As we all begin to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our economy, we have been working with our clients and regulators to remove the road blocks to corporates operating in the current 'lock down' environment. In general ASIC, ASX and Treasury have shown a willingness to revisit policy settings in a way that is better suited to the current environment. The law is literally changing on a daily basis.

Significantly, on 23 March, the federal government introduced and passed the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus Bill 2020. We expect that this will see the Treasurer making a range of regulations to address market concerns. Meanwhile, ASIC has demonstrated an unprecedented willingness to grant waivers or relief, where appropriate, to assist organisations resolve liquidity issues and manage competing logistical and legal challenges. ASX is also taking steps to assist listed entities with the announcement, on 31 March, of reporting relief for ASX / NZX dual listed entities and temporary capital raising relief that will apply until 31 July 2020 unless removed or extended by ASX.

Key areas of focus for all regulators include:

  • the rules for calling and holding general meetings;
  • communications with shareholders;
  • cancelling or deferring dividends;
  • meeting notice periods;
  • execution of documents;
  • continuous disclosure;
  • auditing of financial accounts; and
  • insolvency related issues.

This guide focuses on what we are seeing in the market that might help general counsel and company secretaries. We will continue to engage with regulators and keep you updated as the situation evolves.

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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.

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