Description of Registered Securities
As of February 4, 2020, Highwoods Properties, Inc. (the “Company”) had one outstanding class of securities registered under Section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”): the Company’s common stock, par value $0.01 per share (the “common stock”). The following summary of the Company’s common stock does not purport to be complete and is subject to and qualified in its entirety by reference to Maryland law and to our charter and bylaws, each of which are incorporated by reference as an exhibit to the Annual Report on Form 10-K of which this Exhibit 4.14 is a part.
The Company is authorized under its charter to issue 200 million shares of its common stock. Each outstanding share of common stock entitles the holder to one vote on all matters presented to stockholders for a vote. Unless applicable law requires otherwise, and except in limited circumstances as our charter may provide with respect to any series of preferred stock that the Company may issue, the holders of common stock will possess exclusive voting power.
All shares of common stock issued will be duly authorized, fully paid and non-assessable. Distributions may be paid to the holders of common stock if and when declared by the Company’s board of directors out of legally available funds. The Company intends to continue to pay quarterly dividends.
Under Maryland law, stockholders are generally not liable for the Company’s debts or obligations. If the Company is liquidated, subject to the right of any holders of preferred stock to receive preferential distributions, each outstanding share of common stock will participate pro rata in any remaining assets.
Holders of common stock have no conversion, sinking fund or redemption rights or preemptive rights. A conversion feature permits a stockholder to convert shares to a different security, such as debt or preferred stock. A redemption right permits a stockholder to redeem such holder’s shares (for cash or other securities) at some point in the future. Sometimes a redemption right is paired with an obligation of the company to create an account into which such company must deposit money into to fund the redemption (i.e., a sinking fund). Preemptive rights are rights granted to stockholders to subscribe for their pro rata percentage of any other securities we may offer in the future.
The common stock is currently listed for trading on the NYSE under the symbol “HIW.”
The transfer agent and registrar for our common stock is EQ Shareowner Services.
Ownership Limitations and Restrictions on Transfers
To maintain its REIT qualification, not more than 50% in value of the Company’s outstanding stock may be owned directly or indirectly by five or fewer individuals (including certain entities treated as individuals for these purposes) during the last half of a taxable year and at least 100 persons must beneficially own its outstanding stock for at least 335 days per 12-month taxable year (or during a proportionate part of a shorter taxable year). To help ensure that the Company meets these tests, among other reasons, the Company’s charter provides that no person or entity may directly or constructively own more than 9.8% in value of the Company’s issued and outstanding capital stock, without obtaining a written waiver from the board of directors. For purposes of this provision, corporations, partnerships, “groups” within the meaning of Section 13(d)(3) of the Exchange Act and other entities are treated as single persons. The board of directors has discretion to waive this ownership limit if the board receives evidence that ownership in excess of the limit will not jeopardize the Company’s REIT status.
The restrictions on transferability and ownership will not apply if the board of directors and the stockholders holding two-thirds of the Company’s outstanding shares of capital stock determine that it is no longer in the Company’s best interest to be a REIT. The Company has no current intention to seek to change its REIT tax status.
All certificates representing shares of common stock bear a legend referring to the restrictions described above.
Holders of more than 5% (or such lower percentage as required by the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the regulations promulgated thereunder) of the Company’s common stock or preferred stock must file a written response to the
Company’s request for stock ownership information, which will be mailed no later than January 30th of each year. This notice should contain the holder’s name and address, the number of shares of common stock or preferred stock such holder owns and a description of how such holder holds the shares. In addition, such holders will be required to disclose in writing any other information that the Company needs in order to determine the effect of such holder’s ownership on the Company’s status as a REIT.
These ownership limitations could have the effect of precluding a third party from obtaining control over the Company unless the Company’s board of directors and our stockholders determine that maintaining REIT status is no longer desirable.
Limitations of Liability and Indemnification of Directors and Officers
Maryland General Corporation Law and the Company’s charter exculpate each director and officer in actions by the Company or by stockholders in derivative actions from liability unless the director or officer has received an improper personal benefit in money, property or services or has acted dishonestly, as established by a final judgment of a court.
The charter also provides that the Company will indemnify a present or former director or officer against expense or liability in an action to the fullest extent permitted by Maryland law. Maryland law permits a corporation to indemnify its present and former directors and officers, among others, against judgments, penalties, fines, settlements and reasonable expenses they incur in connection with any proceeding to which they are a party because of their service as an officer, director or other similar capacity. However, Maryland law prohibits indemnification if it is established that:
the act or omission of the director or officer was material to the matter giving rise to the proceeding and was committed in bad faith or was the result of active and deliberate dishonesty;
the director or officer actually received an improper personal benefit in money, property or services; or
in the case of any criminal proceeding, the director or officer had reasonable cause to believe that the act or omission was unlawful.
We believe that the exculpation and indemnification provisions in the charter help induce qualified individuals to agree to serve as officers and directors of the Company by providing a degree of protection from liability for alleged mistakes in making decisions and taking actions. You should be aware, however, that these provisions in the Company’s charter and Maryland law give you a more limited right of action than you otherwise would have in the absence of such provisions. We also maintain a policy of directors’ and officers’ liability insurance covering certain liabilities incurred by our directors and officers in connection with the performance of their duties.
The above indemnification provisions could operate to indemnify directors, officers or other persons who exert control over the Company against liabilities arising under the Securities Act. Insofar as the above provisions may allow that type of indemnification, we have been informed that, in the SEC’s opinion, such indemnification is against public policy as expressed in the Securities Act and is therefore unenforceable.
