Carol Hansell, founder and senior partner of law firm Hansell LLP and a governance expert, said she believes close to 100 companies have conducted virtual-only annual meetings in the United States. But she is not aware of any in Canada to date.
The benefits of online participation are lower costs for the company and shareholders, allowing them to participate more easily, Ms. Hansell said.
But when a company holds virtual-only meetings with no option for shareholders to participate in person, it is easier for the company to control the environment and avoid, for example, embarrassing protests at the venue or difficult encounters between management or the board of directors and shareholders, she said.
“There has been concern expressed that the company’s control extends too far at virtual-only meetings,” she said. “Because the company controls the technology it can control the extent to which shareholders can speak at the meeting.”