Articles Tagged with dissociation

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.

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.

  • The Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act adopted in New Jersey permits a court to expel a member of a limited liability company when it is not reasonably practicable for the company to continue with that individual as a member.

  • Expulsion, known as involuntary dissociation, based on the not reasonably practicable standard requires a showing that there is a structural impediment to the members continuing in business together, such as deadlock.

  • When the company is able to make decisions and pursue its business purpose, the not reasonably practicable standard does not exist, whatever the level of animosity among the members.

concede

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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Attorney for Buy-Sell Agreement

I often find myself counseling caution to business owners that want to use equity to reward or attract key employees.  The reason, quite simply, is that if the relationship sours, the employee not only has to be fired but you then have to deal — at best — with a disgruntled former employee as owner or, more likely, he or she likely will have to be bought out.

It’s Not Easy to Fire the Owner-Employee

To get a sense of how difficult these circumstances can be, let’s look at Ross Holding and Management Co. v. Advance Realty Group (Ross Holding v. Advance Realty (Del).pdf), a case recently decided in Delaware construing New Jersey law.  Advance Realty Group managed real estate properties on the East Coast and awarded membership interests to key managers.  The managers received “Class A” general ownership units and “Class B” units reserved for management.  Reading between the lines of the opinion, it seems that a new investor came into the business and the old management team got their walking papers.

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