Canada: Filtrage Des Actions En Responsabilité Visant Le Marché Secondaire – La Cour Suprême Hausse La Barre Pour Les Demandeurs

Last Updated: June 2 2015
Article by Laure Fouin, Julie-Martine Loranger and Pierre-Jérôme Bouchard

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Fin mai 2014, le cours de l'action de Theratechnologies inc. (Thera) chute brusquement de 58 % en deux jours. Le marché réagit à l'annonce des sociétés d'analyse financière faisant état de risques potentiels suite à la publication par la Food and Drug Administration (FDA) américaine de certains renseignements recueillis durant son processus d'approbation relativement à un nouveau médicament de Thera, la tésamoréline, notamment de questions soulevées par la FDA concernant ses effets secondaires.  Quelques jours plus tard, l'action de Thera reprend sa valeur initiale après l'annonce que la FDA avait approuvé son médicament.

Suite aux évènements, 121851 Canada Inc. (121Can), une des entités ayant vendu ses actions à perte, intente un recours en dommages-intérêts, plus précisément un recours en responsabilité visant le marché secondaire, contre Thera, espérant ainsi récupérer les sommes perdues dans l'opération.

Ce recours, basé sur l'article 225.4 de la Loi sur les valeurs mobilières (LVM), vise à obtenir dédommagement auprès de Thera en raison du fait que l'entreprise avaient prétendument fait défaut de divulguer au marché certaines informations qualifiées d'importantes.

Le recours, quoique basé sur la LVM, est un recours collectif.  Le recours est donc sujet aux règles applicables à tous recours collectifs, qui prévoit l'autorisation préalable de la Cour. En parallèle, la LVM prévoit elle aussi une procédure d'autorisation des recours, par laquelle un demandeur doit prouver que « l'action est intentée de bonne foi et qu'il existe une possibilité raisonnable que le demandeur ait gain de cause ».

La Cour suprême du Canada (CSC) ne s'était jusqu'à ce jour jamais prononcée sur l'interprétation de ces critères applicables à une demande d'autorisation d'un recours collectif en matière de valeurs mobilières. Elle vient de le faire dans la décision Theratechnologies1. Tout comme la Cour d'appel, la CSC a contrasté ces critères avec ceux contenus au Code de procédure civile (C.p.c.) et guidant l'analyse de l'autorisation de tous recours collectifs. Suivant le C.p.c., un demandeur doit démontrer une apparence sérieuse de droit, c'est-à-dire que « les faits allégués paraissent justifier les conclusions recherchées ». Dans sa décision récente Infineon2, la CSC a énoncé qu'un demandeur devait démontrer que sa cause était « défendable », et a qualifié de « peu exigeant » et de « seuil peu élevé » le critère à rencontrer.

Or, en ce qui a trait aux recours collectifs en matière de valeurs mobilières intentés en vertu de l'article 225.4 LVM, la CSC précise dans Theratechnologies que les critères diffèrent. Confirmant sur ce point le jugement de la Cour d'appel du Québec, la CSC reconnaît que la « possibilité raisonnable que le demandeur ait gain de cause » auquel réfère le libellé de l'article 225.4 LVM établit un critère plus exigeant. Afin de satisfaire ce critère plus rigoureux, un demandeur devra présenter une preuve suffisante pour convaincre le tribunal de l'existence d'une possibilité réaliste qu'il ait gain de cause, et non seulement démontrer que sa cause « est défendable ». La barre est donc plus haute dans le domaine des valeurs mobilières. La CSC a en effet qualifié le processus d'autorisation de l'article 225.4 LVM de mécanisme de filtrage « plus significatif » que celui du droit commun régissant l'autorisation préalable de tous les recours collectifs. La Cour souligne entre autres qu'en instaurant ce mécanisme, législateur voulait « décourager » certains « recours opportunistes devenus courants aux États‑Unis ».

Sur le fond de cette affaire, et contrairement à la Cour d'appel, la CSC conclut que Thera n'avait pas manqué à ses obligations d'information, puisque les différents éléments pointés du doigt par les plaignants ne constituaient tout simplement pas des changements importants au sens de la LVM qui auraient dû être divulgués au marché. Selon la CSC, des évènements externes et hors de contrôle d'un émetteur assujetti, telles des questions soulevées par la FDA durant un processus d'approbation d'un médicament, ne constituent pas des changements importants, particulièrement s'ils concernent des sujets divulgués auparavant, tels les possibles effets secondaires du médicament dans cette affaire. Pour cette raison, il n'existait aucune possibilité raisonnable que 121Can ait gain de cause dans son action en dommages-intérêts.

Footnotes

1. Theratechnologies inc. c. 121851 Canada inc., 2015 CSC 18.

2. Infineon Technologies AG c. Option consommateurs, [2013] 3 RCS 600.

Le présent article a originellement été publié dans l'édition de mai 2015 de Finance & Investissement et ne constitue pas un avis juridique.

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