Canada: B.C. Court Rules Telephone Voting Requires Transparency And Verification

Last Updated: August 29 2012
Article by Matthew Fleming

In a recent decision1 the Supreme Court of British Columbia set aside and declared invalid an annual general meeting of shareholders and the resolutions passed at the meeting following a proxy fight between management and dissident shareholders. The Court found that management's proxy solicitation firm had improperly executed proxies on behalf of shareholders based on instructions given by telephone to representatives of the proxy solicitation firm (the "TeleVote System"). The Court concluded that the TeleVote System failed to provide a contemporaneous, reliable and verifiable record of proxies and voting instructions with the result that the use of such a system was oppressive to shareholders.

Background

The Court's decision arose in the context of a proxy fight between the incumbent slate of directors of Mosquito Consolidated Gold Mines Limited ("Mosquito") and a dissident slate lead by two former directors of Mosquito. While in many cases the process goes sideways through illegal solicitation allegations, in this instance each side delivered information circulars to shareholders and engaged proxy solicitation firms to solicit proxies from shareholders. Management's proxy solicitation firms offered telephone and internet voting using a unique control number found on a shareholder's proxy or voting information form. In addition, management's firm used the TeleVote System.

Under this system, a call centre was established in which representatives of management's solicitation firm telephoned registered shareholders and non‐objecting beneficial owners of shares to solicit their votes for the management slate. The call centre operators were permitted to accept verbal instructions from individuals and to execute proxies on their behalf. At Mosquito's shareholder meeting, the validity of the proxies obtained through the use of the TeleVote System was challenged by the dissident slate but the Chair of meeting ruled that the proxies were valid. The shareholder vote was in favour of the management slate, albeit by a narrow margin. Had the proxies obtained through the TeleVote System been excluded, the dissident slate would have been elected.

Oral Instructions by Telephone Not Standard Practice

A company controlled by one of the members of the dissident slate filed an application seeking a declaration that Mosquito's annual general meeting was conducted in a manner that was oppressive to it as a shareholder of Mosquito, and orders nullifying the resolutions passed at the meeting and requiring a new shareholder meeting to be held.

In granting the application, the Court held that while Mosquito shareholders had a reasonable expectation that their proxies would be solicited by telephone, they did not reasonably expect that their proxies would be sought and votes cast at the same time. This process departed from the standard commercial practice of voting methods for shareholder meetings under securities instruments and the Securities Transfer Association of Canada Protocol. Moreover, the use of the TeleVote System was not disclosed in management's information circular together with the other specified voting methods, including delivering a proxy by mail, hand or fax or appointing a different proxy holder by mail or through the internet.

Lack of Verification and Safeguards

While the Court noted that the use of telephone solicitation systems are a legitimate attempt to streamline shareholder proxy solicitations and the absence of guidelines does not automatically disqualify the use of such systems, it identified several problems with the use of the TeleVote System in the context of the battle for control of the board of directors of Mosquito. In particular, the Court criticized, amongst other deficiencies:

  • The acceptance of oral instructions without an immediate link to a verifiable, written confirmation;
  • The absence of a unique identifier to ensure the identity of the individual giving instructions;
  • The failure by management to make prior disclosure of the use of the TeleVote System;
  • The lack of sufficient safeguards to ensure that votes were taken in a manner that allows the shareholder to make his or her choices privately, on a fully informed basis and without undue pressure from a proxy solicitor; and,
  • The imbalance between the use of the TeleVote System by the management slate where the dissident slate used the traditional proxy solicitation process.

Ultimately, the Court concluded that the use of the TeleVote System constituted oppressive and unfairly prejudicial conduct and impaired the right of shareholders to a fair and transparent voting process.

Conclusion

In the event an incumbent slate of directors finds itself in a proxy contest, the management slate must ensure that the proxy solicitation tactics used by its proxy solicitors are fully disclosed in management's information circular and that such tactics will produce verifiable and reliable results. The failure to ensure that sufficient safeguards exist risks invalidating the election of directors and other shareholder business at an otherwise valid shareholder meeting.

Footnotes

1 International Energy and Mineral Resources Investment (Hong Kong) Company Limited v. Mosquito Consolidated Gold Mines Limited, 2012 BCSC 1191.

For more information, visit our Securities Mining Law blog at www.securitiesmininglaw.com

About Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (FMC)

FMC is one of Canada's leading business and litigation law firms with more than 500 lawyers in six full-service offices located in the country's key business centres. We focus on providing outstanding service and value to our clients, and we strive to excel as a workplace of choice for our people. Regardless of where you choose to do business in Canada, our strong team of professionals possess knowledge and expertise on regional, national and cross-border matters. FMC's well-earned reputation for consistently delivering the highest quality legal services and counsel to our clients is complemented by an ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion to broaden our insight and perspective on our clients' needs. Visit: www.fmc-law.com

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Events from this Firm
17 Oct 2018, Webinar, Toronto, Canada

Dentons and SheEO are coming together for an evening of #radicalgenerosity on October 17, 2018. Meet Vicki Saunders, Founder of SheEO, and learn about how SheEO is changing the landscape for female entrepreneurs.

17 Oct 2018, Webinar, Toronto, Canada

With the continued focus on Bill 148’s significant changes to the Employment Standards Act, Dentons’ Toronto Employment and Labour group is pleased to launch a new webinar series focusing on Bill 148.

17 Oct 2018, Seminar, Québec, Canada

Dentons is pleased to invite you to join us for a breakfast seminar as part of the Les Matinées Dentons series on issues relevant to you and your business.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions