User:CheshireKatz/Business

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http://www.law.nyu.edu/studentorgs/sba/outlines/upperlevel/corporations/Corp.Siegel.fall.05.doc

Contents

State Corporate Law Class Notes[edit]

Walkovsky v. Carlton,

Piercing Corporate Veil Theories
  1. Alter-ego - Shareholder using a corporation to act on his behalf for the purpose of evading liability
  2. Enterprise Entity - Multiple corporate entities under common control acting in unison (does not extend liability to shareholders)
  3. Respondeat Superior - The corporation engaged in activities subservient to the direct authority of a master
  4. Fraud

Sea-Land v. Pepper Source, Contract case

  1. Unity of interest
  2. Fraud/injustice

How to tell direct from derivative suit:

  1. Failure to deliver declared dividend to shareholder(s)
  2. Special duty owed to shareholder: Direct suit
  3. Some shareholders harmed, others not: likely Direct suit
  4. Breach of fiduciary duty (care, loyalty): likely Derivative suit
  5. Remedy sought:
    1. Benefit accrues to corporation as a whole? Derivative suit
    2. Benefit accrues to individual shareholders or all shareholders individually? Direct Suit

Process of getting a derivative suit (section 141 of delaware law):

  1. Bond/Security
  2. Standing
  3. Special Litigation Committee (SLC) (usually occurs where demand excused)
    State differences
    NY - (1) Burden on Def to show SLC independence, (2) BJR used to determine SLC recommendation in the best interest of the company
    DE - (1) Burden on Def to show SLC independence, (2) Court analyzes SLC advice (to not litigate) is in best interest of the company
    IA - No deference to SLC, will appoint an SLC to company if necessary
  4. Demand Requirement (two routes, though almost never the former)
    Make Demand (waives right to argue for futility)
    Nearly always refused (and since likely a BJ, end up at dead end)
    Seek demand to be excused for futility (if BoD is new from time of action, then can't pursue futility, except maybe under 3)
    1. Majority of BoD self-interested
    2. Majority of BoD dominated & controlled over
    3. Not the product of a Business Judgment

Business Judgment Rule - To be a Business Judgment, BoD could not:

  1. Be self-interested → where found, duty of loyalty case
  2. Have failed to reasonable inform themselves (Van Gorkum) →
  3. Be wholly irrational (though unreasonable decisions are insulated, so extremely difficult to get)

If demand refused, that decision is examined as a business judgment

  1. Self-interest in not suing self has been declared insufficient to amount to self-interest
  2. Once demand is made, they will address it during the meeting, such that the self-informing standard is met.
  3. Wholly irrational impossible to get as ever

Executive compensation is almost impossible to bring to merits, because under futility route, 1 & 3 are lost, and 2 requires additional proof besides dominating influence. On the other hand, director compensation can be pursued easily under 1 and perhaps 2 & 3.

AP Smith: Donates $15,000 to Princeton, shareholders dispute, claim theyre obtaining good will and better future employees. Entitled to BJR, but beware not self-interested.

Ford Motor: Ford canceled dividend and put money into smelter, wage increases, and lowering prices.

Two kinds of Duty of Care
Failure to Monitor/Supervise
Francis, Caremark, Stone
Apply Good faith analysis
Decision (violation of BJR)
Self-interest → Shifts to Duty of Loyalty analysis
Failure to reasonably inform self → 102(b)(7)
Wholly irrational → Good faith analysis (Disney)
Three kinds of Duty of Loyalty
Self-dealing
Usurping corporate opportunities
Three kinds of Self Dealing
  1. Independent Director(s) on both sides (Bayer)
  2. Interlock (transaction between Corps with common directors) (SLE)
  3. Parent-Subsidiary (Sinclair?, Weinbager)
Where self-interest is found
§144(a) - Preserves self-dealing transactions (except Parent-Sub) if:
  1. Decided by majority of disinterested directors or
  2. Ratified by majority of "disinterested" shareholders (Fliegler) or
  3. The transaction is fair
Shifts burden of pers to Plaintiffs (except (a)(2) with Interlocutory Self-Dealing, which grants BJR)

Bayer: Though self-interested, not a harmful business decision as another singer would've been just as well and wife wasn't overcompensated.

Ebay: Frame with Meinhard v. Salmon - Interest & expectancy? Yes, ebay sought goldman-sachs for the purposes of mining corporate opportunites.

Get the sum ups from the beginning & end of class on 10/16/07

Sinclair: Only self-dealing when the parent, by virtue of its position, receives something to the exclusion or detriment of minority SH. Under Sinclair, Ford would've won, because he distributed dividends equally regardless of motive.

Federal Corporate Law Class Notes[edit]

Robinson v. Glynn: A membership interest in a LLC does not qualify as a security (neither an "investment contract" nor "stock"), where the holder of that interest is a knowledgeable executive in the company and able to exercise control over the investment. [1]

Text Pgs. 429-431

Facilitates class action → w/o actual reliance requirement, Plaintiff position improved

So
Gen. Civ. liability for fraud and mis rep
Broader than §11 b/c applies not only to registration materials but also adjoining statements
Powerful Remedy → rescission

Materiality - misreps or omits must be material

So
no scienter
no reliance
narrower than §12

10b-5 Requirements - There must have been

a Duty to Disclose
a Material Misrepresentation or misleading omission
Scienter
Reliance
Proximate Causation

Private Securities Litigation Reform Act

EXAM REVIEW[edit]

Using cases helpful, but memorization discouraged.

Business concepts, such as: "freezeout" "cashout" "tender offer"

BA is rights & duties of those various entitiest engaged in business enterprises.

Fiduciary Duties Disclosure Duties (10b-5)

Rights of Partners/LLC Members/SHs/Directors to govern/profits/contribution

Manager/Member-managed LLC

Understand Meinhard v. Salmon, inside and out

Social responsibility theorists: Other interests aside from maximizing SH wealth are important

Deference by courts → BJR vs. Partnerships (Meinhard) or where tainted Procedural Hurdles → Derivative suits, Demand Requirement, Burden shifting, Interested-ness, Self-dealing (as opposed to Sinclair oil)

How can one protect self from vulnerabilities (Liability, Piercing)? -Choice of Business form -Structuring of Enterprise -Policies

How to establish liability/defend against?


§16 Matching Transactions formula

Cumulative Voting formula


BJR doesn't apply to officers, agents, or INaction by BoD (includes discussion of problem & determination not to monitor)

To rebutt BJR on merits, when showing interest, need only 1 Interested. For BJR in demand futility context, need majority.

Demand futility distinction btwn NY & DE, similar, but diff.

LLC distinction btwn NY & DE, very diff. Zapata two-step analysis (DE)

STONE! (failure to monitor, caremark context)

Gives us Bad Faith analysis both for breach of Duty of Care or Duty of loyalty
Gross negligence not determined by substance of decision, but by method it came about (self-interest, )
Def bears burden of demonstrating that breach was harmless (old exam contains error)

102b7: Standard applied in Stone

What happens at dissolution w/o partnership agreement?

Windup period - partners entitled to start selling off
Who's entitled to profits & losses? (Profits: Equally, Losses: Same as Profits)
Does Partner's labor count? NO, though unfair (UPA)

If demand made & board refuses, all over? Board refusal analyzed under bjr. But since demand wasn't futile (for self-interest), you've waived first element, and 2 & 3 don't help

Demand & merits claims are separate --> Overcome demand by pleading w/particularity b/c board didn't fully inform, then apply self-interest when you get to merits.

Pleading with particularity b/c

Failure to fully inform selves is not sufficient for 102b7

Parent-sub transaction, there is greater danger, b/c BoD highly influenced by parents.

Similar fairness analysis to 144 applied to taking opportunity

W/o wilkes Close corp situation, 102b7 only applies to

Master servant relationship key to the Tort context where principal does not specifically instruct agent to commit the tort (w/o no principal).

Two types of Agents: "controlled" servants & independent contractors

Principals not liable for agents' torts, unless agent is employee or servant of principal-master

Classic insider: Director/officer

Constructive insider: Lawyer of Director/officer

Misappropriation:

Piercing: Enterprise entity liability vs. Alter ego liability

EE - multiple entities acting as single enterprise: liability extends horizontally as well as vertically.
AE - shareholder using corp as an extension of self: liability only extends vertically, but all the way up to SHs
BOTH: Unity of interest, Demonstrate dominion or control AND failure to maintain formalities
Sealand AE: Fraud (fake loans between) or injustice
Silicon EE: Beyond? not clear, but substantial interaction is necessary
Tort Context: Beyond? entirely unclear

Insider trading damages (10b-5): Recovery limited to insiders profit (treble)

$1M of damages, but only a small profit to draw from
That's why you want fraud (misleading statements, et al.)

If controlling persons make statements on behalf of corp, corp liable.

If controlling persons make statements on their own, individuals are liable.

The Chart[edit]

Agency Partnership
Definition An association of two or more
persons to carry on as co-
owners of a business for profit.
Formation Intent not required Intent not required
Authority
Liability For torts committed by A,
where A acts as a servant of P
For torts committed by P2,
where P2 acts as a partner of P1
Fiduciary Duties Good Faith
1) Care
2) Obedience
3) Loyalty
4) Candor
Robust duties to disclose


Proprietorship Partnership Limited
Partnership
Limited Liability
Corporation (LLC)
Corporation
Documentation &
filing necessary?
No No Yes Yes Yes
Initial & annual
franchise or license tax
No No No Yes Yes
Individual liability
for business debts
Owner Partners Only General
Partners
None None
Judicial proceedings
in the name of:
Owner Partners Only General
Partners
Corporation Corporation
Transfer of ownership Requires
conveyancing
formalities
Requires
consent of
the partners
May be done
freely and
informally
Shares may or
may not be
freely negotiable
Shares freely
negotiable
Life of entity
terminates at
Withdrawal of
Proprietor
Withdrawal of
a Partner
Withdrawal of
a General Partner
Depends? Formal Withdrawal
Authority and ownership Terminates at death Impaired at death Impaired at death
of a general partner
May be impaired at death
or otherwise limited
Unaffected by death
Distributed profits taxed As member income As member income As member income As member income As corporate income &
again as member income
Undistributed profits taxed Yes Yes Yes Yes Only as corporate income
Losses offset against
individual taxable incomes
Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Centralized Management May or may not May or may not May or may not May or may not Must


Example
$14,000 $8,000 $2,000
Lender - $3000 $3,000Ret $3,000Ret $2,000Ret + $1,000Claim
A $2,000Cap $2,000Ret + $1,000Prof $1,000Ret -$1,000Owed
B $2,000Cap
$2,000Loan
$4,000Ret + $1,000Prof $2,000Ret + $1,000Ret $1,000Ret
C $1,000Cap
$1,000Loan
$3,000Ret $1,000Ret -$1,000Owed
Profits-Losses
per Partner
+$1,000 -$1,000 -$3,000
* In cases of insolvency, creditors first, loans second, capital third.


RULE 10b-5 Misrep/Fraud Insider Trading
Duty Not lie or wrongfully(?) omit Disclose or Abstain from dealing on info
Misrep/Omit
Materiality
Scienter
Reliance
Prox Cause

When intrinsic fairness (as in 144 (which doesn't apply to parent-sub actions)), DE when you look at unfairness, look at process & substance. Did they fully disclose to BoD? Did BoD ok it? Was it harmful unfair regardless? Self-interest, Taking of corp opportunity, or competition against firm or corp

Introduction[edit]

What is a Business Organization?
An enterprise (one or more people) organized to provide goods or services to customers and to generate revenues at a profit (no non-profits).
Functional Differences Between Enterprises
  1. Proprietorship – one person business
  2. Partnership – more than one owner. Stat. Def. (RUPA § 202(a)) – an association of two or more persons to carry on as co-owners a business for profit.
    Several types:
    1. General
    2. Limited
    3. Other specialties – limited liability, etc.
  3. Limited Liability Company – non-incorporated company; used to exist in US in early days.
  4. Corporation
*Different forms lend to different businesses' needs. Enterprises consisting of multiple forms are common. (eg. A corporation owning an LLC and a proprietorship)

Agency[edit]

Definition of Agency[edit]

The relationship between individual actors and the entity for which they act. Has legal implications:

  1. Authority: A is empowered with the ability to bind P
  2. Liability: P is liable for A’s conduct (sometimes even outside A's granted scope of power)
  3. Fiduciary Duties: A must exercise loyalty & care in acting on P's behalf
  4. Agency law: Uniform principles apply (though may be contracted around)
Three principal forms:
  1. Principal-Agent:
  2. Master-Servant:
  3. Employer & Independent Contractor:

Formation of Agency[edit]

Manifestation of consent by one person to another that the other shall act subject to his control on his behalf with consent by the other to so act. No intent to create agency relationship required for formation.

Gorton v. Doty (ID 1937) - Principal loans car to Coach to drive kids to game. Δ wasn't compensated nor was she the coach's employer.

H: Coach was agent of Principal. Principal invited coach to conditionally act on her behalf, which he consented to.
N: To find agency, no need for a K, or explicit promise to act as an agent as such, nor compensation.

Gay Jenson Farms v. Cargill (MN 1981) - Cargill finances & exercises some control over WG&S, who defaults on grain sale payments to farmers.

H: By its control & influence over WG&S, Cargill became Principal with liability for WG&S's transactions. Agency may be proven by circumstantial evidence of a course of dealing btwn P & A demonstrating mutual consent to agency relationship. Business relations & aggressive financing (including positive covenants/duties) provided sufficient evidence for a jury to find agency relationship.
N: Here, Cargill was more than a mere financier (active business participant, imposed positive covenants.

Agency & its liability implications arise out of parties' conduct (how they act, communicate, and behave toward 3rd parties), not their intentions or formalities.

Authority of Agent[edit]

General Principle of Determining Authority: It is a negotiator's responsibility to verify the extent of his co-negotiator's authority to act on another's behalf (Caveat emptor-esque. Harsh.) Three kinds of authority may be found: (1) Actual, (2) Apparent, & (3) Inherent

Actual Authority – A reasonably prudent Agent would be lead by P's conduct to believe that P had granted particular authority to A

Express - Authority extended by making an oral or written expression
Written authorization (power of attorney, for ex.) sometimes required (SoFrauds).
Implied – Authority extended by practical (or incidental) necessity to accomplish other delegated duties. Determined by looking at:
  1. A's Reasonably Prudent Understanding of his own Authority (based on P's present & past conduct),
  2. The Nature of the Task Assigned, &
  3. Similar Prior Practices
Mill St. Church v. Hogan (KY 1990) - Church hires BH to do maintenance, but too much for one. BH discusses hiring help with Church. BH hires bro, who is paid for work. Bro then injured & seeks workers' comp.
H: Implied Authority. 1) Discussed hiring help ahead of time, 2) Help was necessary to complete the job, & 3) BH was previously permitted to hire bro & others.
R: Past conduct & necessity provided substantial evidence of implied actual authority, but court may also have been swayed in equity to injured bro. Not a bright line rule.

Apparent Authority – A reasonably prudent 3rd Party would be lead by P's conduct to believe that P had granted particular authority to A

Absent notice to the contrary, a 3rd party is reasonable in believing that an agent is authorized to do all that is usual & proper to conduct business in the position P has assigned him.
Mitigates harshness of General Principle above
Lind v. Schenly Industries (3rd Cir. 1960) - VP promotes Lind & sends him to K about compensation. K, sales-manager, tells Lind he'll receive 1% sales commission (though K had no authority to set salaries). Schenly Pres recognized this would be owed to Lind, but never said so himself & subsequently refused to pay, saying K hadn't authority to promise it.
H: VP told Lind he could see K about salary & himself confirmed the 1% sales commission, thus creating Apparent Authority. Schenly must pay commission owed.
R: Could have all been avoided with a written K.
370 v. Ampex (5th Cir. 1976) - During negs between 370 & K, an Ampex salesman, K's supervisor directed K to issue 370 an offer. 370 accepted, though a clause required final acceptance from Ampex. K's supervisor sent a memo to K naming him pointman on the deal & K sent a delivery confirmation to 370 (implying authority to complete the contract).
H: Pointman-assignment memo (implying authority to accept offer), confirmation letter (implying offer's acceptance), & K's title & treatment as salesmen, all lead 370 to the reasonable belief that Ampex granted its salesman authority to contractually bind it. If K was w/o such authority, Ampex had a duty to communicate that to 370.
R: Ampex delayed in rejecting offer, leaving K to negotiate unsupervised for too long.

Inherent Agency Power – A reasonably prudent 3rd Party would be lead by a customary interpretation of A's position to believe that P had granted particular authority to A

Absent notice to the contrary, P is liable for all of A's actions within the customary authority usually confided to such an agent.
Three kinds of actions by agents covered under inherent authority:
  1. Those similar to what he is authorized to do, but in violation of orders
  2. Those he has been authorized to do, but now does for his own purposes
  3. Those he is currently authorized to do, but in deviation from the authorized method
Watteau v. Fenwick (QB 1892) - Fenwick privately bought H's business, hiring H as manager (leaving license & business in H's name). H's authority limited to buying bottled ales & mineral water. H defaulted on payments to Watteau for other items.
H: Where A is held out as sole proprietor, silent P is liable for A's actions in that capacity.
R: Looks like apparent authority, but no conduct by (or even knowledge of) P is necessary.
Kidd v. Edison, (SDNY 1917) - F hired Kidd to sing in a series of “tone test” recitals w/o conditions on Edison's behalf. Edison only authorized F to engage Kidd for such recitals as he could later persuade record dealers to book her (and pay her).
H: Learned hand creates "inherent authority" (though referred as apparent here). Customarily, an employer is without limitation in the terms by which he may hire an employee. Absent notice to the contrary, a 3rd person is reasonable in believing that an agent has the authority to bind the principal in the manner customary to the agent's position.
R: Often cited as a source of the inherent authority doctrine.
Nogales Service Center v. Atlantic Richfield (AZ 1980) - After entering K with JT, AR's truckstop marketing manager, Nogales borrowed 300K to build a truck stop. AR never pays up, claiming JT neither informed them nor had authority to make such a deal.
H: P may be liable for conduct they never desired to persons they never encountered. Unlike Apparent Authority, Inherent Authority needs no conduct by P witnessed by the 3rd party.
R: Hovers between inherent agency power & apparent authority. Courts may find liability under one category or another, but this won't reduce the protection.

When P hires A to carry out activity, this activity carries with it not just immediately contemplatable costs, but also reasonably foreseeable costs which should be visited upon the P b/c:

It is a necessary component of employing the agent
He is in the best position to distribute the costs.

The employer takes the risk that his agent will go beyond his given powers.

Obligations & Liability[edit]

Ratification, Estoppel & Agent’s Liability[edit]

When an unauthorized Agent enters into a K purportedly binding P ...

  • ... if the fully-informed P subsequently accepts or partially performs, then K is valid & P is bound to it. (Ratification)
  • ... if transaction was conspicuous & P failed to intervene, then P is liable for 3rd party's losses. (Estoppel)
  • ... if P's identity was not fully disclosed by A, then K is valid & A is bound to it. (Agent's Liability)
Ratification (subsequent authority substitute)
P may validate & bind himself to the K through subsequent consent or part performance with full knowledge of the material consequences.
Caveat: Ratification of a K still requires consideration
Boticello v. Stefanovicz (CT 1979) - M & W Stefanovicz held property as tenants in common. Boticello signs lease w/option to purchase with WS, but WS never represented that he was acting for his wife, MS. B moved in, made payments, improved property, & exercised option. MS refused. B argues W acted as M's agent & W ratified by accepting payment.
H: No Agency or Ratification. Neither marital status nor joint land ownership are evidence of an agency relationship. None of the facts (occupation, use, improvement, payment) are sufficient to support ratification of an option contract.
Estoppel (detrimental reasonable reliance)
P owes a duty of care & vigilance to protect 3rd parties from impostors posing as agents in P's place of business. Dereliction of this duty occurs where Where an impostor agent is permitted to conspicuously transact business with a patron that had no reason to suspect otherwise, dereliction of duty enables.
Two ways to conceptualize this: 1) Ratification by omission or 2) Extension of Inherent Authority doctrine
Hoddeson v. Koos Bros (App Div 1957) - Pretend salesman accepts customer's money for furniture sale.
H: Estoppel. Impostor permitted to wander sales floor engaging in misrepresentation & unauthorized transactions without interference.
N: Inherent Agency here as well (though not argued). Liability for impostors permitted to linger in protected location. Of course, impostor would be liable to P if found.
Unauthorized Agent’s Liability for K's made
An unauthorized agent is a party to the K. To avoid personal liability on a contract entered into on another's behalf, an agent must not only disclose that he is acting in a representative capacity, but also the actual identity of his principal.
Atlantic Salmon A/S v. Curran (MA 1992) - Atlantic delivers salmon to Curran, Treasurer of Boston Seafood Exc. Turns out, no such company. Curran was Pres, Treas, & SH of Marketing Designs, dissolved at time of the K. Prior to K, Curran had filed a name certification for Market Designs to operate as BSX, and MD reincorporated the following year. Curran argues he was merely Marketing Design's agent & can't be personally liable.
H: Public records of P's identity at county clerk's office are insufficient to satisfy disclosure. Actual (or perhaps a reasonable equivalent to) knowledge is required.
N: Presumption is that if A knows there is no principal, then A means to be held liable.

Obligations in Tort - Scope of Employment[edit]

Independent Contractors (Agents vs. Non-Agents)

P is liable for torts resulting from A's negligent acts, b/c P was in a position to mitigate them.

An independent contractor is an agent, if P retains control over his day-to-day operations.
Where contractor operates with broad discretion, bearing his own risks & losses, he is a non-agent.
Where contractor operates with minimal discretion, acting as a mere extension of P, he is an agent. .
Humble Oil v. Martin (TX 1949) - Accident resulting from a Humble Oil-affiliated gas station operator's negligence. Humble controlled the gas station's financial decisions (except hirings), property, supply lines, & set station hours. Are Humble & the gas station in a master/servant relationship, agency relationship, or non-agent independent contractors?
H: Humble Oil was master of gas station employees (yielded minimal discretion). As master, Humble is liable for torts committed by employees.
N: Humble screwed by own demand to micromanage.
Hoover v. Sun Oil (DE 1965) - Accident resulting from a Sun Oil-affiliated Gas Station operator's negligence. Sun owned station equipment; was exclusive supplier; had their logo on structure & employee uniforms; trained employees; visited weekly to take product orders, inspect facilities, discuss problems, & deal with competitors. However, operator largely used own discretion, set own hours, and bore risks & losses. Are Sun & the gas station in a master/servant relationship, agency relationship, or non-agent independent contractors?
H: Landlord-tenant & independent contractors. An independent contractor only becomes an agent if the oil company has retained the right to control the details of the day-to-day operation of the service station; control or influence over results alone is insufficient. Consultation & advice are not control.

Franchises → Free-standing enterprise owned by franchisees that pay royalties to franchisor in exchange for training, manuals, “know how,” & brand recognition.

Franchisor typically retains rights to inspect & restrict what may be sold.
Agency relationship commonly found as a result of this control.
So, Franchise Ks typically include three clauses requiring franchisee to 1) indemnify the franchisor, 2) purchase insurance coverage, 3) present franchisor with proof of insurance coverage
Murphy v. Holiday Inns, Inc. (VA 1975) - Sues Holiday Inns, Inc. for negligence by franchisee agents. HII had K w/franchisee for “HI system,” including mandatory use of trademark, building specs, & standardized rules & regulations.
H: HII retained no rights to control day-to-day operations, therefore no agency relationship. The regulations in place merely served to achieve system-wide standardization. HII did not set rates, control expenditures, set employee working conditions, or even share profit.
Tort Liability and Apparent Agency
Billops v. Magness Construction (DE 1978) - K to rent space in Magness’ hotel (M). M is a franchisee of Hilton hotels (H; also a Δ). Π sues for tort damages for misconduct of hotel’s employees. Legal issue: is H actually or apparently liable for employees’ misconduct? H issued to the franchisee a detailed & sometimes mandatory operating manual heavily regulating the activities of the M’s hotel. M also had to keep detailed records, allow inspections, & submit to unilateral termination by H. M’s hotel also had the H logo, followed H’s “system,” & Π claims to have relied on H’s reputation.
    1. Holding: 1) If the franchise agreement goes beyond the setting of standards, and allocates to the franchiser the right to exercise control daily operation, an agency relationship exists. There is enough evidence here to deny summary judgment & leave the actual agency issue for trial. 2) Manifestations by the alleged principal which create a reasonable belief in a third party that the alleged agent is authorized to bind the principal create an apparent agency; such manifestations may be made directly to the third party, or may be made to the community (through advertising). To establish a chain of liability based upon apparent agency, a litigant must show reasonable reliance on the indicia of authority originated by the principal. There is material issue of fact as to whether or not this requirement has been met here, & summary judgment is overturned.
    2. Remember: National advertising can lead a court to find apparent authority even if actual authority is lacking.

In Miller v. McDonald's Corp., 945 P.2d 1107 (Or. Ct. App. 1997), the plaintiff sued after biting into a sapphire stone in her Big Mac. She had gone to the restaurant on the assumption that it was owned, controlled and managed by McDonalds. The court held that there was sufficient evidence (of a master/servant relationship) to raise a jury issue on both actual agency (servancy) and apparent agency (servancy) theories.

Apparent servancy - Powerful potential theory to hold franchises strictly liable to torts

Scope of Employment
  1. Ira S. Bushey & Sons, Inc. v. US, 2nd Cir., 1968, p. 61
    1. Facts: A sailor employed by Δ (living on a ship in dry-dock) came home drunk &, by turning some valves on his way to the ship, caused the ship to slide and damage Π’s dock. Π sues Δ (employer) for tort damages. Legal Issue: Is the sailor’s action within the scope of employment?
    2. Holding: Traditionally, an employee’s act is only within the scope of employment if the act “is actuated, at least in part, to serve the master.” This does not provide relief here – the turning of the wheel did not serve his employer. However, the governing principles of tort law are deeply rooted in the sentiment that a business enterprise cannot justly disclaim responsibility for accidents which may be fairly said to be characteristic of its activities. The employer should be expected to cover risks which arise out of and in the course of his employment of labor. Since here it was foreseeable that crew members might do the dry dock some damage when returning home, (especially while drunk as sailors tend to get) liability is extended to the Δ. Liability is limited however to activities of the employer that do not reach into areas where the servant does not create risks different from those attending on the activities of the community in general.
    3. Remember: Same as in the K analysis – employer takes the risk that his servant will do something within as part of their employment which varies enough from the normal acts and leads to liability. It is a cost of doing business through an agent rather than doing it himself.
  2. Manning v. Grimsley, 1st Cir., 1981, p. 66
    1. Facts: Π & others, from behind a fence were continuously heckling G (pitcher for the Orioles, the Δ). At the end of an inning, he looked directly at them & threw the ball toward them; the ball went through the mesh fence & hit the Π in the head. Π sues for battery. Legal issue: can the Π recover damages from an employer for injuries resulting from an employee’s assault?
    2. Holding: Where a Π seeks to recover damages from an employer for injuries resulting from an employee’s assault what must be shown is that the employee’s assault was in response to the Π’s conduct which was presently interfering with the employee’s ability to perform his duties successfully. The jury could have reasonably found that the Π’s heckling could be for the purpose of rattling the Δ’s employee (despite the fact that it was not presently happening).
    3. Remember: Liability for violence may also be borne by the principal – bouncer cases.
Statutory Claims
  1. Arguello v. Conoco, Inc., 5th Cir., 2000, p. 69
    1. Facts: Πs (minority customers) alleged racial discrimination in three incidents; one that occurred at a Conoco-owned store & two that occurred at a Conoco-branded store. Πs argued violation of § 1981, Title II, & state law. Legal issue: was there agency at the Conoco-branded store; at the Conoco-owned store; were the employees acting within the scope of employment? Conoco has power to de-brand stores; handles all customer service; regulates all stores to “treat all customers fairly;” conducts bi-annual inspections. The agreement however defines the branded stores as entities separate from Δ, stating that they are not agents.
    2. Holding: In order to impose liability under § 1981 for discriminatory actions of a third party, the Π must show an agency relationship between Δ & the third party. The K with the branded stores offers guidelines to Conoco-branded stores, but does not establish control over their daily operations. Δ cannot therefore be held responsible for the conduct of those individuals. There is however a master-servant relationship at the Conoco-owned store; to figure out whether an employee’s acts are within the scope of employment one should consider: 1) time, place & purpose of the act (happened during work); 2) similarity to acts which the servant is authorized to perform (some); 3) whether the act is commonly performed by servants (no; but this is not conclusive); 4) the extent of the departure from normal methods; 5) whether the master would expect the act to be performed (no). The evidence is mixed & the fact that Δ’s employee behaved in an unacceptable manner does not put her action outside her scope of employment. Summary judgment should not have been granted on this point.
    3. Remember: Siegel suggests that the court made it harder to find liability than would have been the case had there been a fire or some other accident.
Liability for Torts of Independent Contractors
  1. Majestic Realty Associates, Inc., v. Toti Contracting Co., N.J., 1959, p. 76
    1. Facts: Π sought compensation for actions of T from the corporation itself, as well as from the city of Paterson, NJ. Paterson hired T to demolish a building adjacent to Π’s. Due to some carelessness (a little debateable) on T’s part, damage was caused to Π’s building. T was an independent contractor for Paterson. Legal issue: Can the Π recover from the city of Paterson for the tort committed by an independent contractor?
    2. Holding: Where a person engages a contractor, who conducts an independent business, to do work not in itself a nuisance, he is not liable for the negligent acts of the contractor in the performance of the contract. There are exceptions: a) where the person maintains control of the manner and means of doing work; b) where he engages an incompetent contractor; c) where the activity contracted for constitutes a nuisance per se. The court suggests that “incompetent” could refer to a contractor without liability insurance, but where drops the issue because the Π made no such claim. It also suggests that something is a nuisance per se when it is “inherently dangerous,” ie any activity which can be carried on safely only by the exercise of special skill or care and which involves grave risk of danger or property if negligently done.
    3. Remember: generally employers are not liable for the injuries caused by independent contractors. The exceptions:
      1. Property owners have a duty not to injure a passerby (even if injury is caused by independent K working on the property)
      2. In cases where the conduct undertaken carries with it an inherent/elevated risk of injury to the public that risk is non-delegable.

