OTCQX Update

In recent years, many Canadian companies have sought to create a U.S. market for their shares by listing on the OTCQX. Qualifying Canadian companies that have their primary listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange, the TSX Venture Exchange or the Canadian Securities Exchange may generally obtain a quotation on the OTCQX or the next lower tier of the OTC Markets, the OTCQB, without filing a registration statement with, or becoming subject to ongoing reporting requirements with, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. During 2016, the initial listing requirements for OTCQX included a minimum share price of US$0.25, a minimum market capitalization of US$10 million, an operating business, no current bankruptcy or reorganization proceedings,...

DSU Plans Require Careful Review to Avoid Adverse U.S. Tax Treatment

A Canadian company is planning to adopt a deferred share unit plan (DSU plan) for its directors. Only one or two of its directors are U.S. citizens or U.S. residents (“U.S. Directors”). With only one or two U.S. Directors, you wonder whether it is important to consider U.S. tax implications. The answer is a resounding yes because the typical form of Canadian DSU plan will not comply with U.S. tax laws governing deferred compensation. Participation by a U.S. Director will result in significant adverse tax consequences for the U.S. Director under Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code. Specifically, for U.S. federal income tax purposes, the value of the DSUs as of December...

New Approach for the Assumption of Options in M&A

A Canadian SEC reporting company that looks to acquire a company with outstanding equity grants in the United States will frequently need to address the question: What alternatives are available for the assumption of the target’s outstanding options or other equity-based compensatory awards? Under U.S. law, both the grant of the equity award and the exercise or conversion of the equity award must be registered under the 1933 Act or satisfy an available exemption. For Canadian issuers that are SEC reporting companies, the alternative approaches available to satisfy the 1933 Act requirements for the exercise or conversion of the assumed awards were formerly restricted to (i) an S-8 registration statement (either existing or...

Reductions in Force and the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act

It is generally a good idea for companies not to disclose biographical information about their employees, such as marital status, religion, or age. Good HR professionals counsel managers not to ask for such information during interviews, for example, in order to avoid claims of discrimination in hiring. Under U.S. law, however, there is an important exception to this well-advised general rule. Under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (“OWBPA”), employers terminating two or more employees as part of a layoff and offering severance in exchange for a release must disclose the following information to each employee over 40 who is being terminated and offered severance: 1) a description of the class of employees...

Reminder of Required IRS Cost Basis Reporting for Canadian Companies

Canadian companies should be aware that if they engage in certain “organizational actions” that affect the tax basis of shares held by U.S. persons (including many types of acquisitions and business combinations where shares are issued to U.S. persons), they are required by the U.S. tax laws to evaluate the effect of the action on the U.S. holder’s tax basis and disclose this information in a completed Form 8937 promptly following the action. Internal Revenue Code Section 6045B and IRS From 8937 require corporations to report an “organizational action” that affects the tax basis of its shares held by U.S. individuals and certain other tax entities. Canadian residents who are U.S. citizens or...

SEC Provides Clarification of Foreign Private Issuer Calculation

For Canadian issuers and their advisers, compliance with U.S. securities laws generally begins with the question: Is the issuer a “foreign private issuer”? The FPI definition, which is set out in Rule 405 under the Securities Act and 3b-4(c) of the Exchange Act, involves the following four inquiries: Are more than 50% of the issuer’s outstanding voting securities held of record, directly or indirectly, by residents of the United States? Are a majority of the issuer’s executive officers and directors citizens or residents of the United States? Are a majority of the issuer’s assets in the United States? Is the issuer’s business principally administered from within the United States? While the FPI test...

What “At-Will” Employment Means for Canadian Companies with U.S. Employees

One of the biggest differences between employment in Canada and employment in the United States is the fact that, with the exception of a few jurisdictions, employment in the United States is “at will.”  While in Canada employees who are terminated without cause often must be paid severance, in the absence of a contract requiring severance, a U.S. employer is generally not obligated to pay severance when an employee is fired without cause. This fact has important implications for Canadian companies taking on employees in the United States.  While it might make sense for a Canadian employer to include a probationary period in its employment agreement to avoid paying severance after an early...

The Importance of Monitoring Your Foreign Private Issuer Status

Being a “foreign private issuer” is very important to a Canadian company’s treatment under U.S. securities laws.  If a Canadian company ceases to qualify as a foreign private issuer under the rules of the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), it must generally: Change the way in which it offers and sells its own securities to persons in Canada and other non-U.S. jurisdictions, including the imposition of U.S. legends regardless of the jurisdiction of the purchaser, Begin reporting with the SEC unless its securities are held by a sufficiently small number of persons, and Report with the SEC on U.S. domestic forms rather than the more liberal forms that apply to most Canadian companies...

Staying Onside the Regulation D Bad Boy Disqualifications

Most non-underwritten private placements of securities by Canadian companies to U.S. investors are made in reliance upon Rule 506 of Regulation D. Since September 2013, this exemption has been subject to “bad boy disqualifications.” Generally speaking, a company is prohibited from relying on Rule 506 if the company, any of its predecessors, any of its affiliated issuers, or any of its directors, officers, general partners, managing members or promoters has been subject to certain convictions, orders, judgments, decrees in the United States or suspension or expulsion of membership from certain organizations in the United States. In addition, if any person has been or will be paid (directly or indirectly) remuneration for solicitation of...

Canadian Plan of Arrangement – Do I Need U.S. Counsel?

You’re a Canadian public company with no U.S. operations.  You don’t file reports with the SEC.  You plan to merge with another Canadian public company in a share-for-share exchange, structured as a Canadian plan of arrangement.  Do you need to hire U.S. counsel to assist on this Canadian deal? Yes. Canadian public companies invariably have shareholders resident in the United States.  If the acquirer will issue shares to the target shareholders, or if there will be an amalgamation in which shareholders of both companies receive shares of amalco, the transaction will be deemed to involve the offer and sale of securities to the U.S. shareholders.  This requires either registration with the SEC and...