Business Venture Blog
This is where we post about business, ventures, law, and business venture law.
Anything interesting, really.
Anything interesting, really.
Business Venture Blog
Jurisdiction to Incorporation
Corporation is a common business form in start-ups. It is adaptable the changing circumstances and it is the only structure that can take advantage of government programs. When incorporating your start-up, the jurisdiction to incorporation must be considered.
Where do the powers come from?
The provincial power is explicit, written under s. 92, para. 11 of the Constitution Act, 1867. The paragraph states that each provincial legislative assembly may individually make laws in relation to the incorporation of companies with provincial Objects. The federal power is implicit, mostly stemming from the general power of the federal government under s. 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867 over peace, order and good government. The power of incorporation is implicit in other enumerated federal powers as well, such as navigation and shipping and the trade and commerce clause.
Although it has been determined both federal and provincial governments may enact laws regarding incorporation of businesses, the precise distinction between the federal and provincial power has not been fully determined. The provincial legislation has often been seen as more limited, since the constitution grants only the power for the incorporation of corporations having “provincial objects.” However, the limitation that flows from it has been narrowly interpreted. A corporation may incorporate under provincial law even if it carries business that is closely related to an area with federal jurisdiction, such as banking. A corporation under federal jurisdiction may also choose to limit its business to an object or purpose that is of provincial nature.
For a start-up business, finances and efficiency should be an important consideration when incorporating. Compared to the federal process, the provincial incorporation process is lower in fees and lawyers would not have to deal with bureaucrats all the way in Ottawa. Many corporate lawyers like to recommend incorporation in the home province of the company and its counsel for these reasons.
Kara Cao is a member of the BLG Business Venture Clinic and is a second-year law student at the Faculty of Law, University of Calgary.
 John Deere Plow Co. v. Wharton,  A.C. 330
 Referece re Dominion Constitutional Act, s. 110
 Bonanza Creek Gold Mining Co. v. R.,  1 A.C. 566
 Re Bergethaler Waisenamt,  M.J. No. 42, 29 C.B.R. 189
 Colonial Building and Investment Association v. Quebec (Attorney General) (1883)
Is a Unanimous Shareholder Agreement Right for My Business
There is no “one size fits all” solution available when a new venture requires a shareholder agreement. The question of whether a Unanimous Shareholder Agreement (“USA”) should be used over a conventional shareholder agreement is one that entrepreneurs should consider when the time comes to put a shareholder agreement in place. This question is also likely to spark a debate (although, not a particularly exciting one) among lawyers. This blog post sets out to explain the main differences between USAs and conventional shareholder agreements.
What is a USA?
USAs are a creature of statute. It is imperative that entrepreneurs turn their minds to which statute their business is incorporated under, as this will determine whether their agreement amounts to a USA. The corporate statutes in all provinces except British Columbia and Nova Scotia contemplate the existence of USAs. The Canada Business Corporations Act (“CBCA”) defines a USA as being:
An otherwise lawful written agreement among all the shareholders of a corporation, or among all the shareholders and one or more persons who are not shareholders, that restricts, in whole or in part, the powers of the directors to manage, or supervise the management of, the business and affairs of the corporation....[i]
In contrast, the Alberta Business Corporations Act (“ABCA”) defines a USA as being:
These matters include the rights and liabilities of the parties, election of directors, management of the corporation’s business and affairs, or restriction of director powers.[iii] It is worth noting that it is possible to inadvertently enter into a USA by satisfying one of the statutory definitions above. If, for any of the reasons that follow, an entrepreneur does not want to create a USA, the shareholder agreement should explicitly state that it is not meant to be a USA.
How are USAs Different than Conventional Shareholder Agreements?
USAs are unique in that a person can become a party to the USA without signing it. If a USA is in effect when a person acquires a share of the corporation, that person is deemed to be a party to the agreement and will be bound by it.[iv] This means that those who invest in future equity financings carried out by a corporation will be bound by a USA (if one exists).
Another important distinction is the fact that, when the shareholders are exercising powers that have been transferred from the directors, they are subject to the same fiduciary duty attracted by directors in the ordinary course of their business. A consequence of this is that shareholders making decisions in place of the directors will lose their ability to pursue their own interests.[v] Shareholders acting in place of directors pursuant to a USA must act in the best interests of the corporation.[vi] In contrast, shareholders that are a party to a conventional shareholder agreement are free to act in self-interested ways.
