Articles Posted in Members | Partners | Shareholders

Agent with Authority to Bind Partnership
It is not unusual that a dispute between the owners of a closely held business also involves a dispute about the authority of one of the owners to act as agent for the entity.  We had a recent case, for example, in which a central issue was whether the manager of a limited liability company exercised his business discretion in a way that was in the best interests of the business.

Once that dispute was on the table, we had to look at whether the manager had express or implied authority to act — in this case to hire a third party — and whether that exercise of authority was within the scope of the generally delegated authority provided to the manager by the operating agreement, or required an affirmative vote of the owners.

Professor Douglas Moll, writing on the law professors blog, parses the issues nicely under the most recent iteration of the Uniform Partnership Act, which has been widely adopted by state legislatures.  For Professor Moll, the question of authority turns on the extent to which an ordinary business transaction is involved.

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.

Asset Protection, Charging Order
LLCs Can Protect Individual Assets From Judgement Creditors

One of the principal reasons for forming a business entity is to protect the owners from personal liability for the debts of the corporation. At the same time, business owners may use the business, most often a limited liability company, as a way to protect their business interests from being at risk for personal liabilities.

Understanding how a charging order could ultimately be applied is particularly important for individuals in high-risk professions.  This includes not just the professionals like doctors or engineers, but also anyone who routinely deals with intellectual property, including patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. In all of these areas, the insurance coverage is poor and the risk is high. For that reason, many individuals will seek to hold assets inside of other vehicles, including a limited liability company.

070116_1250_PartiestoAr1The subject of the Appellate Division’s recent decision in Ames v. Premier Surgical, LLC, Docket No. A-1278-15T1 (June 29, 2026) is who decides whether a dispute is subject to mandatory arbitration. But the nature of dispute here suggests a cautionary tale about withdrawal and valuation, and what happens when the exit rules from a business don’t have clear valuation provision accepted by all as fair.

Limited Liability Company Valuation Dispute Triggered by Member Departure

The direction that you’re headed at the time certainly determines the parties’ perspective in business divorce and succession cases. Here the office to buy a retired surgeon’s shares was just 2.5 percent of his demand, and only about 13 percent of what the membership units cost 15 years earlier.

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Agent Fails to Dislcose Principal Exists, Avoids Liability

Was the limited liability company statute supposed to eliminate basic principles of agency law?  That seemsto be the import of a decision by the Appellate Division of Superior Court in Castro v. Giacchi, Docket No. A-6220-12T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. agent3December 5, 2014)(Opinion Below) that reversed a judgment against an individual who failed to disclose that he was acting on behalf of a limited liability company.

Perhaps just as important as our first question: does it really matter?  Here the answer is pretty easy.  Absolutely.  Understanding agency law – that is the law that governs when one person acts on behalf of another – is critical to understanding how business entities function.  The reason is that even though a business entity is a legal person, but it can an only act through its agents.  The business entity is distinct from its principals.

Contractor’s Handshake Deal with Sub

The decision arose out of a contruction contract.  Castro was subcontracted to do carpentry work on a new home under construction in Southhamptom by Defendants.  It was a handshake deal.  Plaintiff contended that he never knew Giacchi was acting on behalf of anyone other than himself, but he received two progress payments John & Sons ANG, LLC.  The final bill was sent to ANG.

Ordinarily, an agent who fails to disclose he is entering into a contract on behalf of a principal is individually liable on the contract, unless the other party knows or had reason to know the agent was acting on behalf of a principal.

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But N.J.S.A. 42:2B-23 shielded a member or agent of a limited liability company from all of its debts. The statute did not limit the circumstances under which a member or agent was immune from liability, including those where a member or agent of a limited liability company entered into a contract without disclosing the identity of its principal. Being clear and unambiguous, our sole function is to enforce the statute according to its terms.

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A recent amendment to New Jersey’s limited liability company law changes the rights of creditors seeking to collect a judgment from a member of a limited liability company, eliminating the creditor’s right to foreclose the member’s interest.