Fiduciary Obligations of Agents[edit]

The Basics
  1. P entrusts some activities to A, in return for which A gets compensated and owes some obligations to P
  2. Fiduciary duty has two large components:
    1. Duty of Loyalty. Can be divided into two:
      1. Negative – duty not to engage in conduct that is competitive with or damaging to the principal’s business.
      2. Affirmative – duty to render onto the principal all the benefit acquired during the scope of the employment.
    2. Duty of Care – duty to try and do one’s job properly (no gross negligence)
Duties During Agency
  1. Reading v. Regem, KB, 1948, p 81
    1. Facts: R was a soldier. He, in his uniform would get on the back of a truck (whose contents he did not know) and escort it through Cairo. He did this several times and was paid a lot of money. He was thrown out of the army & the authorities took possession of the money. R sues to recover the moneys.
    2. Holding: If the servant has unjustly enriched himself by virtue of his service, without the master’s sanction, the law says that he ought not be allowed to keep the money, but it shall be taken from him and given to his master, because he got it solely by reason of the position which he occupied as a servant to his master. It does not matter that the master has lost no profit or suffered no damage. There was no fiduciary relationship here (though such situations would be treated the same way). This is to be distinguished however from the case where the service merely gives the opportunity of making money (say where the employee is gambling during work hours). In such a case, the master/fiduciary would only be entitled to K damages.
    3. Remember: Under K law, Δ would not be able to keep the money; but Π’s affirmative fiduciary duty forces him to disgorge profits acquired during scope of employment to Δ.
  2. General Automotive Manufacturing Co. v. Singer, Wis., 1963, p. 84
    1. Facts: GAM is suing S, a former employee to account for secret profits the latter received while in GAM’s employ. S was hired as a general manager of business and affairs, and signed a K promising “not to engage in any other business of a permanent nature during the terms of employment” and to “devote his entire time, skill, labor and attention to said employment.” S solicited work from GAM; he attracted so much business that S decided it could not all be done by GAM. He never informed GAM of this, but rather gave the work to other machine shops, acting as a broker for profit.
    2. Holding: S breached his K and his obligation as a faithful agent/employee. S had a fiduciary duty to exercise the utmost good faith and loyalty so that he did not act adversely to the interests of GAM by serving private interests of his own. S was bound to act for the furtherance and advancement of the interest of GAM. S had the duty to exercise good faith by disclosing to GAM all the facts regarding his side business. Upon disclosure it was at GAM’s discretion to refuse to accept the orders, and the profit, if any would belong to GAM. By failing to disclose & receiving secret profits, S violated his fiduciary duty to act solely for the benefit of GAM. He is therefore liable to GAM for the profits he earned in his side line business.
    3. Remember: Siegel says that if S had been a painter in his free time, & sold those paintings, S would not be liable for their value (though not impossible). If the nature of the opportunity is such that it falls within the scope of employment however, the employee is liable.
    4. Remember II: Fiduciary obligation here extends way beyond the K; it provides more than mere liability for back pay. Employer has no fiduciary duty toward employee.
  3. Town & Country House & Home Service, Inc. v. Newbery, NY, 1958, p. 88
    1. Facts: Δs were in Π’s employ as house cleaners. There was no non-compete clause in K. Customers of the Π were meticulously screened and procured & the pricing scheme took years to be developed. After three years of operation, Δs resigned from their employment by Π & began to solicit Π’s customers (and only those customers).
    2. Holding: Even where a solicitor of business does not operate fraudulently under the banner of his former employer, he may not solicit the latter’s customers who are not openly engaged in business in advertised locations or whose availability as patrons cannot be readily ascertained but whose trade and patronage have been secured by years of business effort and advertising, and the expenditure of time and money, constituting a part of the good will of a business which enterprise and foresight have built up. The Π is entitled to enjoin Δ from further solicitation of customers & is entitled to profits or damage for those that were already enticed away.


Partnerships[edit]

Background Information[edit]

The Federal Framework
  1. Under US law internal relations among the parties in a business association are determined by state law ⇒ a partnership in one state must be recognized by the others under the FF&C clause of the Constitution.
  2. Internal affairs doctrine – the law applicable to the enterprise is the law of its state of establishment (when conflict of laws issue arises).
  3. Each state has different laws governing these enterprises, though some uniformity is found through the RUPA & the RULPA; even so in practice judicial interpretation diverges.
  4. Federal securities laws overlay state laws.
RUPA § 103

Section (a) provides that, with a few exceptions, relations among the partners and between the partners and the partnership are governed by the PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT. If the partnership agreement does not cover the issue, the RUPA is the default for governing relations among the partners & between the partners and the partnership.

  1. This is a warning sign – there can never be one-size fits all solutions for all problems ⇒ if you want to avoid some uncomfortable results & uncertainty, make a partnership agreement.
  2. Exceptions to § 103(a) are few. This ensures that mutually beneficial agreements are enforced; it prevents anarchy/too much ambiguity in case of disputes.
  3. This section ensures that the partnership is a catchall hole; § 103 fills in the terms of an agreement if you don’t make an agreement AND even if the partners do not intend to create/think they are in a partnership.

Section (b) provides a list of exceptions, most of which seem to be laid down in order to protect third parties or a weak party within a partnership. Notably, the PA cannot:

  1. Unreasonably restrict the right of access to books and records under § 403(b)
  2. Eliminate the duty of loyalty under § 404(b) or 603(b)(3)
    1. But it can identify specific categories of activities that don’t violate the duty of loyalty.
  3. Partner can ratify, after full disclosure, a specific act or transaction that violated the duty of loyalty by unanimity or as provided in the PA.
  4. Unreasonably reduce the duty of care under § 404(c) or 603(b)(3)
  5. Eliminate the obligation of good faith and fair dealing under 404(d), though the PA may prescribe guidelines so long as they are not unreasonable
  6. Vary the power to disassociate as a partner under § 602(a)
  7. Vary the right of a court to expel a partner under § 601(5)
  8. Vary the requirement to wind up the partnership business under § 801(4)-(6)
  9. Restrict the rights of third parties under this Act.
RUPA § 101 defines key terms.
Most importantly, subsection (6) defines a partnership as an “association of two or more persons to carry on as co-owners a business for profit.”
RUPA § 201 states that a partnership is an entity distinct from its partners.
What types of businesses are usually partnerships?
  1. Real Estate
  2. Professional Groups (lawyers, doctors)
  3. Start-ups

Is There A Partnership?[edit]

  1. § 202 of the RUPA provides guidelines for when a partnership is/is not created.
    1. § 202(a) states that “the association of two or more persons to carry on as co-owners a business for profit forms a partnership, whether or not the persons intend to form a partnership.”
    2. § 202(c) creates the following presumptions:
      1. Joint tenancies, tenancies in common, tenancy by entirety, joint property, etc. do not by themselves establish a partnership, even if co-owners share the profit.
      2. The sharing of gross returns does not by itself establish a partnership
      3. A person who receives a share of the profits is presumed to be a partner unless the profits were received in payment
        1. of a debt
        2. for services as an independent contractor or of wages or other compensation to an employee
        3. of rent
        4. of an annuity or other retirement benefit to some designee of the retired partner
        5. of interest on a loan
        6. for the sale of goodwill of a business.
  2. Fenwick v. Unemployment Compensation Commission, NJ, 1945, p. 92 I. [Partners v. Employees]
    1. Facts: F owned a beauty shop, employing C. C wanted more money, so an agreement was entered into which stated that “the parties associate themselves into a partnership;” F provided the capital; F had management and control; F alone was to be liable for debts; profits were to be split 80(F)-20(C). Legal issue: is there a partnership?
    2. Holding: Elements that have been taken into consideration to see if there is a partnership agreement: 1) the intent of the parties; 2) the right to share profits (suggests partnership); 3) obligation to share in the losses (suggests partnership); 4) shared ownership and control of partnership property (suggests partnership); 5) community of power in administration (suggests partnership); 6) language of the agreement; 7) conduct of the parties toward 3rd persons (filing partnership income tax); 8) rights of parties in dissolution. Because there was no shared ownership/control, because the intent of the agreement seemed more compensational, because obligation for losses was not shared & because the rights in dissolution were similar to the employment context, there is not partnership here.
    3. Remember: The Π here would probably fit into § 202(c)(3)(ii) of RUPA.
  3. Martin v. Peyton, NY, 1927, p. 97 [Partners v. Lenders]
    1. Facts: Π is a creditor of KN&K (investment firm). Δs claim to be creditors, but Π claims they are actually partners. KN&K was in financial difficulties; H was a partner there & a friend of P; H obtained a loan of 500K from P in liberty bonds; P & other Δs were offered partnership by H, but refused; Δs loaned a total of 2.5 mil in securities; in compensation, respondents were to receive 40% of the firm’s profits until securities were returned. Δs also included a provision which put management of KN&K in the hands of H; it required H to take out life insurance worth 1 mil, and use it as collateral for Δ’s loan; Δs were also to be consulted as to important matters, to be allowed to inspect books, and to veto highly speculative transactions; Δs had each member of KN&K assign to them their interest in the firm; Δs had to option to join the firm; Δs also took lots of collateral. Finally, they had every member of the firm give a letter of resignation to Mr. Hall, which could be “activated” by the Δs. Legal issue: are Δs partners or creditors?
    2. Holding: Partnership results from K, express or implied. What we have here is a loan of securities with a provision for compensation that also includes certain protections for the lenders; there is nothing to imply association in the business. The Δs could not bind the firm in any way, and the degree of the relationship between them KN&K is not such that a partnership is found.
    3. Remember: P’s problem was that he was getting involved with an existing general partnership – this would not have been a problem had he been doing it with a corporation or a limited partnership. § 202(a) is so broad that it makes it easy to drag additional people into the partnership. Siegel’s solution: indemnification & insurance for the small fish/risky business.
  4. Southex Exhibitions, Inc. v. Rhode Island Builders Association, Inc., 1st Cir., 2002, p. 102
    1. Facts: SEM & RIBA entered into an agreement, renewable every 5 years, in which RIBA agreed to: sponsor & endorse home shows produced by SEM; persuade RIBA members to exhibit at those shows; permit SEM to use RIBA’s name for promotional purposes. SEM agreed to: obtain all necessary licenses & do paperwork; indemnify RIBA for show-related losses; audit show income; advance all the capital req’d to finance shows; split profits 55% SEM – 45% RIBA. The agreement also required all show dates, admission prices & that a bank be chosen by mutual determination. The exec of SEM originally made statements describing himself as a producer of the show rather than a “partner.” The preamble of the agreement names the firms as partners. The agreement was allowed to expire in 1999, and RIBA hired another producer. SEM claims that a partnership was formed, and that RIBA breached its fiduciary duty by wrongfully dissolving the partnership.
    2. Holding: Under RI law, the receipt by a person of a share of the profits is prima facie evidence that he is a partner. The fact that there is profit-sharing does not compel a finding of a partnership however; rather the existence of a partnership must be assessed under a “totality of circumstances” test. The finding of the lower court here of a non-partnership is not clearly erroneous because: the agreement is not titled “partnership agreement,” the duration is indefinite, parties did not agree to share capital costs & obligations for losses. The management wasn’t shared, there was not common name to the partnership, nor did the parties represent themselves as one entity. The use of the term “partners” is not dispositive, especially in light of the statements of the SEM exec.
    3. Remember: As this case shows, § 202(c)(3)’s presumption is rebuttable. This case could have gone either way however; the key here was the explicit provision that there would be no sharing of losses & the time-limited K.
  5. Young v. Jones, DSC, 1992, p. 107 [Partnership by Estoppel]
    1. Facts: Π deposited money in a SC bank; PWC-Bahamas issued an audit letter on a financial statement on the basis of which the Π made the deposit. The money disappeared and the financial statement was falsified. Legal issue: Is PWC-US an actual partner or a partner by estoppel of PWC-Bahamas (thus making PWC-US liable)? The letterhead on the audit identified the company only as “Price Waterhouse.” Δs PW-US & PW-Bahamas deny that a partnership exists. PW-US advertises itself as a global firm.
    2. Holding: There is nothing to suggest an actual partnership between the two firms. As a general rule, persons who are not partners to each other are not partners as to third persons. However, a person who represents himself, or permits another to represent him, to anyone as a partner in an existing partnership or with others not actual partners, is liable to any such person to whom such a representation is made who was, on the faith of the representation, given credit to the actual or apparent partnership. The Π did not rely on Δ’s advertising; nor did the Π “give credit” to the PW-US partnership. The facts do not support a finding of liability for partners by estoppel.
    3. Remember: Siegel called this a surprising decision that would not necessary be decided in the same way today.

Fiduciary Duties of Partners[edit]

  1. RUPA Fiduciary Duties:
    1. § 404(a) states that the only fiduciary duties a partner owes to the partnership and the other partners are the duty of loyalty and the duty of care set fort in 404(b) & 404(c).
    2. Duty of Loyalty Under § 404(b):
      1. Account to the partnership for any property, profit, or benefit derived by the partner in the conduct, and wining up of the partnership.
      2. Refrain from dealing with the partnership in the conduct or winding up as or on behalf of a party having an interest adverse to the partnership.
      3. Refrain from competing with the partnership b/f dissolution
    3. Duty of Care Under § 404(c):
      Duty of care is (during conduct or winding up) is limited to “refraining from engaging in grossly negligent or reckless conduct, intentional misconduct, or knowing violation of the law.
    4. § 404(d) obligates partners to discharge the duties to the partnership and other partners (under the PA or under the RUPA) and to exercise any right consistently with the obligation of good faith and fair dealing.
    5. § 404(e) is a disclaimer which states that a partner does not violate a duty merely b/c the partner’s conduct furthers the partner’s own interest.
  2. Meinhard v. Salmon, NY, 1928, p. 111 [Fiduciary Duty of Partners]
    1. Facts: G leased to Δ a building for 20 yrs. Π provided half of the moneys requisite to redo the property. S & M shared profits & losses, but Δ had sole power to manage. When the lease was about to expire (4 months away), G approached S, and released the property, with several adjacent buildings, to a company owned by S. S told M nothing of this lease. M found out, and demanded that the lease be held in trust as assent of the venture, but S refused.
    2. Holding: The parties agree that the two, M&S, were coadventurers subject to fiduciary duties akin to those of partners. Many actions permissible in a workaday world for those acting at arm’s length are forbidden for those with fiduciary ties. The pre-emptive opportunity that the lease provided was an incident of the enterprise; S appropriated it to himself in secrecy and silence. The very fact that S was in control of the exclusive powers of direction charged him the more obviously with the duty of disclosure, since only through disclosure could opportunity be equalized. By excluding his coadventurer from any chance to compete for this K, S forces the court to extend the trust (over the lease) at the option and for the benefit of the excluded partner. The issue however, would have been decided differently if there was no nexus of relation between the business conducted by the manager and the opportunity brought to him as an incident of management (like if the second lease had been for another building).
    3. Remember: Full disclosure of opportunities is required by the holding of this case. § 404 of RUPA sets out the general standards of partner’s conduct (§ 404 (b)(1) would seem to cover this case). Though this duty of loyalty may not be “eliminated” § 103(b)(3) allows it to a partnership to practically remove the requirement through the partnership agreement.
    4. Remember II: § 404(a) is a strong repudiation of this case. The duty of care is limited to refraining from engaging in grossly negligent conduct, intentional misconduct, or knowing violations of the law. This provision allows partners to take some risks (in order to make a profit). The partner is NOT a trustee of the partnership’s assets!
  3. Bane v. Ferguson, 7th Cir. 1989, p. 117 [Fiduciary Duty After Dissociation]
    1. Facts: Π retired from firm formerly run by Δs (managing partners). Firm had established a pension plan for retired partners, which would be honored unless the firm dissolved without successor entity. The firm merged with another after Π’s retirement, failed, and dissolved. Π alleges that Δs negligently managed the firm by steering it into this merger and for other actions.
    2. Holding: Π has no basis for his claim. There is no cause of action under RUPA; there is no common law fiduciary that the Δs owe the Π. A partner is a fiduciary of his partners, but not of his former partners, for the withdrawal of a partner terminates the partnership as to him. Even if Δs were fiduciaries of the Π, the business-judgment rule would shield them from liability for mere negligence in the operation of the firm.
  4. Meehan v. Shaughnessy, Mass., 1989, p. 119 [Grabbing & Leaving – Duty of Loyalty & the Obligation to Act in Good Faith]
    1. Facts: Πs were partners at Δ firm. They left the firm; they are being counterclaimed with a claim that they violated their fiduciary duties. Δs claim that Πs engaged in improper conduct by: 1) handling cases for their own benefit; 2) secretly competing; 3) unfairly acquiring clients from their firm. Δs decided to establish own firm 6 months in advance. They asked others to join them; they signed a lease; prepared to contact clients; contacted some clients; denied that they intended to leave the firm. They then gave notice and began contacting clients, removing a number of cases and clients.
    2. Holding: Partners owe each other a fiduciary duty of the utmost good faith and loyalty. They must consider their partner’s welfare and refrain from acting for purely private gain. Πs did not handle cases for their own benefit. Nor did they secretly compete; fiduciaries may plan to compete with the entity to which they owe allegiance, provided that in the course of such arrangements they do not otherwise act in violation of their fiduciary duties. Πs did however breach their fiduciary duty by unfairly acquiring consent from clients to remove cases. Through their actions in removing clients from the firm, Δs obtained an unfair advantage over their former partners in breach of their fiduciary duties (they lied about planning to leave; they secretly planned to remove clients and met with them; they sent a one-sided announcement on company letterhead to the clients)
    3. Remember: The violation here was the initial, unfair & prejudicial manner in which the Πs contacted clients. If they had first publicly announced their departure & then began contacting clients, they probably would have been fine.
  5. Lawlis v. Kightlinger & Gray, Ind., 1990, p. 127 [Expulsion]
    1. Facts: Π was a senior partner at Δ firm. He became alcoholic, but recovered. When he recovered and attempted to regain full responsibilities, the executive committee decided to let him go (with necessary transition time). He refused the deal, and was expelled by vote as a result (the agreement requires 2/3 vote for such an act). He claims the expulsion was done in violation of the agreement or in bad faith (to increase partner-associate ratio) or of fiduciary duties.
    2. Holding: Where the remaining partners in a firm deem it necessary to expel a partner under a no cause expulsion clause in a partnership agreement freely negotiated and entered into, the expelling partners act in good faith regardless of motivation if that act does not cause a wrongful withholding of money or property legally due the expelled partner at the time he is expelled. The Π was properly expelled according to the agreement & the terms of the UPA. There is no evidence of bad faith here.
    3. Remember: Under § 601(3) a partner may be expelled pursuant the partnership agreement; under § 601(4) he may be expelled by unanimous vote in certain circumstances.

Partnership Property[edit]

  1. RUPA on Partnership Property & Transferrability:
    1. § 501 categorically states that a partner is not a co-owner of partnership property and that he has no interest in partnership property which can be transferred.
    2. § 502 limits the transferable interest of a partner in a partnership to the partner’s share of profits and losses of the partner’s right to receive distributions.
    3. § 503 provides some details about the rights and obligations of transferor/transfer & of the partnership toward those parties.
  2. Putnam v. Shoaf, Tenn., 1981, p. 134
    1. Facts: Π wanted to be relieved of the debts of the partnership, and transferred her interest in the real and personal property of the partnership to the Δ. She also entered into an agreement with her partner, dissolving the partnership and acknowledging the conveyance of her interest in the partnership. After taking over, Δs filed and won damages based on accounting fraud committed by partnership’s accountant. Π sues, claiming a share.
    2. Holding: Under the UPA, Π’s partnership rights consisted of her 1) rights in specific partnership property; 2) interest in the partnership; and 3) interest in the management. The right in “specific partnership property” is the partnership tenancy possessory right of equal use of possessory partners for partnership purposes. The partnership owns the property or the asset; a conveyance of partnership property held in the name of the partnership is made in the name of the partnership and not as a conveyance of the individual interests of the partners. The issue therefore is whether she intended to convey her interest in the partnership & Π did. The interest in the real property was and always remained in the partnership; she conveyed her interest in the partnership.
    3. Remember: RUPA makes this clearer than the UPA. § 201(a) states that “a partnership is an entity distinct for its partners.” § 203 goes further: “property acquired by a partnership is property of the partnership and not of the partners individually.” But, partners pay tax on profits individually.

Financial Rights of Partners[edit]

  1. Interest in Capital
    1. RUPA requires that each partnership maintain a capital account. see § 401(a). The capital account is increased for any partner by the contribution made by that partner. § 401(a)(1)
      1. Distributions of profit & share of losses are deducted from the account. § 401(a)(2)
      2. Negative account means personal liability for partner.
    2. Raising Capital for The Partnership:
      Cost overruns are regular occurrences ⇒ it is important to design a partnership agreement so that additional capital may be raised.
  2. Interest in Profit:
    1. Default under § 401(b) is that all partners share equally in losses and profits. This is can be changed however under § 103.
    2. There is no compensation for services, unless those services are rendered during winding up § 401(h).
  3. A partner is not entitled to remuneration for services performed for the partnership, expect for reasonable compensation for services rendered in winding up the business of the partnership.
  4. Upon dissolution, § 401(b) states that all losses are shared in proportion to profits.

Management Rights of Partners[edit]

  1. RUPA: § 401(f) provides the default – partners have equal rights in management.
    1. This makes sense because:
      1. § 301 – all partners are agents of the partnership
      2. § 401(b) – partners share profits & losses
    2. Under § 401(j):
      1. A dispute as to an act within the ordinary course of business may be decided by a majority vote.
      2. An act outside the ordinary course of business can only be taken with the consent of all the partners
      3. Amendments to the PA also require unanimous approval of all partners.
  2. National Biscuit Company v. Stroud, N.C., 1959, p. 142 [Management Rights of Partners]
    1. Facts: Two partners; Δ advises Π that he would not be responsible for any additional orders. The other partner orders Π’s product & sells it. Partnership is dissolved and Δ agreed to cover all liabilities. Π sues to recover cost of product (Δ refuses to pay).
    2. Holding: Each partner has the power to bind the partnership in any matter legitimate to the business. If one partner goes to a third person to buy an article on the partnership’s credit, the other partner cannot prevent it by writing to the third person on credit. Only where a partner has in fact no authority to act for the partnership in the particular matter and the person with whom he is dealing has knowledge of the fact that he has no such authority can the partner’s actions be non-binding on the partnership. Any difference arising as to the ordinary matters of business may be decided by a majority of partners; Δ in this case had no authority to bind the other partner’s actions; both had equal management powers; he cannot form a majority. Δ is bound by the other partner’s actions.
    3. Remember: Agreement could have been written to give management authority to just one person. Rights to buy bread could not be denied anyways without unanimity – it is an act outside the ordinary course of business 401(j). Ordinary course of business would be only the decision to buy bread. Dissolution would be the only way to stop the partner above (or by putting such provisions in the original agreement).
  3. Summers v. Dooley, Idaho, 1971, p. 144 [Management Rights of Partners]
    1. Facts: Π & Δ were partners. Π approached Δ about hiring another employee; Δ refused, but Π did it anyways, paying him out of his own pocket. Δ refused to pay for the new employee out of the partnership funds. Summers continued to operate the business using the partnership funds & sued asking the court to compel the Δ to pay half the cost of the employee.
    2. Holding: A majority of the partners did not consent to the hiring of a third man. The court construes the UPA provision as stating that business differences must be decided by a majority of the partners provided no other agreement between the partners speaks to the issues. Therefore, cannot recover for an expense incurred individually and not for the benefit of the partnership.
    3. Remember: Here voicing objection is enough to keep the partnership from being liable. Just shows that the § 401(j) requirement can be interpreted as both prohibiting any action in the ordinary course of business to which there is disagreement, or as allowing any action within the ordinary course of business which is not prohibited by majority vote.
  4. Day v. Sidley Austin, DDC, 1977, p. 146 [Management Rights of Partners]
    1. Facts: Π was a partner at Δ firm, and chair of their DC office. Firm entered an agreement to merge with another firm; as a part of the merger, firms would appoint co-chairmen in the DC office. Π objected to decisions made by the joint committee and resigned. Π argues that he had the right to remain sole chair of DC office & that the firm actively misrepresented itself as the merger process was advancing.
    2. Holding: Π had no legal right to the chairmanship of the Washington office. There was no provision in the partnership agreement granting Π such a right. SA’s executive committee was allowed to create control or eliminate firm committees at any point. Under the agreement the executive committee also had the power to conduct mergers without amendment to the partnership agreement ⇒ even if firm misrepresented, a change in Π’s vote would not have mattered (the merger was approved overwhelmingly). Finally, the firm had no fiduciary duty to disclose information as to changes in the internal structure of the firm; concealment is only a breach when it applies to profit/loss issues.
    3. Remember: Courts will enforce an agreement.

