DESCRIPTION OF THE REGISTRANT’S SECURITIES
REGISTERED PURSUANT TO SECTION 12 OF THE
SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
References to “Essex,” “we,” “us,” or “our” mean, unless the context indicates otherwise, Essex Property Trust, Inc., not including any of the entities/subsidiaries owned or controlled by Essex Property Trust, Inc. When we refer to Essex’s “Charter,” we mean Essex’s articles of incorporation, as amended, supplemented, corrected and restated from time to time.
Description of Capital Stock
The following is a summary of the general terms of Essex’s common stock. This description is not complete and is subject to, and qualified in its entirety by reference to, the Maryland General Corporation Law and our Charter and Bylaws, copies of which are exhibits to this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
As of December 31, 2019, the total number of shares of stock of all classes which Essex has authority to issue is 1,000,000,000 shares (par value $.0001 per share), consisting of 670,000,000 shares of common stock and 330,000,000 shares of excess stock.
The holders of the outstanding shares of common stock are entitled to one vote per share on all matters voted on by stockholders, including the election of directors. The Charter provides that shares of common stock do not have cumulative voting rights.
Our Charter authorizes the Board of Directors of Essex (the “Board of Directors”), without stockholder approval, to reclassify any unissued shares of our common stock into other classes or series of stock, to establish the designation and number of shares of each such class or series and to set, subject to the provisions of our Charter regarding the restrictions on ownership and transfer of our stock, the preferences, conversion or other rights, voting powers, restrictions, limitations as to dividends or other distributions, qualifications or terms or conditions of redemption of each such class or series.
Subject to the preferential rights of any outstanding class or series of capital stock, the holders of common stock are entitled to such distributions as may be authorized from time to time by the Board of Directors and declared by Essex from funds available for distribution to such holders. Essex currently pays regular quarterly dividends to holders of common stock out of funds legally available for distribution when, and if, authorized by the Board of Directors and declared by Essex.
In the event of a liquidation, dissolution or winding up of Essex, the holders of common stock are entitled to receive ratably the assets remaining after satisfaction of all liabilities and payment of liquidation preferences and accrued dividends, if any, on any class or series of capital stock that has a liquidation preference. The rights of holders of common stock are subject to the rights and preferences established by the Board of Directors for any stock that may subsequently be issued by Essex.
Under Maryland law, stockholders generally are not personally liable for Essex’s debts or obligations solely as a result of their status as stockholders. The issued and outstanding shares of common stock are fully paid and nonassessable. Our common stock has no sinking fund or redemption provisions or preemptive, conversion or exchange rights (except with respect to shares of excess stock, described below).
Restrictions on Transfer
In order for Essex to qualify as a real estate investment trust (“REIT”) under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”), among other requirements, no more than 50% of the value of the outstanding shares of our stock may be owned, directly or indirectly, by five or fewer individuals, as defined in the Code, during the last half of a taxable year (other
than our first year as a REIT) or during a proportionate part of a shorter taxable year. In addition, our stock must be owned by 100 or more persons during at least 335 days of a taxable year of 12 months (other than our first year as a REIT) or during a proportionate part of a shorter taxable year.
The Charter, subject to certain exceptions, provides an “ownership limit” under which no stockholder, other than George M. Marcus (and his wife and children, trusts for the benefit of his descendants and, upon his death, his heirs), may own, or be deemed to own by virtue of the attribution provisions of the Code, more than 6.0% of the value of the issued and outstanding shares of our stock (not including any shares of excess stock). However, the ownership limit provisions provide that a qualified trust, as defined in the Charter, generally may own up to 9.9% of the value of the outstanding shares of our stock. The ownership limit provisions provide that George M. Marcus (and his wife and children, trusts for the benefit of his descendants and, upon his death, his heirs) may own up to 25% of the value of the outstanding shares of our stock. The Board of Directors may also exempt an underwriter of a public offering of our stock or a person who is not an “individual” (as defined under the Code to include certain entities) from the ownership limit if it received, among other things, satisfactory evidence that such stockholder’s ownership of Essex’s shares in excess of the ownership limit will not jeopardize Essex’s status as a REIT. As a condition to providing such an exemption, the Board of Directors must receive an opinion of counsel or ruling of the Internal Revenue Service and representations and agreements from the applicant with respect to preserving Essex’s REIT status. However, the Board of Directors may not grant an exemption to the ownership limit if the applicant would own more than 25% of the value of the outstanding shares of Essex’s stock, unless, in addition to the foregoing, the Board of Directors receives a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service to the effect that such an exemption will not jeopardize Essex’s status as a REIT. The Board of Directors may also increase the ownership limit to a maximum of 9.9% and, in connection therewith, require opinions of counsel, affidavits, undertakings or agreements as it may deem necessary or advisable in order to preserve Essex’s REIT status. If the Board of Directors and Essex’s stockholders determine that it is no longer in our best interests to attempt to qualify, or to continue to qualify, as a REIT, the ownership limit provisions of the Charter can be terminated.
