The federal Corporations Amendment (Meetings and Documents) Bill 2021, which we’ve discussed in previous Snapshots, passed Parliament on 10 February 2022, has received assent and is now law.
The changes enable companies to:
These initiatives, long pursued by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), replace last year’s temporary relief, which had overridden individual constitutional limitations on virtual meetings and provided for e-communication with shareholders. Those measures expired on 30 March 2022.
From 1 April 2022, companies wishing to hold virtual AGMs will need to ensure that their constitutions allow it (with shareholder approval if required) or seek relief from ASIC.
One of the key recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)’s Respect@Work report has now been opened for consultation by the Federal Government.
The AHRC called for a new positive duty under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 for employers to take reasonable and proportionate measures to prevent workplace sexual harassment. The duty would be accompanied by new AHRC enforcement powers.
The call for a positive duty has been backed by the AICD, which points out that employers are already under a range of obligations regarding harassment prevention, but that such a move would shift the obligation from the employee having to make a complaint, to the employer ensuring the occasion does not arise.
Back in December, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced new rules concerning proxy advisors.
The Treasury Laws Amendment (Greater Transparency of Proxy Advice) Regulations 2021 were designed to extend Australian Financial Services (AFS) licensing rules to proxy adviser activities, so that advisors would need to be independent of their clients, and the entities they advise about would receive the advice simultaneously with the client.
Proxy advice firms and the Australian Shareholder Association were alarmed by the reforms, while the Australian Business Council and AICD supported them. Ultimately Senator Rex Patrick’s 10 February disallowance motion brought the regulations undone.
Readers will recall that last year saw the imposition of continuous disclosure rules upon shareholder class action litigants.
The federal Senate is now looking at placing a ceiling on the amount of settlement funds that can flow to litigation funders, ensuring that at least 70% of such funds find their way to the litigants themselves. The Law Council of Australia examined the implications of such a measure in a Treasury submission last year.
Sources of information: Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD); Law Council of Australia; Minter Ellison; Lawyers Weekly; William Roberts Lawyers; Herbert Smith Freehills.
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