … Continue Reading

The Show Must Go On: The OSC Requires Enforcement Hearing to Continue Notwithstanding COVID-19

In a decision released on March 23, 2020, a Hearing Panel of the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) ruled, over the objections of the respondents, that an oral hearing that had commenced under s. 127 of the Ontario Securities Act into allegations of fraud, misleading investors, unregistered trading and the illegal distributions of securities would continue at least partly in writing due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Re Paramount, 2020 ONSEC 9).

History of the Proceeding

The merits hearing began on March 10, 2020 and had been scheduled to resume on March 23.  It had proceeded for … Continue Reading

Quebec Court of Appeal confirms administrative penalties applications not subject to general rules of prescription

The Quebec Court of Appeal recently dismissed the appeals launched by directors and officers of a reporting issuer, Nstein Technologies, against two judgments rendered by the Court of Quebec in a statutory appeal of a judgment by the Quebec securities tribunal, the Tribunal administratif des marchés financiers (the TMF).

The TMF had granted an application by the Quebec securities regulator, the Autorité des marchés financiers (the AMF), to impose administrative penalties against the appellants for breaches to insider trading and tipping provisions under the Québec Securities Act (the QSA). The AMF’s application essentially stemmed from a decision … Continue Reading

Managing Securities Litigation Risks in the Age of Uncertainty

The price at which securities of many Canadian issuers are trading has been significantly affected by the global coronavirus pandemic. This will almost certainly impact their risk of litigation arising from the accuracy their public disclosures. For companies that are dual listed in the United States, the risks are likely enhanced.

These risks appear to be exacerbated for issuers whose shares trade on Canadian exchanges as a result of the recent suspension of Ontario limitation periods, giving security holders a longer time within which to commence litigation.

With this in mind, issuers are well advised to continue to work closely … Continue Reading

Delaware Supreme Court holds Delaware corporations can adopt federal-forum selection provisions

On March 18, 2020, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed the Delaware Court of Chancery and held that Delaware corporations can adopt federal-forum selection provisions (FFPs) requiring that claims arising under the federal Securities Act of 1933 (1933 Act) be brought in federal court. The case is styled Salzberg et. al v. Sciabacucchi, No. 346, 2019, 2020 WL 1280785 (Del. Mar. 18, 2020). Companies should strongly consider using the Salzberg decision as an opportunity to adopt an FFP. Absent such a provision, 1933 Act class actions – which are frequently filed after initial and secondary public offerings – may be … Continue Reading

Yukon Court of Appeal reinstates transaction price as fair value of shares

The Yukon Court of Appeal recently allowed an appeal from a Supreme Court decision that awarded dissenting shareholders US$71.46 per share as fair value of their InterOil shares, a 43% premium over the transaction price of US$49.98. The trial court decision had generally been viewed as an outlier in fair value case law, given that the award represented a significant premium over the transaction price. The Court of Appeal found the transaction price reflected fair value and reduced the award to that amount.

It made a number of highly relevant and important remarks regarding the probity of evidence of fair … Continue Reading

US federal court holds unsponsored ADRs may be subject to US securities laws

On January 28, 2020, in a case that potentially expands the liability of foreign companies, the US District Court for the Central District of California denied a foreign defendant’s motion to dismiss securities law claims brought by US purchasers of its unsponsored, unlisted American Depository Receipts (ADRs). Specifically, in Stoyas v. Toshiba Corp., — F. Supp. 3d —, No. 15-cv-4194, 2020 WL 466629 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 28, 2020), the District Court held that Plaintiffs sufficiently pled that their purchases of Defendant’s unsponsored ADRs on the over-the-counter (OTC) market constituted domestic transactions in securities, as well as alleging the Defendant’s … Continue Reading

An investigator’s misconduct can lead to a stay of proceedings

In the last 5 years, investigators with the Quebec securities regulator, the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), have more and more often turned to authorizing judges to secure search warrants allowing them to enter people’s homes and collect evidence. The hearings before the authorizing judges are held ex parte and authorization is granted on the basis of the affidavit filed by the AMF investigator.

Despite the Zalat v. R. (2019 QCCA 1829) being a criminal case, the teachings of the Quebec Court of Appeal, described below, are easily transposable to a securities litigation setting.

The … Continue Reading

Alberta Court Finds that Administrative Penalty Survives Bankruptcy

In January 2020, Madam Justice B.E. Romaine of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta (Court) ruled that an administrative penalty levied against the Respondent by the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) survived his discharge from bankruptcy. (See Alberta Securities Commission v Hennig, 2020 ABQB 48)

The administrative penalty was levied in 2008 against the Respondent after the ASC found that he was responsible for misrepresentations in the financial statements of a public company of which he was a director and officer; that he financially benefited from the misrepresentations; that he participated in market manipulation; … Continue Reading

Insider trading prosecutions may increase after Second Circuit decision lowered barriers to convict

The Second Circuit recently determined that the criminal securities fraud provisions that were enacted as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (Sarbanes-Oxley) have less onerous requirements for proving insider trading than under the general antifraud provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act), specifically Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act. Section 10(b) has been the traditional way for prosecutors to charge insider trading. Pursuant to Supreme Court rulings, an insider must breach a duty of confidentiality and receive a “personal benefit” in order to have engaged in the illegal tipping of material, non-public information to others. Similarly, … Continue Reading

Blockchain law: Laying down the law for digital assets

Federal legislators, regulators and enforcers have been making enforcement pronouncements and new proposals to try to keep up with the social, economic, political and legal issues posed by the issuance, use and trading of digital assets built on blockchain technologies. In this edition of his Blockchain Law column, Robert A. Schwinger describes some of the recent developments.

Read the entire column.… Continue Reading

Proposed Changes to the Ontario Class Proceedings Act, 1992 Would Benefit Defendants and Their Insurers in Securities Class Actions

The Ontario government’s recent announcement of proposed changes to Ontario’s class proceedings legislation bodes well for defendants and their insurers. If the amendments become law, they would provide greater latitude to defendants seeking to narrow or dismiss claims prior to certification, make certification a somewhat steeper hill for class counsel to climb, and provide mechanisms to prevent duplicative multi-jurisdictional class actions from proceeding in Ontario. Details of certain of these proposed changes include the following:

Early dismissal motions and dismissal for delay

Prior to the motion for certification, motions by defendants that may dispose of the proceeding in whole or … Continue Reading

The Scope of “Will Say” Statements: In the Matter of BDO Canada LLP

In BDO Canada LLP (Re), 2020 ONSEC 2, a panel (the Panel) of the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) considered a motion brought by Staff alleging that BDO Canada LLP (BDO) failed to meet the standard imposed by the Ontario Securities Commission Rules of Procedure and Forms (Rules) in the preparation of its witness summaries. The motion is part of a larger proceeding against BDO related to alleged breaches of the Securities Act, RSO 1990, C S.5 in connection with audits conducted by BDO. As a part of pre-hearing disclosure, Staff and BDO … Continue Reading

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