Articles Posted in Dissociation | Explusion

The law that controls any business organizations is a creature of state law, and disputes among owners in a business divorce involve the application of the law where the business was formed. More often than not that means the law of the state in which the dispute is being heard, but not always. And significantly, at least for our present purposes, it does not mean that we will find the answer to a business divorce issue in the state in which the litigation is pending, even among the binding decisions of the state law where the enterprise was formed.

Here’s an example: a New York court is calleBusiness Divorce Attorneysd upon to determine whether a managing member of a limited liability company breached his or her duty in negotiating a sale of a substantial asset to a third party that the manager negligently believed was an objectively fair price. The plaintiff seeks to expel the manager or to force a dissolution and sale of the business as a going concern. Does the Court apply New Jersey law? If there is no New Jersey case on point – and there is no binding decision on all of the points in this scenario – does the Court apply New York law, and to which issues?

Even if this case is litigated in New Jersey, and there is no law on point, where does the trial court look to guidance. The nearly automatic response is Delaware, because the courts of Delaware have by far the most developed body of law applicable to corporate governance disputes. However, Delaware may be the wrong choice if the limited liability company statute needs interpretation. A well-reasoned decision from an Appellate Court in Illinois, for example, should be much more persuasive to a court construing New Jersey’s limited liability company statute because of the similarity between the two states’ laws.

limited liability company expulsion attorney
An Illinois appellate court affirmed a finding of breach of fiduciary duty and the expulsion of a limited liability company member under a version of the Uniform Limited Liability Company Act. The case is of interest for the way it construes the model partnership and limited liability company acts.

Explusion of LLC Member After Transfer of Interests

The court in Kenny v. Fulton Assocs., LLC, 2016 IL App (1st) 152536 (Ill. App., 2016) holds first that under Illinois’ LLC statute the actual activities of the parties determined their fiduciary duties, not the agreements. The management of the entities were vested in one side as manager, but the day-to-day operations actually handled by the other side. The management of the business creates a fiduciary duty under Illinois law. The other significant holding is that refusing to honor a valid transfer of an interest is not just a breach of contract, but a breach of fiduciary duty. Finally, the court affirms the holding that when one of the principals is a lawyer that represents the firm, his breach of duty as an attorney is also a breach of fiduciary duty as a member or partner.

Withdrawal | Dissociation of LLC Member
We often think of the dissociation of a member from a limited liability company as a matter of expulsion. The majority typically wants to expel a problematic minority member from the LLC.

But one can also dissociate themselves by resigning as member, or, under the Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act (RULLC), by giving notice of their express will to withdraw as a member.  This lawsuit tells us that there are no specific words required; the intent to quit if expressed to the LLC, will be sufficient.

Dissociation by Express Will of Member

New York | New Jersey Oppressed Shareholder Limited Liability Company atorneys
Reading through a recent court opinion out of the New York Supreme Court, I am struck by the way the law has diverged in corporate governance litigation.  There are two distinctly different approaches to the business divorce. Crossing the Hudson can make a world of difference in operating a closely held business.

Business Divorce State by State

Understanding the different approaches taken by the courts of different states is something that should be considered by business owners not just when they form the business, but as they work through the inevitable conflicts that are part of running a business.

locked door
Oh, the fine art of the lockout. For a business divorce litigator, a lockout or expulsion of a minority member is a relatively common occurrence. Managing the lockout, from either the majority or the minority’s perspective, is a key issue that will set the tone of the litigation.

WHY LOCKOUTS MATTER

The minority who is locked out of a business has a very clear disadvantage. In a closely held business, whether it is a limited liability company, a corporation or a partnership, most principals participate in the day-to-day management of the business. A lockout separates the minority from management.

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The New Jersey Supreme Court will consider the standards for expulsion of a member from a limited liability company.  The Court granted certification   in  IE Test, LL27518-ie-logo-colorC v. Carroll, Docket NO. A-6159-12T4 (N.J. Super. App. Div., March 17, 2015)(see our discussion here.) The opinion construes N.J.S.A. 42:2B-24(b)(3)(a) of the now repealed Limited Liability Company Act.

The language, however, is nearly identical to that found in New Jersey’s current LLC law, the Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act (RULLCA) N.J.S.A. 42:2C-46(e)(3), which governs the involuntary dissociation of members.  Here the court affirmed the expulsion of the defendant based on the impracticability of the business continuing with him as member. the now-repealed Limited Liability Company Act.

Seven-Factor Test Applied to Expulsion

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