If a stockholder attempts to transfer shares of stock that would (i) create a direct or indirect ownership of Essex’s shares in excess of the ownership limit absent a Board exemption, (ii) result in the ownership of Essex’s stock by fewer than 100 persons, or (iii) result in the ownership of more than 50% of the value of Essex’s stock (other than excess stock), directly or indirectly, by five or fewer individuals, as defined in the Code, the transfer shall be null and void, and the intended transferee will acquire no rights to the shares. In addition, in the event of a transfer or attempted transfer, or other event, that would result in any person owning, directly or indirectly, shares of Essex stock in excess of the ownership limit (or any limit created in connection with an exemption from the ownership limit) or that would result in the ownership of more than 50% of the value of Essex’s stock, directly or indirectly, by five or fewer persons, such shares of our stock will automatically be exchanged for shares of “excess stock.” All shares of excess stock will be automatically transferred, without action by the purported holder, to a person who is unaffiliated with us or the intended transferee, as trustee for the exclusive benefit of one or more organizations described in Sections 170(b), 170(c) or 501(c)(3) of the Code as a charitable beneficiary and designated by resolution of the Board of Directors. Such shares of excess stock held in trust are considered issued and outstanding shares of Essex’s stock. In general, the trustee of such shares is deemed to own the shares of excess stock held in trust for the exclusive benefit of the charitable beneficiary on the day prior to the date of the purported transfer or change in capital structure which resulted in the automatic transfer and has all voting rights and all right to receive distributions payable with respect to the excess shares. Any dividend or other distribution paid prior to the discovery by Essex that shares were exchanged for excess stock must be repaid by the recipient to Essex upon demand or, if Essex elects, will be offset against any future dividends or distributions payable to the recipient. Subject to Maryland law, any vote cast by the purported owner of excess shares will be rescinded and recast in accordance with the direction of the trustee acting for the benefit of the charitable beneficiary.
Essex may cause the trustee to transfer a beneficial interest in the trust representing a number of shares of excess stock if the shares of excess stock would not be excess stock in the hands of the identified transferee. In the event of such a transfer, the purported transferee of the shares exchanged for excess stock may receive a price for its interest in such shares that is the lesser of (i) the price paid by the purported transferee or, if the purported transferee did not give value for the shares in connection with the event causing shares to be exchanged for excess stock (e.g., a gift, devise or other similar transaction), the Market Price (as defined in Essex’s Charter) of the shares on the day of the event causing the shares to be exchanged for excess stock and (ii) the price received by the trustee from the sale or other disposition of the shares of excess stock. Upon any such a transfer, the shares of excess stock will automatically be exchanged for an equal number of shares of stock of the class and series originally exchanged for such shares of excess stock.
Shares of excess stock held in the trust will be deemed to have been offered for sale to Essex, or its designee, at a price per share equal to the lesser of (i) the price per share in the transaction that resulted in the exchange for shares of excess stock (or, in the case of a devise or gift, the Market Price at the time of the devise or gift) and (ii) the Market Price on the date that Essex, or its designee, accepts the offer. Essex will have the right to accept the offer for a period of ninety days after the later of the date of the transaction that resulted in the exchange for shares of excess stock and, if Essex does not receive prior notice of such transaction, the date that the Board of Directors determines in good faith that a transaction resulting in excess stock has occurred.
Every owner of more than 5% (or such lower percentage as required by the Code or the regulations promulgated thereunder) of our stock, within 30 days after the end of each taxable year, must give us written notice stating the stockholder’s name and address, the number of shares of each class and series of our stock that the stockholder beneficially or constructively owns and a description of the manner in which the shares are held. Each such owner must provide to us in writing such additional information as we may request in order to determine the effect, if any, of the stockholder’s beneficial ownership on our status as a REIT and to ensure compliance with the ownership limits. In addition, each person who is a beneficial owner or constructive owner of shares of our stock and each person (including the stockholder of record) who is holding shares of our stock for a beneficial owner or constructive owner must, on request, provide to us such information as we may request in order to determine our status as a REIT and to ensure compliance with the ownership limits.
