In March 2020, in response to the rapid changes that the COVID-19 pandemic forced on Australian businesses, The Corporations (Coronavirus Economic Response) Determination (No. 1) 2020 introduced temporary measures allowing companies to conduct virtual Annual General Meetings (AGMs). These were originally due to expire in November 2020, but were extended until March 2021, and again to September 2021. With NSW and other states again facing extended lockdowns, a further extension has been passed, which are now due to expire on 31 March 2022.
This extension comes at an important time, as many companies will be conducting their AGMs whilst under the current lockdown. Company documents and deeds may also continue to be executed electronically under these measures, and materials for shareholders may also be provided electronically.
As before, companies must provide members with instructions about how to exercise their voting and questioning rights. Questions may still be taken in advance or live, and live votes must be conducted with a poll rather than a show of hands. If technical difficulties occur which affect members’ ability to participate, the meeting is to be postponed for these to be addressed. Companies can contact their Share Registrar for assistance or advice regarding software solutions for virtual AGMs or voting processes if they have not already developed procedures or solutions.
During the announcement of these further extensions, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also confirmed that the government is looking to introduce these changes as more permanent reforms later this year. This will increase the flexibility for companies to conduct meetings and execute documents regardless of COVID-19, which should be an overall benefit for companies and shareholders.
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