Finally, it is often much more difficult to amend or terminate a USA in comparison to a conventional shareholder agreement. For CBCA corporations, it is uncertain as to whether a court would uphold the termination of a USA executed by any fewer than all the shareholders.[vii] The amendment or termination of a USA in the context of ABCA corporations certainly requires the consent of all shareholders.[viii] Termination provisions in conventional shareholder agreements can have a much more relaxed structure.
When Should a USA be Used?
Generally speaking, start-up growth companies should steer clear of USAs; however, there are certain situations in which a USA may be advantageous.
Firstly, a corporation may anticipate a turn of events that will result in a significant amount of its shares being widely held by individual investors – in this situation, a USA would provide an effective means to bind each one of these new shareholders to the terms of the corporation’s shareholder agreement.[ix]
Another situation in which the creation of a USA may be advisable is when a corporation whose shares are held primarily by non-Canadians wishes to be classified as a Canadian Controlled Private Corporation (“CCPC”) for tax purposes. If Canadian resident shareholders possess the right to appoint a majority of the board of directors by virtue of a USA, the corporation will qualify as a CCPC despite the fact its shares may be owned primarily by non-residents.[x]
Again, USAs are often not advisable for use in start-up growth companies mainly due to the fact that both current and future shareholders are bound by them. Conventional shareholder agreements provide a higher degree of flexibility and allow shareholders to consider only their personal interests.
Thomas Machell is a member of the BLG Business Venture Clinic and is a third-year law student at the Faculty of Law, University of Calgary.
[i] Canada Business Corporations Act, RSC 1985 c C-44 at s 146(1) [CBCA].
[ii] Business Corporations Act, RSA 2000, c B-9 at s 1(jj) [ABCA].
[iii] Ibid at s 146(1).
[iv] CBCA at s 146(3); ABCA at s 146(2) and 146(3); Note that recourse is available for persons who acquire a share of a corporation that is subject to a USA if they did not receive proper notice of the agreement’s existence.
[v] Bryce C Tingle, Start-up and Growth Companies in Canada, 3rd ed (LexisNexis, 2018) at 103 and 104 [Tingle].
[vi] BCE Inc v 1976 Debentureholders, 2008 SCC 69 at para 37.
[vii] Tingle at 106.
[viii] ABCA at s 146(8).
[ix] Tingle at 107.
[x] Canada v Bioartificial Gel Technologies (Bagtech) Inc, 2013 FCA 164 at para 58.
Protecting Directors from Civil Liability Through Indemnification
A likely question an entrepreneur may ask themselves early in their venture is “how do I protect the directors of my company?” They may (or perhaps should) think about this because in all likelihood, they will be one of, if not the only director of their business during its early phases following incorporation. Please note: this post assumes that the company in question is incorporated under the Business Corporations Act of Alberta
Indemnification refers to one party’s agreement to secure another against responsibility for their actions, or to give security for the reimbursement of a person in case of an anticipated loss. In this case, it refers to a corporation’s agreement to make a director whole, should they be subject to legal proceedings as a result of their actions in their capacity as a director of the corporation.
Generally speaking, the Business Corporations Act (the Act) allows corporations to indemnify their directors for both legal costs incurred, as well as any monetary damages that arise from a director’s conduct in relation to the business. In order to benefit from such indemnification, a director must have “acted honestly and in good faith with a view to the best interests of the corporation.”
An Alberta corporation is not permitted to indemnify its directors for their actions if they have not acted honestly and in good faith with a view to the best interests of the corporation – that is, if they have breached their fiduciary duty to the corporation. If a director has breached his or her fiduciary duties to the corporation, any indemnity the corporation has offered will be void.
The scope of conduct that may be indemnified under the Act is very broad. Section 124(1) of the Act states:
“…a corporation may indemnify a director or officer of the corporation, a former director or officer of the corporation…against all costs, charges and expenses, including an amount paid to settle an action or satisfy a judgment, reasonably incurred by the director or officer in respect of any civil, criminal, or administrative action or proceeding to which the director or officer is made a party by reason of being or having been a director of that corporation or body corporate…”
When Are Directors Entitled to Indemnification?
In Alberta, a director is only entitled to indemnification by the corporation for all costs, charges and expenses, including an amount paid to settle an action or satisfy a judgment in a civil context if they (i) were substantially successful in defending the claim; (ii) acted honestly and in good faith with a view to the best interest of the corporation; and (iii) is fairly and reasonably entitled to indemnity.
A corporation that does not contain indemnity provisions in its by-laws will still be liable for any loss incurred so long as these criteria are met. If indemnification provisions found in either the corporation’s by-laws, or in an agreement between the corporation and a director impose mandatory indemnification, it will of course be liable to do so.