Even if the provisions of the Code regarding REITs are changed to eliminate any ownership concentration limitation or increase the limitation, the ownership limitations in the Charter will not be automatically eliminated or modified. Except as described above, any change to such limitations would require an amendment to the Charter, which in turn would require the affirmative vote of holders owning a majority of the outstanding shares of Essex’s common stock. In addition to preserving Essex’s status as a REIT, the ownership limit provisions in the Charter may have the effect of precluding an acquisition of control of Essex without the approval of the Board of Directors.
All certificates representing shares of our equity stock bear a legend referring to the restrictions described above.
The common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “ESS.”
Transfer Agent and Registrar
Computershare Trust Company, N.A. is Essex’s transfer agent.
Our Board of Directors
Essex’s Charter and Bylaws provide that its Board of Directors may establish the number of directors as long as the number is not fewer than the minimum required under the Maryland General Corporation Law (which is one). Essex’s Charter provides that a director may be removed, without cause (as defined in the Charter) only by the affirmative vote of the holders of at least two-thirds of the votes entitled to be cast generally in the election of directors, and with cause only by the affirmative vote of the holders of at least a majority of the votes entitled to be cast generally in the election of directors.
Pursuant to Essex’s Charter and Bylaws, each of our directors is elected by our stockholders to serve until the next annual meeting of stockholders and until his or her successor is duly elected and qualifies. Pursuant to Essex’s Bylaws, directors in uncontested elections are elected upon the affirmative vote of a majority of the total votes cast for and affirmatively withheld as to such nominee at a duly called meeting of stockholders, and directors in contested elections are elected by a plurality of all of the votes cast. In both uncontested and contested elections, holders of shares of our common stock have no right to cumulative voting in the election of directors. Consequently, at each annual meeting of stockholders, the holders of a majority of the shares of our common stock will be able to elect all of our directors. Essex’s Bylaws further provide that an incumbent director, in an uncontested election, who does not receive the required vote for re-election must offer to resign. The Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee of the Board of Directors will consider the resignation offer and recommend to the Board of Directors whether to accept or reject the resignation offer. The Board of Directors will then publicly disclose its decision within 90 days of certification of the election results.
The Maryland General Corporation Law prohibits “business combinations” between us and an interested stockholder or an affiliate of an interested stockholder for five years after the most recent date on which the interested stockholder becomes an interested stockholder. These business combinations include a merger, consolidation, share exchange or, in certain circumstances specified in the statute, an asset transfer or issuance or reclassification of equity securities. The Maryland General Corporation Law defines an interested stockholder as:
any person who beneficially owns 10% or more of the voting power of our outstanding voting stock, or
an affiliate or associate of ours who, at any time within the two-year period immediately prior to the date in question, was the beneficial owner of 10% or more of the voting power of our then-outstanding stock.
A person is not an interested stockholder if our Board of Directors approved in advance the transaction by which the person otherwise would have become an interested stockholder. However, in approving a transaction, our Board of Directors may provide that its approval is subject to compliance, at or after the time of approval, with any terms and conditions determined by our Board of Directors.
After the five-year prohibition, any business combination between us and an interested stockholder or an affiliate of an interested stockholder generally must be recommended by our Board of Directors and approved by the affirmative vote of at least:
80% of the votes entitled to be cast by holders of our then-outstanding shares of voting stock, and
two-thirds of the votes entitled to be cast by holders of our voting stock other than stock held by the interested stockholder with whom or with whose affiliate the business combination is to be effected or stock held by an affiliate or associate of the interested stockholder.
These super-majority vote requirements do not apply if our common stockholders receive a minimum price, as defined in the Maryland General Corporation Law, for their stock in the form of cash or other consideration in the same form as previously paid by the interested stockholder for its stock.
The statute permits various exemptions from its provisions, including business combinations that are approved or exempted by the Board of Directors before the time that the interested stockholder becomes an interested stockholder. As permitted by the statute, the Board of Directors of Essex irrevocably has elected to exempt any business combination among Essex, George M. Marcus, who is the chairman of Essex, and Marcus & Millichap Company (“MMC”) or any entity owned or controlled by Mr. Marcus and MMC. Mr. Marcus is the chairman of MMC. Consequently, the five-year prohibition and supermajority vote requirements described above will not apply to any business combination between Essex, Mr. Marcus, or MMC. As a result, Essex may in the future enter into business combinations with Mr. Marcus and MMC, without compliance with the supermajority vote requirements and other provisions of the Maryland Business Combination Act.