Dissociation & Partnership Dissolution[edit]

  1. Basic Principles:
    1. The court will generally enforce the dissolution/dissociation provisions of the partnership agreement ⇒ the trick is figuring out what the limits of the statute are and keeping the agreement within these limits.
    2. The court does however have the power to offer fairly creative equitable remedies ⇒ must be careful with drafting.
    3. If no partnership agreement exists, or is the issue is not covered in the agreement, RUPA fills in the gap.
  2. Important Definitions:
    1. Dissociation – the separation of a partner or partners from the partnership
    2. Dissolution – commencement of the winding up process; once it has taken place, the partnership continues merely for the limited purpose of winding up the business
    3. Winding up – selling of property and splitting of proceeds between partners.
  3. RUPA on Dissociation:
    1. A partner is disassociated when one of the following happens (§ 601):
      1. The partner gives the partnership notice of express will to withdraw as a partner
      2. An event agreed to in the partnership agreement as causing the partner’s dissociation takes place (term of years, or retirement age, for example)
      3. Expulsion
        1. Pursuant to Agreement
        2. By unanimous vote of other partners if:
          1. It’s unlawful to transact business with that partner
          2. There has been a transfer of all or substantially all of the partner’s transferable interest
        3. On application by the partnership for a partner’s expulsion by judicial termination b/c:
          1. Of wrongful conduct that adversely and materially affected the partnership business
          2. The partner willfully or persistently committed a material breach of the partnership agreement or of a duty owed to the partnership or the other partners under § 404
          3. The partner engaged in conduct relating to the partnership business which makes it not reasonably practicable to carry on the business
          4. Financial troubles (see p. 178) of the partner being disassociated
          5. Death or judicial determination of incapability of performing partner’s duties
          6. Additional reasons not mentioned in class – p. 178-179
    2. A partner has the power to disassociate at any time, rightfully or wrongfully, by express will pursuant to § 601(1) – express will to withdraw. § 602(a).
    3. A partner’s dissociation is wrongful only if (§ 602(b)):
      1. It is in breach of an express provision of the partnership agreement
      2. If from a partnership for a definite term or particular undertaking, before the expiration of the term or completion of the undertaking:
        1. The partner withdraws by express will, unless following shortly after another partner’s dissociation under § 601(6)-(10) or wrongful dissociation under this section.
        2. The partner is expelled by judicial determination under sec 601(5)
        3. The partner is dissociate by becoming a debtor in bankruptcy.
  4. RUPA - Effects of Dissociation (if no dissolution takes place):
    1. Liability:
      1. A partner who is wrongfully dissociated is liable to the partnership and the other partners for damages caused by dissociation; the liability is in addition to any other obligation of the partner to the partnership or to the other partners. § 602(c).
    2. Rights & Duties:
      1. If a partner’s dissociation results in a dissolution and winding up of the partnership business, Article 8 applies; otherwise Article 7 applies. § 603(a).
      2. The dissociated partner’s right to participate in management and conduct the partnership’s business terminates, except as provided in § 803. § 603.
      3. The partner’s duty of loyalty to refrain from competing with the partnership terminates. § 603.
      4. Duty or loyalty and care (other than DOL under item above) continue only with regard to matters arising and events occurring before the partner’s dissociation. § 603.
    3. Buyout:
      1. § 701(a) provides that upon dissociation of a partner without resulting dissolution, the partnership shall cause the disassociated partner’s interest in the partnership to be purchased for a buyout price.
      2. § 701 may however be modified by the Agreement (aka the PA can provide for its own buyout procedure).
      3. § 701(b) – buyout price is either the break-up price of partner’s share or his portion of the value of the entire entity.
      4. § 701(h) – for partners that wrongfully disassociate before the expiration of a term or the completion of a particular undertaking is not entitled to payment of any portion of the buyout price until the expiration of the term or completion of the undertaking, unless that partner can establish that such payment will not cause the partnership undue hardship.
  5. RUPA – Dissolution:
    1. A partnership is dissolved and must be wound upon when one of the following happens – § 801:
    2. At-will partnership: the partnership’s having notice from a partner of that partner’s express will to withdraw (does not include withdrawal under § 601(2)-(10)).
    3. Term Partnership:
      1. If, within 90 days after a partner’s wrongful dissociation, or dissociation under § 601(6)-(10), half the remaining partners by express will constitute a desire to wind up the partnership business.
      2. The express will of all the partners to wind up the partnership business.
      3. Expiration of the term of completion of undertaking.
      4. Event triggering dissolution under PA takes place
      5. An event which makes it unlawful to carry out substantially all partnership business.
      6. On application by a partner, a judicial determination that:
        1. The economic purpose of the partnership is likely to be unreasonably frustrated
        2. Another partner has engaged in conduct relating to the partnership business which makes it not reasonably practicable to carry on the business in partnership with that partner.
        3. It is not otherwise reasonably practicable to carry on the partnership business sin conformity with the partnership agreement.
      7. In certain situations where the transferee applies for judicial dissolution.
    4. Consequences of Dissolution – § 802:
      1. A partnership continues after dissolution only for the purpose of winding up. It is terminated when winding up is completed. § 802(a).
      2. After dissolution, but before the winding up, all of the partners, including dissociated ones (but not wrongfully dissociated ones) may waive the right to have the partnership’s business wound up and the partnership terminated. If this option is elected:
        Partnership resumes carrying on its business as if dissolution never occurred
  6. RUPA - Winding Up:
    1. After dissolution, a partner who has not wrongfully dissociated may participate in winding up the partnership’s business, but on application of any partner, judicial supervision of wining up may be ordered.
    2. The person winding up the partnership’s business may continue the partnership business or property until he can do all that is administratively necessary to wind up.
  7. Owen v. Cohen, Cal.2d, 1941, p. 154 [Rightful Dissolution - Judicial]
    1. Facts: Π & Δ were partners at will. Π advanced 6K toward for their business, with an understanding that it was a loan to the partnership to be paid out of prospective profits. Shortly after business began, the partners began having problems, such that financial benefits were being affected. Π sued for dissolution (RUPA § 801(5)(iii)). Δ had humiliated Π; appropriated partnership funds.
    2. Holding: Trifling and minor differences and grievances which involve no permanent mischief will not authorize a court to decree dissolution of a partnership. Courts of equity may order the dissolution of a partnership where there are quarrels and disagreements of such a nature and to such extent that all confidence and cooperation between the parties has been destroyed or where one of the parties by his misbehavior hinders a proper conduct of the partnership business. In this case, due to the disharmony, the parties were incapable of carrying on the business to their mutual advantage ⇒ dissolution takes places under the UPA; the Π is repaid the 6K out of the proceeds.
    3. Remember: This case is about dissolution and winding up of partnership assets as well.
  8. Collins v. Lewis, Tex., 1955, p. 157 [Rightful Dissolution – Court’s Equity Powers]
    1. Facts: Δ had approached Π with an offer to furnish lease, experience, and management ability for operating a cafeteria where Π would fund its construction (L guaranteed certain profits in exchange & his partnership interest in case of default); they entered into a 30-year partnership. Cost overruns doubled the original construction cost; C & L fell out of favor, & C filed suit. Π had a 50% interest in LC Cafeteria & sued Δ (also with 50% interest) seeking a judicial dissolution of the partnership, a receivership of the partnership business, and foreclosure of a mortgage upon appellees’ interest in the partnership assets.
    2. Holding: There is no such thing as an indissoluble partnership; there always exists the power, as opposed to the right, of dissolution. C had to furnish the money; L had to furnish the management; a jury found L to be competent, and that L could have reasonably performed his obligation, but for C’s conduct. No rule grants C the right to dissolution under such circumstances. C actually failed to meet his side of the bargain (by failing to provide all the necessary startup costs); L did not. C can still terminate the relationship, but then he must absorb the liability for damages that flow from a breach of K (it would be wrongful).
    3. Remember: The court could have used its broad equity powers to order a dissolution under § 801(5)(iii). It didn’t b/c it wanted to force a negotiated solution.
  9. Page v. Page, Cal., 1961, p. 162 [Partnership Dissolution – At-will Partnerships & Fiduciary Duties]
    1. Facts: Π & Δ are partners in a linen supply business; the partnership was unprofitable for 8 years; it then began to be profitable for the last 1.5 years. Π wishes dissolution. Δ claims it is a partnership of term (until the business pays for itself). Legal issue: is the partnership on at will or of term?
    2. Holding: UPA provides that a partnership may be dissolved by express will of any partner when no definite term or particular undertaking is specified. There was no implied agreement as to the term, and Δ failed to prove any facts from which an agreement to continue the partnership for a term may be implied. A partner is not bound to remain in a partnership, regardless of whether the business is profitable or unprofitable; a partner may not however “freeze-out” a co-partner and appropriate the business to his own use; he can’t dissolve a partnership to gain the benefits of the business for himself, unless he fully compensates his co-partner for his share of the prospective business opportunity. Π can dissolve the partnership if he wants, so long as by doing so he does not breach his fiduciary duty not to exclude defendant wrongfully from the partnership business opportunity.
    3. Remember: Point here is that at-will partnerships can be dissolved by notice alone (RUPA § 801(1)); that however does not mean that fiduciary duties of partners automatically disappear.
  10. Prentiss v. Sheffel, Ariz., 1973, p. 165 [Partnership Dissolution - Repurchase]
    1. Facts: Legal Issue: Can two majority partners in a three man partnership at will, who have excluded the third from partnership management and affairs, purchase the partnership assets at a judicially supervised partnership sale?
    2. Holding: Though Δ was excluded form the management of the partnership, there was no indication that such exclusion was done for the wrongful purpose of obtaining the partnership assets in bad faith rather than being merely the result of the inability of the partners to function harmoniously. Δ also failed to demonstrate how he was injured by the participation of Πs in the judicial sale; there is no precedent which has prohibited a partner from bidding at a judicial sale of partnership assets.
    3. Remember: This case took place before § 701 existed.
  11. Monin v. Monin, Ky., 1990, p. 168 [Partnership Dissolution – Fiduciary Duties Upon Dissolution]
    1. Facts: S&C were partners in a milk hauling K. Their relationship deteriorated & S notified C of his intention to dissolve the partnership. S informed DI, their contractor that the partnership was dissolving and that S wanted to continue working on the route. C won the assets of the partnership at auction, but DI refused to approve C; they awarded the K to S. As a result S got the major asset of the partnership, the K, at no cost. C sued for breach of fiduciary duty.
    2. Holding: Fiduciary duties extend to persons who have dissolved the partnership, and have not completely wound up and settled the partnership affairs. When S failed to withdraw his application with DI for the K after agreeing to allow C to buy his interest in those routes, S breached his fiduciary duties; the law is clear that one partner cannot benefit at the expense of the partnership. Π deserves damages equal to the value of the K.
    3. Remember: Fiduciary duties continue until the partnership is wound up.
  12. Pav-Saver Corporation v. Vasso Corporation, Ill., 1986, p. 171 [Partnership Dissolution – Consequences]
    1. Facts: Π is owner of trademark & patents for concrete paving machines. Δ provided financing for a partnership venture with Π. Agreement contained: 1) clause stating that trademarks and patents should be returned to Π at the expiration of partnership; 2) clause stating the partnership is permanent not to be dissolved except upon mutual approval & providing for liquidated damages in case of other termination. Π wrote a letter terminating partnership; Δ began managing the business, ousting Π. Π sued for dissolution & return of patents & trademarks; Δ counterclaimed claiming wrongful termination & that Δ was entitled to continue the partnership business and possess partnership assets including trademarks and patents.
    2. Holding: Π’s unilateral termination was in contravention to the agreement. UPA provides that in cases of wrongful dissolution, the partners that did not cause the dissolution wrongfully can continue to run the business in the same name & can for that purpose possess the partnership property, provided they compensate the wrongful dissoluter for his share. Δ decided to continue to run the business; therefore, despite a contractual obligation to return patents in case of mutually approved expiration of the partnership, the right to possess the partnership property and continue its business upon wrongful termination is decided by statute. Business could not run without the patents ⇒ they must remain with Δ.
    3. Remember: Siegel thinks the fact that they decided to go with the statute over the language of the agreement is nuts. This case, more than anything, demonstrates the importance of drafting an agreement which is precise and clear on what will happen at dissolution.
  13. Kovacik v. Reed, Cal., 1957, p. 177 [Dissolution – Sharing Losses]
    1. Facts: Π & Δ entered into a partnership. K invested 10K & Δ provided his services. Profits were to be shared 50-50; losses were not discussed. Venture went badly; K sued R to contribute to amounts that Π lost.
    2. Holding: The general rule is that in the absence of an agreement to the contrary the law presumes that partners intended to participate equally in the profits and losses of the common enterprise, irrespective of any inequality in the amounts each contributed to the capital of the venture; losses are to be shared the same as profits. This case presents an exception however, in that one partner contributes capital & the other labor; here neither party is liable to the other for contribution for any loss sustained – the party who contributed capital is not entitled to recover anything from the party who contributed services (they both have already lost something).
    3. Remember: BUT see § 401(b) of the RUPA – stating that all losses are shared in proportion to the profits. Notes in § 401 explicitly overturn this result.
  14. G&S Investments v. Belman, Ariz., 1984, p. 181 [Dissolution – Buyout Agreements]
    1. Facts: Πs were partners with predecessor (now deceased) of Δ. The partnership agreement contained a clause stating that the surviving general partner may continue in the partnership business as long as he purchases the interest of the deceased partner. The agreement also provides a buy-out formula which, when applied basically would give the Δ nothing. Π wants to continue; but Δ wants dissolution, or in the alternative wants the value of the deceased’s interest calculated according to fmv.
    2. Holding: Even if the buy-out formula provides a purchase price that is less or more than the actual value (fmv) of the interest at the time of death, because partnerships result from K, the rights and liabilities of the partners among themselves are subject to such agreements as they may make. The court does not have the power to rewrite the agreement based upon subjective notions of fairness.
    3. Remember: It’s a good idea to have these agreements when family is involved ⇒ could get ugly otherwise.
  15. Jewel v. Boxer, Cal., 1984, p. 185 [Law Partnership Dissolutions]
    1. Facts: Πs & Δs had a law firm that split up. They each took certain active cases with them. Πs sued for accounting. Legal issue: how are the attorney’s fees received from these former, yet still active cases, going to be divided.
    2. Holding: Under the UPA, a dissolved partnership continues until the winding up of unfinished business. No partner (except a surviving partner) is entitled to extra compensation for services rendered in completing unfinished business. Any income generated through the winding up of unfinished business is allocated to the former partners according to their respective interests in the partnership. It does not matter that Πs are doing less work on formerly partnership cases than Δs. Fiduciary duties mitigate any bad incentives: former partners are obligated to ensure that a disproportionate burden of completing unfinished business does not fall on one former partner unless the former agrees otherwise.
    3. Remember: Siegel things the rule is smashingly naïve; fiduciary duties will not be enough to trump the negative incentives (working w/out receiving compensation).
  16. Meehan v. Shaughnessy, Mass., 1989, p. 190
    1. Facts: Same as above. In addition: the partnership agreement had provisions related to the winding up at time of dissolution, giving the partner the right to remove any case which came to the firm through the personal effort or connection of the partner; the removing partners is entitled to keep all fees so long as he compensates the partnership for services to the client, and pays a fair charge. He also receives some part of net profits in exchange for giving up all rights in remaining assets. Some of the cases removed by Πs fall under this provision; some were removed not under the provision; some were removed unfairly. How are the profits from such cases to be wound up?
    2. Holding: The agreement applies to the first two sets of cases & they are to be accounted for under the partnership ship agreement since the agreement was clearly intended to replace the UPA. As for the cases unfairly removed, the provisions of the statute must be applied because Πs breached their fiduciary duties in these cases. The must account for profits to the firm (based upon the former agreement dividing profits); the must pay a fair charge on these cases (minus overhead).

Limited Partnerships[edit]

Basic Kinds of Limited Partnerships[edit]

  1. Limited Partnership – LP
  2. Limited Liability Partnership – LLP (most law & professional firms included here)
  3. Limited Liability Corporation - LLC

The Limited Partnership[edit]

  1. Basic Background:
    1. Creates two types of Partners:
      1. General Partners – liable for debts; perform management functions
      2. Limited Partners – investor class; provide capital but do not manage (at least not extensively)
    2. A LP requires a filing with State authorities; in such filing the status of individuals as LP & GP must be disclosed
    3. LP arose during the industrial revolution, before corporate rights were easily obtainable; it died out at the beginning of the 20th century, but was revived in the ‘70s due to tax benefits associated with the instrument.
    4. The use of an LP allows for the distribution of proceeds at no tax during the existence of the partnership & for the payment of minimal capital gains tax at the sale of the partnership ⇒ sparked the revival.
    5. Conflict of Laws Principles – when a LP is formed in one state and does business in another, it is recognized in the host state according to the characteristics of the home state.
      1. Remember however, that each state has a different interpretation of another state’s laws; the CA interpretation of DE law isn’t going to be exactly the same as DE’s interpretation of DE law.
  2. RULPA Basics:
    1. § 102: The name of each limited partnership as set forth in its certificate of limited partnership:
      1. must contain the words “limited partnership”
      2. may not contain the name of any limited partner
    2. § 201: To form a limited partnership, the certificate of limited partnership must be executed and filed in the office of the Secretary of state. It must set forth
      1. the name of the LP
      2. the address of the office and the name and address of the agent for service of process
      3. the name and business address of all the general partners
      4. the latest date upon which the LP is to dissolve
      5. anything else the general partners determine to include
    3. § 206: The Filing in the Office of Secretary or State ⇒ provides practical procedure guidelines for performing the filing (like the requirement to provide two copies of the required filing document).
    4. The Limited Partnership Agreement:
      1. Need not included in filing ⇒ sets out management provisions & details
      2. Tends to be hundreds of pages long (in contrast to the filing, which is usually only a half a page long)
  3. Holzman v. De Escamilla, Cal., 1948, p. 196
    1. Facts: Δs were limited partners in a general partnership. Π claims they were general partners liable to creditors. Δs were involved in management decisions made by the partnership; they had signed checks on behalf of the partnership, (all of which required the signatures of at least one of the limited partners). They also forced the general partner to resign as manger and hire a successor.
    2. Holding: The ULPA states that a limited partner shall not become liable as a general partner, unless, in addition to the exercise of his rights and powers as a limited partner, he takes part in the control of the business. Here Δs obviously took part in the control of the business & are liable as such.
    3. Remember: This holding is no longer fully correct; it is now much harder to find control (see § 303 of RULPA below).
  4. The Modern Structure of the Limited Partnership – RULPA § 303 & 304:
    1. Rationale for Creating § 303:
      1. Interpretation in Escamilla left the subject of “control” as very ambiguous. It was therefore difficult to know when an LP would become liable to third parties.
      2. Statute was drafted so as to provide clarity ⇒ it creates a safe harbor for certain kinds of conduct engaged in by limited partners.
      3. This allows for better planning on the part of investors.
    2. § 303(a):
      1. Except as provided in (d), a limited partner is not liable for the obligations of a limited partnership unless he is also a general partner, or he participates in the control of the business.
        Further Limitation: even if he does participate in the control of the business, he is only liable to persons who transact business with the limited partnership reasonably believing, based upon the limited partner’s conduct, that the limited partner is a general partner.
        Siegel ⇒ burden of proof is on the Π to prove that he reasonably believed that the limited partner was exercising control and thus looked like a general partner.
    3. § 303(b): a limited partner does not participate in control of the partnership solely by doing one or more of the following:
      1. being a contractor/agent/employee of the limited partnership or a general partner; being an officer/director/shareholder of a general partner that is a corporation
      2. consulting with/advising a general partner with respect to the business of the LP
      3. taking action required or permitted by law to bring or pursue a derivative action in the right of the LP.
      4. requesting or attending meeting of partners
      5. proposing, approving or disapproving, by voting of otherwise on (mostly issues of big importance):
        1. Dissolution and winding up of the LP
        2. Major transfers (sale, exchange, lease, mortgage) of all or substantially all assets of the LP.
        3. Incurrence of indebtedness outside the ordinary course of business,
        4. Changing the nature of the business
        5. Admission/removal of LPs & GPs
        6. Transactions involving actual or potential conflicts of interest between a GP and the LPartnership or the LPs
        7. Amendment to the partnership agreement
        8. Matters related to the business of the LP not otherwise enumerated here but which the partnership agreement states in writing may be subject to approval or disapproval by the LPs.
        9. Exercising any right or power permitted of LPs under the Act but not specifically enumerated.
    4. § 303(c): the enumeration in subsection (b) does not make the possession or exercise of other powers by the LPs constitutes participation by him in the business of the LP.
    5. § 303(d) – a limited partner who knowingly permits his name to be used in the name of a limited partnership is liable to creditors who extend credit to the LP without actual knowledge that the limited partner is not a general partner.
    6. § 304 – allows individuals who contribute capital but erroneously but in good faith believe that they are a LP to escape being treated as a GP if when they realize they mistake, cause the filing of an amendment or a new certificate of incorporation to be filed or withdraws from future equity participation by filing withdrawal form with the Secretary of State.
      Such a person is liable as a GP to 3rd parties transacting business w/ the LPartnership before appropriate forms are filed; but only if the third party actually believed in good faith that the person was a GP at the time of the transacation.
  5. Corporations as the General Partner in a Limited Partnership:
    The general partner in a limited partnership may be a corporation. § 303(b) suggests this & states have unanimously rejected the opposite conclusion.

Corporations – State Law[edit]

Basic Background[edit]

Most corporations are established under State law. Federal corporations do exist, but they are special act corporations (OPIC; TVA).

The three leading states of incorporation are: 1) Delaware, 2) New York, & 3) New Jersey

Internal affairs doctrine

A corporation incorporated in State A is to be recognized in every other State.
Law applied: law of the state of incorporation.
Foreign corporations doing business in State A must usually still register in that state. This is so that:
  1. State A can serve process & get jurisdiction over the corporation
  2. Injured citizens of State A can easily find out some information about the corporation they’re going to sue
  3. Taxation purposes – facilitates taxation of foreign corporations.

Most states follow a version of the Model Business Corporations Act (developed by the ABA & ALI)
DE remains the corporate law leader because:

  1. Continuity in their corporate code (they don’t change the numbering):
    Ensures clarity – lots of litigation exists over every provision; ambiguities in the statute have therefore been resolved, and lots of corporate planning is possible.
  2. Separate Chancellery Court:
    1. Has jurisdiction over corporate law; DE appoints only preeminent scholars to the court ⇒ highly skilled professionals
    2. Processing time for cases is incredibly fast: 90 days (compared to years in NY)
  3. Corporate law commission – exists to suggest changes in corporate law to the legislature ⇒ all new developments in corporate law are enacted here first.

Incorporating Under the RMBCA[edit]

§ 2.01 RMBCA – to incorporate, articles of incorporation must be delivered to the secretary of state for filing
§ 2.02 RMBCA – provides mandatory and permissive provisions for the Articles of Incorporation

  1. Mandatory Provisions:
    1. Corporate name
    2. Number of shares the corporation is authorized to issue
    3. Street address of the corporation’s registered office and the name of its initial registered agent
    4. Name and address of each incorporator
  2. Optional Provisions:
    1. Names & addresses of directors
    2. Provisions not inconsistent with the law regarding:
      1. The purpose of the corporation
      2. Managing the business of the corporation
      3. Defining, limiting, and regulating the powers of the corporation
      4. Imposition of personal liability on shareholders
    3. Provisions limitations personal liability of a director or indemnifying him with the exception of limitation/indemnification for:
      1. The amount of financial benefit received by a director to which he is not entitled (duty of loyalty)
      2. Intentional infliction of harm on the corporation or its shareholders
      3. Intentional violation of criminal law

There are no provisions requiring:

  1. That Articles of Incorporation be published
  2. That a notary certificate as to capital investments be provided
  3. Minimal capital investment

§ 2.03 of the RMBCA states that the corporate existence begins when the articles of incorporation are filed.

Promoters & The Corporate Entity[edit]

§ 2.04 RMBCA – imposes liability on all persons purporting to act as or on behalf of a corporation, knowing there was no incorporation under this act for all liabilities created while so acting.
Southern-Gulf Marine Co. No. 9, Inc., v. Camcraft, Inc., La, 1982, p. 201

  1. F: DWB entered individually and as president of Π (a corp to be formed by DWB under TX law), into a K with Δ, where Δ agreed to furnish a cruise ship to Π. DWB formed the corporation under Cayman law, and sought Δ’s agreement to this change through a letter (which Δ signed). Δ did not deliver, and Π sued for breach of K. Δ responded claiming no cause of action based on Π’s lack of corporate existence at the time of entering into a K.
  2. H: One who contracts with what he acknowledges to be and treats as a corporation, incurring obligations in its favor, is estopped from denying its corporate existence unless his substantial rights might thereby be affected. There must be some other objection to oppose the enforcement of the contract than that the obligee is incompetent to sue. Δ had no objections to Π’s altered status in terms of the location of incorporations. Π prevails.
  3. R: The decision here is typical – case relies on estoppel-type principles to enforce the K. DWB did something really silly – he made himself personally liable for the K by:
    1. Signing it in his own name
    2. Acting as an agent of Southern-Gulf
      1. Acting as an agent for a corporation which the agent knows does not exist makes the agent personally liable
      2. Acting as an agent for a corporation which the agent certifies will exist ⇒ makes the agent personally liable.
  4. RII: DWB’s liability continues:
    1. If the corporation is formed but does not have adequate capital, and does not accept the K
    2. If the corporation accepts the K, but does not have adequate capital
    3. If the corporation is formed & has adequate capital but does not accept the K
    4. UNLESS the corporation is formed; has adequate capital; accepts the K

The Corporate Entity & Limited Liability[edit]

A shareholder will not be personally liable (most of the time), if following conditions are met:

  1. The corporation must be legally and properly formed
  2. The corporation must actually do business as a corporation (the directors must actually follow normal procedures – have meetings, etc.)

Walkovsky v. Carlton[edit]

Walkovsky v. Carlton, NY, 1966, p. 206

  1. F: Π was injured by a cab. Carlton is a stockholder in the company owning the cab, & in 9 other corporations, each of which has two registered cabs & minimum insurance under law. Π alleges that these corporations operated as a single entity, unit, & enterprise & that as such Π is allowed to hold the stockholders personally liable for the damages sought because the multiple corporate structure constitutes an unlawful attempt to defraud members of the general public who might be injured by a cab.
  2. H: Law permits the incorporation of a business for the very purpose of enabling its proprietors to escape personal liability. Courts will however, “pierce the corporate veil” whenever necessary to prevent fraud or achieve equity. When the corporation is a “dummy” for its individual stockholders who are in reality carrying on the business in their personal capacities for purely personal rather than corporate ends, the stockholder will be personally liable. However, when a corporation is a fragment of a larger corporate combine which actually conducts the business, only a larger corporate entity would be financially responsible. Δ is not personally liable because he has not been using the corporation to achieve his ends (corporation was not merely his agent); nor has he defrauded the public.
  3. R: The main principle is here states that as long as State laws with regards to corporations & capitalization are met, the third party cannot lift corporate veil. The Δ is following all the formal rules here; he may be fiddling with corporate laws, but he is in no way conducting business in a personal capacity. Q: are his other corporations liable?
  4. RII: This rule is widely followed, but there are some exceptions. CA – a shareholder of a private swimming pool was held liable b/c the facility was run with much less capital than was needed to insure public risk.

When should we lift corporate veil? Two categories of conduct:

  1. Failure to observe corporate formalities (Δ above did all of this). Examples:
    1. failing to maintain separate bank account
    2. failing to appoint board of directors
    3. failing to hold meetings of board of directors
    4. failure to use letterhead that says corporation
    5. intermingling assets
  2. Setting up the corporation with grossly inadequate capital (argument attempted, but failed above)
    1. From the outside the capital stream is designed to keep the corporation from meetings its commitments.
    2. Example:
      1. Suppose we have: Corporation > Subsidiary > Second Tier Subsidiary
      2. The Second Tier Subsidiary has judgment against it ASK ABOUT THIS EXAMPLE
      3. General rule in US is that liability stops with the STS

Sea-Land Services v. Pepper Source[edit]

Sea-Land Services, Inc. v. Pepper Source, 7th Cir., 1991, p. 211 [Fraud Requirement?]

  1. F: Π transported Δ’s peppers according to K; Δ did not pay. Π tries to hold GM, owner of PS, & the other businesses entities he owns liable for the debts of PS (one of which is only half-owned by GS). The corporate Δs were treated as playthings by GS: GS ran all of them out of one office; used the same accounts & phone line; he borrowed and paid extensive amounts into all of their expense accounts (and used them for personal matters), and the corporations all borrowed from each other.
  2. H: For a corporate entity to be disregarded, and the veil of limited liability to be pierced:
    1. there must be such unity of interest and ownership that the separate personalities of the corporation and the individual [or other corporation] no longer exist;
      1. failure to maintain adequate corporate records or comply with corporate formalities;
      2. commingling of funds;
      3. undercapitalization;
      4. one corporation treating the assets of another as its own.
    2. circumstances must be such that adherence to the fiction of separate corporate existence would sanction a fraud or promote injustice. Δ clearly falls under 1), but 2) is not necessarily satisfied. Π does not allege fraud; & “injustice” requires more than just the fact the Π would be unable to collect; it requires that some additional “wrong” result (unjust enrichment, skirting of legal rules, etc.).

Kinney Shoe v. Polan[edit]

Kinney Shoe Corporation v. Polan, 4th Cir., 1991, p. 217

  1. F: Polan formed two corporations – I & P. Polan was their sole owner; certificates of incorporation were issued, but no organizational meetings were held & no officers elected. Π leased property to I; I subleased part of the property to P. I had no assets, no income, & no bank account. I stopped paying rent & Π sued, attempting to hold Polan personally liable by piercing the corporate veil.
  2. H: A totality of the circumstances test is used in determining whether to pierce the corporate veil.
    To pierce the veil, two factors are considered:
    1. Is the unity of interest and ownership such that the separate personalities of the corporation and the individual shareholder no longer exist?
    2. Would an equitable result occur if the acts are treated as those of the corporation alone?
    Polan did not trouble with the formalities of incorporation (suggests 1) is met); he undercapitalized (suggests 2) is met). The corporate veil is pierced. Though the state does provide an out (doctrine places burden on Π to conduct a credit investigation of their corporate partner; if they do not ⇒ they can’t pierce the corporate veil) it does not apply here ⇒ the application of this equitable doctrine is optional.