How to Indemnify Directors
Indemnification provisions can be found within a corporation’s by-laws. If a corporation seeks to provide its directors with a wide range of protection, these provisions do not need to be particularly robust. Any attempt to predict the types of conduct or liabilities that the corporation anticipates indemnifying its directors against may simply limit its ability to protect its directors.
If the company’s bylaws do not provide indemnification provisions that are acceptable to a potential director, indemnification provisions may be included within a written agreement between the corporation and the director. This method provides the greatest flexibility as each agreement can be tailored to suit the needs of both the corporation and the individual director.
Some things that indemnification provisions should contemplate include whether the corporation is required, or simply permitted to indemnify its directors (and in which circumstances), the timing of indemnity payments, and out of court settlement. Indemnification provisions that do not require the corporation to indemnify its directors should also consider a mechanism to oblige the corporation to do so such as arbitration.
Corporations that provide the widest range of indemnity to their directors often simply state in its indemnification provisions that the corporation must indemnify the director to the greatest extent authorized under the relevant law. Where it is desirable to minimize the short-term financial impact of litigation on directors, indemnity provisions may require the corporation to advance defence costs as they are incurred. Such provisions should also contemplate whether the corporation is required to indemnify the director for out of court settlements, as opposed to simply court judgments.
What Indemnification Provisions Do Not Cover
Indemnification provisions do not cover directors’ actions when they are not made in good faith with a view to the best interests of the corporation.
In cases where a director is being sued by the corporation or its shareholders, including in derivative actions, a corporation may only indemnify a director for their legal expenses. This leaves directors exposed to liability for corporate or shareholder damages arising from their action (or inaction as the case may be). Why is this? Most derivative actions against directors include a claim for breach of fiduciary duty. If this claim is successful, and a breach has been found, a director will have been found not to have acted in good faith with a view to the best interests of the corporation, and indemnity would not be available in any event.
Hamish Gray is a member of the BLG Business Venture Clinic and is a third-year law student at the Faculty of Law, University of Calgary.
 Black’s Law Journal; 2nd ed; online, <a href="https://thelawdictionary.org/indemnify/" title="INDEMNIFY">INDEMNIFY</a>
 Business Corporations Act, RSA 2000 cB-9 s124 [the Act]
 Act supra note 2 s124(3)
CALGARY's START-UP COMMUNITY: AN OUTLINE OF SERVICES AND SUPPORT
Calgary has many resources and opportunities to support entrepreneurs at all stages in their ventures’ development. Community supports exists for all the hurdles that growing ventures must overcome, whether your business is at the conceptual stage and you need help getting it off the ground, or your venture is growing fast and you need advice or support with bringing employees onboard, marketing your product or service, or finding the right investors. This blog post provides a non-exhaustive rundown of places and services in Calgary that can support entrepreneurs on their journey..
RESOURCES FOR STUDENTS
School provides a unique opportunity to learn theory and develop skills across a variety of disciplines, and to network and collaborate with like-minded people, in and out of the classroom. While these opportunities can help students come up with novel and creative business ideas, often a little more help is needed to take an idea from concept to reality. Many post secondary institutions in Calgary provide resources to help students get their ideas off the ground.
In addition to providing a means to keep overhead costs down and maintain flexibility in the early stages of a company’s growth, coworking spaces allow entrepreneurs to connect with one another, sharing skills, costs, connections and ideas. There are many coworking spaces across the city, forming a diverse range of entrepreneurial communities.
FOR THE LADIES
Nothing in this post quite right for you? Don’t worry, there’s more. Click here and here for more extensive lists of resources, events, spaces, meetup groups, and accelerator programs Getting to know the community is the best way to identify which spaces and programs can provide the advice, support, people or partnerships to elevate your business.
Lastly, please remember that the BLG Business Venture Clinic is always happy to help. Fill out a request form here and we will get in touch to find out how we can help.
Melanie Bowman is a member of the BLG Business Venture Clinic, and is a 2rd year student at the Faculty of Law, University of Calgary.
So, You’re Ready to Incorporate You’re Business: Where to Start.
You’ve had a great idea for some time. You’ve considered it deeply. You’ve made a business plan, and now it’s time to turn your dream into a reality. But where to start?
There are a variety of forms a business can take, but the corporate structure has tended to predominate for start-ups in Canada.  There is a good chance therefor you might settle on the corporate form for your new business. This post will not consider the pros and cons of different business structures. If you would like information that could help you choose a business structure, please contact the BLG Business Venture Clinic (the “Clinic”).  Incorporation, particularly in Alberta, is the subject of this writing. The purpose of this post is to shine light on resources that can help get you started and raise important considerations.