Control Share Acquisitions
The Maryland General Corporation Law provides that holders of “control shares” of a Maryland corporation acquired in a “control share acquisition” have no voting rights except to the extent approved at a special meeting of stockholders by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the votes entitled to be cast on the matter. Shares owned by the acquiring person, or by officers or by directors who are our employees, are excluded from shares entitled to vote on the matter. “Control shares” are voting shares of stock which, if aggregated with all other such shares of stock previously acquired by the acquiror or in respect of which the acquiror is able to exercise or direct the exercise of voting power (except solely by virtue of a revocable proxy), would entitle the acquiror to exercise voting power in electing directors within one of the following ranges of voting power:
one-tenth or more but less than one-third,
one-third or more but less than a majority, or
a majority or more of all voting power.
Control shares do not include shares the acquiring person is then entitled to vote as a result of having previously obtained stockholder approval. A “control share acquisition” means the acquisition of issued and outstanding control shares, subject to certain exceptions.
A person who has made or proposes to make a control share acquisition, upon satisfaction of certain conditions (including an undertaking to pay expenses), may compel our Board of Directors to call a special meeting of stockholders to be held within 50 days of demand to consider the voting rights of the shares. If no request for a meeting is made, the corporation may itself present the question at any stockholders meeting.
If voting rights are not approved at the meeting or if the acquiring person does not deliver an acquiring person statement as required by the statute, then, subject to certain conditions and limitations, the corporation may redeem any or all of the control shares (except those for which voting rights have previously been approved) for fair value determined, without regard to the absence of voting rights for the control shares, as of the date of the last control share acquisition by the acquiror or, if a meeting of stockholders is held at which the voting rights of such shares are considered and not approved, as of the date of the meeting. If voting rights for control shares are approved at a stockholders meeting and the acquiror becomes entitled to vote a majority of the shares entitled to vote, all other stockholders may exercise appraisal rights. The fair value of the shares as determined for purposes of such appraisal rights may not be less than the highest price per share paid by the acquiror in the control share acquisition.
The control share acquisition statute does not apply (i) to shares acquired in a merger, consolidation or share exchange if the corporation is a party to the transaction or (ii) to acquisitions approved or exempted by the charter or bylaws of the corporation.
Our Bylaws contain a provision exempting from the control share acquisition statute any and all acquisitions by any person of our stock. We can provide no assurance that our Board of Directors will not amend or eliminate such provision in the future.
Subtitle 8 of Title 3 of the Maryland General Corporation Law permits a Maryland corporation with a class of equity securities registered under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and with at least three independent directors to
elect to be subject, by provision in its charter or bylaws or a resolution of its board of directors and notwithstanding any contrary provision in its charter or bylaws, to any or all of five provisions:
a two-thirds vote requirement to remove a director,
a requirement that the number of directors be fixed only by the vote of the directors,
a requirement that a vacancy on the board be filled only by the remaining directors and for the remainder of the full term of the directorship in which the vacancy occurred, and
a majority requirement for the calling of a special meeting of stockholders.
Through provisions in our Charter and Bylaws unrelated to Subtitle 8, we (i) require the affirmative vote of the holders of not less than two-thirds of all of the votes entitled to be cast on the matter for the removal of any director from the Board of Directors, which removal will be allowed without cause, or the affirmative vote of the holders of at least a majority of all of the votes entitled to be cast on the matter for the removal of any director from the Board of Directors, which removal will be allowed only with cause, (ii) vest in the Board of Directors the exclusive power to fix the number of directorships and (iii) require, unless called by the Chairman of the Board, the President, the Chief Executive Officer or the Board of Directors, the written request of stockholders entitled to cast not less than a majority of all of the votes entitled to be cast at such a meeting to call a special meeting.
Advance Notice Requirements for Stockholder Proposals, Proxy Access and Director Nominations
Our Bylaws provide that with respect to an annual meeting of stockholders, nominations of individuals for election to our Board of Directors and the proposal of business to be considered by stockholders may be made only (i) pursuant to our notice of the meeting, (ii) by or at the direction of our Board of Directors or (iii) by a stockholder who is a stockholder of record both at the time of giving the stockholder’s notice required by our Bylaws and at the time of the meeting, who is entitled to vote at the meeting on such business or in the election of such nominee and has provided notice to us within the time period, and containing the information and other materials, specified in the advance notice provisions of our Bylaws.
With respect to special meetings of stockholders, only the business specified in our notice of meeting may be brought before the meeting. Nominations of individuals for election to our Board of Directors may be made only (i) by or at the direction of our Board of Directors, (ii) by a stockholder that has requested that a special meeting be called for the purpose of electing directors in compliance with our Bylaws and that has supplied the information required by our Bylaws about each individual whom the stockholder proposes to nominate for election as a director or (iii) if the meeting has been called for the purpose of electing directors, by any stockholder who was a stockholder of record both at the time of giving the notice required by our Bylaws and at the time of the meeting, who is entitled to vote at the meeting in the election of each such nominee and who has provided notice to us within the time period, and containing the information and other materials, specified in the advance notice provisions of our Bylaws.