In re Silicone Gel Breast Implants[edit]

In re Silicone Gel Breast Implants Products Liability Litigation, Ala., 1995, p. 221 [Liability of Parent Corporations for Actions of Subsidiary]

  1. F: BMSC is the sole corporate shareholder of MEC, a major supplier of breast implants; BMSC has never manufactured or distributed implants. Πs argue that BMSC can be held liable by piercing the corporate veil (under the “corporate control doctrine”) or under through direct liability. MEC’s board had three directors: a BMSC exec; a BMSC VP; a MEC’s president. The board seems to have rarely if ever met & all resolutions adopted were prepared by BMSC officials. BMSC had budget authority over MEC, maintained its bank accounts & provided it loans; it set MEC’s employment policies & provided various services to MEC through its other subsidiaries (marketing; legal; distribution). BSMC’s logo and name were contained in the package inserts and promotional products regarding breast implants, apparently as a marketing tool used to increase confidence in the product.
  2. H: Under the “corporate control” doctrine, when a corporation is so controlled as to be the alter ego or mere instrumentality of its stockholder, the corporate veil may be pierced in the interests of justice.
    In a parent-sub relation, under totality of the circumstances test, the following factors should be considered:
    1. Do the parent & sub have common directors or officers?
    2. Do the parent & sub have common business departments?
    3. Do they file consolidated financial statements & tax returns?
    4. Does the parent finance the subsidiary?
    5. Did the parent cause the subsidiary’s incorporation?
    6. Does the subsidiary operate with inadequate capital?
    7. Does the parent pay salaries & expenses of the subsidiary?
    8. Does the subsidiary receive any non-parent business?
    9. Does the parent use subsidiary’s property as its own?
    10. Are the daily operations of the two kept separate?
    11. Does the subsidiary observe basic corporate formalities?
    The fact that BMSC branding was used in MEC’s products & the potentially insufficient assts of MEC are enough to disallow summary judgment. In terms of direct liability, by allowing its emblem to be used in breast implant packages, BMSC cannot now deny potential liability under tort law (reliance-type claim).
  3. R: This is similar to the franchisor-franchisee cases we saw at the beginning of the year. The main issue here is the level of control exercised by the corporation over the subsidiary. Was BMSC controlling MEC’s actions to such an extent that MEC became nothing more than BMSC’s agent? The court calls this “corporate control.”
  4. RII: The direct liability argument is based upon representations to the public – this was an estoppel-style argument.

Frigidaire Sales v. Union Properties[edit]

Frigidaire Sales Corporation v. Union Properties, Inc., Wash., 1977, p. 229

  1. F: Δ (a corporation) is GP in a LP. The limited partners were also officers, shareholders & directors of the Δ. LP breached K with Π, & Δ sued respondents claiming personal liability.
  2. H: Though the ULPA removes the limitation of liability of a limited partner who “takes part in the control or management of the business,” Π never dealt with anything but the corporate form of Union Properties. Δs entered into K with Π in their capacities as corporate officers; in the eyes of the law, it was Union Properties, as a separate corporate entity, which entered into the K with Π & controlled the limited partnership. No liability.
  3. R: If Δ is a shareholder/manager of a corporation that is also a limited partner in a limited partnership with the corporation as the general partner, no personal liability attaches to the Δ..

Shareholder Derivative Actions[edit]

Background in Shareholder-BoD Relationship[edit]

The business and affairs of the corporation are managed by or are under the direction of a board of directors. There are only two exceptions to this:

  1. BoD does not elect itself; it is elected by the shareholders
  2. Major changes require shareholder approval: merger, dissolution, amendment of AOI, sale of corporate assets.
Derivative suits brought by shareholders are a way of challenging the BoD’s hegemony on decisionmaking. Shareholders have no other way of influencing actions of the corporation, other than through electing members of the BoD.

Reasons for reluctance on the part of the BoD to bring actions against a member:

  1. If one member of the BoD gets sued, the others might be sued/investigated as well. “But for the grace of God go I.”
  2. Members of the BoD tend to own a lot of stock ⇒ if bringing suit is likely to bring down the value of the corporation, they will suffer.
  3. Club mentality ⇒ they defend each other at the cost of the shareholders.

Initial barriers to bringing of derivative suits:

  1. Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp., US, 1949, p. 232
    1. F: Stockholder derivative suit; Π challenges constitutionality of NJ legislation (§ 627 NYBCL) which makes a Π who has an interest in a corporation smaller than 5% liable for the reasonable expenses and attorney’s fees of the Δ if he fails to make good his complaint (Δ requested security).
    2. H: A stockholder who brings suit on a cause of action derived from the corporation assumes a position of fiduciary character, becoming a representative of a class including all who are similarly situated. There is no constitutional problem with the legislation put into place by the state. This is not procedural legislation & under Erie federal courts must enforce it.
    3. R: §§ 626 & 627 requirements arose in an era (30s & 40s) when lots of “strike suits” were being brought. Such suits were brought by minority shareholders, were settled secretly, and provided little benefit to shareholders as a group (helping Π’s lawyers instead). These laws attempt to moderate between two conflicting interests:
      1. A BoD accountable to their shareholders
      2. Cost imposed by frivolous suits that do not benefit shareholders.
    4. RII: This particular provision limits the ability of small-time shareholders to sue by making the liable to the corporation’s legal fees if they lose the derivative suit & by requiring that they post security when brining suit. ⇒ Siegel thinks this requirement went to far & it has not been upwardly adjusted for inflation by the legislature for that very reason.
    5. RIII: DE never adopted such a law. Two reasons given for this:
      1. DE court is highly expert (it will recognize a strike suit when it sees one).
      2. DE legislature has as constituency the DE Π’s bar ⇒ lots of pressure to let litigation go through.
  2. To bring an action, the shareholder must be a holder of shares of the corporation at the time of brining the action, and
  3. He must be a holder of shares at the time of the transaction of which he complains took place. § 626(b) NYBCL
  4. Demand requirement - § 626(c) requires that the complaint set forth with particularity efforts of the Π to secure initiation of action by the BoD or the reasons for not making such effort.
  5. Settlement approval requirement - § 626(d) requires that before any derivative suit is discontinued, compromised or settled, the parties must first receive the approval of the court having jurisdiction over the action. If the court determines that such termination will affect the interests of shareholders (or a class of shareholders) notice with be given to such shareholders.
  6. Eisenberg v. Flying Tiger Line, Inc., 2nd Cir., 1971, p. 236
    1. F: Π was a stockholder in FT Inc. He, “on behalf of himself and all other stockholders similarly situated” (direct suit) sued to enjoin FT Inc. from effectuating a reorganization & merger. Δ moved to require Π to post security (which Π did not do, causing his suit to be dismissed). Π claims that FTL had performed a set of mergers intended to dilute his voting rights in the company.
    2. H: § 627 of the NYCBL requires cost security for derivative actions. Π argues however that his class action is representative (“injury is one to the Π as a stockholder and to him individually and not the corporation”) not derivative (Π claims injury to the corporation). Where Π claims that Δs are interfering with the Π’s rights and privileges as stockholders (voting rights here) the action is representative.
    3. R: § 627 does not apply to direct suits; it only applies to derivative ones. Additionally, litigation committees cannot stop direct suits (Why not? Are the demand requirements not applicable either?). § 626 does not seem to apply to direct suits either.

Demand Requirement II - New York[edit]

§ 626(c) sets forth demand requirement.

  1. If the BoD accepts demand ⇒ they will bring suit on corporation’s behalf.
  2. If the BoD rejects demand (as they most often do) ⇒ shareholder can challenge their decision in court.
    1. Problem: if shareholder makes demand and BoD says no, Π has the burden of proving that the BoD erred in rejecting demand before getting to the merits of the case. This is a heavy burden to bear, for the business judgment rule ensures great deference to the BoD.
  3. Business Judgment Rule – may not be most appropriate in these situations; it is intended to allow directors to take risks (in order to make profits), but the decision of whether or not to pursue a lawsuit on behalf of the corporation does not seem like a real risk-taking matter (according to Siegel).
Marx v. Akers[edit]

Marx v. Akers, NY, 1996, p. 249 [Demand Requirement]

F: Π sued IBM & their BOD alleging wasted corporate assets; he claims excessive compensation to IBM’s executives and outside directors (while profits were declining). Π alleges that during a declining period of profitability director Δs engaged in self-dealing by 1) awarding excessive compensation to the 15 outside directors on the 18 member board; 2) awarding excessive compensation to the 3 executive directors. Π did not make demand.
H: In allowing the action to go forward because a demand on the BOD would be futile, the object is for the court to chart the course for the corporation which the directors should have selected, and which it is presumed that they would have chosen if they had not been actuated by fraud or bad faith. There are several approaches to this issue:
  1. DE approach (above) – see Grimes below.
  2. Universal Demand – disposes with the necessity of making case-specific determinations off whether the demand requirement should be excused. It imposes a requirement of demand in all cases, and permits commencement of a derivative proceeding within 90 days of the demand unless the demand is rejected earlier (but suits can be filed earlier if the corporation would suffer irreparable injury).
  3. NY approach to Demand Futility – codified in § 626(c); a demand would be futile if a complaint alleges with particularity that 1) a majority of directors are interested in the transaction (either self-interest or a loss of independence because a director with no direct interest in a transaction is controlled by a self-interested director), 2) the directors failed to inform themselves to a degree reasonably necessary about the transaction, or 3) the directors failed to exercise their business judgment in approving the transaction.
HII: Failure to make a demand as to allegations for compensation for the three executive officers fails – they do not compose a majority of the board. Demand is excused for allegation that the compensation of the outside directors is excessive – a majority of directors had personal interest here. Π has not however, stated a cause of action in his latter case; despite excuse of demand requirement, the compliant failed to allege compensation rates excessive on their face or other facts which call into question whether the compensation was fair to the corporation when approved, the good faith of the directors setting those rates, or that the decision to set the compensation could not have been the product of valid business judgment.
R: The standard set out in NY is higher than the DE standard. Π must allege interest with particularity in NY; Π must only allege “reasonable doubt” as to that interest in DE (see below).
Auerbach v. Bennett[edit]

Auerbach v. Bennett, NY, 1979, p. 256 [Special Committees]

F: GTE engaged in self-audit for corrupt practices. It found such past practices; Π, a shareholder filed suit against former members of the BOD claiming breach of duties to the corporation and asking for an accounting of those corrupt transactions. The board created a special litigation committee for the purpose of establishing the position to be taken by the Corporation in special litigation involving shareholder derivative claims. It was comprised of 3 disinterested directors who had joined the board after the corrupt transactions had occurred. The committee was authorized to determine the position of the Corporation with respect to the derivative claims alleged on its behalf. The committee determined that it would not be in the best interests of the corporation to pursue the claim (low probability of success; merit-less claims; high cost of litigation; bad publicity).
H: The determination of the special litigation committee forecloses further judicial inquiry into the case. The business judgment doctrine is predicated on the recognition that courts are ill-equipped to evaluate what are and must be essentially business judgments. While the business judgment rule does not foreclose inquiry by the courts into the disinterested independence of those members of the board chosen by it to make decisions on behalf of the corporation, it does shield the deliberations and conclusions of the chosen representatives of the board if they possess a disinterested independence and do not stand in a dual relation which prevents an unprejudicial exercise of judgment. The three directors joined the corporation after the alleged wrongdoing already took place; there is nothing to raise a triable issue of fact as to the independence of the three directors. Two issues must still be investigated however:
  1. did the committee follow procedures best suited to the conduct of an investigation of facts and the determination of legal liability? [no proof of wrongdoing or pretext investigation here]
  2. was the substantive decision predicated on the procedures chosen and the facts found thereby? [minimal review here; no proof that the decision does not make sense].
R: Litigation committees are usually made up of three people who are not present members of the board; this helps to further insulate them from attacks based upon “self-interest.” Since the committee has no board membership, the committee cannot have any interest (or so the argument goes). Additionally, to sterilize the committee, an absolute delegation must be made. The BoD cannot review their decision.
RII: The benefit of having such a committee is that it destroys the possibility of having demand excused (thus decreasing the chance that the court will ever get to the merits on the issue).
RIII: The test laid out here:
  1. Is the litigation committee facially independent?
    1. If yes ⇒ go to step 2.
    2. If no ⇒ interest is established and the court proceeds to the merits.
  2. Did the litigation committee have before it evidence? Did it follow procedure, conducting hearings in a way that could produce an independent result?
    1. If yes ⇒ go to step 3
    2. If no ⇒ interest is established and the court proceeds to the merits.
  3. Business judgment test (a type of rational basis) – was there any relation between the substantive decision and the evidence accumulated?
    1. If yes ⇒ dismiss suit.
    2. If no ⇒ interest is established and the court proceeds to the merits.

Demand Requirement II - Delaware[edit]

Grimes v. Donald, Del., 1996, p. 241 [Demand Requirement]

F: Π sues claiming that the board of directors breached its fiduciary duty by 1) abdicating its authority, 2) failing to exercise due care, & committing waste. Δ, CEO of the corporation had acquired a very lucrative severance package which he could practically trigger at anytime. Π made demand on the BoD that they abrogate the package; the Board refused.
H: The abdication claim is a direct claim (no demand requirement). To pursue a direct action, the stockholder Π must allege more than injury resulting from a wrong to the corporation (here Π seeks only abrogation of K; no money will accrue to the corporation ⇒ direct claim). Though BoD cannot enter into agreements that have the effect of removing from directors the duty to use their best judgment (as would be the case if they could not fire the guy), if an independent and informed board, acting in good faith, determines that the services of a particular individual warrant large amounts of money, the board has made a business judgment; unless the facts show that such judgment constitutes waste or is unreasonable, it is to receive the protection of the business judgment rule.
HII: A stockholder filing a derivative suit must allege either:
  1. that the board rejected his pre-suit demand or
  2. allege with particularity why the stockholder was justified in not having made the effort to obtain board action.
    One ground for alleging (2) is that a “reasonable doubt” exists that the board is capable of making an independent decision to assert the claim if demand were made.
The basis for claiming excusal would normally be:
  1. a majority of the board has a material or financial or family interest;
  2. a majority of the board is incapable of acting independently for some other reason such as dominion or control;
  3. the underlying transaction is not the product of a valid exercise of business judgment.
A stockholder who makes a serious demand and receives only a peremptory refusal has the right to use the law to obtain relevant corporate records in order to determine whether or not there is a basis to assert that a demand was wrongfully refused. If however a demand is made and rejected, the board rejecting the demand is entitled to the presumption of the business judgment rule, unless the stockholder can allege facts with particularity creating a reasonable doubt. Also, by making a demand, Π waives his right to contest the independence of the board; therefore, demand having been made to the board, it cannot be excused as to the claim that the agreements constituted waste. The complaint fails to include particularized allegations which would raise a reasonable doubt that the board’s decision to reject the demand was the product of valid business judgment.
R: If a president performs badly, it is the duty of the BoD to remove the President. If the K makes this impossible, an illegal delegation of power has taken place, and the K must be invalidated (abdication claim).

Zapata Corp. v. Maldonado, Del, 1981, p. 261 [Special Committees]

F: Π sues directors alleging breach of fiduciary duty in a derivative suit. The board (after 4 directors had left) created an investigatory committee composed solely of new outside directors to investigate the suit & determine if the corporation should take up the litigation. Following investigation, the Committee concluded that actions should be dismissed as inimical to the company’s interests. Δ filed for summary judgment.
H:
  1. A board decision to cause a derivative suit to be dismissed as detrimental to the company, after demand has been made and refused, will be respected unless it was wrongful. A stockholder does however possess the ability to initiate the action on the corporation’s behalf however, if the demand is properly excused.
  2. The majority of the board, if tainted by self-interest, can legally delegate its authority to a committee of disinterested directors.
  3. Whether the Court of Chancery will be persuaded by the exercise of a committee power resulting in a summary motion for dismissal of a derivative action, where a demand has not been initially made, should rest in the independent discretion of the Court of Chancery.
After a thorough investigation of a derivative suit, an independent committee may file a pre-trial motion to counter a demand-excused action; the basis of that motion is the best interests of the corporation; the motion should contain a through record of the commission’s findings and recommendations. In deciding whether to grant the motion, the Court should:
  1. inquire into the independence and good faith of the committee and the bases supporting its conclusions (corporation has burden of proving independence); if the court is not satisfied, the motion should be denied. If the court is satisfied...
  2. the court should determine using its own independent business judgment whether the motion should be granted.
Latter step is intended to thwart instances where corporate actions meet the criteria of step one, but the result does not appear to satisfy the spirit or where corporate actions would prematurely terminate a stockholder grievance. Here the court weights how compelling the corporate interest in dismissal is when faced with a non-frivolous lawsuit. The court should, when appropriate, give special consideration to matters of law and public policy in addition to the corporation’s best interest.

Corporate Purposes[edit]

The role of the corporation is to carry out the interest of the shareholders; it has a fiduciary duty to do so.
Therefore, it has to maximize the benefits to shareholders by:

  1. Maximizing dividends
  2. Maximizing increase in capital value

Major issue in this area is whether action whose primary or secondary purpose is not to increase profit is legitimate under the fiduciary obligation.

  1. Many states have statutes authorizing a certain amount of corporate charity as not in conflict with fiduciary obligation.
  2. Corporate charity can arguably maximize interests of the shareholder by nurturing goodwill within the market.

A.P. Smith Mfg. Co. v. Barlow, NJ, p. 270

F: Corporation makes a donation to Princeton University. It then files for declaratory judgment as to the legality of such action when some shareholders challenge.
H: The common-law rule originally developed stating that those who managed the corporation could not disburse any corporate funds for philanthropic or other worthy public causes unless the expenditure would benefit the corporation. Statute now allows this; the situation has changed – corporations are now a big part of the economy. As long as the corporation makes voluntary donations in the reasonable belief that it would aid the public welfare and advance the interests of the Π as a private corporation and as a part of the community in which it operates, the donation is a lawful exercise of the corporation’s implied and incidental powers.
R: The problem here ⇒ shareholder wealth might be transferred to causes they don’t support (Planned Parenthood or AEI). The BoD picks who the money is going to. On the other hand, lots of public institutions depend on this giving. Possible solution to the conflict: public giving can be limited by corporate charter (but it almost never is).

Dodge v. Ford Motor Company, Mich., 1919, p. 276

F: Ford was paying a lot in annual dividends & earning lots of profits. One year he decided to stop, and reinvest instead by building an iron ore plant, and reduce the price of the company’s cars. Πs, Ford shareholders, complain that this is inimical to the interests of the company and its shareholders, and that withholding dividends is arbitrary action of the directors requiring judicial interference. Ford made all kinds of statements about the duty of the company to share the benefits of industrialization; his plans are not intended to produce immediately more profitable business, but a less profitable one.
H: Courts will not interfere with management unless it is clearly made to appear that they are guilty of fraud or misappropriation of corporate funds, or refuse to declare dividend when the corporation has a surplus of net profits which it can, without detriment to the business, divide among its stockholders, and when a refusal to do so would amount to such an abuse of discretion as would constitute a fraud, or breach of that good faith which they are bound to exercise towards the stockholders. A business corporation is organized and carried on primarily for the profit of stockholders. The powers of the directors are to be employed for that end. The directors cannot abandon the interests of their shareholders and make them incidental to the primary purpose of benefiting others, expecting the courts not to interfere. Ford can build the plant & lower prices (business judgment), but must pay out the big dividend.
R: Something else was going on here. Ford was doing this in order to “freeze out” the Dodge brothers (who began operating a competing company). By denying dividends he denied them capital & by lowering prices he kept Ford’s market share.
RII: This is a direct action ⇒ it is a request for the disbursement of shares. It is not done on behalf of the corporation for the benefit of the corporation. Ford, as a shareholder, owed a duty of loyalty to fellow shareholders, Dodge Bros. Ford also owed a duty to the corporation, which could have given rise to a derivative suit.
RIII: Declaration of dividends is not required under US law; the only exception, the exception seen here, is that the BoD’s discretion to deny dividends runs out at the point in which non-declaration of dividends is being used as an oppressive device against shareholders and cannot be justified by a business purpose.

Shlensky v. Wrigley, Ill., 1968, p. 281

F: Derivative suit against directors for negligence & mismanagement (directors are acting for a reason contrary and wholly unrelated to the business interests of the corporation). Π sought damages and an order that Δs cause the installation of lights in Wrigley Field and the scheduling of night baseball games (because the Chicago Cubs were losing money). Δ refused to install lights, not because of the interest in the welfare of the corporation, but because of his personal opinions that “baseball is a daytime sport” and that the installation of lights would have a negative impact upon the surrounding neighborhood.
H: Business judgment rule makes such that a director’s actions will not be interfered with unless shown to be tainted with fraud, or unless breach of good faith has been shown. The court is not satisfied that the motives assigned to Δ are contrary to the best interests of the corporation. The effect on the surrounding neighborhood might be considered ⇒ people might not want to go to a game in a shitty neighborhood. Business Judgment prevents court interference.
R: This case stands for the principle that the business judgment rule is given a great deal of weight even in cases in which it appears that the business judgment is not the most rational.

Duty of Care – Corporate Context[edit]

Corporate Director Context v. Everyday Context[edit]

  1. Duty of Care in corporate context tends to be lower (at least compared to negligence, medical malpractice context, etc.)
  2. This is because risk-taking is required if a profit is to be made in the corporate context, where it might be unacceptable in the medical context.
  3. Insurance costs: level of liability in the corporate context is massive, much greater than in the medical or other contexts. There are only a few companies willing and able to insure these corporate directors.

The Statutory Language[edit]

NYBCL § 717 - sets out the duty of care in NY. Defined as the “degree of care which an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would use under similar circumstances.”

RMBCA Provisions:

§ 8.30(a) – Each member of the BoD, when discharging his duties, shall act “in a manner the director reasonably believes to be in the best interest of the corporation.” ⇒ this is a subjective standard.
§ 8.30(b) – The members of the BoD “when becoming informed in connection with their decision-making function “shall discharge their duties with the care that a person in a like position would reasonably believe appropriate under similar circumstances.”
How do we reconcile these provisions?
§ 8.30(a) reflects that the directors are supposed to take risks in order to make a profit.
§ 8.30(b) reflects the fact that this risk should be a calculated risk; that they must carefully accumulate and weigh information before taking such risk.
This dichotomy reflects the fact that a BoD is supposed to make risky investments; they are not trustees.

The duty of the legal system is to take into account the following two factors and fashion legal rules that balance between them:

Need for directors to take risk
Need to protect shareholders from directors who commandeer the company or do little to hedge/manage these risks

Karmin v. American Express[edit]

Karmin v. American Express Company, NY, 1976, p. 316

F: Derivative suit by a minority stockholder. Amex made an in-kind (stock of another company) disbursement of dividends. Π claims that it would have been more beneficial to sell the stock on the open market and deduct the resulting capital loss from gross income. He claims that Δ directors “engaged in or acquiesced in or negligently permitted” the said disbursement “in violation of the fiduciary duty owed by them to Amex to care for and preserve Amex’s assets in the same manner as a man of average prudence would care for his own property.” Δ moved for dismissal for failure to state a cause of action (say accounting is more beneficial this way).
H: Courts will not interfere with the powers of directors unless they have been illegally or unconsciously executed; unless their acts are fraudulent or collusive and destructive of the rights of stockholders. Mere errors or judgment are not sufficient. There is no claim of fraud or self-dealing here, or of bad faith. The complaint must be dismissed since it merely alleges that some course of action other than that pursued by the BOD would have been more advantageous ⇒ such a claim gives rise to no cognizable cause of action. It is not enough to allege that the directors made an imprudent decision, pure & simple.
R: Claim here is that the BoD basically threw away 8 million in tax savings; as a result, the corporation was 8 million dollars poorer.

The Business Judgment Rule as Applied to Duty of Care[edit]

  1. As a general matter, courts are reluctant to step in and evaluate conduct of members of the board so long as they have informed themselves and acted impartially.
  2. There is a presumption that unless it can be shown by the complaining shareholders that the director/officer did not exercise a form of judgment, the suit cannot proceed ⇒ it is referred to as a procedural rule.
  3. The rule focuses on the procedures followed by the board. The decision that is the outcome of proper procedure could be completely idiotic, and yet the court is not supposed to interfere so long as proper procedure is followed.
  4. Siegel ⇒ some substantive elements are involved. HOW?

Smith v. Van Gorkum[edit]

Smith v. Van Gorkum, Del., 1985, p. 320

F: VG, president of TU Corporation (Δ) made a deal to sell the shares of the corporation to P, an acquaintance of his for $55 a share (price established by VG on little information). The corporation was trading at around $37 a share on the stock market. The deal allowed TU 90 days to receive other offers (but it could not solicit them or give these companies proprietary information). The deal was approved by the BOD in a last minute fashion (they had not read agreement), without any extensive internal valuation of what the company was worth. Amendments (again, not read) were later approved by the BOD which allowed solicitation & a supposedly longer offer period. Shareholders approved the deal. Two other companies showed interest; one made a higher offer & retracted; the other did not. Πs, shareholders, sued claiming that the board had breached their fiduciary duties by not reaching an informed business judgment when approving the original deal; by failing to disclose all material information that a reasonable stockholder would consider important in deciding whether to approve P’s offer.
H1: Directors breached their fiduciary duty by their failure to inform themselves of all information reasonably available to them and relevant to their decision to recommend the P merger.
This is so because:
  1. directors did not adequately inform themselves as to VG’s role in forcing the sale of the company and in establishing the per share purchase price;
  2. they were uninformed as to the intrinsic value of the company.
Given these circumstances, they were grossly negligent in approving the “sale” of the Company upon two hours’ consideration ⇒ Business judgment protections do not help here b/c decision was not informed. Though directors are protected in relying in good faith on reports made by officers (VG), no “report” within the meaning of the statute was given here. The size of the spread is unimportant since they had no intrinsic valuation; the “market test” was unimportant because it was designed so as to constrain the ability of other companies to enter bids.
H2: They also breached their duty by their failure to disclose all material information such as a reasonable stockholder would consider important in deciding whether to approve the offer. By failing in their statement to stockholders to state that a report valuing the company between $55 & $65 a share was not designed to say what the shares were worth but rather to justify a price in a leveraged transaction, the BOD breached this duty.
R: Court basically says here that if you are grossly negligent as a director in informing your decisions, you have breached your duty of care.

The Van Gorkom Aftermath - DE § 102(b)(7)[edit]

  1. § 102(b)(7) allows provisions eliminating or limiting the personal liability of a director to the corporation or its stockholders for monetary damages for breach of fiduciary duty other than:
    1. duty of loyalty
    2. acts or omissions not in good faith or which involve intentional misconduct or a knowing violation of the law
    3. § 174 of DE title
    4. for any transaction from which the director received an improper impersonal benefit.
  2. Lots of corporations took advantage of this once it was passed ⇒ shareholders did not reject amendments to the corporate charter limiting liability in this manner. The statute essentially lowered liability of directors below the standard of gross negligence to an intentional misconduct standard.


In re Walt Disney Co. Derivative Litigation[edit]

In re The Walt Disney Company Derivative Litigation, DE, 2003

F: Πs from case above come back with particularized pleadings about misconduct of Δs. They allege that the board consciously and intentionally disregarded their responsibilities in evaluating the employment K of Michael Orvitz and in supervising his exit from the company.
H: To survive a motion to dismiss for lack of demand, Π’s complaint must allege particularized facts that raise doubt about whether the challenged transaction is entitled to the protection of the business judgment rule. Aronson v. Lewis.
Πs must plead particularized facts sufficient to raise
  1. a reason to doubt that the action was taken honestly and in good faith (§ 102(b)(7) does not protect the board here), or
  2. a reason to doubt that the board was adequately informed in making the decision.
When a director consciously ignores his or her duties to the corporation, thereby causing economic injury to its stockholders, the director’s actions are either “not in good faith” or “involve intentional misconduct.” Π’s new complaint sufficiently alleges a breach of the director’s obligation to act honestly and in good faith in the corporation’s best interests for a Court to conclude, if the facts are true, that the Δ directors’ conduct fell outside the protection of the business judgment rule (and outside the liability waiver in Disney’s certificate of incorporation). Demand is excused under Aronson.
R: The difference between this case and Smith v. Van Gorkum is that the court sees this as a very significant step further down the line of director non-fesance (“facts do more than portray directors who are negligent or grossly negligent”).
Siegel says: This is a transformation of the violation of due care into a violation of good faith; § 102(b)(7) pushes violations of due care into this avenue. Under this formulation, the Π must allege knowing indifference with particularity so as to meet the reasonable doubt standard of Aronson.
Difference from Van Gorkum: This case actually requires knowledge, where Van Gorkum only demanded gross negligence in order to impose liability.

The court in Disney stated that directors have a duty of good faith, separate from their duties of loyalty and care, and identified three types of conduct that would establish a director’s failure to act in good faith: 'A failure to act in good faith may be shown, for instance, where the fiduciary intentionally acts with a purpose other than that of advancing the best interests of the corporation, where the fiduciary acts with the intent to violate applicable positive law, or where the fiduciary intentionally fails to act in the face of a known duty to act, demonstrating a conscious disregard for his duties. There may be other examples of bad faith yet to be proven or alleged, but these three are the most salient.'

