The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) announced today that it has adopted and the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) has approved amendments to the TSX Company Manual respecting, among other things, shareholder approval of changes to security-based compensation plans. Proposed amendments were originally published for comment on January 26, 2007. Those proposed amendments have been approved and adopted as of September 18, 2009 with only non-material changes having been made (in response to comments provided by the public and the OSC) to the original proposals.
Specifically, with respect to security-based compensation arrangements (such as stock option plans), the amendments clarify the circumstances in which shareholder approval will be required when such arrangements are amended (notwithstanding that a plan may contain provisions allowing the board to make changes without approval). These circumstances include changes that: (i) reduce the exercise price or extend the term of options held by insiders; (ii) remove or exceed the insider participation limit; (iii) increase the fixed maximum number or percentage of securities issuable pursuant to a plan; or (iv) change the amendment provisions of a plan. The amendments also clarify that with respect to an amendment to reduce the price or extend the term of options held by insiders or to remove or exceed the insider participation limit, votes held directly or indirectly by insiders benefiting from the amendment must be excluded. With respect to the remaining prescribed types of amendments, votes held directly or indirectly by insiders entitled to receive a benefit under the plan must only be excluded if the plan is not subject to an insider participation limit. The term extension restrictions, in particular, could create issues for companies that, as part of a package, wish to allow a departing officer a longer period of time in which to exercise stock options than the often short standard period provided for in plans, and may suggest that plan amendments in this regard may be desirable.
Section 602(g) of the TSX Company Manual, meanwhile, was also amended to add "acquisitions" (under section 611) to those circumstances under which the TSX will not apply its standards where at least 75% of trading occurs on another exchange.
The amendments become effective today, September 18, 2009.