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mercredi 19 septembre 2012

Est-ce qu’un plan d’arrangement en vertu de la LCSA peut prévoir un recours en vertu d’une autre loi?

Par Pierre-Luc Beauchesne
Gowling Lafleur Henderson s.e.n.c.r.l., s.r.l.

Dans la décision Yellow Media Inc. (Arrangement relatif à) (2012 QCCS 4180), la Cour supérieure devait se prononcer s’il était possible, dans un plan d’arrangement en vertu de la Loi canadienne sur les sociétés par action (LCSA), de référer à une procédure en vertu de la Loi sur les arrangements avec les créanciers des compagnies (LACC) dans l’éventualité où il serait plus approprié de poursuivre le plan d’arrangement proposé en vertu de la LACC plutôt qu’en vertu de l’article 191 de la LCSA.  La Cour conclut que l’amendement proposé ne fait pas partie du processus envisagé en vertu de la LCSA, car il réfère à une procédure soumise à une autre loi et qui était alors purement hypothétique.

Les faits

Yellow Media Inc. et ses sociétés liées désiraient amender la résolution relative à l’arrangement en ajoutant entre autres la clause suivante :

« 5.      Should circumstances permit and if implementation of the Arrangement under section 192 of the CBCA appears for any reason impracticable, the Corporation shall be authorized to seek to implement the Arrangement under the provisions of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (the "CCAA") and section 191 of the CBCA subject to such conforming amendments as appear necessary or desirable (the "Alternative Plan").  Should the Corporation seek to implement the Alternative Plan then this resolution shall constitute the consent of the Debtholders to an order of the Court permitting the following procedure to be followed under the CCAA in order to permit approval and completion of the Alternative Plan at the earliest possible time:

(a)               The Corporation shall post the proposed Alternative Plan (including any proposed amendments to the Arrangement necessary or desirable to conform to the CCAA) on its web site and on SEDAR and shall give notice of such posting by way of press release;

(b)              The Alternative Plan may be proposed by the Corporation and by such of its subsidiaries as it deems appropriate;

(c)               The Meeting to consider and if thought advisable approve the Alternative Plan may be held seven days following the giving of notice in the manner contemplated by subparagraph (a) above or at such later date as the Court shall order;

(d)              Proxies given by Debtholders for the meeting to consider this resolution shall be applicable to any meeting called by the Court to consider the Alternative Plan unless revoked or superseded by the grantor; and

(e)    No further or other notice of the meeting or proceedings to consider the Alternative Plan need be given. »

Analyse

La Cour rappelle tout d’abord que les présentes procédures sont sujettes aux règles générales relatives aux amendements contenues aux articles 199 et suivants du Code de procédure civile qui prévoit que les parties peuvent en tout temps amender leurs actes de procédure autant que l’amendement n’est pas inutile, contraire aux intérêts de la justice ou qu’il n’en résulte pas une demande entièrement nouvelle sans rapport avec la demande originaire. Le Tribunal conclut que l’amendement proposé ne respecte pas ces conditions :

« [8] Firstly, YMI acknowledges that the proposed amendment is not necessary to the pursuance and completion of the arrangement currently in progress under the CBCA.  In other words, if the amendment is not allowed to stand, the debtholders will be able to vote without any difficulty or restraint and either approve or reject the proposed arrangement. 

[9] Secondly, the proposed amendment may only come into play in the event it becomes impractical to proceed therewith under the provisions of the CBCA.  If this happens, the parties and various stakeholders will find themselves in an entirely new factual and legal context, subjected to different tests of admissibility and different procedures.

[10] Nevertheless,YMI wishes then to have the flexibility of proceeding under the CCAA with an identical plan.  YMI concedes, however, that if there would be any modification to the current proposed plan, then the suggested procedure under paragraph 5 of the amended resolution would be useless:  one cannot consent in advance to an unknown plan of arrangement.

[11] The First and Second Petitioners argue that there are no valid reasons to impose any deemed consent upon any stakeholder with respect to any issue which may arise in connection with an Application for an Initial Order under the CCAA, be it a "fast track" or other similar "pre-packaged" proceeding.  This argument is not without merit.

[12] However, any decision touching upon an hypothetical procedure under another statute (in this instance, the CCAA as opposed to the CBCA) does not belong to the procedural context of an arrangement under sections 191 and following of the CBCA.  If YMI wishes, at any time, to modify its course of action and proceed with an Application under the CCAA, so be it.  YMI shall then have to seek and obtain anew any support proxies it may need to implement such plan.  YMI may even negotiate this support immediately if it so wishes, but it cannot suggest that a consent given in favour of the CBCA plan will automatically survive its intended use and eventually apply to an eventual plan of arrangement under the CCAA, thus forcing the voting stakeholders to be tied to another legal process.

[13] Although this scenario may show certain signs of creativity, or have some practical or money-saving effects for YMI, it is difficult to follow.

[14] A consent to a CCAA procedure seeking the re-arrangement and/or restructuring of a debtor company is not to be given lightly and certainly cannot be implied or presumed.  What may be consented to today may become unacceptable tomorrow, if the conditions, timing, circumstances change, not to mention the fact that a consent given to a specific procedure will never be valid and conclusive unless the contents of the procedure, and the conclusions sought, are known beforehand.

[15] This is not the case here.  There is no draft CCAA Motion available upon which the stakeholders may express their consent.

[16] YMI is trying to "lock up" the agreement of certain consenting parties to its current proposed plan under the CBCA to an eventual CCAA arrangement, knowing fully that if the present CBCA Plan cannot successfully proceed or be completed under the CBCA, or even, if the proposed plan is rejected by the Debtholders, the next plan (be it under the CBCA or the CCAA) will most probably, if not certainly, have to be substantially modified in order to rally enough support.  If, on the other hand, the plan is ratified but cannot be implemented fully under the CBCA, its "continuation" under the CCAA would require a different test of admissibility as well as a different threshold of vote for the approval of the plan. »

Le texte intégral de la décision se retrouve ici.
 

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