Pursuant to the Company’s charter and Maryland law, the Company cannot merge into or consolidate with another corporation or enter into a statutory share exchange transaction in which the Company is not the surviving entity or sell all or substantially all of its assets unless the board of directors adopts a resolution declaring the proposed transaction advisable and a majority of the stockholders voting together as a single class approve the transaction. Maryland law prohibits stockholders from taking action by written consent unless all stockholders consent in writing. The practical effect of this limitation is that any action required or permitted to be taken by the Company’s stockholders may only be taken if it is properly brought before an annual or special meeting of stockholders. The Company’s bylaws further provide that in order for a stockholder to properly bring any matter before a meeting, the stockholder must comply with requirements regarding advance notice. The foregoing provisions could have the effect of delaying until the next annual meeting stockholder actions that the holders of a majority of the Company’s outstanding voting securities favor. These provisions may also discourage another person from making a tender offer for the Company’s common stock, because such person or entity, even if it acquired a majority of the Company’s outstanding voting securities, would likely be able to take action as a stockholder, such as electing new directors or approving a merger, only at a duly called stockholders meeting.
Maryland law also establishes special requirements with respect to business combinations between Maryland corporations and interested stockholders unless exemptions apply. Among other things, the law prohibits for five years a merger and other
similar transactions between a company and an interested stockholder and requires a supermajority vote for such transactions after the end of the five-year period. The Company’s charter contains a provision exempting the Company from the Maryland business combination statute. However, we cannot assure you that this charter provision will not be amended or repealed at any point in the future.
Control Share Acquisitions
Maryland General Corporation Law also provides that control shares of a Maryland corporation acquired in a control share acquisition have no voting rights except to the extent approved by a vote of two-thirds of the votes entitled to be cast on the matter, excluding shares owned by the acquirer or by officers or employee directors. The control share acquisition statute does not apply to shares acquired in a merger, consolidation or share exchange if the corporation is a party to the transaction, or to acquisitions approved or exempted by the corporation’s charter or bylaws. The Company’s bylaws contain a provision exempting from the control share acquisition statute any stock acquired by any person. However, we cannot assure you that this bylaw provision will not be amended or repealed at any point in the future.
Maryland Unsolicited Takeovers Act
Subtitle 8 of Title 3 of the Maryland General Corporation Law permits a Maryland corporation with a class of equity securities registered under the Exchange Act, and 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 the charter or bylaws, to any or all of five provisions:
a two-thirds vote requirement for removing a director;
a requirement that the number of directors be fixed only by vote of 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:
provide that directors may only be removed for cause by the affirmative vote of two-thirds vote of the Company’s outstanding common stock;
vest in the board the exclusive power to fix the number of directorships; and
provide that unless called by our president or the chairman of our board of directors, a special meeting of stockholders may only be called by our president or the chairman of our board of directors upon the written request of the stockholders entitled to cast not less than a majority of all the votes entitled to be cast at the meeting.
Vacancies and Removal of Directors
Pursuant to our charter, each member of our board of 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. A director may only be removed for cause by the affirmative vote of two-thirds vote of the Company’s outstanding common stock.
Our charter and bylaws provide that a majority of the directors or the stockholders may fill any vacancy on the board of directors. However, under Maryland law, only the board of directors can fill vacancies though the charter and bylaws provide otherwise. In addition, our bylaws provide that only the board of directors may increase or decrease the number of persons serving on the board of directors. These provisions preclude stockholders from removing incumbent directors, except for cause and upon a substantial affirmative vote, and filling the vacancies created by such removal with their own nominees until the next annual meeting of stockholders.
Meetings of Stockholders
Special meetings of stockholders may be called only by our president or the chairman of our board of directors, or, in the case of a stockholder requested special meeting, by our president or the chairman of our board of directors upon the written request of the holders of common stock entitled to cast not less than a majority of all votes entitled to be cast at such meeting. Only matters set forth in the notice of the special meeting may be considered and acted upon at such a meeting.
Amendment of Charter and Bylaws
Except as set forth below, the Company’s charter can be amended only by the affirmative vote of holders of not less than a majority of the outstanding shares of common stock. However, the provisions in the charter relating to the removal of directors and preservation of the Company’s REIT status may only be amended by the affirmative vote of holders of not less than two-thirds of the outstanding shares of common stock.
The Company’s bylaws provide that stockholders have the power to amend or repeal any bylaws or to make new bylaws, and that the Board of Directors shall have the power to do the same, except that the Board of Directors shall not alter or repeal certain sections of the bylaws, including the section governing amendments to the bylaws or any sections of the bylaws that has been adopted by the stockholders.
Operating Partnership Agreement
Upon a change in control of the Company, the partnership agreement of the Operating Partnership requires certain acquirers to maintain an umbrella partnership real estate investment trust structure with terms at least as favorable to the limited partners as are currently in place. For instance, in certain transactions, the acquirer would be required to preserve the limited partner’s right to continue to hold tax-deferred partnership interests that are redeemable for capital stock of the acquirer. Some change of control transactions involving the Company could require the approval of two-thirds of the limited partners of the Operating Partnership (other than the Company). These provisions may make a change of control transaction involving the Company more complicated and therefore might decrease the likelihood of such a transaction occurring, even if such a transaction would be in the best interest of the Company’s stockholders.