The advance notice procedures of our Bylaws provide that, to be timely, a stockholder’s notice with respect to director nominations or other proposals for an annual meeting must be delivered to our Secretary at our principal executive office not earlier than the 150th day nor later than 5:00 p.m., Pacific Time, on the 120th day prior to the first anniversary of the date of the proxy statement for our preceding year’s annual meeting. In the event that the date of the annual meeting is advanced or delayed by more than 30 days from the first anniversary of the date of the preceding year’s annual meeting, to be timely, a stockholder’s notice must be delivered not earlier than the 150th day prior to the date of such annual meeting and not later than 5:00 p.m., Pacific Time, on the later of the 120th day prior to the date of such annual meeting or the tenth day following the day on which public announcement of the date of such meeting is first made.
In addition to advance notice procedures, the Bylaws also include provisions permitting, subject to certain eligibility, procedural and disclosure requirements, stockholders who have maintained continuous qualifying ownership of at least 3% of our outstanding shares of common stock for at least three years to use our annual meeting proxy statement to nominate a number of director candidates not to exceed the greater of two candidates or 20% of the number of directors in office.
Meetings of Stockholders
Pursuant to our Bylaws, a meeting of our stockholders for the election of directors and the transaction of any other business will be held annually on a date and at the time and place set by our Board of Directors. The Chairman of the Board, the President, the Chief Executive Officer or the Board of Directors may call a special meeting of our stockholders. Subject to the provisions of our Bylaws, a special meeting of our stockholders to act on any matter that may properly be brought before a meeting of our stockholders must also be called by our Secretary upon the written request of the stockholders entitled to cast a majority of all the votes entitled to be cast on such matter at the meeting and containing the information required by our Bylaws. Our Secretary will inform the requesting stockholders of the reasonably estimated cost of preparing and delivering the notice of meeting (including our proxy materials), and the requesting stockholder must pay such estimated cost before our Secretary is required to prepare and deliver the notice of the special meeting.
Amendments to Our Charter and Bylaws
Except for those amendments permitted to be made without stockholder approval under Maryland law or our Charter, our Charter generally may be amended only if the amendment is first declared advisable by our Board of Directors and thereafter approved by the affirmative vote of stockholders entitled to cast a majority of all of the votes entitled to be cast on the matter.
Our Bylaws may be amended by (i) the Board of Directors or (ii) the affirmative vote of the holders of a majority of the outstanding shares of common stock pursuant to a binding proposal submitted by any stockholder or group of up to five stockholders holding at least one percent of the outstanding shares of common stock for at least one year. A stockholder proposal submitted under the Bylaws may not alter or repeal the amendment provisions of the Bylaws or the provisions of the Bylaws related to indemnification of directors and officers of Essex, in either case, without the approval of the Board of Directors.
Our Bylaws require, subject to limited exceptions, that any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf, any action asserting a claim of breach of any duty owed by any of our directors, officers or other employees to us or our stockholders and other similar actions, may be brought only in specified courts located in the State of Maryland, City of Baltimore.
The dissolution of Essex must be declared advisable by a majority of our entire Board of Directors and approved by the affirmative vote of the holders of two-thirds of all of the votes entitled to be cast on the matter.
Anti-Takeover Effect of Certain Provisions of Maryland Law and of Our Charter and Bylaws
The Maryland General Corporation Law contains, and our Charter and Bylaws contain, provisions that may delay, defer or prevent a change in control or other transaction that might involve a premium price for shares of our common stock or otherwise be in the best interests of our stockholders, including provisions of our Charter on removal of directors and the advance notice provisions of the Bylaws. Likewise, with respect to the business combination provisions of the Maryland General Corporation Law or if the provision in the Bylaws opting out of the control share acquisition provisions of the Maryland General Corporation Law were rescinded, these provisions of the Maryland General Corporation Law could have similar anti-takeover effects.
Further, certain provisions of Essex’s Charter and Bylaws might discourage certain types of transactions that involve an actual or threatened change of control of Essex. The ownership limit may delay or impede a transaction or a change in control of Essex that might involve a premium price for Essex’s capital stock or otherwise be in the best interests of our stockholders. The issuance of preferred stock by the Board of Directors may also have the effect of delaying, deferring or preventing a change in control of Essex.