Articles Posted in Valuation

business litigation attorneysHere is the hard reality.  The chances that your case, or any case, will get to a real trial on the merits is way less than one in 10.  The truth is that only between two and five cases out of 100 will be resolved with a trial.

What does that mean for a party drawn into civil litigation?  The statistics point to a group of “best practices” that effective litigation counsel should employ.  It is a blend of efficient trial preparation, motion practice, management of discovery and, perhaps most of all, advanced negotiation skills.  We review some of those here as a starting point for developing a case strategy.

Civil Trials in Business Litigation is a Rare Event

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.

9 Characteristics of Good Buy-Sell Agreements

Few of us have the liquidity that we need to contemplate the divorce while we are making plans to get marriedIt just doesn’t enter our minds at the time and, of course, when if it does later become an issue, it is way too late to come to an easy decision about how to handle the breakup.

The same is true for businesses.  It is difficult to get the new business owners to focus on what they will do if one leaves — and the probability is that one will — when they are in the formation mindset.  It’s a type of honeymoon, I suppose, full of optimism and promise.  And yet, experience says that if the business survives long enough, the absence of a buy-sell provision is going to create an issue, and maybe event a lawsuit.

Business owners need to reflect on the fact that with enough success, they will want to retire, or may become disabled or die.  That they might want to bring children into the business.  Or that one of them will undergo some type of personal change or circumstances that just makes it impossible to carry on.  A company’s organizing documents without a buy-sell in some form or fashion is incomplete.  It keeps the litigators happy, but it’s not wise.  Chris Mercer’s blog post here talks about some of the elements that you find in a reasonable buy-sell agreement.

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.

Partnership Dispute Attorney

The limited liability partnership or LLP is a highly popular form of business association for professional practices including law firms and medical groups. As its name suggests, the LLP combines the attributes of a partnership with the limited liability traditionally associated with corporations, except that professionals in LLPs generally remain personally liable for their own misconduct or negligence.

See How to Avoid Bad Blood Over Goodwill in Professional Partnership Valuations

This is a story about a recent case involving a fight over the inclusion or exclusion of goodwill in valuing the interest of a retired partner in a medical practice organized as a limited liability partnership, and how it easily could have been avoided.


Appellate courts usually defer to a trial court’s factual findings in a business divorce case that
25204-surgem_logomakes it to trial.  Here is a rare decision, however, in which the Appellate Division reversed the factual determinations of the trial judge, finding that the disputed ownership interest had been conceded by one of the parties.

Limited Liability Company Decision is Reversed

The case, Surgem LLC v. Adhievmed, Inc., Docket No-A4198-11T! (October 16, 2013) involved a dispute between a successful surgeon, John Hajjar, who established a chain of same day surgical centers and his former business partner, John Seitz.  The businesses, and the relationships, were poorly documented, however, and the outcome turned on the issue of whether the parties had made an oral agreement.

We represent clients in the formation stages of limited liability companies  as well as during disputes.  Consult with us about limited liability operating agreements and disputes between members.

LLC Operating Agreement

Notably absent from the Appellate Division opinion is any mention of the terms of the LLC’s operating agreement.  It appears that this is another case in which the owners of a business failed to document the basic details of their relationship and the trial court had to fashion a decision from evidence that was equivocal – or so the trial court thought.

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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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Sometimes an expert valuation opinion, however well documented, leads to a conclusion that just doesn’t square with reality.  That was the case with an expert opinion in Rughani-Shah v. Noaz, Docket No. A-4943-08T2 (Sept. 16, 2011) that valued a one-third interest in a medical practice at just $25,000.  The trial court’s decision was affirmed by the Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court.

The trial judge didn’t buy it – not when the practice was grossing $1.7 million a year and not when the buy-in for the shareholder seeking the buyout had been eight times that amount.  Common sense said the number was just too low, and the expert’s opinion was rejected.

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Uniform Partnership Act Limits Remedy

If a partner dies after having allegedly misappropriated partnership funds, do the other partners have a right to pursue his estate? The answer appears to be no, according to a recent Chancery Court decision.

The decision in In re Genet, Docket No.: ESX-C-44-11 (Oct. 13, 2011) was decided under the now repealed Uniform Partnership Act – yet another warning to partnerships formed before December 2000 that if they want the newer law to apply, they should amend the partnership agreement to say so.

In granting a motion to dismiss the claim of the surviving partner seeking to require his nieces to account for the misappropriations of their father, Chancery Judge Walter Koprowski held that the statutory language that created an obligation of the partnership to account to the estate of a deceased partner was not reciprocal. It did not create a similar obligation of the estate to account to the partnership for the wrongful acts of the deceased partner.

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Socialite’s Family Partnership Interest

Book value can have a few different meanings. The best definition is simply the value of assets and liabilities that a company carries on its books. Is it different than the “fair value” standard applied in statutory buyouts?  Yes– a lot different.

There are many partnership agreements and corporate 13958-partneragreementbuy-sell agreements still in effect with a book value buyout provision. They tend to be older entities, often involving family businesses, and I cringe whenever I look at the agreement and see the term applied to the company’s value.

Book Value Used to Buy Socialite’s Interest

A recent decision involving the estate of socialite Claudia Cohen demonstrates why. Estate of Claudia Cohen v. Booth Computers, et al., Docket No. A-0319-09T2. Estate of Cohen App Div.pdf. (Thanks also to Peter Mahler’s NY Business Divorce blog for finding the trial decision. Cohen Chancery Div.pdf.) In that decision, the Cohen’s estate argued that the book value of a successful business was just less than 2 percent of its fair value – $ 178,000 as opposed to $11.526 million – and sought to reform the partnership agreement. The effort failed and the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s enforcement of the agreement. The disparity between book value and fair value was not, in the court’s opinion, reason to alter an otherwise unambiguous document.

The result was a windfall for the last surviving partner, Claudia’s bother James, and the same result is likely to occur in most agreements that set the value of the business at book value rather than fair value.

The Cohen case involved a partnership formed by the late Robert Cohen, an entrepreneur who amassed a considerable fortune through various entities including the Hudson News Group. He had three children – Claudia, Michael and James. Claudia, well known in Manhattan and Hamptons social circles, was also an editor of Page 6 of the New York Post and the ex-wife of entrepreneur Ronald Perelman.

The estate, with Perelman as executor, brought suit against Booth Computers and Claudia’s brother, James, after Claudia’s interest in a family partnership was valued at a fraction of the fair value of the partnership’s holdings.

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