RSUs and Similar Awards Now Covered by Class Order Exemptions On October 31, 2014, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) issued two new Class Order exemptions as well as an updated regulatory guide on employee incentive plans. One of the Class Order exemptions relates to listed companies and the other to unlisted companies. They replace the current Class Order exemption (CO 03/184) for employee share plans, although companies that have previously relied on Class Order exemption 03/184 for their share plan may continue to do so for the duration of the plan.
For most of our clients, the most significant change is that RSUs, and other "free share grants" (such as PSUs, SARs, etc.), are now covered by the Class Order exemptions. This means that it is no longer necessary to apply for specific relief with ASIC in order to grant such awards to employees in Australia. However, again, companies who have previously obtained specific relief to grant RSUs and similar awards may continue to rely on the specific relief for the duration of the plan for which the relief was obtained.
Overall, the new exemptions and guidance will make it easier for companies to offer employee incentive plans in Australia, but certain requirements and limitations remain.