Francis v. United Jersey Bank[edit]

Francis v. United Jersey Bank, NJ, 1981, p. 349

F: P&B Corporation was a reinsurance broker (received funds from ceding companies and is obligated to pay those funds over to reinsures). LP inherited a 48% interest from her husband, and was director of the company. The rest of shares belonged to her sons, who managed the company and embezzled $12 million from the corporation. LP died after the discovery of misappropriations and insolvency of the corporation. Creditors sued to recover the misappropriated amounts from her estate. LP was not active in management and did not pay attention to her duties as director, or to the affairs of the corporation. She was an alcoholic and in poor physical condition.
H: Under the NJSA, directors must “discharge their duties in good faith with that degree of diligence, care and skill which ordinarily prudent men would exercise under similar circumstances in like positions.” The nature and extent of reasonable care due under this statute depends on the type of corporation, its size, and its financial resources. A director should acquire at least a rudimentary understanding of the business of the corporation; he is bound to exercise ordinary care; if he feels that he does not have sufficient business experience, he must acquire that knowledge or refuse to act. Directors may not shut their eyes to corporate misconduct (no need for detailed management however) & must maintain familiarity with the financial status of the corporation. They are immune from liability if they rely in good faith upon the opinion of experts and written reports, but when looking at the financial status, upon discovering an illegal course of action, the director has a duty to object and if the corporation does not correct the conduct, resign. This is the fiduciary duty owed to shareholders and to creditors during insolvency. Such a duty is also owed to creditors during periods absent insolvency if the director’s corporation is a bank or runs a business resembling a bank (the case here because of the unqualified trust and confidence reposed by ceding companies and reinsurers in reinsurance brokers).
Application to the case: LP was charged with the obligation of basic knowledge & supervision of the firm. The obligation included keeping up with financial status of the firm and with making reasonable attempts at detection and prevention of illegal conduct. Although LP had a right to rely upon financial statements prepared, such reliance does not excuse her conduct here because those statements disclosed on their fact the misappropriation of funds. She had a duty to protect clients against misappropriation and she failed to discharge that fiduciary duty. The negligence is the proximate cause of the loss (required) because she clearly could have stopped her sons.
R: This case stands for the principle that a director’s duty of care includes a duty to pay attention to developments in the financial status of the corporation. Francis lets us know that when one operates a closely held corporation (especially since one must not provide audit information to the SEC), one must be really careful to pay attention to information being released ⇒ can’t rely on the statements of insiders; must keep scrupulous records of meetings.

In re Caremark International Derivative Litigation[edit]

In re Caremark International Inc. Derivative Litigation, Del., 1996, p. 355

F: Π claimed BOD breached their fiduciary duty to the corporation in connection with alleged violations of Caremark employees of federal and state laws. Corporation plead guilty to one charge of mail fraud & had to make payments worth $250 million to public & private parties. Π sued for recovery of losses on behalf of the shareholders. This is an action to approve their settlement agreement.
H: To determine whether the agreement should be approved, the judge will investigate the fairness an adequacy of the consideration offered to the corporation in exchange for the release of all claims made or arising from the facts alleged. Potential liability for directors can arise from both action (subject to the business judgment rule) and inaction. The board however is only required to authorize the most significant corporate acts: mergers, changes in capital structure, fundamental changes in business, appointment and compensation of the CEO, etc. It is however, a director’s obligation to attempt in good faith to assure that a corporate information and reporting system, which the board concludes is adequate, exists; failure to do so under some circumstances may render a director liable for losses caused by non-compliance with applicable legal standards. Directorial liability predicated on failure to monitor requires establishment of lack of good faith; to meet such a burden, Π must prove that a sustained or systematic failure of the board to exercise oversight existed. Consideration is fair and reasonable ⇒ settlement agreement is approved.
R: To prove that directors breached a duty of care by failing to adequately control employees, Π would have to show:
  1. That the directors knew, or should have known that violations of law were occurring and, in either event,
  2. That the directors took no steps in a good faith effort to prevent or remedy that situation, and
  3. That such failure proximately resulted in the losses complained of.

Stone v. Ritter[edit]

Stone v. Ritter,

F: Derivative action brought by shareholders on behalf of AmSouth Bancorporation against 15 present and former directors. Alleged that the bank’s directors had failed to ensure the existence of a reasonable federal Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering compliance and reporting system, which allegedly resulted in violations of laws and consequent fines and penalties against the bank for $50 million. The Chancery Court of Delaware dismissed the action.
H: Delaware’s Supreme Court affirmed the Chancery Court’s dismissal. In the course of its opinion, the Supreme Court addressed the question of the extent of a director’s duty to ensure monitoring and reporting systems and otherwise oversee a company’s compliance program.
H: The intentional failure to act in the face of a known duty to act was the type of bad faith at issue in the Caremark, Disney, and Stone cases. The duty of good faith at issue in Caremark and Stone (i.e., purported failure to establish or oversee compliance systems) is a subset of the duty of loyalty. This is particularly important language because, unlike claims that directors have violated their duty of care, corporations cannot limit or eliminate directors’ liability for violating their duty of loyalty. Caremark articulates the necessary conditions for holding directors liable for a failure of oversight. Directors may be held liable if they either completely failed to implement a reporting or information system or controls or, “having implemented such a system or controls, consciously failed to monitor or oversee its operations, thus disabling themselves from being informed of risks or problems requiring their attention.” Where information failed to reach the board because of ineffective internal controls, but information systems had been established and the directors neither knew nor should have known of the violations of law, there has been no violation of the duty of good faith. The court also reiterated what the Caremark court had stated ten years earlier: that the plaintiffs’ theory of liability in Stone – attempting to hold directors liable for the misconduct of employees in the organization – is possibly “the most difficult theory in corporation law upon which a plaintiff might hope to win a judgment.”

The only way to prevail in pleading against a 102(b)(7) corp., some equitable remedy (injunction) must be sought, since you can't seek monetary damages under 102(b)(7).

Duty of Loyalty – Corporate Context[edit]

Statutory Provisions[edit]

  1. § 713 NYBCL – no contract or other transaction between a corporation and one of its directors (or a corporation in which he has substantial financial interest) shall be void or voidable solely because the director participates in the decision-making:
    1. If the director’s interest in the K or transaction is disclosed in good faith or known to the board, and the board approves of such K or transaction by vote without counting the vote of the interested director or, by a unanimous vote of the disinterested directors if quorum is not present
    2. If the director’s interest in the K or transaction is disclosed in good faith or known to the shareholders entitled to vote thereon, and the shareholders approve by vote of such K or transaction [Seigel says this includes a requirement that the shareholders be disinterested].
    3. If the interested director can affirmatively establish that the K or transaction was fair and reasonable as to the corporation at the time it was approved.
  2. § 713 represents the consensus view of most states.
  3. § 8.61 RMBCA – A director’s conflicting interest transaction may not be enjoined due to the director’s interest if:
    1. § 8.62 – an affirmative vote of a majority (but not <2) of disinterested directors after disclosure approves the director’s taking advantage of the opportunity.
    2. § 8.63 – a majority of the votes entitled to be case by the disinterested holders of shares were cast in favor of the transaction after notice to shareholders describing the director’s conflicting interest transaction and other required disclosures.
    3. The transaction (at time of occurrence) is fair to the corporation.

Bayer v. Beran[edit]

Bayer v. Beran, NY, 1944, p. 368

F: Δ corporation funds a Radio music program to advertise their product (after an unfavorable FTC decision). Π claims that the undertaking was undertaken for a non-corporate purpose; that it was undertaken for the benefit of the wife of the President of the company in order to “foster” her career. She earned about 20K a year.
H: Where personal transactions of directors with their corporation produce a conflict between self-interest and fiduciary obligation, these dealings are subjected to rigorous scrutiny and where any of their K or engagements are challenged the burden is on the director to prove his good faith and inherent fairness from the viewpoint of the corporation. There is no breach of fiduciary duty in this case. The company was diligent, was responding to external events in choosing to advertise by radio; they did not spend too much on it; they hired outside experts; the wife of the President was only making a small amount compared to size of the K and she was getting paid market.
R: This is not the way to go; you don’t want to get into this kind of litigation. It is better to a) have a vote of the disinterested directors or b) if there aren’t enough of them, of the shareholders.

Lewis v. SLE[edit]

Lewis v. SLE, Inc., 2nd Cir., 1980, p. 373

F: Two companies: SLE & LGT. SLE rented property to LGT according to a K; the K charged 14K/yr in 1956, and though expired, no change was made to the terms as of 1972. R, A, H & L were directors and shareholders of both corporations; but sole shareholders of LGT after 1967. SLE had held no meeting since 1962, and had been largely ignored. Πs were shareholders of SLE. Πs charged that the Δs (R, A & L) wasted the assets of SLE by “grossly undercharging” LGT for its occupancy and use of the property.
H: The business judgment rule presupposes that directors have no conflict of interest; when a shareholder attacks a transaction in which the directors have an interest other than as directors of the corporation, the directors my not escape review of the merits of the transaction. A K between a corporation and an entity in which its directors are interested may be set aside unless the proponent of the K “shall establish affirmatively that the K or transaction was fair and reasonable as to the corporation at the time it was approved by the board.” § 713(b) BCL. Δ failed to prove that the rent paid was fair and reasonable.
R: The remedy for breach of duty of loyalty is a complete denial of any benefit that accrues to the director as a result of that breach ⇒ all such benefit incurred will be transferred to the corporation.

Bronz v. Cellular Information Systems[edit]

Bronz v. Cellular Information Systems, Inc., Del. 1996, p. 377

F: B (Δ) was the sole shareholder and President of RFBC; he was also a member of the BOD of CIS (Π). Both companies were involved in providing cell phone service. B was offered the opportunity to buy “license 2” for RFBC. The opportunity was not offered to CIS (it was at the time in financial troubles and selling its licenses & did not have any licenses in that part of the country). B communicated his interest to several members of the BOD of CIS; they replied that CIS had no interest and no funds to purchase the license. A few weeks later, PC made overtones that it was interested in buying CIS; the deal did not close until Nov. 23. PC had entered a bid for “license 2,” but was outbid by RFBC on Nov. 14. CIS (once acquired by PC) sues B for breach of duty of loyalty.
H: If there is presented to a corporate officer a business opportunity which the corporation is financially able to undertake, is in the line of the corporation’s business and is of practical advantage of it, is one in which the corporation has an interest or a reasonable expectancy, and by embracing the opportunity, the self-interest of the officer or director will be brought into conflict with that of the corporation, the law will not permit him to seize the opportunity for himself. The fact that B became aware of the purchase opportunity in his individual capacity lessens his burden of proof, but this fact is not dispositive. There is no liability however because CIS was not financially capable of exploiting the opportunity; because it is not clear that the company had a cognizable interest or expectancy in the license; and because this doctrine only applies in cases where the seizure of opportunity results in a conflict between the fiduciary’s duties and his self interest as actualized by the seizure (in this case there was no conflict – B revealed his interest to other directors; B was not obligated to refrain from competition with PC (PC’s plans were contingent and uncertain)). The director or officer must analyze the situation ex ante to determine whether the opportunity is one rightfully being to the corporation; if he believes, based on the factors above, that the corporation is not entitled, he may take it for himself.
R: Δ did not have a duty to PC; PC inherited CIS’s approval of B’s business dealings. Law in most jurisdictions states that the acquiring corporation takes on the assets and the liabilities.

Sinclair Oil Corp. v. Levien[edit]

Sinclair Oil Corp. v. Levien, Del., 1971, p. 385

F: Π is a minority shareholder of Sinven, a subsidiary of Δ (who owns 97% of the shares). Π claims that as a result of dividends paid by Sinven, the denial to Sinven of industrial development, and a breach of K between Sinclair’s wholly owned subsidiary, SIOC, and Sinven, Δ must account for damages sustained by the subsidiary. Δ nominates all members of Sinven’s BOD; directors are not independent of Δ (they are officers, directors or employees of Sinclair); as a result, Δ owes Sinven a fiduciary duty.
H: The observance of the fiduciary duty of a dominant corporation to a subsidiary corporation will be tested under one of two rules: 1) intrinsic fairness (shifts burden of proof to Δ); 2) business judgment (court will not interfere with judgment unless there is gross over-reaching). The intrinsic fairness standard will only be applied when the fiduciary duty is accompanied by self-dealing-the situation when a parent is on both sides of a transaction with it subsidiary. Self-dealing occurs when the parent, by virtue of its domination of the subsidiary, causes the subsidiary to act in such a way that the parent receives something from the subsidiary to the exclusion of, and detriment to, the minority stockholders. The dividend declaration shall be judged under the business judgment standard ⇒ there is no self dealing; the minority shareholders received their share of the dividends. The denial of Sinven’s industrial development also lacks self-dealing ⇒ there are no opportunities which came to Sinven which Δ seized, receiving nothing from Sinven to the exclusion of minority stockholders. The K breach claim is valid and was the result of self-dealing; Δ made Sinven enter into a K (self-dealing; minority shareholders could not share in receipts) ⇒ intrinsic fairness standard applies. Δ failed to hold up its end of the bargain, and failed to meet the necessary standard of proof ⇒ liability results.
R: Siegel disagrees with the decision here – Sinclair was draining Sinven and using the proceeds to explore new opportunities. There was equal treatment, but the majority shareholder benefited more (equal treatment also existed in Dodge too).

Zahn v. Transamerica[edit]

Zahn v. Transamerica Corporation, 3rd Cir., 1947, p. 389

F: Z holds class A stock in AFT corporation & sues Δ directly on behalf of himself and on behalf of all stockholders similarly situated. AFT had issued three types of stock: preferred; class A; class B. Upon liquidation of the company, and payment of sums required by the preferred stock, the class A stock was entitled to share with the class B stock in the distribution of the remaining assets at a 2:1 ratio. Each share of class A stock was convertible into class B stock at the option of the shareholder; all or any of the shares of class A stock were callable by the corporation at any quarterly dividend date upon 60 days notice to the shareholders @ 60$ a share plus accrued dividends. Δ owned a majority of the stock; assets were (due to mkt. fluctuation) worth a lot of money; Δ bought out class A stock as above; A was not aware of the increased value of assets (would have been worth a lot more than $60 a share) and was not informed. Z, sues to recover the amount due to class A stockowners had their shares not been called without their knowledge of the high value of assets.
H: Directors of a corporation or those who are in charge of its affairs by virtue of majority stock ownership have a fiduciary obligation toward the minority of stockholders. The right to recall class A stock belongs to the directors not shareholders; director must represent all the stockholders and cannot use his office as a director for his personal benefit at the expense of stockholders. Directors may not declare or withhold the declaration of dividends for the purpose of personal profit, or, by analogy, take any corporate action for such a purpose. The directors here were voting in favor of the interests of the Δ, and did not exercise independent judgment (though a disinterested board could have done it); the call is voided by powers of equity.
R: The remedy – A gets what they would have gotten @ liquidation had they converted their A stock into B stock.

Fiegler v. Lawrence[edit]

Fiegler v. Lawrence, Del., 1976, p. 395

F: Shareholder brought derivative action on behalf of A company against officers and directors & U company, claiming that the Δs in their capacity as directors of both corporations wrongfully usurped a corporate opportunity belonging to A company & wrongfully profited from the situation. L (Δ) & president of A, acquired certain properties for 60K. L offered to transfer properties to A, but after consulting with the BOD it was decided that A did not have the finances necessary to exploit the properties. Properties where transferred to U (closely held corp. whose majority stock was held by Δs) where development capital could be raised by sale of stock without risk to A. A was given a long-term option to purchase USAC, if property was worth it. Option was executed, approved by A shareholders, where A delivered 800K shares of its stock for all shares of U stock. Π filed to recover the shares.
H: Shareholder ratification of an “interested transaction” although less than unanimous, shifts the burden of proof to an objecting shareholder to demonstrate the terms are so unequal as to amount to a gift or waste of corporate assets, relieving the Δs of the burden of proving fairness. Formal approval must be given by a majority of independent, fully informed shareholders. [does not apply to this case; majority of shares voted in favor of exercising option were case by Δ, and only 1/3 of disinterested shareholders voted] Departure from fairness test is not permissible. DE § 144 does not help Δ ⇒ it does not sanction “unfairness;” it merely prevents invalidation “solely” because votes of directors were counted at shareholder vote. Transaction was however fair to the corporation.
R: This rule in this decision was adopted in the RMBCA and is the rule in several states. If there is no self-dealing ⇒ the Δ gets business judgment.

In re Wheelbrator Tech Shareholders Litigation[edit]

In re Wheelbrator Technologies, Inc. Shareholders Litigation, Del., 1995

F: WMI acquired 22% of WTI stock. WMI then proposed acquisition to WTI in a merger agreement. WTI’s board (not including WMI directors), after consideration of evidence from investment bankers & lawyers approved the merger. A majority of WTI shareholders (not counting WMI) approved the agreement. Πs claim WTI BOD failed to fully and fairly disclose all material facts; that they breached their duty of care; that they breached their duty of loyalty.
H: WTI BOD fully & fairly disclosed all material facts; there is no evidence to the contrary. Therefore, the merger was approved by fully informed vote of a majority of disinterested stockholders. If the shareholder vote is fully informed, the effect of that informed vote is to extinguish the claim that the board failed to exercise due care in negotiating the merger agreement [Π loses].
There are two kinds of duty of loyalty claims:
  1. interested transaction btw corporation and its directors (or a corporation in which they have financial interest);
  2. cases involving a transaction between a corporation and its controlling shareholder.
Transactions fitting into category 1) are not voidable under § 144(a). Such ratified transactions invoke the business judgment rule, placing the burden of proof on the parties attacking a transaction. Transactions fitting into category 2) are ordinarily reviewable under “entire fairness” doctrine with the burden resting on the Δ. However, if ratification by a majority of minority stockholders occurs, the standard of review is entire fairness, but the burden of proving that the merger was unfair shifts to the Π.
R: Shareholder approval prevents placing the burden on the Δ, but requires approval of disinterested shareholders.

Federal Corporate (Securities) Law[edit]

Basic Background[edit]

Federal Corporate Law is Embodied by Two Statutes
  1. Federal Securities Act of 1933 ⇒ regulates the primary market (IPOs)
  2. Securities Exchange Act of 1934 ⇒ regulates the secondary market
History/Basic Info
  1. Enacted During Great Depression ⇒ SEC continues to reflect this skeptical attitude
  2. Law is often updated by Congress; it is also administratively regulated by the SEC
  3. The Three Sources of Federal Law
    1. Statutory
    2. Administrative
    3. Judicial
Types of Security Regulation
  1. Substantive Regulation
  2. Merit Regulation – regulates based upon the quality of the security (pushed by Wall Street; road not taken)
  3. Disclosure Regulation – places disclosure requirements on issuers so as to provide investors with adequate information (philosophical underpinning of our law).
    Assumes that the people in the market are rational, sufficiently educated, and self-interested. They are assumed to absorb information and to act rationally upon that information.

The Role of the SEC[edit]

  1. Not a gatekeeper ⇒ it does not double-check the information generated by the company in it statements. The resources simply do not exist to do this, and even if they did, the cost would probably outweigh the benefits.
  2. Its goal is not to prevent Worldcom & Enron ex ante ⇒ this would be nearly impossible. Its goal is to get he necessary information out to the decision-makers in the market, and hope that those decisionmakers discover the internal fraud when pouring over the books.
    If the information is false, and that falseness is not evident to the market, then the market will produce an incorrect price.
  3. SEC relies on the marketplace and on sophisticated investors to absorb the financial information released ⇒ regular Joe will not be able to comprehend them.
    1. Is it problematic to use intermediaries in this way?
      1. Yes ⇒ not everyone will be informed
      2. No ⇒ the average person is not expected to make medical decisions solely on his own judgment; it is perfectly acceptable to have them rely on the collective decision of those that do understand the financial stats.
    2. This is all fine and good for publicly traded companies, but what about privately traded ones?
      The SEC tries to ensure that those investors are properly informed as well.
Core Information Investors Care About
  1. Consolidated Balance Sheets – what does the corporation own & owe?
  2. Cash Flows – seen as most powerful tool for tracking a corporation’s performance and estimating its future potential.
The information included in 10-K disclosure
  1. 8-10 pages of financial statements
  2. 40-60 pages written by the auditor describing how the statements were prepared, & the assumptions made
  3. A discussion of the company’s business (what they sell, etc.)
  4. A disclosure of the executive officers of the corporation (names, background)
  5. Management’s Discussion & Analysis – 50 page discussion of the company & its prospects by management.

How Securities get From Issuer to Market[edit]

  1. The Tiers – From Issuer to Client
    1. Issuer hires underwriters to sell the securities for him
      1. Usually there are several underwriters, with a lead underwriter in charge
      2. The underwriter effectively buy up an allocated portion of the shares
    2. Underwriters sell securities to broker dealers (who also sell secondary securities)
    3. Broker dealers sell securities to clients
  2. The Regulatory Process:
    1. § 5 requires registration with the SEC before a security is placed on the market
    2. To Register:
      1. Registration statement is filed with the SEC in Washington (its division of Corporate Finance).
      2. Today, filing must be electronic
    3. SEC can make no comment, and under § 8, the document becomes effective after 20 days.
    4. SEC can request more information before an IPO is approved.
      1. SEC does not review the information for completeness or correctness or compliance with the law.
      2. It does comment on accounting methods, and actively work to prevent any sales puffery in the disclosure (part of depression era culture)
    5. SEC can however file an amendment, in which case, another 20 days will lapse before the registration is deemed filed.
  3. The Market Process:
    1. Usually, after the SEC approves a registration, the stock of the company is within the hands of the clients within hours.
    2. Underwriters figure out a price at which to sell the security. Broker dealers have an option to buy at that price:
      1. After the first few shares are on the market, if the market settles on a price higher than that offered by the underwriter, all the brokers will take the option to buy.
      2. If however, the market settles on a price lower than that offered by the underwriter, all the brokers will refuse the option, and the security will be dumped into the secondary market.
      3. If the price falls below the underwritten price, the underwriter is in trouble. Also, if the price rises way above the underwritten price, it is also in a lot of trouble.
    3. The Three Types of Underwriting:
      1. Firm commitment underwriting – underwriter makes a commitment to buy all of the shares of the security; this is risky for the underwriter, and is usually only available for market-tested companies (Dell, Microsoft).
      2. Best efforts underwriting
      3. Stand-by underwriting

The 1933 Act[edit]

(Glynn mentioned "*")

§ 2 – provides definition for terms such as “security,” “issuer,” and “underwriter.”
§ 5 – prohibits the sale of a security through interstate commerce that is not registered with the SEC. see § 5(a)(1) & § 5(a)(2). Prohibits the use of a prospectus unless the prospectus meets the requirements of § 10 of the Act (see below).
Approach here ⇒ impose a blanket obligation to register and provide a few exemptions.
§ 3 – provides for exempted securities (did not cover in class)
§ 4 – provides for exempted transactions; most important is § 4(2), which provides an exemption for “private offerings.”
What is a private offering? Most classic example ⇒ when a corporation goes to a set of banks and offers to sell them corporate bonds.
Why no need for protection in this case? Banks are sophisticated investors ⇒ they will ask you for additional information. If you refuse to give it, they will refuse to buy your securities.
§ 10* – Information required in Prospectus:
Prospectus must contain the information that is filed in the registration statement. Prospectus must be updated with more current information. 10(a). Prospectus must also be filed with the registration statement but as part of the registration statement & SEC may prevent or suspend its use if it finds that it contains material statements of untrue facts/omissions. 10(b).
SEC can through regulation require additional information to be included in the prospectus. § 10(c).
§ 11(a) – creates absolute liability for material misrepresentations/omissions in the registration statement filed with the SEC.
Π may sue in any competent court.
The following people are liable under § 11 (see 11(a)(1)-(5):
Every person who signed the registration statement
The Underwriters
Every person who was a director of or partner at issuing/time of filing of the registration statement.
Everyone who is about to become a part of the BOD at the time that the registration statement was filed, and with his consent is named on the registration statement
Every accountant, engineer or appraiser who certified the part of the registration statement at issue (expert liability).
TSC v. Norway – interprets the meaning of “material” in another portion of the act – same approach applies under § 11(a) of the 1933 Act (see Basic below for the test).
Under § 11(a), Δ can escape liability if it can be proved that the person acquiring the security knew that the untrue statement made in the registration was untrue. Δ bears the burden of showing that Π knew of the untrue nature of the statement.
§ 11(b) – lays out the affirmative defenses available to Δs charged with § 11(a) liability:
The Issuer (the Corporation itself) has no affirmative defenses ⇒ absolute liability.
If before the effective date of the part of the registration statement with respect to which liability is asserted 1) Δ resigns and 2) informs the SEC of such resignation and that he would not be responsible for the statement.
For a non-expertised portion of the registration, if Δ, had “after reasonable investigation, reasonable ground to believe and did believe . . . that the statements therein were true and that there was no omission to state a material fact require to be stated therein or necessary to make the statements therein not misleading.”
For a portion of the registration statement purporting to be made upon Δ’s authority as an expert, if Δ, had “after reasonable investigation, reasonable ground to believe and did believe... that the statements therein were true and that there was no omission to state a material fact require to be stated therein or necessary to make the statements therein not misleading, or such part of the registration statement did not fairly represent his statement as an expert.”
For a portion of the registration statement purporting to be made the authority of an expert (other than the Δ), if Δ, had “reasonable ground to believe and did believe . . . that the statements therein were true and that there was no omission to state a material fact require to be stated therein or necessary to make the statements therein not misleading, or such part of the registration statement did not fairly represent the statement of the expert.”
§ 11(c) – In determining what constitutes “reasonable investigation and reasonable ground for belief” under § 11(b), “the standard of reasonableness shall be that required of a prudent man in the management of his own property.
§ 12 ⇒ lays out liability incurred for failing to file registration:
Any person who offers to sell a security in violation of § 5, or
Any person who offers to sell a security that makes untrue statements of material facts/omission (in the prospectus or by oral communication) and who cannot sustain the burden of proof that he did not know, and in the exercise of reasonable care could not have know of such untruth or omission,
Shall be liable to the person purchasing such security from him; the latter may sue to recover the consideration paid for such security with interest thereon, less the amount of any income received thereon, upon the tender of such security, or for damages if he no longer owns the security. § 12(a). [Basically gives right to Rescission].
§ 20 ⇒ give the SEC the right to prosecute criminally for violations of the securities laws. A violation of § 5 can lead to a criminal prosecution by the SEC.
§ 2(a)(1) – defines a “security” very broadly – covers everything imaginable.

Defining “Security”[edit]

Any note, stock, treasury stock, bond, debenture, certificate of interest or participation in any profit-sharing agreement or in any oil, gas, or other mineral royalty or lease, any collateral trust certificate, preorganization certificate or subscription, transferable share, investment contract, voting-trust certificate, certificate of deposit, for a security, any put, call, straddle, option, or privilege on any security, certificate of deposit, or group or index of securities (including any interest therein or based on the value thereof), or any put, call, straddle, option, or privilege entered into on a national securities exchange relating to foreign currency, or in general, any instrument commonly known as a 'security'; or any certificate of interest or participation in, temporary or interim certificate for, receipt for, or warrant or right to subscribe to or purchase, any of the foregoing; but shall not include currency or any note, draft, bill of exchange, or banker's acceptance which has a maturity at the time of issuance of not exceeding nine months, exclusive of days of grace, or any renewal thereof the maturity of which is likewise limited.

— SA'34
NOTE - REPLACED BY ROBINSON V. GLYNN

Great Lakes Chemical Corp. v. Monsanto Co. Del, 2000, p. 405

Facts: NSC LLC created by Δ & Δ's subsidiary. Each allowed to receive distribs, profits, losses, deductions based on capital contribs. LLC Board handles management; Exclusive authority to bind NSC & manage its authorities, but Members can remove the managers without cause. Members can’t dispose of NSC interests in violation of securities laws. Δ provided Π with forecasted income, and Π offered to acquire Δs’ interests in NSC (they got it). Π then sued asserting that Δs had violated § 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, by making material representations and by failing to disclose material facts in connection with sale of securities. Δ contends that the interests in NSC do not constitute securities. GL contends that NSC constitutes either “stock,” “investment contract,” or “any interest or instrument commonly known as a ‘security.’”
Holding Background Law: An investment K for the purposes of the Securities Act means a K, transaction or scheme whereby a person invests his money in a common enterprise and is led to expect profits solely from the efforts of the promoter or a third party. Howey.
To establish an investment contract there must be:
  1. investment of money,
  2. in a common enterprise (horizontal – between investors; vertical – between investor and promoter),
  3. with profits to come solely from the efforts of others (does not apply to general partnerships unless a partner has so little control as to constitute a passive investor; applies to limited partners in an LLP unless they exert substantial control over management; LLC – depends on the management structure).
The Howey test should not be applied to transactions involving traditional stock, and only to determine if an instrument is an investment K. Landreth.
A “stock” should have the five most common features of stock:
  1. the right to receive dividends contingent upon an apportionment of profits;
  2. negotiability;
  3. the ability to be pledged or hypothecated;
  4. voting rights in proportion to the number of shares owned;
  5. the ability to appreciate in value. Forman.
So long as the transaction involves an instrument called “stock” and the attributes above exist, securities laws will govern. Landreth. An LLC (having only 3 owners) was found not to constitute an investment K because the owner of the interest had maintained management responsibility and as such did not expect profits solely from the efforts of others. Keith. Another was found to constitute an investment K because 700 individuals invested, and as such there was a common enterprise and the investors had little input into the company. Parksburg Wireless LLC. Any “interest or instrument commonly known as a security” covers the same financial instruments as an investment K. Forman.
Holding Application:
  1. The interest involved here, though it has “stock-like characteristics” is not traditional stock. Therefore, Landreth states that the Howey test must be used.
  2. It is not an “investment contract.” There is no common enterprise (no horizontal commonality – GL is only investor; no vertical commonality – Δs maintained no interest; the fact that M & its subsidiary pooled their contributions to form the LLC does not change the character of the sale). Profits cannot be seen here as coming solely from the efforts of others; GL could fire managers with or without case at any time.
  3. The interest is not “any interest or instrument commonly known as a security.”
Remember: The sole point of this case is to lay out the definition of the word “security” under the Federal Acts.