Foreclosure of LLC Member Interests Eliminated

This particular aspect of the Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act (RULLC) is one of the more controversial provisions of the newly enacted statute because it eliminated a key asset protection aspect of LLCs.  Under the prior statute, a creditor’s right was limited to a “charging order.”  The amendment to the statute simply restores the prior law.

Under most state limited liability company statutes, a creditor has the right obtain a charging order that provides that when an LLC distributes money to its members, the debtors share goes to the party holding the charging order.  It only works if any money is actually distributed to the members.

The RULLC was based on a model act devised by the Uniform Law Commission and contained a provision that allowed judgment debtors to foreclose an interest under certain circumstances.  What that meant was that if the judgment creditor was being paid, it had a right to seek a foreclosure of the interest, meaning that it would be sold at a judicial auction.

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restrictive-covenant

Most of the cases that we handle – like any other litigation – get settled before trial. One of the incentives to settle is that invariably the departing owner will agree to some sort of restrictive covenant against competing against his former company.

The case that goes to trial, or which is resolved on a substantive motion, leaves this issue wide open.  In fact, there is no statutory basis to deter the ousted business owner from setting up a competitor and trying to lure away the business of his former company, and one would suppose with a bankroll secured by the purchase of his or her interest.

Since most business divorce litigation ends with a deal, and restrictive covenants are critical aspects of those transaction, I thought it worthwhile to write about a recent decision of the Appellate Division that gives a stern warning that the restrictive covenant had better been honored.

Landmark Decision Will Make Removal of Members Eaiser

asu-logoMany limited liability company litigators have presumed that to expel a member from a New Jersey limited liability company you must establish wrongful conduct such as dishonesty or involement in a a competing business. And moreover, if the case is successful, the next assumption was that the company must buy back the interest of the ousted member

Both the trial court and the attorneys involved in All Saints University of Medicine Aruba v. Chilana, Docket No. A-2628-09T1, App. Div Dec. 24, 2012 (read decision below), seem to have made the same assumptions. The appellate court, however, in this recent decision made clear that neither is accurate.

Limited Liability Company Act Permits Expulsion Through Involuntary Dissociation

Similar situations actually arise with some frequency. One of the members of an LLC, for whatever reason, becomes a hindrance to the continued operations of the business. Perhaps the LLC needs capital and the member will not, or cannot, contribute their fair share. Perhaps the LLC relies on the members working in the business on a daily basis and one of them stops coming to work.  (Editor’s note: The Supreme Court has drawn portions of the reasoning of the Apellate Division into question in its 2016 decisions in IE Test v. Kenneth Carroll.  Read our coverage of the decision here.)

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New Jersey Limited Liability Company Attorneys

Imagine that the limited liability company you and your partners started five years ago is involved in a nasty corporate governance lawsuit.  Perhaps one of the partners needs to be expelled, or maybe one of the owners is involved in a competing business.  Imagine that you are spending tens of thousands of dollars every month on legal fees, that the business is in a state of constant disruption and that you haven’t had a good night’s sleep in weeks.

And now, accept the fact that this could have been avoided.

The chances are that if a closely held business is involved in this type of litigation it is because the owners did not plan well when they started the business.  How do I know?  Having litigated many of these matters over the years, I see the same mistakes made early in the life of the business surfacing again and again as the source of litigation.

New Jersey Limited Liability Company Operating Agreement

This is my non-exclusive list of what I think  are the most expensive mistakes that I see people make in their business.  There are others, to be sure, but these are the ones that I see as the source of litigation among the members.

No Operating Agreement:  Actually, I am not going to count not having an operating agreement as one of the five “mistakes.”  It is not really a mistake, it is a colossal blunder, kind of like drunk driving – you may get away with it for a while, but you know how it’s going to end.

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Purchaser Alleges Mortgage Was Not Approved by All LLC Members

A mortgage given by a New Jersey limited liability company to one of its members can be challenged by the purchaser in a court-approved sale of the business, the Appellate Division holds, reversing the trial court.

This case arises out of the estate planning undertaken by John Best and his wife, defendant Patricia Ann Best, after Mr. Best learned that he was terminally ill.  The couple owned Sea Village Marina in Northfield (across the bay from Margate).  They had transferred 25 percent of the business to their son, John, in 1994.

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