In the summer of 2007, BCE Inc. announced that it had entered into an agreement to privatize the company with the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund and two American alternative investment funds. The proposed privatization had a value of $52 billion, the largest such transaction ever attempted in Canada up to that time. The common and preferred shareholders of BCE Inc. would have realized very substantial gains above the then current trading value of their shares but the holders of Bell Canada’s debentures would have incurred losses well in excess of $1 billion. The day the transaction was announced, the trading value of the long-term debentures of Bell Canada plummeted.
We were retained by the debentureholders of Bell Canada to contest the plan of arrangement proposed by BCE Inc., which was necessary for the implementation of the privatization transaction, and to institute oppression remedy proceedings against BCE Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary, Bell Canada. In this litigation, BCE and the purchasers were represented by major law firms. This was “real time litigation” which proceeded very rapidly. The Court ordered an extremely tight schedule for examinations out of court and the trial itself. In spite of the amounts involved and the voluminous documentation, we succeeded in presenting a very serious contestation.
While the court of first instance ratified the proposed plan of arrangement and dismissed our application for an oppression remedy, the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned these judgments and rejected BCE’s request for approval of its plan of arrangement. BCE sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada and the appeal was heard in June 2008.
The Supreme Court of Canada overturned the decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal but, by the time it did so, the 2008 financial crisis had taken hold and BCE and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund cancelled the proposed privatization. The day that the termination of the privatization was announced, the value of our client’s debentures soared back to where they were immediately prior to the announcement of the privatization almost one year earlier. Our clients were extremely satisfied.
FFMP demonstrated not only that it had the capability of playing in the major leagues but also that it could win in the major leagues!