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COVID-19 | Mak­ing it eas­i­er for busi­ness to oper­ate dur­ing COVID-19

Com­pa­ny Meet­ings and Doc­u­ment Signing

Meet­ings


As of 6 May 2020, com­pa­nies in Aus­tralia will be able to con­vene annu­al gen­er­al meet­ings and oth­er meet­ings pre­scribed under the Cor­po­ra­tions Act 2001 entire­ly online rather than face-to-face thanks to the Cor­po­ra­tions (Coro­n­avirus (Coro­n­avirus Eco­nom­ic Response) Deter­mi­na­tion (No.1) 2020.

As con­tem­plat­ed in para­graph 5 of the Deter­mi­na­tion a com­pa­ny that has email address­es for some of its mem­bers can now send those mem­bers an email set­ting out or attach­ing notice of a meet­ing, and oth­er mate­r­i­al relat­ing to the meet­ing, or pro­vid­ing a link to where the notice and oth­er mate­r­i­al can be viewed or down­loaded. To the oth­er mem­bers, the com­pa­ny could send a let­ter or post­card set­ting out a URL for view­ing or down­load­ing the notice and oth­er mate­r­i­al.

As not­ed above, under the changes, com­pa­nies will also be able to:

  • achieve a quo­rum with par­tic­i­pants attend­ing online; and 
  • hold meet­ings online.

Meet­ings must con­tin­ue to pro­vide par­tic­i­pants with a rea­son­able oppor­tu­ni­ty to par­tic­i­pate. As a result, at share­hold­er meet­ings for exam­ple, mem­bers will be able to put ques­tions to board mem­bers online and vote online: see para­graph 5© and (d) of the Determination. 

Doc­u­ments


Fur­ther changes will also allow com­pa­ny offi­cers to exe­cute doc­u­ments elec­tron­i­cal­ly. Pre­vi­ous­ly, in a num­ber of cas­es (see for exam­ple Bendi­go and Ade­laide Bank Ltd & Ors v Ken­neth Ross Pickard & Anor [2019] SASC 123) sig­na­to­ries were required to sign the same phys­i­cal doc­u­ment, i.e. there need­ed to be a sin­gle, sta­t­ic doc­u­ment that both offi­cers sign, rather than there being a sit­u­a­tion where two elec­tron­ic sig­na­tures are sequen­tial­ly applied to an elec­tron­ic doc­u­ment.
The changes intro­duced by the Deter­mi­na­tion are said to be aimed at ensur­ing that doc­u­ments are able to be prop­er­ly exe­cut­ed elec­tron­i­cal­ly at a time when ordi­nary busi­ness oper­a­tions have been disrupted.

Tim­ing


The changes con­tained in the Deter­mi­na­tion will be in effect for six months only and will be repealed on 5 Novem­ber 2020.

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