Proposed Changes to NYSE Shareholder Approval Rules

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On October 6, 2020, the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) filed a proposed rule amendment in order to seek approval to amend certain of the shareholder approval requirements set forth in Section 312 of the NYSE Listed Company Manual.  Paragraphs (b) and (c) of Section 312 require NYSE-listed companies to obtain shareholder approval prior to certain equity issuances.  The proposed changes would bring the NYSE’s shareholder approval rules into closer alignment with those of Nasdaq and the NYSE American.

Section 312.03(b) requires shareholder approval for certain issuances of common stock to specified related parties.  This approval is required if the shares to be issued exceed 1% of the shares outstanding before the issuance.  However, a limited exception permits sales to related parties that are only substantial security holders of the issuer so long as no more than 5% of outstanding shares are issued and the shares are issued at no less than the minimum price.  The NYSE proposes to amend this rule to limit the class of related parties that would require shareholder approval.  Section 312.03(b) as amended would require prior shareholder approval only for sales to directors, officers and substantial security holders and would no longer require approval for sales to such related party’s subsidiaries, affiliates or other persons closely related or to entities in which a related party has a substantial interest.  Further, Section 312.03(b) as amended would no longer require shareholder approval of issuances of more than 5% of outstanding shares to a related party so long as they are issued at a minimum price.  Instead, the NYSE proposes to require that any listed company obtain shareholder approval for a transaction in which a director, officer or substantial security holder has a 5% or greater interest (or such persons collectively have a 10% or greater interest) in the company or assets to be acquired or in the consideration to be paid in the transaction and the issuance of shares could result in an increase in outstanding shares of 5% or more.

Section 312.03(c) requires shareholder approval of any issuance of 20% or more of outstanding shares before such issuance, excluding (i) any public offering; or (ii) any bona fide private financing (defined as no one purchaser acquiring more than 5% of outstanding shares) that complies with a minimum price requirement.  The NYSE proposes to replace the reference to “bona fide private financing” with “other financing in which the company is selling securities for cash.”   This change would effectively eliminate the 5% limit for any single purchaser but retain the minimum price requirement.  The NYSE has provided COVID relief for listed companies with respect to this rule, as discussed in our prior posts.

See the NYSE’s proposed rule set forth here.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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