Melbourne Law School - Theses

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    The Role of the National Companies and Securities Commission in regulating takeovers
    O'Connell, Ann ( 1982)
    When the Commonwealth and State Ministers met in Maroochydore in May 1978 to settle on the form of co-operative legislation relating to companies and securities, a number of options were open to them. One alternative put forward in relation to takeovers, was the establishment of a takeovers panel or committee, with a broad power to determine guidelines and to deal with takeovers on a case by case basis. The other alternative was to continue with a system of legal prescription. Although such a system had been tried in Australia for a number of years with little success, it was felt that such an approach had great advantages of certainty. It was also felt that defects which had become apparent under the takeover provisions of the Uniform Companies Act 1961, could be overcome. It was proposed to overcome those defects by drawing the basic prohibition more widely, to cover acquisitions rather than offers and invitations for shares. It was also proposed to confer on the administering body wide powers and discretions to enable a more flexible approach in the administration of the legislation. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the role of the National Companies and Securities Commission (the NCSC) in the regulation of takeover activity. Under the Commonwealth and State co-operative agreement, the NCSC has an important role to play in the regulation of the securities industry and company law generally. Accordingly, powers have been conferred on the NCSC by the SlA and the CA. This thesis - -deals with those powers only in so far - as they relate to takeover activity. Regulation of takeovers involves a conflict between law and economics. The law is concerned with principles of equity whereas economics Is concerned with allocational efficiency. The NCSC must have regard to both factors. In Chapter 1 it is proposed to consider the reasons why takeovers occur, what interests might be affected by takeover activity and to consider the aims of takeover regulation. Chapter 2 examines the systems of regulation takeover activity which operate in the United Kingdom and the United States. The United Kingdom adheres to a system of self regulation of takeovers and mergers, while the United States had adopted a legislative approach. Although the Australian approach has been to relate a legislative framework, many matters of detail have been borrowed from both models. The development of the co-operative scheme Is examined in Chapter 3. This chapter traces the history of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States on companies and securities. Some consideration is also given to the form of the co-operative agreement. Essentially this involves the following techniques: (1) all parties to the agreement adopt uniform legislation; and (2) uniform administration is achieved by the investment of a single body with powers by both the Commonwealth and the States. However, the role of the State administrations is preserved under the agreement by the requirement that the NCSC delegate, to the maximum extent practicable, to State administrations. Chapter 4 considers that aspect of the co-operative legislation which deals with takeovers, primarily the Companies (Acquisition of Shares) Act. Although this thesis does not purport to deal exhaustively with the legislative provisions, some consideration of the legislation Is essential, as it constitutes the framework within which the NCSC must operate. In Chapter 5, the various powers conferred on the NCSC, relating to the regulation of takeovers, are considered. The nature and scope of these powers vary greatly. The NCSC has many powers relating to the manner and form of takeovers. It also has powers of enforcement, and powers which confer great flexibility in administration of the legislation. Although many of these powers appear to be extremely wide, there are a number of limitations. Chapter 6 deals with the possibility, of controls which can be exercised to restrict the Commission's powers. The most serious limitation involves the likelihood of judicial review. Control can also be exercised by nonjudicial means, such as by the Ministerial Council which comprises the relevant Minister from each jurisdiction which is a party to the Agreement. The conclusion looks at the problems facing the Commission in the exercise of its powers, and considers the arguments for and against an increase in those powers.