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With the big banks and life insurers planning to take their annual meetings online, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) issued regulatory guidance on holding AGMs during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Big Six banks, along with Canadian Western Bank and Laurentian Bank, and the large insurers (Canada Life, Manulife and Sun Life) announced that they’ve secured a joint court order that will enable them to hold their annual meetings electronically.

The companies said the order allows them to use webcasting, teleconferencing or other electronic means to hold their meetings, and allows alternative means for distributing meeting materials.

“The order was obtained because Canadian banks and insurance companies are not permitted to conduct an electronic annual meeting in lieu of an in-person meeting without relief from the court,” they said.

At the same time, the CSA issued guidance that sets out the regulators’ views on how firms can meet their regulatory obligations as they figure out alternative ways to hold AGMs.

The guidance addresses companies’ obligations to notify shareholders, the firms involved with shareholder voting and other market participants about planned changes to their annual meetings.

For firms that are planning to switch to a virtual AGM, these disclosures are to include details about how shareholders can participate in the meeting, and how they can vote, the CSA said.

Companies that are in more complicated situations — such as proxy contests, or meetings to consider merger and acquisition transactions — should contact their principal regulator to discuss appropriate steps, the CSA noted.

In general, the rules for AGMs fall under corporate law, not securities law. The CSA suggested that issuers “review these laws and documents when considering changes or alternatives to their upcoming AGMs.”