Shareholders are those persons shown in a company’s securities register as being the registered shareholder of the class of shares referred to in the register. A company may have many issued classes of shares with different rights. Frequently there are at a minimum voting common shares and non-voting preferred shares issued.
A registered shareholder of common voting shares is legally entitled to notice of shareholder meetings, an opportunity to vote in person or by proxy and his or her proportionate share of the capital if the company is liquidated.
A shareholder may also have other expectations as a matter of equitable right which were formed when the shareholder decided to purchase shares in the company. For example, an expectation in a closely held family company of being part of the management of the company. Expectations which a shareholder may seek to enforce must be reasonable in the mind of an objective person and are subject to the duty of directors to act in the best interests of the company where such duty and the expectations of shareholders conflict. Reasonable expectations are fact dependent in each circumstance.
Provincial and federal corporation’s legislation gives shareholders and others as specified the right to sue regarding conduct of the majority in managing the company which is oppressive or unfairly prejudicial to the legal rights and reasonable expectations of a shareholder.
To evaluate whether your shareholder rights may have been breached a careful review with a lawyer experienced in dealing with shareholder disputes of all surrounding circumstances is necessary as a first step.