The Federal Government has provided companies and boards much needed certainty about how they can meet their legal obligations over the next six months during the coronavirus pandemic.

The changes recently announced and effected as of 6 May 2020 allow companies to convene annual general meetings, and other meetings prescribed under the Corporations Act, entirely online as opposed to face-to-face. The changes will also grant businesses certainty that when company officers sign a document electronically, the document has had a valid execution.

These changes were made under the instrument-making power that has been inserted into the Corporations Act 2001 as part of the government’s response to the Coronavirus crisis.

Under the current social distancing measures, it is difficult for shareholders to physically gather with members of the board at annual general meetings.

Under the changes, company boards are able to:

  • provide notice of annual general meetings to shareholders using email;
  • hold annual general meetings online;
  • achieve a quorum with shareholders attending online.

Notably, meetings must continue to provide shareholders with a reasonable opportunity to participate. As a result, shareholders will be able to put questions to board members online and vote via digital means.

Further changes will also allow company officers to sign a document electronically.

The changes will be in effect for six months as the Government continues to build Australia’s resilience to the virus.

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