There are many free resources available online. It is important to ensure the information you find is trustworthy before relying on it to make business or legal decisions. The BLG Business Venture Clinic does not certify the correctness of the information in the resources that follow.
The Government of Canada provides a “Business Start-up Checklist” which offers a wide variety of information, including direction to provincial and territorial business registration resources.  The business registration information is separated by province and territory.  This is important because a business can be incorporated in a province, a territory, or at the federal level. The Government of Alberta offers information on registry costs and categorizes registries by services offered.  To find a business registry that offers incorporation services in your area, registry locations can be searched by city or town. 
Before you head to your local registry, there are a number of steps and information to gather. The Government of Alberta provides a list of steps to incorporate a business in the province.  They are as follows:
An entrepreneur could use the resources above, pay the NUANS report and incorporation fees and successfully incorporate a business in Alberta. The incorporation documents discussed are the legal foundation of a business and considerable thought should go into drafting their substance. For example, in the articles of incorporation or an appendix thereto, the drafter can add desired provisions. A provision in the articles can allow the board of directors to increase the number of directors by up to one third (1/3) of those elected at the last annual general meeting.  This increase can remain in effect until the following annual general meeting. 
Another consideration is, “[t]he securities law regime in Canada requires that certain restrictions on the transfer of shares be included in the articles of a company if certain exemptions from prospectus and registration rules are to be available.”  One of these exemptions is the “private issuer” exemption which “is one of the easiest and least complicated to use in the very early stages of a growth company’s financing.” 
Aside from the documents discussed above, a corporation should consider having by-laws ready to sign upon incorporation. The by-laws of a corporation deal with a variety of internal elements including processes, powers, and roles. Ensuring a corporation has by-laws in place from the start can avoid uncertainty and potential issues. There are boiler-plate by-laws available online, but they often are ill suited to a particular corporation. Certain boiler-plate provisions “will be removed as a condition of any future financing.”  They should be avoided at the outset instead of requiring amendment later. Aside from issues to avoid, the by-laws should be drafted to appropriately reflect the needs of the corporation. This means including the right provisions and the correct balance of powers.
Resources are available to incorporate a business on ones own. There are however considerations and drafting of language that may warrant the services of a lawyer. Finances are often tight during the start-up phase and it may be tempting to avoid the cost of legal fees. However, there are options that may help control costs. The BLG Business Venture Clinic is one resource that can help do just that. The Clinic offers free legal assistance, provided by law students. The assistance offered includes drafting of documents discussed in this post and the writing of memos on specific issues or questions a business might have. It is recommended that clients of the Clinic have the work reviewed by a lawyer. A review of prepared documents should however cost less than having a lawyer draft the documents themselves.
Neil Thomas is a member of the BLG Business Venture Clinic, and is a 2rd year student at the Faculty of Law, University of Calgary.
 Bryce C. Tingle, Start-up and Growth Companies in Canada: A Guide to Legal and Business Practices, 3rd ed (Canada: LexisNexis Canada Inc, 2018) p 58 [Tingle].
 University of Calgary, “We’re here to help – Contact us!” (2017), online: BLG Business Venture Clinic <thttp://www.businessventureclinic.ca/contact.html >.
 Government of Canada, “Business Start-up Checklist” (September 28, 2018), online: Government of Canada <https://canadabusiness.ca/starting/checklists-and-guides-for-starting-a-business/business-start-up-checklist/>.
 Government of Alberta, “Find a business registry” (2019), online: Alberta <https://www.alberta.ca/find-business-registry.aspx>.
 Government of Alberta, “Level 2: advanced registrations” (2018), online: Alberta <http://servicealberta.ca/Find-a-business-advanced-registrations.cfm>.
 Government of Alberta, “Alberta Corporations” (2018), online: Alberta <https://www.servicealberta.ca/712.cfm>.
 Government of Alberta, “Incorporation forms” (2019), online: Alberta <https://www.alberta.ca/incorporation-forms.aspx>.
 Business Corporations Act (Alberta), RSA 2000, c B-9, s 106(4).
 Tingle Supra note 1 at p 63.
 Tingle Ibid; Prospectus and Registration Exemptions – Consolidated Version for Periods Relating to Financial Years Beginning Before January 1, 2011, NI 45-106, s 2.4.
 Tingle Ibid.
Blog posts are by students at the Business Venture Clinic. Student bios appear under each post.