Registration Exemptions[edit]

Doran v. Petroleum Management Corp., 5th Cir., 1977, p. 417

Facts: Sophisticated investor purchased a LP interest in an unregistered oil drilling venture. Argues sale was not a "private offering" exempted from registration requirements by § 4(2) of SA'33. Δ gave drilling info to Π, who then contributed capitol. PMC went south; Π owes some of its debts; wants to rescind K.
Holding: Π has made out a prima facie case: Δ sold securities; Δ used interstate commerce. Δ’s affirmative defense: the offering was exempt.
To figure out if an offering qualifies for an exemption, a court will consider the following factors:
  1. the # of offerees and their relationships to each other & issuer (most important factor);
  2. the # of units offered;
  3. the size of offering;
  4. the manner of offering.
Exemption privilege turns on knowledge of offerees (making #1 the key factor). Δ satisfies latter 3 factors:
2. there are few units offered;
3. the size of the offering is small;
4. the offer was made through personal contact and there was no public advertisement.
As for #1, only 8 investors were offered LP shares. Number not determinative, must investigate offerees' relationships to the issuer - key issue is the info available to the offerees by virtue of their relationship to the Δ.
All offerees
  1. must be sophisticated investors, and
  2. must have access to the info that a registration statement would have afforded a prospective investor
Remember: Even if exempt under SA'33, investors must have access to the same substantive info as found in a prospectus. The benefit ⇒ no § 11 liabilities if you fall under the provisions.
Remember II: The Safe Harbor Provisions of Regulation D:
Issuer raises < $1M through securities, it generally may sell them to an unlimited number of buyers without registering the securities.
Raises < $5M, it may sell the securities to 35 buyers but no more.
Raises > $5M, it may sell to no more than 35 buyers, and each buyer must pass various tests of financial sophistication.
Buyer number limits do not apply to “accredited investors” like banks and brokers.
Issuer cannot widely advertise and must file notice of sale with SEC.
In most cases, issuer must give buyers some info about the company.
NOTES
If not exempt, 33 takes hold and non-compliance will result in rescission by purchaser. Exemptions:
4(1) Sales by anyone other than an issuer, underwriter, or dealer. So, all sales are exempt except for sales by these three groups
Issuer = Company
Underwriter = Purchaser of stock with eye toward quick sale at higher price
Dealer = Securities trader
4(2) Private Placements
1. exempt
4(3) Intrastate exemptions
corporation incorped in state, does majority of business in that state and all offerees reside in that state.

§ 11 Liability & Defenses[edit]

Escott v. BarChris Construction Co., SDNY, 1968, p. 426

Facts: Δs (Corporation; people who signed the registration; underwriters; and auditors - PT). BC filed a registration statement with the SEC in 1961; it became effective on May 24, and BC collected the proceeds. The company declared bankruptcy 1.5 years later. Πs are purchasers of said debentures, and bring action under § 11 of the Securities Act of 1933, claiming that the registration statement contained false statements and material omissions. Casebook highlights some falsities and omissions in the data reported for 1960 & the 1st quarter of 1961. The case will address the following issues:
1) were there false statements of fact or omitted facts?
2) if so, were such facts “material” within the meaning of the Act;
3) do Δs meet any of the affirmative defenses?
Holding (materiality; remember, this definition is pre-empted by TSC): For information to be “material,” it must be of a kind such that an “average prudent investor ought reasonably to be informed” of it before purchasing the security registered. It speaks of matter which an investor needs to know before he can make an intelligent, informed decision whether or not to buy the security – minor inaccuracies are of no interest to him. The 1961 figures clearly amount to false statements and material omissions; the 1960 figure however do not ⇒ though some of the statements are false, the average prudent investor would not have cared about these errors in 1960 sales and earnings.
Holding (§ 11(b) defenses): Due diligence defense could be available to everyone but the issuer (BC) as affirmative defenses. See § 11(b) & (c). Three basic outs: 1) for statements not made under authority of an expert, Δ, after reasonable investigation, must have reasonable ground to believe that the statement was true; 2) for statements made upon Δ’s authority as an expert, a) he had after reasonable investigation reasonable ground to believe the statements were correct or b) the registration did not reasonably reflect his view as an expert; 3) for statements made on the authority of an expert other than himself, Δ had no reasonable ground to believe that the statements were untrue. Reasonableness is based upon the reasonableness required of a “prudent man in the management of his own property.” The only expert within the meaning of the statute is PT, the accounting firm. The only statements that can be claimed to have been made on the authority of an expert are those made on PT’s authority. PT certified the 1960 figures; not the 1961 figures.
Holding (Application to the Δs): President & VP were founders, but had little education. The liability of a director who signs a registration statement does not depend upon whether or not he read it, or, if he did, whether or not he understood what he was reading. They were present at board meetings, and knew what was going on. They could not have believed that the registration statement was wholly true and that no material facts had been omitted & there was nothing to show that they made any investigation of things they did not understand. No due diligence defenses in their case. Treasurer/CFO of BC had intimate knowledge of the financial issues; he cannot rely on 1960 figures certified by PT – if the 1960 figures are material, he has no due diligence defense for either the 1960 or the 1961 figures. House counsel, though he did not participate in executive affairs in any real sense is listed as an executive officer. He should however have known that he was required to make a reasonable investigation of the 1961 non-expertised section of the registration. The outside director, though new, is also liable for the 1961 figures, even though he was new and PT had run the figures. A prudent man without knowledge of the relevant facts, can’t act in an important matter on simple reliance upon representations of strangers and general information. The lawyer on the board who was put on because he was a partner at the firm representing BC at the registration was entitled to rely on PT’s 1960 figures, but not the 1961 figures; he was obliged to make a reasonable investigation for the non-expertised section (which he did not do). PT is liable for the 1960 figures; they did not perform a “reasonable investigation” as required by statute.
Remember: Examination of whether a reasonable investigation was performed will take into account the qualifications of the individual people and their management roles in the corporation. The standard applied is not that of a reasonable investigation from the lay person’s standard.
Remember II: There can be no indemnification from § 11 liability through the AOC; nor is it possible to insure against § 11 violations.

Securities Exchange Act of 1934[edit]

1934 Statute[edit]

Requires yearly disclosure of same information as is required for registration under 1933 Act under Form 10-K; liability incurred under the 1934 Act however is much lower.
The 1934 Act therefore creates a disclosure regime that will inform investors about changes that take place within the corporation once the IPO has been filed.
The Act Requires the Following Disclosure Reports (§ 13 & 14):
10-K* – Annual Report which is the equivalent of an annual prospectus; contains the same information (audited financial statements; management’s report, etc.).
10-Q* – Must be filed for each of the first three quarters of the year (un-audited financial statements; management’s report).
8-K* – must be filed within 15 days after certain important events affecting the company’s operations or financial condition.
§ 14 – This is a statutory delegation of authority to the SEC to provide rules and regulations for how the solicitation of proxies will take place. There is no mention that anyone who has relied upon the misstated material can bring a civil action.
§ 10(b)* – Makes it unlawful for anyone, directly or indirectly, by the use of any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails or any facility of any national securities exchange to use or employ, in connection with the purchase or sale of any security... any manipulative or deceptive device or contrivance in contravention of such rules and regulations as the Commission may prescribe...
Rule 10b-5, easily the most famous and possibly the most important of the Commission’s many rules makes it unlawful for any person, directly or indirectly, to
Employ any device, scheme, or artifice to defraud
Make any untrue statement of a material fact or to omit to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made, in light of the circumstances under which they are were made, not misleading
Engage in any act, practice, or course of business which operates or would operate as a fraud or deceit upon any person.
None of the language here explicitly created a private right of action; it does however give the SEC the power to take action against wrongdoers.
Glynn: 10b-5 statutory language given new power under Central Bank of Denver case

Basic v. Levinson[edit]

Basic Inc. v. Levinson, US, 1988, p. 444 [Materiality & Reliance Under 10b-5]

F: In '76, officer of BI, publicly traded co., met with CE reps about merger. In '77 & ’78, BI thrice denies merger talks. Dec. '78, BI has NYSE suspend trading of BI & announces merger offer; Next day, board accepted CE’s offer. Πs, former BI SHs who sold stock after 1st denial & before trading suspension, bring class action for misrep in violation of SEA'34 §10(b) and Rule 10b-5 (shares sold for less b/c of BI’s misreps).
H (materiality): To fulfill Materiality req, omission or misrep would've significantly impacted a reasonable investor based upon total mix of info available. Where impact of corp. development on target’s fortune is certain & clear, this definition of materiality admits straightforward application. Where event is contingent or speculative in nature (like with this merger), it is difficult to ascertain whether the reasonable investor would have considered the omitted information significant at that time. Under such circumstances, materiality will depend at any given time upon a balancing of both the indicated probability that the even will occur (what’s the board’s level of interest in the transaction?) and the anticipated magnitude of the even in light of the totality of the activity (how important is the event?). Remand on this issue.
Holding (reliance): Second is one of “reliance.” Reliance in 10b-5 actions provides the requisite causal connection between a Δ’s misrepresentation and a material injury. Requiring a Π to show a speculative state of facts (how he would have acted if omitted material information had been disclosed or if the misrepresentation had not been made) would place an unrealistic burden on the Π who has traded on an impersonal market. An investor who buys or sells stock at the price set by the market does so in reliance on the integrity of that price. B/c most publicly available information is reflected in market price, an investor’s reliance on any public misrepresentations may be presumed for purposes of 10b-5. Any showing however, that severs the link between the alleged misrepresentation an either the price received by the Π or his decision to trade at a fair market price, will be sufficient to rebut this presumption of reliance. This is known as the fraud-on-the-market theory.
Dissent: Judges are not economists – the use of the fraud-on-the-market theory is a mistake.
Remember: The money market generally absorbs public information globally within 15 minutes of its release (most efficient market out there). The theory here is that since the public information here affected the price and investors made sales based upon that price, they were essentially misled by the information released by the BoD.
Remember II: According to theory three kinds of information affect the market price:
Historical trend information about the price of the stock itself is reflected in the price of the stock:
This argument is based upon weak form market efficiency ⇒ market price at the very least reflects information relating to the history of the stock. This is empirically very well proven.
Any public information that regarding the company is reflected in the price of stock:
This argument is based upon a semi-strong market efficiency theory ⇒ market price of the stock efficiently/rapidly impounds public information within 15 minutes. This has been tested and seems correct.
Any private information regarding the company is reflected in the price of stock:
This argument is based upon absolute market efficiency ⇒ empirical evidence does not support the theory ⇒ private information given to a few people will not be accurately reflected in the price of a company’s stock.
Remember III: 10b-5 does not require disclosure; it merely prevents the making of untrue statements & of incomplete statements that may be misleading. Saying “no comment” is perfectly ok. Why would a company want to maintain secrecy?
You don’t want your rivals to begin bidding.
Public merger information will affect the market price, changing the dynamic of negotiation.
Shareholder derivative suits.

West v. Prudential Securities[edit]

West v. Prudential Securities, Inc., 7th Cir., 2002, p. 457 [Limit of the fraud-on-the-market Theory]

Facts: JH, a stockbroker working for Δ, lied to clients (for 7 months) that JSB was certain to be acquired, at a big premium, in the near future. Π investors bought JSB stock based on JH's misreps, subsequently sued under 10b-5. Δ requests interlocutory appeal of the certification of this class.
Holding: Basic held that public information reaches professional investors, whose evaluations of that information and trades influence securities prices. JH did not release information to the public; it thus does not fit into the Basic rubric. The class is not certified. The efficient-market theory as applied to public information does not have a non-public information counterpart. Therefore there is causation problem for the Π; it is hard to see how JH’s non-public statements could have caused changes in JSB stock price. The fact that JSB stock price rose during this period is not enough, any analysis must consider other potential reasons for the price increase. Fraud-on-the-market theory cannot help the Πs here.
Remember: Easterbrook holds the line at the semi-strong efficient market theory.

Pommer v. Medtest[edit]

Pommer v. Medtest Corporation, 7th Cir., 2002, p. 462 [10b-5 in Private Transactions]

Facts: Δ corp was formed by PM & DW to obtain a patent and undertake development to make a certain medical test commercially attractive. PM sold some of his stock to Π (200K worth), which is valuable only if the firm pays dividends, goes public, or is acquired by a third party. None of this happened, and Π sued under 10b-5. Jury concluded that DW told Π that 1) Medtest had a US patent on the process and that a sale of Medtest to Abbott Labs at 50-100 million was imminent (making their interest worth between 1.5 & 3 mil). Medtest had not yet have a patent (and did not receive it for another two years); the deal had not yet been sealed.
Holding I: Using the Basic standard, it does not matter that Medtest obtained the patent two years later (Δ made material untrue statement). The securities laws approach matters from an ex ante perspective: a statement that is true does not become fraudulent when things go wrong, nor does a false statement become acceptable when it happens to become true.
Holding II: Under the Basic standard, there is a “substantial likelihood” that the Π and any other reasonable investor would have viewed the truth about negotiations as significantly altering the total mix of information available. This is a closer case however, since the price of the shares clearly indicated that the likelihood of a deal going through was low. Other holdings:
PM sold the stock, but DW can become liable for his own misstatements, if made “in connection with” PM’s sale of stock (important to figure out if DW knew Δ was dealing with the Π).
If DW was ignorant of dealings or stood to gain nothing from them, then “scienter” another element of § 10(b) liability would be hard to establish.
Vicarious liability is possible; for vicarious liability to reach Medtest, such liability would depend on finding that DW or PM acted as Medtest’s agents, and within the scope of their authority.
Damages under § 10(b) usually are the difference between the price of the stock and its value on the date of the transaction if the full truth were know; the Π must establish “loss causation” – that the misstatement caused him to incur the loss of which he complains ⇒ it is not enough to establish that misrepresentation caused him to buy or sell the securities.
Remember: The Basic standard leaves a lot of leeway to the fact-finders in determining which untrue or incomplete statements are “material.”

Limitations[edit]

...on actions under Rule 10b-5, p. 466

Judicial
Standing: Π has no cause of action under Rule 10b-5 if he neither bought nor sold shares. Blue Chip Stamp v. Manor Drug Stores.
Scienter: To be liable under 10b-5 he person making the false statement must have made it with an “intent to deceive, manipulate or defraud,” though recklessness seems to also be sufficient. Ernst & Ernst v. Hochfelder.
Secondary Liability and Scope of Interpretation: No implied right of action against those who aid and abet violations of Rule 10b-5. Central Bank of Denver v. First Interstate Bank.
Legislative
Private Securities Litigation Reform Act

Santa Fe Industries v. Green[edit]

Santa Fe Industries, Inc. v. Green, US, 1977, p. 466 [10b-5 & Fiduciary Duties]

Facts: SFI held 95% of K stock. Using § 253 of DE corporate law, which permits a parent corporation owning at least 90% of the stock of a subsidiary to merge with that subsidiary upon payment for the shares of the minority corporation. Notice must be given & shareholder dissatisfied with the terms may petition the DE court for a decree order the payment of fmv of the shares. SFI hired Morgan Stanley to apprise K Company, who found that shares were worth $125 per share. SFI offered minority stockholders 150 price and the data used to come to that number. Πs brought suit in federal court (bypassing the state remedy) seeking to set aside the merger or recovery of fmv for shares, claiming it was worth at lest 750 per share.
They claimed that this violated 10(b) b/c:
  1. Merger was solely to eliminate minority shareholders (lacking any business purpose) and undertaken w/o prior notice to the minority shareholders;
  2. Low valuation placed on the shares was itself fraudulent under Rule 10b-5.
Appeals court upheld complaint (1), holding that 10b-5 reaches breaches of fiduciary duty by a majority against minority stockholders without any charge of misrepresentation or lack of disclosure.
Holding: The transaction, if carried out as alleged in the complaint was neither deceptive nor manipulative ⇒ the district court found that there was no omission or misstatement in the information statement accompanying the notice of merger. Breach of fiduciary duty by majority stockholders, without any deception, misrepresentation, or nondisclosure, does not violate the statue and rule. The language and legislative history of § 10(b) gives no indication that Congress meant to prohibit any conduct not involving manipulation or deception. Remedy exists under state law ⇒ best not to federalize. Complaint dismissed.
Remember: Congress chose not to address this issue.
Glynn: Some SH went to DL Chancery courts for appraisal which determined going concern value to be 254. However, liquidation value was later valued at 670. Appraisal seems an insufficient remedy, but USSC has spoken that absent fraud, misrep, or nondisclosure, there is no cause of action.

Deutschman v. Beneficial[edit]

Deutschman v. Beneficial Corp., 3rd Cir., 1988, p. 472 [10b-5 & Derivatives]

Facts: BC’s officers allegedly misrep'ed, which artificially supported market price of BC’s stock and, concomitantly, market price of option K for that stock. Losses allegedly suffered when, upon disclosure of truth, DM's call options on BC’s stock (bought in reliance on market price manip'ed by Δ) became worthless. Sues for damages under 10b-5; Δ moves for dismissal, claiming Π lacks standing.
Holding: USSC's only standing limit with respect to §10(b) damages actions is the requirement that the Π be a purchaser or seller of a security. Π has standing as a purchaser of an option K to sue for damages under §10(b) for affirmative misrepresentations he alleges were made by Δs, b/c: 1) privity is not required by the SEA; 2) doing so serves the underlying purpose of the act to protect participants in the securities markets (option is a security) that have dealt in the security to which the representation or prospectus relates.
Remember: Court looks at the inherent relationship between options and the value of the underlying security in order to find standing for the Π.
Duty to disclose extends to derivative markets (lack of privity is irrelevant)
Option securities
Call option - wager that stock will increase in value
Put option - wager that stock will decrease in value
Reasons, opinions or beliefs that are false or misleading constitute misrepresentations of material facts.
Reliance presumed bc of fraud on market.
Scienter is that they benefited themselves (best evidence of intent) and told someone else (rare smoking gun)

Inside Information & the Use of 10b-5 to Circumscribe the Practice[edit]

In cases where a seller of securities makes a misrepresentation to a buyer (or to the market) by disclosing false information/failing to fully disclose material information the SEC may seek enforcement against the seller, and that seller is liable for civil remedies.

In the case of insider trading however, there is nothing that has been said, there has been no representation whatsoever. The buyer has inside information but makes no mention.

SEC relies on the following statutes to gain compliance:

  1. § 10(b) & Rule 10b-5 of the SEA
  2. § 16 of the SEA
    1. § 16(a) creates a reporting requirement for beneficial owners, directors, and officers.
    2. § 16(b) states that :
      1. For trades of beneficial owners, directors, and officers, of the security of their company, “any profit realized by [them] from any purchase and sale, or any sale and purchase, of any equity security of such issuer . . . involving any such equity security within any period of less than six months . . . shall inure to and be recoverable by the issuer.”
      2. This section will not cover transactions “where such beneficial owner was not such (was not a 10% owner) both at the time of the purchase and sale, or the sale and purchase of the security.
    3. Siegel does say to remember that under 16(b) officers need to be officers at either purchase or sale; large shareholders need to have 10% at both purchase and sale.
    4. Siegel did not cover the cases in class – he thought thinks this is a stupid provision b/c:
      1. It is obviously overinclusive of non-insider transactions, and is as such a heavy-handed rule.
      2. It completely forecloses buying & selling of the corporation’s stock by officers.
Kinds of Insider Trading
  1. Classic Insider
  2. Constructive Insider
  3. Tipper/Tippee
    Tippee never liable, unless Tipper breached confid & gained improper benefit
  4. Misapp

Goodwin v. Agassiz[edit]

Goodwin v. Agassiz, MA, 1933, p. 477 [Common Law Insider Trading]

F: Stockholder seeks relief for losses suffered by him in selling shares of CMC. Δ (president of CMC) purchased through brokers 700 shares of CMC stock. Δ had knowledge that Π did not have about a geological theory as to the existence of copper deposits in the region where the property of the company was located. Δ thought theory should be tested, but in secrecy so as not to make the purchase of options in adjacent land difficult or expensive for another company he was director of. Δ thought that if the theory were correct, the value of CMC would go up & bought shares of stock through agents. Π sold his shares without this knowledge through his broker; he did not know shares were being purchased for Δ. Π claims he would not have sold had he known of the geological theory. No fraud; no breach of duty for Δ;. Π claims that non-disclosure of the theory to a stockholder constitutes an actionable wrong from which he can recover.
H: Mere silence does not usually amount to a breach of duty, but parties may stand in such relation to each other that an equitable responsibility arises to communicate facts. Sales of stock though a stock exchange are impersonal affairs; if however a director personally seeks a stockholder for the purpose of buying his shares without making disclosures of material facts within his peculiar knowledge and not within the reach of the stockholder, the transaction will be closely scrutinized and relief may be granted in the appropriate circumstances. There was no fraud or misrepresentation; the disclosure of the theory would have been detrimental to interests of the other company; identity was anonymous. There was not duty under the circumstances to tell their stockholders about the theory.
R1: This case was decided before the SEA came into force. Insider trading was not illegal at common law, though Π might have had a claim under the “special facts” doctrine (privity-based). This doctrine imposes, when recognized, a fiduciary obligation to reveal important (inside) information. If the possessor of such information fails to disclose, his co-contractor can make a case of “constructive misrepresentation” and has a right to an equitable remedy. There was no remedy at common law if the security was purchased on the market.
R2: There is a body of respectable economic theory that argues that this behavior need not be regulated. In the unregulated market, individuals have an incentive to seek out non-public information (leading to more perfect securities markets) creates an incentive for directors to successfully manage (and thus profit by having early access to the innovation-related information).
Counter: but this also increases distrust of the market and in those that are being dealt with in the market. The SEA was created in order to create more “fair” markets, not markets that are most economically efficient. We cannot look at 10b-5 as a simple calculation of economic efficiency.

SEC v. TX Gulf Sulfur[edit]

SEC v. Texas Gulf Sulfur Co., 2nd Cir., 1969, p. 480 [Insider Trading]

F: Oct '63, TGS finds promising land during exploratory drilling. Discovery kept secret to keep land value down. Drilling resumed Mar '64, after land purchased. Meanwhile, TGS employees & tipees bought TGS stock & options on stock. Apr '64, info revealed & stock price soared. Π sues under 10b-5.
H1: Anyone trading securities on his own behalf, who has access to internal corporate info (not intended to be available for the personal benefit of anyone), may not take advantage of such info knowing it is unavailable to those with whom he is dealing.
Anyone with material inside info must either:
  1. Disclose it to the investing public or
  2. Abstain from trading in or recommending the securities concerned while such inside information remains undisclosed (whether he is disabled from disclosing to protect a corporate confidence or simply chooses not to).
Rule is based on policy that all investors trading on impersonal exchanges have relatively equal access to material information.
H2: Rule 10b-5 promulgated to preserve level playing-field for investors (equal distribution of information). Insider’s duty to disclose information or his duty to abstain from dealing in his company’s securities arises only in those situations which are essentially extraordinary in nature and which are reasonably certain to have a substantial effect on the market price of the security if the extraordinary situation is disclosed. For more on materiality, see Basic. Facts (visual evaluation of the drill core) establish that knowledge of the results of the discovery hole would have been important to investors and might have affected the price of the security (especially since directors themselves acted upon the information by buying up stock).
R: This case gives insiders two choices: abstain from acting on the info or disclose the inside info and then trade. The problem from here on is cabining liability – will everyone who acts on inside information be liable, or is there some outer limit?
Glynn: Disclose material information or abstain from trading. Under '88 insider trading laws, damages limited to the profits by insiders. However, the SEC can go after all losses.

Schiarella? Printer for Corp. A discovers info about future acquisition of Corp. B. Buys stock in Corp. B. No duty to disclose owed to Corp. B. 14E3 Trading in tender offer context - Prohibits you from using info from acquiring firm

Dirks v. SEC[edit]

Dirks v. SEC, US, 1983, p. 493 [Insider Trading – Tippees]

F: D received information that EFA was engaging in corporate fraud from RS, a former officer of EFA. RS urged D to verify the fraud and expose it publicly. D investigated. D did not trade any EFA stock, but he openly discussed the information with clients, some of whom liquidated their EFA holdings. EFA stock dropped; CA authorities investigated; SEC got into the mix as well. SEC then charged D with aiding and abetting violations of 10b-5 by repeating allegations of fraud to members of the investor community who then acted on the information.
H: A duty to disclose under § 10b-5 does not arise from the mere possession of nonpublic market information. Such a duty arises rather from the existence of a fiduciary relationship. An insider will be liable under Rule 10b-5 for inside trading only where he fails to disclose material nonpublic information before trading on it and thus makes “secret profits” (fiduciary breach is not enough; see Santa Fe v. Green). There can be no duty to disclose where the person who has traded on inside information was not the corporation’s agent, was not a fiduciary, or was not a person in whom the sellers of securities placed their trust and confidence. The typical tippee has no fiduciary duty to the corporation or the shareholders and do no acquire a duty to disclose or abstain. That does not mean however that such tippees are always free to trade on the information. Insiders are forbidden by their fiduciary relationship from giving inside information to outsiders for the improper purpose of using the information for personal gain. For 10b-5 purposes, a tippee assumes a fiduciary duty to the shareholders of a corporation not to trade on material nonpublic information only when the insider has breached his fiduciary duty to the shareholders by disclosing the information to the tippee and the tippee knows or should know that there has been a breach. The disclosure is improper on the part of the corporate insider when the insider will benefit personally, directly or indirectly, from his disclosure. D is not liable ⇒ EFC insiders did not benefit personally from the disclosure.

US v. O’Hagan[edit]

US v. O’Hagan, US, 1997, p. 501 [Insider Trading – Consultants]

F: Δ was partner at a law firm retained by GM regarding a tender offer for the common stock to PC. Tender offer was confidential; Δ began buying options on PC stock before the tender offer was made public; he sold after the tender offer became public, making $4.3 million. Δ is charged with violating 10b-5.
H: Two theories of liability under 10b-5: classical and misappropriation. Under the classical theory, 10b-5 is violated when someone with a fiduciary relationship to the shareholders (permanent insiders, aka directors; temporary fiduciaries like accountants & lawyers) trades the securities of his corporation on the basis of material non-public information. See Texas Gulf Sulfur. Under the misappropriation theory, 10b-5 is breached when a person misappropriates confidential information for securities trading purposes, in breach of a duty owed to the source of the information (self-serving use of a fiduciary’s undisclosed information in breach of duty of loyalty or confidentiality defrauds the principal of the exclusive use of that information). A fiduciary who pretends loyalty to the principal while secretly converting the principal’s information for personal gain defrauds the principal. O’Hagan breached his duties of trust and confidence to his firm and to GM. To satisfy the requirements of 10b-5 that there be no deception, there would only have to be disclosure; if the fiduciary discloses to the source that he plans to trade on the nonpublic information, there is no deceptive device and thus no 10(b) violation.
R: The problem here was that under Dirks, there would be no liability ⇒ insiders at GM did not improperly reveal the information to O’Hagan (he found out as a result of his employment); O’Hagan had no fiduciary duty to PC. Court finds liability under the misappropriation theory. Dan’s Notes say that O’Hagan would have to disclose to Pillsbury. HOW? WHY?

