The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a sledgehammer to stock markets, with the S&P/TSX 60 and S&P 500 each plunging approximately 20% during the first quarter of 2020. While boards and management must contend with a long list of pressing and unprecedented issues affecting business operations, they should also consider that the current drop in stock prices may fuel a wave of activism and opportunistic M&A activity once the immediate crisis subsides, and prepare accordingly.
It is the terms of an Equity Agreement, Shareholders’ Agreement or Stock Plan that determine employees’ rights with respect to shares. The common law relating to compensation for breaches of a contract of employment (i.e. reasonable notice) does not apply to shares where there is a distinct and separate agreement.
In Mikelsteins v Morrison Herschfield Ltd. (2019 ONCA 515) the Court of Appeal revised a trial decision where an executive was given 26 months notice. The Plaintiff, in addition to his salary, was a shareholder in this private company and as such received dividends from time to time.