Many clients ask at the start of a business divorce lawsuit, “Is it fatal to a shareholder oppression claim if I was doing some of the same things that the majority owners are doing that I am now complaining about?” As often happens when it comes to a nuanced legal analysis under New Jersey law, the answer is, “It depends.”
For example, suppose you are a one-third shareholder, and the other one-third shareholders collectively run and control the business operations, especially the finances. » Read More
When minority shareholders in New Jersey (including LLC members) are being treated unfairly or oppressively, the New Jersey minority shareholder oppression statute provides significant rights that are written about quite frequently on this site. The upside of a successful oppression suit is often a buyout at market value. However, what if the minority shareholder loses the case?
The consequences of losing a shareholder oppression suit can be enormous, as most shareholders get only one true “bite at the apple.” In other words, if you already felt you were being treated unfairly, but the court did not grant you the relief that you wanted and left you as a minority shareholder, how likely would you be to ever file a second shareholder oppression lawsuit? » Read More
Because termination of one’s employment does not necessarily equate to shareholder oppression under New Jersey law, as seen in my last post, it is often a good idea to take proactive measures to inoculate yourself against a termination that leaves you in the company as a shareholder, but not as an employee. This is especially critical if you have invested your own money, since an adverse result in a shareholder oppression litigation would leave your shares held hostage by the majority shareholders, essentially allowing the majority to use your capital in a manner over which you have little or no control.» Read More
A common theme among minority shareholders seeking legal representation is termination of employment. Readers of this blog may be aware that termination can often constitute minority shareholder oppression, warranting a remedy such as a court-ordered buyout. But, unfortunately, not all terminations are equal, as not all terminations constitute oppression.
The key to whether termination of employment amounts to minority shareholder oppression is what the court calls the “reasonable expectations” of the employee/shareholder. » Read More
I have noted many times on this blog that emails often prove shareholder oppression cases. It can be fairly easy for majority shareholders who are careful, and seek legal advise beforehand, to mask their true intent when attempting to “freeze out” a minority shareholder. For example, when the majority shareholders set their salary and bonus at a rate the minority shareholder thinks is outrageously high (ensuring there is no money to distribute to shareholders at the end of the year), they could do so firmly believing that they are paying themselves a fair salary. » Read More
More and more shareholder dispute litigations are settling earlier than ever before, which is obviously a good thing for anyone who does not want to pay a fortune in legal fees (i.e., everyone). The reason is simple – in all but a handful of business divorce cases, it is obvious to everyone involved that the oppressed minority shareholder will wind up on the receiving end of a buyout. » Read More
Business owners who are having a dispute with their business partners (in New Jersey) should not read this blog and assume their only remedy is shareholder dispute litigation. Because of the cost – both in legal fees, and to your business – litigation should almost always be a last resort. But being prepared to file litigation often leads to other positive, productive results.» Read More
When two people start a company, neither wants to give control to the other, so ownership is usually split 50/50. This sounds like a great idea at the outset, when everyone is on the same page, and there is usually no other practical way to proceed. But when you and your partner start having different ideas about the direction of the company, and significant trouble ensues, the law of New Jersey may provide the practical remedy that you are looking for.» Read More
The New Jersey Supreme Court has decided a new case addressing what it takes to expel a member from an LLC in New Jersey.
The applicable statute in New Jersey (42:2C-46(e)) has three subsections dealing with expelling a member, two of which are fairly clear. One section permits the expulsion of a member by the Court when he or she engages in activity that may hurt the company in a material way, or is about to engage in such activity; and another permits expulsion when a member willfully and persistently breaches the Operating Agreement or the member’s fiduciary duties. » Read More
To negotiate – or to sue? That is the question when the decision to sue might potentially hurt the company.
A minority shareholder (or LLC member) in New Jersey is often faced with a difficult choice. Confronted with mounting evidence of shareholder oppression and improper conduct by the majority, minority shareholders may have the right to sue and attempt to force a buyout of their shares. » Read More