Hypos[edit]

Martha
Martha friend of Waksel, CEO & MajSH of Imclone. Imclone product about to be denied by FTC.
Waksel sells stock (Insider → Classic),
Waksel tells broker (Insider → Tipper, Breach of Duty to Imclone),
Broker sells stock (Insider → Tippee, knows Tipper was Breaching Duty)
Broker tells Martha (Insider → Tipper, Breach of Duty to Waksel)
Martha sells stock (Insider → Tippee, knows Tipper was Breaching Duty)

Short Swing Profits[edit]

§16 intended to prevent Insiders from taking advantage of info for short-term personal profit

§16(a): Insiders must publicly file any transactions in their corp.'s secs within 2 days of trade under Sarbanes-Oxley §403
§16(b): Insiders must return to issuer profits on purchases & sales falling within six months of one another
Sale defined very broadly
Insider is any officer, director or beneficial owner of more than 10% of the company’s shares.
Need only be Insider for first "half" of transactions
Officer is a CEO, CFO, COO, Pres., VP, or other high-powered.
Beneficial Owner is
But exemption for “unorthodox” transactions, e.g., short-swing profits in takeovers, if no evidence of insider info
Limitations - Must be an officer, director, or >10% stockholder prior to the initial transaction
Applies only to firms required to register under ‘34 Act
Applies only to equity securities (stock and convertible debt)
Reliance Electric v. Emerson Electric
Emerson buys 13.2%, sells 3.24%, then remaining 9.96% within 6 months of initial purchase. Emerson isn’t liable on the 9.96% b/c it’s under 10%. Form over substance.
“At the time of purchase” means prior to the purchase. Foremost-McKesson, Inc. v. Porvident Securities Co. where Porvident not liable b/c not a 10% shareholder at time of purchase.
Calculating short-swing profits – match any transactions that produce a profit, regardless of whether the trades in fact match.
Strict liability - recovery to issuer/corporation
If issuer/corporation does not want to sue, SH derivative suit (w/Demand Req)
Damages include "maximum possible profits" to Insider. Profits under 16(b) calculated using "lowest-in, highest-out" method.
Calculated by matching Highest Sale Price with Lowest Purchase Price in 6 months that produced a profit. Then match next HSP with next LPP within 6 months that produced a profit & so on to produce maximum possible profit.
CALCULATION: In Column 1, list each sale price as "y" & the total # of shares sold at that price as "x" in the form of "x(y)." In Column 2, do the same with purchase prices. Balance the # of shares in both columns by subtracting as necessary the excess HPP or LSP shares. Take the shares of HSP & LPP and place them in two new columns. Balance the # of shares in the row by placing the excess shares on the row below. Continue adding the next HSP or LPP and balancing the shares, until the purchase price matches or exceeds the sale price. Finally, calculate the total profit.
eg. Dir buys 10 shares for $10, sells 10 for $12, profit of $20, damages are $20.
eg. Dir buys 10 shares for $10, buys 10 for $20, sells 15 for $30, profit of $225 (on avg. $15/share), damages are profits of all shares sold for HSP ($30) if bought at LPP ($10) for a total of $250.
Actual Profit: 15($30) - 15(($10+$20)/2) = $225
16(b) Calc: (10($30) + 5($20)) - 15($10) = $250
eg. Dir buys 20 shares for $10, sells 10 for $30, sells 5 for $20, profit of $225 (on avg. $15/share), damages are profits of all shares sold for HSP ($30) if bought at LPP ($10) for a total of $250.
Actual Profit: 15(($30+$20)/2) - 15($10) = $225
Calc: 15($30) - (5($20) + 10($10)) = $250
eg. Dir buys 20 shares for $10, buys 5 shares for $25, buys 10 shares for $40, sells 15 for $30, sells 25 for $20, profit of $200 (on avg. $15/share), damages are profits
CALC: ([# of shares at HSP]x[HSP] + [# of shares at 2ndHSP]x[]) - (
Actual Profit: 15(($30+$20)/2) - 15($10) = $225
Calc: 15($30) - (5($20) + 10($10)) = $250
More on §16 → http://www.boardstrategies.com/boarddoctor/seccomp_sec16.html

Shareholder Meetings[edit]

A Meeting of the Shareholders is an event under the Anglo legal system: the shareholders actually come together and act on board proposals. In the old days (pre-1960/70) in order for the shareholder’s meeting to take place there were a series of prerequisites:

  1. Resolution of the BoD fixing the meeting date and the subjects to be discussed.
  2. Notice to the Shareholders (formerly in writing) that gave the date, time & place of the meeting as well as the subjects of the meeting.
  3. Finally, there had to be a meeting and to be valid, there must be adequate presence such that quorum is constituted at the meeting. A majority of the shares (present by person or proxy) entitled to vote must be present under state law; the AOI cannot lower this amount, only raise it.

There are three ways to appear at a shareholder meeting:

  1. In person.
  2. By proxy – a legal fiction; the shareholder provides consent (in writing) to another to vote for him (in a specific manner – not to vote openly for him).
  3. By unanimous advanced written consent of all shareholders.

Proxy Statements are Regulated:

  1. States require that notice containing a booklet fairly disclosing proxy information required under state law must be sent to shareholders 45 days in advance.
  2. Federal law, through § 14, allows SEC to regulate the solicitation of proxies.

Members of the BoD are elected at Shareholder Meetings:

  1. There are inside and outside directors to be elected:
    1. Usually 10 outside directors ⇒ members of the community, professors, bankers, lawyers, and business leaders. No labor or consumer representatives.
    2. Usually 5 inside directors ⇒ the people whose only job is running the corporation (CEO, CFO, Treasurer, General Counsel, etc.)
  2. Shareholders usually have three options:
    1. Vote for the candidates presented by all the members of the BoD (usually they are the same as the current members).
    2. Abstain.
    3. Run your own slate in a proxy contest (extremely uncommon).
      Why extremely uncommon? They are very expensive. You have to prepare your own proxy statement; and then you have to get more votes than management – very difficult. Cost will be at least 500K.
  3. Proxy Contests:
    1. Are only likely to happen when the management is performing really, really poorly. Most of the time, unhappy shareholders will simply dump their stock.
    2. § 14 provides the SEC with authority to regulate proxy solicitation for registered securities (it is illegal to solicit proxies in contravention of SEC rules).
      1. This is a narrower grant of power than is provided in § 10(b) – that latter section does not require registration under § 12(g).
      2. For § 14 to apply it must meet the requirements of § 12(g):
        500 or more shareholders (this is actually a large number – the majority of small businesses will not have this many shareholders).
        Total assets over 1.2 million (not a big deal)

Funding the Proxy Contests[edit]

Levin v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., SDNY, 1967, p. 541 [Proxy Fights – Reimbursement of Management]

F: Insurgent shareholders sue BoD & MGM. They complain that Δs, in connection with the proxy solicitation contest, have wrongfully committed MGM to pay for the services of attorneys, proxy solicitation PR experts, and have improperly used offices and employees of MGM in the solicitation, and the good-will and business K of MGM to secure support fro present management. Πs seek injunctive relief and money damages on behalf of MGM from the Δs.
H: The differences between the “O’Brien group” (BoD) & “the Levin group” are much more than mere personality contests. There are definite business policies advocated by each group, so divergent that reconciliation does not seem possible. If illegal or unfair means of communication are not being employed by the present management however in waging the proxy contest, there is no demand for judicial intervention. The court does not find the amounts paid for services here excessive or the method of operation to be unfair or illegal. MGM wins.
R: The basic holding here is that so long as the proxy contest is not merely a “personality contest,” so long as the amounts spent by management waging the proxy contest are not excessive or inherently illegal in nature, they can be charged to the company’s bank account. The reality however is that almost no proxy contests are “personality contests” and as such management can defend almost any shareholder insurgency thought the use of corporate funds.

Rosenfeld v. Fairchild Engine & Airplane Co., NY, 1955, p. 543 [Proxy Fights – Reimbursement of Insurgents]

F: Stockholder’s derivative action seeking to compel the return of 260K paid out of the corporate treasury to reimburse both sides in a proxy contest for their expenses. Half the money was spent by the old BoD defending; the other on reimbursing the winners; the reimbursement was expressly ratified by a 16-1 majority vote of the stockholders. App. Div. found that there was major disagreement over policy.
H: In a contest over policy, as compared to a purely personal power contest, corporate directors have the right to make reasonable and proper expenditures, subject to the scrutiny of the courts when duly challenged, from the corporate treasury for the purpose of persuading stockholders of the correctness of their position and soliciting their support for policies which the directors believe, in all good faith, are in the best interests of the corporation. The stockholders also have the right to reimburse successful contestants for the reasonable and bona fide expenses incurred by them in any such policy contest, subject to like court scrutiny. Where however, it is established that such moneys are spent for personal power, individual gain or private advantage, and not in belief that such expenditures are in the best interests of the corporation, or where the fairness or reasonableness of the amounts allegedly expended are duly and successfully challenged, the courts will not hesitate to disallow them.
R: Some argue that this is corporate waste – it is wasteful at least to reimburse the losers for the amounts they did not already remove from the corporation? Other argue that this simply provides terrible incentives:
Insiders have an incentive to spend as much money as possible since they get reimbursed no matter what.
Outsiders are given a difficult choice: don’t wage the contest or spend like crazy b/c you’ll be reimbursed if you win.
B/c of this very few proxy contests are ever won ⇒ creates incentive to replace management through takeover bids. In those cases, even if you lose, you can at least still sell off the shares & if you win you get to profit most from the change in policy.

Proxy Fights: Civil Liability[edit]

J.I. Case Co. v. Borak, US, 1964, p. 550 [Proxy Fights – Civil Liability for Violations of § 14(a)]

F: Π, a stockholder, charges that a merger between JI and ATC was affected through the circulation of a false and misleading proxy statement by those proposing the merger (approved by shareholders by a small margin). Complaint alleges a violation of § 14(a) of the 1934 SEA. Issue is whether § 14(a) authorizes a federal cause of action for rescission or damages to a corporate stockholder with respect to a consummated merger which was authorized pursuant to the use of a proxy statement alleged to contain false and misleading statements violative of § 14(a) of the SEA.
H: Private parties have a right under § 27 to bring suit as to derivative and direct causes for violation of § 14(a) of the SEA. This is b/c allowing such action aids in achieving the purpose of the Act: preventing management from obtaining authorization for corporate action by means of deceptive or inadequate disclosure in proxy solicitation. The court makes no decision on the issue of proper remedies in this case, but finds that the federal courts are empowered to grant all necessary remedial relief.
RI: § 14 has since been expanded to provide civil remedies for tender offers and acquisitions in addition to mergers. This creates a repetition of the problems that arise under § 10b-5 ⇒ there is a need to define the conditions which give rise to a cause of action.
RII: Yes, private right of action, no way sec could make sure that every proxy statement could contain misleading statements (USSC today would say no private right of action)

Mills v. Electric Auto-Lite Co., US, 1970, p. 553 [Proxy Fights – Causality Requirement in 14(a) Civil Litigations]

F: Follow-up case to Borak. Issue here is what relationship must be shown between a misleading statement and the merger to establish a cause of action based on the violation of the act. District Court and Ct. of Appeals found the proxy statement misleading under SEA § 14(a) and SEC Rule 14a-9 thereunder.
H: Where there has been a finding of materiality, a shareholder has made a sufficient showing of causal relationship between the violation and the injury for which he seeks redress if, as here, he proves that the proxy solicitation itself, rather than the particular defect in the solicitation materials, was an essential link in the accomplishment of the transaction (no need to supplement with proof that the defect actually had a decisive effect on the voting). This is a requirement that the defect have a significant propensity to affect the voting process (has basis in Rule 14a-19). Because Δ still needed the votes of minority shareholders to approve the deal, causation is established.
H (Remedy): That Πs established causal relation says nothing about the form of relief to be granted. Nothing limits remedy to prospective relief (aka getting an injunction to stop the vote if you get to court in time). In devising retrospective relief, courts should consider the same factors that would govern the relief granted for any similar illegality or fraud. One important factor is the fairness of the terms of the merger (if it is fair, remedy is lower). Possible forms of relief will include setting aside the merger (though it should only be set aside if the court of equity concludes, from all the circumstances, to do so). Monetary relief is possible, and courts can order an accounting to make sure that the shareholders receive the value that was represented as coming to them. However, damages should be recoverable only to the extent that they can be shown. Additionally, petitioners who have established a violation of the securities laws by their corporation should be reimbursed by the corporation for the costs of establishing that violation (attorney’s fees) regardless of whether the suit has or will ever produce a monetary recovery.
RI: Materiality test in § 14 is set out in TSC v. Northway. The test is whether the disclosure or misdisclosure was of the type that would significantly affect the total mix of information and would be reasonably probably to affect the decision of the vote of a shareholder.
RII: The difference from Basic is one of causality. Here the Π meets his burden simply by proving that the management did not have enough votes on its own to push the merger agreement through.
RIII: If the merger has already happened and has been deemed fair to the shareholders, Π is unlikely to get anything other than attorney’s fees.

Seinfeld v. Bartz, ND Cal., 2002, p. 561 [Proxy Fights – Materiality of Additional Information]

F: Shareholder brings derivative suit against DCS and its directors, alleging negligent preparation of their statement to solicit proxies to vote in favor of an amendment. The amendment granted additional compensation in terms of options to directors but did not provide an estimate as to the value of such options (it is difficult to calculate for it depends on fluctuation in the market price of the stock). Π alleges that Δs negligently violated § 14(a) and rule 14a-9 by failing to calculate their value under an accepted theoretical model.
H: An omitted fact is material if there is a substantial likelihood that a reasonable shareholder would consider it as having significantly altered the “total mix” of information available in making their proxy voting decision. TSC v. Northway. The BS valuation (theoretical method) of the option grants are not omitted material facts (court bases this mostly on precedent and lack of regulation requiring their calculation & disclosure).
R: Argument here is that some disclosure would be better than none.

No proposal needs to be included which proposes an action which the SH are not entitled to take.

SEC Rule 14a-8 & Shareholder Control[edit]

Statutory Background
§ 14a-8 is drafted in the form of a Q&A – trades precision for simplicity and general understanding. Siegel thinks this is poor drafting.
This provision is an intrusion into corporate governance – it is not about disclosure (unlike the general reach of the SEA).
14a-8 changed practices in American corporations:
Shareholder made certain proposals:
That management should provide minutes from shareholder meetings
That they provide a list of the external auditors they are considering to shareholders
As these types of proposals won more and more votes at shareholder meetings, they influenced the conduct of management. Some of the proposals were adopted even before they amounted to a majority of the votes.
The SEC did this intentionally to give shareholders that do not have a voice in the market a more powerful voice within the management of the corporation.

Lovenheim v. Iroquois Brands, Ltd., DDC, 1985, p. 565 [Right to Exclude Shareholder Proposals from Proxy Statement]

F: Π SH seeks to compel inclusion in upcoming meeting's ProxyMats Π's proposed resolution for committee to investigate cruelty of forced-feeding of ducks for foie gras. Δ refused under §14a-8([i])(5) b/c involves < 5% of issuer's gross sales or assets.
H: Π’s right to compel info insertion depends on application of §14a-8, which states that if issuer notified of SH's proposal for action at forthcoming SH meeting, issuer shall set forth proposal in proxy statement. Proposals related to < 5% of issuer’s total assets and < 5% of net earnings & gross sales for year, and not otherwise significantly related to issuer’s business may be omitted. “Significantly Related” → Not limited to economic. Π’s proposal is ethically & socially significant to business and could lead to potential boycott affecting sales. Injunction granted.
RI: This case demonstrates one of the major arguments management used to keep these proposals off the proxy: the proposal relates to an insignificant portion of the company’s business.
RII: To get around the “ordinary business” exception, the shareholder does not put forward a proposal to stop the purchase of pate from force-fed ducks. Rather it requests merely that the corporation “study” the matter. This is creative lawyering at its finest. It makes it hard for the corporation to say “you’re interfering with ordinary business management.”
Glynn: Resolution asking BoD to form study committee, No SH authory

NYCERS v. Dole Food Co., SDNY, 1992, p. 570

F: NYCERS is an institutional SH of Dole; requested inclusion of proposal studying different healthcare proposals being considered by the political branches on the company and its competitive standing in domestic and international markets (they made statements about the importance of worker health and increasing costs of employer-funded health plans). Δ wrote to the SEC stating that Δ thought they could exclude the proposal b/c it concerned employee benefits an “ordinary business operation” under rule 14a-8[i]. SEC replied that they would not recommend official enforcement action b/c the proposal falls under rule 14a-8(c)(7) b/c it is directed at involving the Δ in the political or legislative process relating to an aspect of Δ’s operations. Π brought instant action under § 14(a).
H: Δ has burden of showing that its decision fits under the exception. Ordinary business exception allows exclusion of proposals that “involve business matters that are mundane in nature and do not involve any substantial policy or other considerations.” Π prevails on this ground; the question of which plan Δ should support and how Δ would function under the plans could have large financial consequences for Δ ⇒ not an ordinary business exception. Π also prevails under the “insignificant relationship to business operations” exception (discussed in Lovenheim case) – the health insurance costs are over 5%. Π also prevails however under rule 14a-8[i](6), which provides an exception for proposals that deal “with a matter beyond the registrant’s power to effectuate.” NYCERS proposal should be included (the letter speaks of no lobbying action).
R: This is the other popular management argument: this involves mundane business matters. Siegel thinks it shows a bit of two-sided ness b/c here the company is trying to have it both ways: it argues both that this is an insignificant portion of company business and that it is an ordinary business matter. Which one is it, ordinary or insignificant?

Austin v. Consolidated Edison Co. of NY, SDNY, 1992, p. 575

F: SHs (ConEd Workers' Union Reps) sue to compel inclusion of resolution endorsing change in retirement policy (allow after 30 yrs w/o penalty), a duplicate of Union pension changes proposed for next contract negotiation. SEC acquiesced to Δ’s exclusion under the “ordinary business” exception and the “personal claim or grievance” exception.
H: Exception falls within the “ordinary business operations” exception ⇒ we are not talking about executive pay; collective bargaining provides an outlet for these discussions.
R: Siegel says that the court draws the line here b/c this is a personal grievance & b/c it is an ordinary business operation. Personal grievances can be excluded. Other situations where the courts will allow corporations to exclude:
Where they can’t effectuate the goals of the proposal (like a proposal requiring GM to switch all its cars to be fuel-cell powered within 5 years).

Shareholder Inspection Rights[edit]

NY:

Access to SH lists, BoD must demonstrate improper business purpose.
Access to anything else, SH must demonstrate proper business purpose.
Combining State and Federal Law
  1. Under § 14, the corporation must either:
    1. Provide insurgent shareholders with a contact list of the company’s shareholders so that they may contact & lobby them to vote against a management proposal.
    2. Agree to mail out the insurgent shareholders’ proxy materials for them and charge them for costs. (Corporations obviously prefer this method: it minimizes insurgent-shareholder contact & gives them an opportunity to read & rebut their arguments before they are ever sent out).
  2. § 14 also give shareholders the right to access:
    1. The shareholder record
    2. Official corporate level documents:
      1. Record of the shareholder’s meeting,
      2. Minutes of the board
    3. Financial records
  3. State Laws:
    § 1315 in NY provides that access to a shareholder list must be permitted to qualified shareholders (must have owned shares for 6 months; or must have a 5% steak) on written demand, so long as it is desired for a business purpose and so long as the petitioner has not been involved in the sale of stock lists within the last five years.
  4. Crane Co. v. Anaconda Co., NY, 1976, p. 579 [Shareholder List Request – Takeover Attempt]
    F: CC offered debentures to AC's SHs for their AC stock. AC’s management opposed. Now an AC SH, CC requested AC's SH list under NYBCL §1315 & common law record inspection rights. Δ rejected demand, but offered to mail Π’s prospectus.
    H: §1315: SH list access permitted to qualified SHs on written demand, only denied if petitioner did not furnish an affidavit that the inspection was not desired for a purpose other than the business of the corporation and that petitioner has not been involved in the sale of stock lists within the last five years (Π meets both requirements). Since Anaconda has not been able to sustain its burden of proving improper purpose we conclude inspection should be compelled.
  5. State ex rel. Pillsbury v. Honeywell, Inc., Minn, 1971, p. 582 [Shareholder List Request – Proper Purpose]
    F: Π, anti-war activist, buys 100 shares in Honeywell to convince management & SHs to stop producing US military munitions. Π submits two formal demands to Honeywell requesting that it produce an original SH ledger, and all corp. records dealing with weapons & munitions manufacture. Honeywell refused. DE law applies, since Honeywell is a DE corporation.
    H: Under DE law, the shareholder must prove a proper purpose to inspect corporate records other than shareholder lists. “Proper purpose” contemplates concern with investment return. The Π’s motivation cannot be deemed a proper purpose b/c it is not germane to his economic interest as a shareholder. Π could have, however, brought this suit if he had a bona fide concern about the adverse effects of participating in war contracting upon long or short-term economic effects on Honeywell.
    R: Purpose must be business related. Π probably knew what he was doing however – he only took this case to the Supreme Court for publicity.

Shareholder Voting Control[edit]

Policing the Shareholder Meeting Voting Process
Type of Vote Rule Method
Major Corp. Changes (Mergers, Dissol. & Amend to AoI) Depends on the State – some require 2/3 majority of the shareholders, while others require only a simple majority. Quorum is not enough. The majority required must be in totum. Abstentions count as a NO vote. Some amendments (transforming all Class A stock to Class B stock) require in totum approval by the particular group of stockholders affected.
Proposals Requires simple majority. Simple majority of votes present. Quorum is enough. Some proposals require approval of minority however (duty of loyalty ⇒ disinterested shareholders).
BoD Officer
Elections
Requires mere plurality. Elections are at-large (top 5 vote-winners get on the board). No real mechanism for judging ties exists. Two systems:
1. Straight voting: each SH gets one vote/share per position (1 share & 4 candidates = 4 votes total); limitation: the votes cannot be commingled; the max number of votes this SH can give each candidate is 1 [allows majority of SHs to elect entire board – used for public corps].
2. Cumulative voting: No limitation on comingling votes [allows minority to get some representation – used for closely held corps.].
Background on Shareholder Voting Mechanics[edit]
  1. Cumulative Voting – A Detailed Look:
    1. To calculate how many votes will be needed to elect at least one director to the BoD in a cumulative contest no matter how anyone else votes use the following formula:
      # of votes needed to guarantee election = [# of voting shares (not total shares, but number that are actually voting) x # of positions]/[# of positions + 1] +1.
      This means that the minimum percentage of shares that you will need to get one person elected to the board is anything greater than 1/[number of positions +1]. Thus, for a 5-person board, to guarantee the election of one person, you need more than 1/6 of the shares.
    2. The formula however is of limited use – it will not necessarily maximize the number of people you can get elected on the board with your shares. This potential depends on the actions of the other parties; it is sometime unnecessary to devote all the votes needed to guarantee the election to a certain candidate, especially if your competitors are fractured and disorganized.
    3. Eg. 100Ss; X has 70S, Y has 30S. 5 director seats open; X votes: A=87, B=87, C=87, D=87, E=2), Y votes: F=90, G=60.
      Votes Needed to Guarantee Election = [Voting Shares * Seats] / [Directors + 1] +1.
      Votes Needed to Guarantee Election () =
    4. NS = (ND * TS) / (TD + 1) + fraction to equal even integer
      Eg. 1000Ss, X has 315Ss, Y has 315Ss, Z has 370Ss; 5 seats open.
      NS = (5 * 1000) / (7 + 1) = 625; 625 + 1 = 626 (# of shares needed to capture all 5)
      630 = (1000 ND) / (7 + 1); 630 = (ND * 1000) / (7 + 1) 625 + 1 = 626 (# of shares needed to capture all 5)
      (TS / (TD + 1)) + Evening Fraction = Shares needed for each Director (divided by Shares Held, tells # of directors that can be elected)
      1000Ss / (7Ds + 1) + 1 = 126Ss; 630 / 126 = 5 Directors
SH Voting Control – Public Corporations[edit]
  1. Stroh v. Blackhawk Holding Corp., Il., 1971, p. 592
    F: BHC issued 87K of Class A stock to public and 500K shares of "Class B" stock (entitled to voting rights, but not “dividends either upon voluntary or involuntary liquidation or otherwise”) to it's promoters, thus promoters maintained voting control. Π claims that Class B, deprived of economic incidents & proportionate interest in assets, is not stock.
    H: Legislature intended to allow parties to a corporate entity to create whatever restrictions and limitations they want on their stock by expressing such limitations in the AoI, so long as they do not limit or deny voting power to any share. Limit of the power of a corporation over its stock only exists as to the voting aspect of ownership. The rights to earnings and assets (economic rights may be removed and eliminated from the other attributes of stock.
    RI: IL law has since changed, and now allows voting rights for certain classes of stock to be limited, enhanced, or denied. Voting rights, similarly to the partnership setting, need not be correlated to the capital contribution of the stockholder. The change allows stock purchasers to choose what combination of control & profit they desire out of their ownership.
    Main Point: Right to Vote and Right to Profit can be decoupled. It creates the possibility that a small class of voting shares can control the corporation while a larger class will be used for dividing up profits.
  2. State Wisconsin Investment Board v. Peerless Systems Corp.
    F: Peerless’ BoD sought SH approval of Proposal 2, which sought to expand stock option plan.
    Brought to a SH vote, b/c Galvadon, director, was self-interested (to receive some of the addt'l options approved as compensation). SWIB opposed & solicited proxies against it. During vote, proposal didn't pass. Chairman closed other polls, but adjourned for 30 days w/o closing polls for Proposal 2 and selectively solicited SHs. When meeting resumed, Proposal 2 passed. SWIB sues.
    Court denies SWIB’s motion for summary judgment
    Standard of review: Blasius Indus. v. Atlas Corp.
    If PLA proves BoD purposefully acted to interfere with free exercise of SHs’ franchise, then burden to prove compelling justification for actions falls on BoD. Otherwise, BJR applies.
    Peerless’ defenses:
    Post-adjournment vote was a SH ratification
    BJR Applies (Blasius doesn’t apply, b/c no CoI)
    BoD’s primary purpose was legit (adjournment was due to low SH turnout)
    Compelling justification for the BoD’s actions?
    Corporate activism by public pension funds (e.g., SWIB), but is that a good thing? Who makes the public pension managers accountable?
    Non-confidential nature of proxy balloting allows selective solicitation
    Management’s influence on SH voting - Benefit of the BJR
    In public firms, it is usually easier to sell than to fight
    Puts companies on notice that they will have to meet a tougher standard of review if they adjourn a meeting in order to interfere with the results of a shareholder vote.
    The Consequence of Flexibility
    1. Allows individuals to plan in advance, and create a distinct management structure best suited for their business needs and that operates independently of judicial enforcement.
    2. Complicated structures are best suited for small businesses however – not large ones. By creating this level of flexibility in the corporate form (did not exist beforehand), it opened up the use of the device to smaller businesses.
The Voting Trust[edit]
  1. A legal entity that holds title to the property (the shares of the stockholders that enter into the trust). The trust holds the legal title, but the beneficiaries of the trust retain the equitable title (right to income/benefits from the shares).
  2. The trustee has certain rights and obligations. If there is an agreement in the trust as to how the shares will be voted, the trustee must follow such an agreement.
  3. Voting trusts are generally temporary – statutory limit varies between 10 and 20 years. They must also usually be made public.
  4. Blind Trust – trust where the trustee is given investment and disinvestment powers & is forbidden from telling the beneficiary what actions (or votes) he has taken. It puts the stock out of reach of the beneficiary.
Shareholder Voting Control – Closely Held Corporations[edit]
  1. The Election of the BoD
    There are Three Prevalent Methods Shareholders use to control the election of the BoD:
    1. Cumulative Voting (sometimes used in combination with a good deal of non-voting stock, so as to guarantee the election of certain people to the BoD)
      Benefit: self-enforcing; last longer than a trust
      Problem: hard to stop when one of the voting shareholders goes nuts or when his inept child/widow inherits the shares.
    2. Voting Trusts – § 621 under NYBCL
      Benefit: self-enforcing
      Problem: hard to stop when one of the voting shareholders goes nuts or when his inept child/widow inherits the shares.
    3. Pooling Agreements – § 620(a) under NYBCL (were strongly resisted by the courts until the legislature made these statutory changes).
      Benefit: secret agreement; easier to stop if situation becomes problematic; lasts longer than a trust.
      Problem: requires court enforcement if one of the contracting parties decides to breach
    1. Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey v. Ringling, Del., 1947, p. 606
      F: Ringling stock was owned by three shareholders: C, H, & N. Shares could be voted cumulatively. C & H had entered into an agreement which deposited their shares into a voting trust and provided for joint action on all matters relating to their stock ownership or interest in the Corporation. The agreement also provided that the parties will consult and act jointly in exercising their voting rights. In event that the parties fail to agree, the disagreement was to be submitted for arbitration to KL, as arbiter and “his decision will be binding thereto.” In electing the board of directors, the parties disagreed on one candidate. The arbiter sided with the Π, but the company followed the votes as they were cast (in violation of the agreement). Π sued. Δ contends that the voting provisions of the K are illegal and revocable under state law.
      H: The arbitration provisions are interpreted as allowing the arbiter to decide the dispute, but as giving him no enforcement power with regards to how the shares will actually be voted. No specific enforcement of the arbiter’s decision. Δ’s contention is incorrect. The law authorizes a shareholder to effectively confer his voting rights to other retaining various other rights. Though voting trusts can be used in accordance to the DE statute on the subject, pooling agreements in various forms are valid and distinguishable from voting trusts. A shareholder may exercise liberally his voting rights, so long as he violates no fiduciary duty to the shareholders; he may contract with others to vote the future in such way as they from time to time determine. H’s failure to exercise her voting rights according to K constitutes a breach. As a remedy, H’s votes should be rejected (go uncounted); the election is not invalid, H’s votes will not be counted towards determining the winners in the contest. No other remedy is appropriate.
      R: This case is important b/c is shows how things used to be. It was an important case b/c 1) the court recognized the validity of a voting agreement & 2) the court refused to specifically enforce the K. The corporate bar realized that if they were going to change the law to increase shareholder flexibility they had to do it through statute. Led to enactment of NYBCL § 620 and Del. Gen § 141.
    2. NYBCL § 620(a) – An agreement between two or more shareholders, if in writing and signed by the parties, may provide that in exercising any voting rights, the shares held by them shall be voted as therein stated, or as they may agree, or as determined in accordance with a procedure agreed upon by them.
      Allows specific enforcement of voting agreements in NY.
  2. Control Over Management:
    1. McQuade v. Stoneham, NY, 1934, p. 613
      F: Π & M bought a portion of stock from Δ, the majority stockholder of the Giants. As part of the deal they entered into an agreement to “use their best endeavors for the purpose of continuing” themselves as directors of the company. Π & Δ started to disagree on business policy. At a board election, M & Δ allowed another to be elected director in Π’s place (by allowing outside directors to do it). Π did not breach fiduciary duties, and actually found that Π was removed for protecting the corporation and it minority stockholders. Π sues for breach of K; Δ argues that any K which compels a director to vote any particular person in office at a stated salary is illegal b/c directors have a duty under law to act for the corporation according to their best judgment.
      H: Stockholders may not, by agreement among themselves, control the directors in the exercise of the judgment vested in them by virtue of their office to elect officers and fix salaries. Directors may not by agreements entered into as stockholders abrogate their independent judgment. The stockholders have the power to unite their votes, but that power is limited to the election of directors and is not extended to K whereby limitations are placed on the power of directors to manage the business of the corporation by the selection of agents at defined salaries. A K is illegal and void so far as it precludes the BoD, at the risk of incurring legal liability, from changing officers, salaries, or policies or retaining individuals in office, except by consent of the contracting parties.
      R: Court holds illegal b/c it limits the power of the board under statute. But why? No party is hurt; this is always done in partnership context.
    2. Clark v. Dodge, NY, 1936, p. 618
      F: Π & Δ entered into an agreement. Π (25% owner, director & treasurer) agreed to give Δ’s (75% inactive director) son a secret medical formulae used by companies Π & Δ owned in exchange for a guarantee that Π could continue as director and general manager (as long as he is still effective), could receive 25% of net income of the corporation for the rest of his life. Π claims breach of these positions. Π seeks reinstatement and damages for income lost.
      H: Where directors are the sole stockholders, there is no objection to enforcing an agreement among them to vote for certain people as officers. K upheld b/c if the enforcement of a particular K damages nobody, not even the public, one sees no reason for holding it illegal, even though it impinges slightly upon the board. Ks like this should be held illegal if there is damage suffered or threatened.
      R: Distinguished from McQuade, b/c McQuade involved other owners not party to prior agreement, whereas here SHs agreed unanimously.
    3. Galler v. Galler, Il, 1964, p. 624
      F: B & I (who ran a company together, and had control of 97.5% of the shares) entered into an agreement (and later recovered the remaining 2.5%) which amended the bylaws of the corporation to provide for a board of four directors; that the shareholders shall cast their votes for B, I, and their wives E & R to elect them as directors; that in case of the death of either, the spouse had the right to nominate the successor; that a specified amount of dividends would be declared (dependent upon net surplus & profit); that the shares bear this limitation; to provide for a widow in case of the death of the husband. B dies, and E gets his shares. I & R refuse to honor the agreement.
      H: The important controlling factor here is the absence of an objecting minority interest together with the absence of public detriment and the absence of fraud. In the absence of these problems, the court sees no valid reason for precluding the parties from reaching any arrangements concerning the management of the corporation which are agreeable to all. Δs must account for all monies received by them from the corporation in excess of that authorized.
      R: This case signals the beginning of the contractarian theory of corporate law in the US. If all parties agree, and no one is hurt, there is no reason not to let the corporate law impose this particular structure.
    4. NYBCL §620(b) is a summation of the law in Galler, Clark & Dodge: A provision in the certificate of incorporation otherwise prohibited by law because it improperly restricts the board in its management of the business of the corporation, or improperly transfers to one or more shareholders or to one or more persons or corporations to be selected by him or them or them, all or any part of such management otherwise within the authority of the board under this chapter, shall nevertheless be valid:
      1. if all the incorporators or holders of record of all outstanding shares, whether or not having voting power, have authorized such provision in the certificate of incorporation or an amendment thereof and
      2. if, subsequent to the adoption of such provision, shares are transferred or issued only to persons who had knowledge or notice thereof or consented in writing to such provision.
      Therefore there are two requirements under 620(b)
      1. Unanimity
      2. Notice to all those acquiring the stock about the limitations on the power of the management.
    5. NYBCL §620(f) makes it even more interesting: if §620(b) is used to enact any change to the AOI, §620(f) relieves the directors and imposes upon shareholders authorizing the changes or consenting thereto the liability for managerial acts or omissions (breaches of fiduciary duty) . . . to the extent that and so long as the discretion or powers of the board in its management of corporate affairs is controlled by any such provisions.
      1. Liability is still limited however ⇒ they are not in the same situation as partners; no liability to creditors or for debts of the corporation.
      2. There is always the fear that some
      3. DGCL § 141(a) provides for similar ability to restrict the powers of the directors and allow the involvement of shareholders in the management.

