Many family businesses run smoothly for years, until the business is sold or passed on to the next generation(s). There are, however, those circumstances where the family or closely-held business runs into a deadlock among management where the parties are unable to agree on a course of action to move the business forward. In these circumstances, one party can petition the appropriate court for a judicial dissolution of the business. The other party may be opposed to this prospect, but can do little other than defend the claim or try to work out a solution with the party filing suit. Owners of family or closely-held businesses should be familiar with the applicable judicial dissolution standards and should try to include language in a shareholder agreement or operating agreement to avoid this problem, especially where management and stockholdings are divided 50/50. An ongoing deadlock can be severely damaging to a business, taking time, attention and funding away from other matters. Continue Reading Family Business Owners Should Be Aware Of Statutory “Deadlock” Provisions
Mark J. Tarallo is a member of the Business & Finance Department, and Mergers & Acquisitions and Entrepreneur practice groups.
Mark represents entities ranging from startups to publicly listed international businesses. He works closely with clients to negotiate, draft and review all documents in connection with venture capital financing, mergers & acquisitions, and securities offerings.
Additionally, Mark advises clients on general corporate matters including securities, governance, intellectual property, licensing, employment and litigation. He also assists clients such as private funds and investment advisers in connection with regulatory and securities matters.
As 2018 looks to be a favorable M&A environment, many business owners may come to the conclusion that it is time to sell the family business. While it is true that some businesses sell as a result of an offer that comes “out of the blue,” the reality is that most sales occur as a result of a well-designed process intended to maximize value for the seller. Sellers should consider allocating considerable time preparing for a sale, sometimes as much as a year. A well-run sale process can take considerable time as well. The time is well-spent though, as thorough preparation and an organized sale process typically lead to higher valuations and quality buyers. Continue Reading Thinking of Selling? Start Early, Build Your Team
After a somewhat choppy 2017, many experts are calling for a busy 2018 in the M&A space. The Intralinks Deal Flow Predictor Report suggests that the pace of M&A activity will increase in 2018, based in large part on “a combination of gradual acceleration in global economic growth, low inflation in advanced and emerging economies, buoyant asset markets and low-interest rates that continue to bolster the M&A markets.” While there are concerns that could impact the potential increase in deal flow (such as a rise in economic protectionism or a global equity sell-off) the prevailing view is that the positive conditions for M&A activity will continue to rule the day and drive increasing dealmaking. Continue Reading Expect A Busy 2018 On The M&A Front
All employers should maintain an employee handbook or similar policy statement that clearly sets out the employer’s position on drug and alcohol use. While federal laws relating to marijuana possession and use have not changed, many states have revised their statutes to legalize, decriminalize, or otherwise permit marijuana possession and use. This has caused some confusion for employers, who must balance the conflicting state and federal rules.
Over thirty states have enacted legislation allowing marijuana use in certain situations. In some states (California and Massachusetts, for example), medical and recreational use is permitted. In many other states, such as Connecticut and Rhode Island, only medical use is permitted. A number of states have also adopted legislation that specifically protects marijuana users from termination from employment based solely on a positive test for marijuana. Continue Reading High Time for Massachusetts Employers to Consider a Marijuana Use Policy
In a recent decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that directors of a corporation owe a fiduciary duty to the corporation itself, and not to the stockholders of the corporation (as is the case in Delaware, among other states). In Int’l Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Loc. No. 129 Benefit Fund v. Tucci, SJC-12137 (Mass. Mar. 6, 2017), the Court ruled that the directors of EMC Corporation did not breach their fiduciary duties to the corporation when they approved the sale of EMC as a whole, versus selling off the constituent operations individually, which might have brought a higher price. The Court relied on the plain language of M.G.L ch. 156D, Section 8.30, which provides that a director shall discharge his duties “in a manner the director reasonably believes to be in the best interests of the corporation.”
All too often, family businesses are run in an “informal” fashion, with insufficient attention being paid to corporate formalities, including requirements set forth in a corporation’s bylaws. The Delaware Chancery Court recently ruled in Rainbow Mountain, Inc. vs. Begeman (March 23, 2017), that even in a family-owned business where all of the parties to a dispute are family members, the bylaws will control corporate actions.
In Rainbow Mountain, the defendant Terry Begeman was a member of the family that had founded the corporation. After a falling out among the family members, the group that held a controlling interest sought to remove Terry from the board of directors of the corporation, and in 2008 voted him off of the board of directors. Terry refused to accept this removal, and in 2014 the corporation filed an action for declaratory judgment seeking to confirm that Terry had been removed from the board.
In a recent decision, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Massachusetts sent a reminder to practitioners and family business owners that it is critical to maintain corporate formalities in order to avoid unintended liabilities. In the case of In re Cameron Construction & Roofing Co., Adv. P. No. 15-1121, 2016 WL 7241337 (Bankr. D. Mass. December 14, 2016), the Bankruptcy Court applied the concept of substantive consolidation and made the assets of a non-bankrupt related entity available to creditors in the bankruptcy proceeding.
When a family business operated as a limited liability company brings on professional management, the parties typically focus on items in the operating agreement such as capital contributions, allocations and distributions, and governance. However, a recent Delaware Chancery Court case serves as a reminder that all provisions of a limited liability company operating agreement must be given careful consideration, including the provisions relating to advancement and indemnification rights. In Harrison v. Quivus Systems, C.A. 12084-VCMR, the Delaware Chancery Court ruled on cross motions for summary judgment in a case where the plaintiff, the former CEO of the defendant, sought indemnification and advancement from the defendant corporation. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, and awarded not only the advancement and indemnification sought, but also “fees on fees” incurred by the plaintiff in bringing the action in Delaware.
John Harrison (the plaintiff in this action) had served as the CEO of Quivus Systems, LLC (the defendant), since its inception in 2007. In 2014, the controlling shareholder of Quivus removed Harrison as CEO, and in 2015 filed suit against Harrison in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, alleging mismanagement and corporate malfeasance. In response to this lawsuit, Harrison made a demand for indemnification (including advancement of expenses), which was refused by Quivus. After this refusal, Harrison sued Quivus in the Delaware Chancery Court, leading to the ruling issued by Vice Chancellor Montgomery-Reeves on August 5, 2016. Continue Reading Family Businesses Should Carefully Consider Indemnification and Advancement Obligations Included In Limited Liability Company Operating Agreements