Articles Posted in Custodian | Receiver | Special Fiscal Agent

  • Business Divorce’ refers to disputes in which the owners of a closely held business, whether a corporation, limited liability company, partnership or limited partnership, must separate their business interests.

  • In many cases, such as oppressed minority shareholder cases or oppressed LLC member cases, there are allegations that those in control of the company have engaged in wrongful behavior.  In other cases, the deadlock of the owners on an important issue is the source of the dispute.

  • Courts that hear business divorce cases have the ability to intervene and impose short-term relief, such as an injunction or appointment of a custodian, and a permanent remedy, include the sale of the business, the compelled purchase of an owner’s interest or even the dissolution and liquidation of the enterprise.


achievement-agreement-body-language-1179804-1024x600No one gets married expecting to get divorced.  And no one forms a business expecting that it will fall apart.  Just as people get divorced, many businesses come to the point at which a business divorce is the best alternative because the partners cannot, or will not, continue to work together.  When that happens, the parties need to restructure, and often separate, their business interests.

Business Divorce Defined

We use the term business divorce to describe a series of different types of lawsuits that involve the owners of a closely held business. The defining character of the business divorce is that co-owners of a business must separate their business interests.  There are typically two alternatives. In this article, we focus on the closely held corporation.  Some of the principles are similar with other types of businesses, which we address in other articles, but the application of the principles are often quite different.

The law varies from state to state and much of this discussion is general.  To the extent that we discuss specific state laws that apply to business divorce, we focus on New York, New Jersey and Delaware law. Continue reading

  • Courts use their authority to appoint a custodian to take control of a closely held corporation as a remedy to deadlocked directors or shareholders.
  • A showing of serious or irreparable harm is required before a court will intervene in a deadlock among shareholders or directors; more than dissension is required.
  • A court may direct a custodian to dissolve and liquidate a corporation, or sell the entire business as a going concern, in the best interest of the shareholders and other constituencies like employees.

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Appointing a custodian or receiver of a closely held corporation is a recognized remedy when the owners are deadlocked.  Once appointed, the custodian or receiver may be given wide authority to break the deadlock, to manage, to sell or dissolve the corporation — including cases in which the remedy seems to go beyond what is provided in the statute.


A Series Examining Deadlock Among the Owners of Closely Held Corporations, Limited Liability Companies and Partnerships


A bitter business divorce between two former college sweethearts provided the background for the Delaware Supreme Court’s analysis of the circumstances in which it could provide a dissolution-like remedy and order the sale of a large successful business.

INTERVIEW

The decision of the Delaware Chancery Court, Shawe v. Elting, involved Transperfect Global, Inc., a corporation formed by Elizabeth Elting and Philip Shawe in 1992 while the pair lived together in a New York University dorm room.  The two became the co-CEOs, sole directors and equal owners of a company that provided a variety of translation services from locations around the globe, generating $80 million in profits in 2014. (Shaw later transferred 1 percent to his mother, but she remained firmly in his camp, which caused the deadlock to continue.) Continue reading

LLC Receiver Attorney
A claim that one of the members has misappropriated assets of a limited liability company and ousted the other member from management is a “quintessential breach” of the fiduciary duties that may exist in a closely held business. It is not, however, grounds for the appointment of a receiver.

This decision of the New Supreme Court in Chen v. Dai, Index Co. 653601/2015 (New York County January 18, 2017) holds that the fact that a claim arises from the existence of a contract – in this case an operating agreement – it may also involve duties independent of the contract. The court finds in a decision on a motion dismiss that pleading that the plaintiff was a co-member of two New York limited liability companies is sufficient to state a cause of action.

LLC Member Misappropriation is Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Court Appoints Receiver to Protect Partnership Assets

Courts loathe the appointment of receivers. First, it is often the death knell to any viable business. The appointment of a receiver is commonly good cause to default on virtually any well-drawn contract, and it send anyone otherwise interested in doing business running for cover.

However, when the dysfunction of the partnership puts the assets of the partnership at risk, a Court can and should appoint a receiver, holds the Appellate Court of Illinois in Schultz v. Halpin, 2016 IL App (3d) 160210-U (Ill. App., 2016) . Partnership Assets Must Be Protected in Dispute Says Court

Court Appoints Receiver to Protect Partnership AssetsCourts loathe the appointment of receivers. First, it is often the death knell to any viable business. The appointment of a receiver is commonly good cause to default on virtually any well-drawn contract, and it send anyone otherwise interested in doing business running for cover.

However, when the dysfunction of the partnership puts the assets of the partnership at risk, a Court can and should appoint a receiver, holds the Appellate Court of Illinois in Schultz v. Halpin, 2016 IL App (3d) 160210-U (Ill. App., 2016).

Partnership Assets Must Be Protected in Dispute Says Court

Conflict and Negotiation Case Study: The Importance of Sincerity
One of the hardest things about being an effective negotiator is the ability to leave your ego at the door.  We need to listen, not impress.

Seasoned Negotiators, Effective Apologies

As negotiation trainer Jim Camp warns, an effective negotiator learns how to let the other side be “ok,” even when you’re not.  The fact is that no matter how well we listen, no matter how well we employ our negotiator’s tool kit to learn the real interests of the other side, we’re going to make mistakes.

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A recent dispute involving the owners of a medical office building demonstrates, once again, how unexpected business governance issues can threaten an ongoing business.LLC-interest-over-tenants-233x300

This opinion from the Appellate Division, in New Jersey Realty Concepts, LLC v. Mavroudis, Docket No. A-2013-12T1 (App. Div. March 18, 2014)(opinion here), demonstrates how the failure to put a business enterprise into a business form with limited liability, be it a corporation, limited liability company or limited liability partnership, can make it impossible for the business to continue.

 

The case itself turned on the scope of authority of a special fiscal agent, which is a court appointee typically found in shareholder or limited liability company litigation. We’ll discuss this in more detail below.

Judgment Creditor Attaches LLC Interest in Rents

The real issue, however, is buried at the end of the opinion in which the Appellate Court held that a debtor could directly attach rents paid by the building tenants because the owners’ interest was itself assignable. And that is the big difference as far as asset protection goes – a joint tenancy offers no real protection to creditors.

Had the owners of the building placed it in some type of holding company, then the remedy against a debt owed by of one of the principals would have been much more limited — and would not have threatened the viability of the enterprise. Here, as a result of the form of the enterprise, a judgment creditor of one of the participants was able to levy against 60 percent of the rent roll, leaving the building itself apparently insolvent.

Had the building been held as a limited liability company, the best the judgment creditor could have done was a charging order against the individual interest of the member that was a judgment creditor. Similarly, in a corporation, the remedy would have been limited to the individual shareholder’s interest – assuming no buy-sell agreement restricted transfer.

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