Close Corporations[edit]

Introduction[edit]

Little more than an “incorporated” or “chartered” partnership. The SHs “clothe” their partnership “w/ Corp benefits (LL, perpetuity, et al.)” Donahue v. Rodd Electotype (Mass. 1975). Close Corps enjoy partnership control w/liability shield. Different accountability mechanisms than Public Corps, b/c Close Corps aren't subject to mandatory disclosure & evade SH voting by voting arrangements. Thus, SHs & officers are subject to Heightened Fid Duties, in addition to Rule 10b-5 fraud litigation.

Standard Definition → 1) Small # of SHs, 2) No ready market for Corp stock, and 3) MajSH involved in management, direction, & operations.
Delaware Definition (DGCL §342) → 1) Stock held by < 30 persons, 2) All Corp stock subject to 1+ transfer restrictions, & 3) No publicly offered stock.
In CertofInc, must announce Close Corp status & file as such.
If disqualified, regarded as Gen Corp w/ no MinSH special protection. See Nixon v. Blackwell (Del. 1993).

Heightened Fid Duties in the Close Corp[edit]

Fid Duties of SHs in Close Corps are like Partners (higher than Gen Corp SHs) Close SHs must manage Corp duties in strict good faith and not out of avarice, expediency, or self-interest in breach of loyalty to other SHs & the Corp. Duty of “utmost good faith and loyalty.” See Mienhard v. Salmon. Thus, Controlling Group in Close Corp using control to obtain special advantages & disproportionate benefits violates strict duty to Min SHs. Donahue. Extended to protect a MajSH from a MinSH using his shares to “veto” legit actions by Majority – Duty to fellow SHs owed by every SH, not just controlling SH. Smith v. Atlantic Properties (Mass. App. Ct. 1981).

Eg. Sale by a MajSH of his Shares to the Close Corp: If Corp bought shares from Controlling Group member, Corp must extend to all SHs an equal opportunity to sell a ratable # of shares at same price (absent unanimous advance agreement to abstain). Non-compliance may result in recision of deal or required purchase of MinSH shares at the same price. See Donahue.

FREEZE OUTS: (Most common Fid Duty breach in Close Corps)

MajSH freezes out MinSH by precluding MinSH from selling shares, receiving dividends/employment, or occupying director/officer positions w/in Corp. MinSH is “frozen out,” b/c (absent an unlikely charter provision) a MinSH can't dissolve the Close Corp (unlike a Partner) and is thus trapped (b/c stock is now worthless). See Wilkes v. Springside Nursing Home, Inc. (Mass. 1976).
Limitations on Fid Duty Suits by MinSH
Legitimate Business Purpose (LBP) Test: Need of Corp to be flexible in the management of its affairs and the setting of business policy, when MinSH in a Close Corp bring suit against MajSH alleging a breach of strict good faith duty owed them by the majority, court must carefully analyze the Controlling Group's action:
Action was for LBP and unachievable through practicable alternative courses of action less harmful to MinSHs (demonstrated by MinSHs). Wilkes.
Employment Context
Wilkes: Close Corp MajSH have a duty to deal in good faith to MinSHs. Burden of Proof on MajSH to show a legitimate business purpose for operation decisions.
Ingle: Close Corp Employee/MinSH not afforded Fid Duty by MajSH against employment termination. Fid Duties to MinSH distinct from duties to employee. Where terms are fairly bargained for, standard for Breach of Fid Duty is higher
Squeeze-out Merger
Sugarman: Close Corp SHs owe one another Fid Duty of Utmost Good Faith & Loyalty. MajSH excessively compensates self to freeze-out MinSHs by not issuing dividends. Lowball price not dispositive, but good evidence.
Control of the Corp
Smith: Close Corp SHs in a close corporation owe one another the same fiduciary duty in the operation of the enterprise that partners owe one another.
Disclosure Rules (unlike rest of sec laws, 10b-5 applies to close corps)
Jordan v. Duff & Phelps, Inc. (KRB, 635–46) (7th Cir. ’87) – Close corporations buying their own stock have a fiduciary duty to disclose material facts. Where π sold his stock in ignorance of facts that would have established a higher value, failure to disclose an important beneficent event is a violation even if things later go sour. A π must establish that, upon learning of merger negotiations, he would not have changed jobs, stayed for another year, and finally received payment from the leveraged buyout. A jury was entitled to conclude that the π would have stuck around.

Reread Sinclair for a theory of a derivative suit, rather than a Wilkes direct suit, for breach of fiduciary duties by the BoD.

Weinberger v. UOP, Inc. (KRB, 712–23) – (De. ’83) In a self-interested freeze-out merger, fairness & full disclosure of known share value to MinSH are necessary for validity.

Stock Transfer Restrictions[edit]

DGCL §202 → List of valid restrictions on sale or purchase of stock. Usable by any Corp, but most often used in Close Corps b/c DE requires Close Corps to have 1+.

§202 Permitted Restrictions:
(c)(1) Right of 1st Refusal to Corp for Sale of Shares,
(c)(2) Mandatory Buyback by Corp,
(c)(3) Corp Consent Req to Sale,
(c)(4) Prohibition on Sale to certain persons or classes of persons,
(d) Any restraint designed to maintain subchapter S status,
(e) Any other reasonable restriction.
Valuation: Valuation of shares in a future buyout or sale to the corp. is the most contentious area of stock restrictions. Close corp.s use several methods to avoid problems:
Specify that shares are to be bought at “book value” (original cost of assets – amort. & depreciation),
Specify that value is capitalized earnings,
Specify that shares are to be valued by outside appraiser(s),
Specify that the shares are to be revalued at intervals (values shares every year, etc.),
Permit the corp. to buy shares at the price offered the shareholder looking to sell, and
Permit the shareholder looking to sell to offer the shares to the corp. or to other SH and if the are not bought he may sell to anyone else so long as it is at the price offered the corp. or higher.

Voting Arrangements[edit]

These are devices used by several SH in a close corp. to insure that control of the corp. remains in the hands of a few SH. The two most common techniques are “stock pooling” and “voting trusts.” Note that these devices result in a majority block that will control the corp. and as such the block owes the heightened fiduciary duties toward the minority. However, although these arrangements result in an almost permanent denial of control to the minority, such a denial of control without other detriment is NOT “freeze out.”

Stock Pooling: This involves a contract between the SH that either specifies how their share will be voted or limits their discretion to certain actions. These are valid as long as they do not seek to perpetuate fraud or avoid the requirements of a “voting trust” which is controlled by statute. See Ringling v. Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows, Inc. In Ringling, the court upheld a pooling arrangement that contained a provision that in case of disagreement the share were to be voted as recommended by a disinterested third party. The court held that this was not a disguised trust but rather the creation of an “implied irrevocable proxy” by the recalcitrant party to permit the shares to be voted by the other party in the manner directed by the arbitrator should he choose to do so.
The Voting Trust: This is another mechanism to ensure control by a group of shareholders but the main difference is that it is indirect control. In the voting trust, the SH divorce the voting rights from their ownership of the stock, retaining the ownership but transferring the voting rights to a trustee in whom all the voting rights of the group are pooled (“legal ownership” vests in the trustee and “equitable ownership” in the SH). The members of the trust get the dividends and other benefits of ownership and the trustee votes to maximize these benefits for all. DGCL § 218 controls voting trusts in Del. and they must meet the statutory requirements. In Del. such trusts are limited to no more than 10 years in duration, and most other states have a similar time limit. Note that b/c voting trusts increase the stability of a close corp., they are often required by creditors.

Deadlock Avoidance Mechanisms & Dissolution[edit]

The Delaware subchapter on close corporation contains many mechanisms to prevent deadlock among the corporation’s board. Because of the intimate interaction between the directors (who are usually shareholders), once dissension has arisen over the conduct of the corp.s business, intra-corporate friction is likely to grow and make the management of the corporation impossible. Where shareholders of large publicly traded corporations have a ready market for their shares and can get out, the stock restrictions on the shares of a close corporation severely restrain the ability of dissenting shareholders to get out of a bad situation. In such a case, deadlock can occur because many close corporations have an even number of directors and because absent a true majority block or shareholder, it may be impossible to obtain a majority vote between the warring factions. See generally, Cox & Hazen, CORPORATIONS § 14.10. The DGCL contains statutory provisions to prevent deadlock and in addition, in most states the minority dissenters have recourse to involuntary dissolution of the corporation (although whether this is available in Del. is unclear because there are not many close corp.s there, mostly large public corp.s).

Statutory Deadlock Avoidance Mechanisms: The DGCL permits a close corp. to include in its cert. of inc. the following mechanisms to avoid deadlock:
§ 350 authorizes SH of a corporation owning a majority of the shares to enter into a written agreement supplanting the BoD in whole or in part, and manage the corporation themselves.
§ 351 provides that the cert. of inc. can specify that the corp. will be managed by the SH, rather than a BoD.
§§ 226 & 352b Appointment of Receivers/ Custodians
§ 226 provides procedures available for all corp.s for the appointment of a receiver if
The SH are deadlocked and cannot elect a BoD whose terms have or are about to expire, OR
The business of the corp. is suffering or will suffer because of a deadlock among the BoD and the SH can not terminate the deadlock, OR
The corporation has abandoned its business and has not taken reasonable steps to dissolve, liquidate or distribute its assets.
§ 352(a) provides that in addition, for close corp.s any shareholder may apply to the Ct. of Chancery for the appointment of a receiver or custodian where
the corp. is managed by its SH under § 351 and they are so divided that the corp.s business is suffering, OR
The SH has the right to dissolve the corp. under the cert. of inc. or DGCL § 355.
§ 352(b) provides that rather than a receiver or custodian, the court may appoint a provisional director if the court believes that this in better than a receiver. The provisional director must be a disinterested person.
§ 353 Application for Appointment of Provisional Director: § 353(b) permits a half the directors, a third of the SH entitled to elect directors, or a third of any one class entitled to vote for directors, to request the appointment of a provisional director without having to first request receivership (the cert. of inc. can include a provision lessing the number of persons of each class who can petition). Regardless of who applies, § 353(a) mandates that the court will appoint a provisional director if the directors are so divided that the corp. can not be managed to the “advantage of the stockholders generally.”
§ 355 Dissolution: This section permits the cert. of inc. to authorize the holders of any specified percentage of shares to be able to cause the corp. to be dissolved at will or upon the happening of any contingency. This is a major difference from general corp.s which require a SH to have a majority to dissolve under § 275.
Involuntary Dissolution of a Close Corporation: Many states have statutes or common law doctrines that permit a dissenting minority shareholder to cause the dissolution of the close corp. in certain circumstances even when there is nothing in the cert. of inc. permitting it. Delaware does not have such a statutory provision and it is unclear whether the common law would permit involuntary dissolution is instances other than as noted supra. However, many states have statutes such as NY Bus. Corp. Law § 1104-a, which permits a court to dissolve a close corp. if the majority has visited “illegal, oppressive, or fraudulent” conduct on the minority. Where available, the involuntary dissolution remedy is a powerful check on majority abuse and “freeze outs” of the minority (the doctrine is very closely related to breaches of fiduciary duty).
Involuntary Dissolution for Oppressive Conduct by the Majority – Kemp v. Beatley, Inc. (NY 1984):
Under NY law (and many other states) a court may dissolve the corp. upon petition by the dissenting minority if:
The minority SH demonstrates that the majority is guilty of oppressive conduct that defeats the objectively reasonable expectations of the minority in investing in the corp.
And the majority is unable to demonstrate any less drastic alternative to the dissolution to protect the reasonable expectations.
“Oppressive Conduct”: Is defined as any conduct that thwarts the “expectations that, objectively viewed, were both reasonable under the circumstances (at the time of investment) and central to the minority shareholder’s decision to invest in the close corp.” Kemp. It is not sufficient that a minorities subjective expectations were not met – “disappointment should not be equated with oppression.” Id. Oppressive conduct thus generally involves a breach of the majority’s fiduciary duties (or something very near to this).
“Less Drastic Alternative”: Rarely will the majority NOT have a less drastic alternative to dissolution – usually the majority will buyout the minority and courts will accept this if the price is fair.
Note that in most states the remedy of involuntary dissolution is common law, but in statutory states like NY, there may be stock ownership requirements in order to use the remedy (NY is 20%).


More on Heightened Fid Duties[edit]

Problems of Control
Abuse of Control [ch. 5, § 4, p. 612]
Wilkes v Springside Nursing Home (1976) (fiduciary duty and the problem of the freeze out in small closely held co) [p. 612]
Four investors in a nursing home, organize corp to be protected by limited liability, employed by, salary from, each own equal share and no dividends. After disagreement w/ other investors, Wilkes fired (frozen out of active participation and cut off from payments), no salary and others offered to buy his shares for a very low price. Wilkes bring suit against corp and other three investors. Held: for Wilkes b/c breach of fiduciary duty of utmost good faith and loyalty owed by sh’s in a closely held to each other.
  • Peculiar aspect of close corporations was the opportunity afforded to majority sh’s to oppress, disadvantage, or “freeze out” minority sh’s. This is the reason for the strict good faith standard. Ct says closely held co like a partnership ∴ fiduciary duty like a p’ship, the highest of strictest good faith.
  • Wilkes duties apply to controlling sh’s of a closely held corp.

ANALYSIS:

  • If minority sh’s in a close corporation brings suit against majority alleging breach of strict good faith duty owed to them by the majority, the controlling group must demonstrate a legitimate business purpose for their action.
  • When an asserted business purpose is advanced by the majority, the minority sh’s may demonstrate that the same legitimate objective could be advanced through an alternative course of action less harmful to the minority’s interest.
  • If called upon to settle a dispute, ct must weigh the legitimate business purpose, if any, against the practicality of a less harmful alternative.
  • The ct inferred that a design to pressure Wilkes into selling his shares to the corp at a low price may have been at the heart of the plan.
    • Majority sh’s were not able to show a legitimate business purpose for severing Wilkes from the payroll of the corp and for refusing to reelect him as salaried off/dir (so ct didn’t do second part of the analysis).
    • Shows how important dividends are in close corp’s, as long as each investor works for don’t need them b/c the corp can distribute earnings as salary. When Wilkes fired and getting no return, dividends become important. Only way to get a return on investment is to sell stock or if co would pay dividend. In a closely held there is no original market for the stock, if co keeps earnings, econ value rises, but difficult to sell, may not be able to realize income.
    • NOTE: other C of A’s against Δs: breach of duty of loyalty as off/dir to Wilkes, conflict of interest-larger return on investment through salary from freeze out (trans w/ co so dir on both sides of), no protection from the BJR [& land purchase that started the original disagreement]; under Sinclair as controlling sh (size of corp no matter, analysis applies to any size) benefit to the detriment of minority sh-controlling sh’s would have to prove intrinsic fairness (probably couldn’t have done under Wilkes).


+ INTERMEDIATE LEVEL FIDUCIARY DUTY-what the sh’s of closely held corp owe each other, slightly less that what partners owe, but higher than what off/dir owe.

  • Close corp’s are like p’ships so why differentiate? Cts have held highest b/c need legal protection, can’t sell very easily, nor can closely sh’s in closely held-should be the same.
  • Practical effect-no much different.


Ingle v Glamore Motor Sales (1989) [p. 619]
Δ own dealership, π brought in to manage. Later π buys 40 of 100 shares in the corp. Glamore still controlling sh (owns the majority of 60). Sh’s agreement: right to repurchase all of π’s stock if π stopped being an employee for any reason. π fired and Δ exercise repurchase upon termination of employment option. Held: π’s complaint dismissed.
  • A minority sh in a close corp, by that status alone, who contractually agrees to the repurchase of shares upon termination of his employment for any reason, acquires no right from the corp or the majority sh’s against at-will discharge. π claimed fiduciary duty against being fired.
  • The ct distinguishes the duty owed to a minority sh as a sh from any duty that might be owed as an employee.
  • Δ had right to freeze out-fire π and repurchased shares at a fair price.


Sugarman v Sugarman (1986) [p. 625]
Δ/Leo son of one of the founders of corp, runs the corp, pays himself salary (ct concludes excessive, along w/ the one paid to his father) . Δ also refuses to hire and also fired minority sh’s. The corp paid no dividends so the minority sh’s were not employed, got no financial bene w/ respect to their holdings and Δ offers to buy for a grossly inadequate price (freeze out). πs allege derivate recovery against Δ on behalf of corp for excessive salary and direct recovery for themselves on the theory of a freeze out as minority sh’s. Held: for πs.
Necessary ingredients of a freeze out: the minority sh’s must first establish that the majority sh employed various devices to ensure that the minority sh is frozen out of any financial bene from the corp through such means as the receipt of dividends or employment, and that the offer to buy stock at a low price is the capstone of the majority plan to freeze-out the minority = effective CoA for minority sh’s who have been denied their fair share of benefits in close corp’s. The cts reasoning is to distinguish actionable from non-actionable.
Here: overcompensation + refusal to hire + no dividends + too low price offered = freeze out. Ct puts all conduct together à Δ not acting in good faith, mistreats πs, hoping to buy out at a low price.
NOTE: Not sufficient for min sh to just prove excessive compensation (derivative liability). No win under Wilkes duties by excessive compensation alone.
NOTE: Minority sh’s also do not invoke Wilkes only by an inadequate price. Need aggregate of bad conduct, no alone enough, but together are a violation of Wilkes duties. Min sh of closely held who receives offer at inadequate price, can bring suit if the sh can prove that offer part of plan to freeze the minority sh out of the corp.
Significance of offer to buy-used as evidence against Δ, could have avoided liability by making no offer at all (and paid generous salary, considered dividends-could have not done as long as plausible business reason à unassailable position)
RECAP: π invokes Wilkes duty-utmost good faith. High duty-easy to breach. Applies when minority allege mistreatment, especially a freeze-out. If only excessive compensation Wilkes would not apply (would argue derivative action b/c of harm to corp). But w/ other facts π could have a direct suit-direct harm to sh’s, freeze out harms individuals. No Wilkes if inadequate price the only allegation (re: basic position of min sh-no right to dividends, no right to a job). Majority sh can still work, pay themselves generous salary (not excessive) and minority sh’s will have difficulty selling their shares.
If represent someone going in to a minority interest-understand potential pitfalls, locked in. Significant problem if dividends not paid, value of the co goes up, but doesn’t mean much for a minority sh who can’t sell
What happens to Δ-has to pay portion of salary as damages to πs, ct doesn’t suggest has to hire πs or pay dividends. In the future to set salary should look for independent consultant to set salary or put business friends on board to set salary (may not be truly independent, hwr)
Could also apply Sinclair
Smith v Atlantic Properties (1981) [p. 629]
Real estate venture-each investor has a 25% interest. By virtue of 80% vote requirement for all important business decisions, each sh had a veto power. The sh’s reach an impasse b/c disagree over what should be done w/ profit. Dr. W wanted to make repairs, improvements (prob w/ arg should have come up w/ plan. The arg required a plan or schedule of something more specific à ct reasoned that motivated by ill will, no desire for improvements). The others wanted dividends. Animosity builds on both sides as profits accumulate. The corp becomes liable for accumulated earnings.
Held: for others, Dr. W recklessly ran risk of penalty taxes inconsistent w/ any r’able interpretation of a duty of utmost good faith.
Wilkes duties extend beyond Maj SHs, but to anyone who controls firm. Dr. W caused Corp to incur accumulated earnings tax penalty.
Arg for Dr. W: others breached duty to him as well. He didn’t cause any more than the others did, could have avoided the tax by reinvestment.
All were voting individual self-interest à rational SH conduct. Each refused to compromise à liability for the firm.
How would Sinclair apply to the facts? SHs owe fid duty as controlling SH if controlling SH is engaged in self-dealing. DoL is defined differently for controlling sh, it is only when the majority receives a benefit at the expense and to the detriment to other sh’s. Perhaps no liability under Sinclair, didn’t really receive a bene, really detriment to the entire co (small arg Dr. W avoiding tax consequences of dividend as a bene, but the detriment was to all).
Another approach b/c sh’s also served on the bd-breach of fiduciary duty as dir’s. But arg that no one breached any more than another. DoC-not here, no failure to investigate, adequate consideration. Duty of Loyalty? DIR ó SH (on both sides of transaction-as dir owe duty to the corp & as sh wants $ à conflict of interest and no BJR). Duty owed as dirs, voted private interest as sh’s. If sh & also dir must adhere to duties owed-but there is still an unanimous breach.
Wilkes duties make sense only in freeze out, shouldn’t apply to deadlock, none more guilty than the other.
Most cts read Smith very narrowly, ct accepted view that Dr. W acted out of spite, insincere claim about wanting to make improvements (Dr. W let bad feelings show + no plan for investment, might have been a different outcome w/ better legal advice).
As a matter of planning veto power can be very silly, need ancillary agreement in case sh’s reach an impasse.
Look at 4 cases together: Wilkes, Ingle, Sugarman, Smith-What did the Δs do wrong?
Wilkes: no paid Wilkes salary + low price offer = argument of majority freeze out.
Ingle: Δ didn’t do anything wrong. π allege improper buy out, but the ct says no.
Sugarman: Δ paid himself too high a salary, paid no dividends, too low price offered, fired and refused to hire = improper freeze out (could also apply Sinclair).
Smith: blocked payment of dividend, no produce sound plan for investing retained earnings.
What could the Δs have done and still have their way w/ no litigation?
Wilkes: Δs could have made a greater effort to gear salaries to services and no make inadequate offer or if willing to compromise could have offered r’able price. Also-if had observed the corporate structure-looked to bd of dir, formal meeting, resolve (3 of 4) to terminate, send letter. Would have forced ct to confront the role of the bd (put on dir hats and observe corporate formalities)-then Wilkes is minority sh, w/ no salary, no dividends (protected by BJR), and no recourse. It happens often.
Ingle: Successful Δ, but to have avoided suit-Δ could have refrained from exercising option to buy back. Then implied employment K is the only issue left, which is a sure loser. Ingle would have minority stake, no salary, no dividends and nothing he could do. Might have insisted on a buy out-Δ avoid accusation of a freeze out.
Sugarman: Δ could have been more careful about salary, have business justification for continuing Dad’s, no offer to buy back the shares. πs would be left as minority sh’s.
Smith: Δ should have developed a viable plan, sound investment, dismay at πs unwillingness to reinvest should have been expressed.
What could have been done to fit roles more neatly in the corporate model?
Wilkes: (a) buy-sell agreement among sh’s-will be bought and sold in any # of events, based on book value (net worth ÷ # of shares), or (b) draft employment agreement to avoid problem of being a minority sh w/ no dividend: rights as employee as well as sh, or (c) sh’s agreement-take into account both, provision w/ buy-back can include employment provision.
Ingle: Δ prevailed, not a lot more could have done-maybe have understanding spelled out more clearly, terms of buying back the stock.
Sugarman: buy-sell agreement would have worked.
Smith: provision that provides for arbitration if reach an impasse. In case of impasse-corp will be dissolved and assets distributed. Buy/sell agreement.
How should claims have been framed more consistent w/ corp model/governance paradigm?
Wilkes: probably should have been a derivative suit about excess salary, W could have enjoined from doing in the future.
Sugarman: could have been derivative, w/ individual recovery.
Smith: relief granted was consistent w/ corporate model.