One of the most common reasons for a minority shareholder to file “business divorce litigation” is because that minority owner feels left out, pushed out, squeezed out – simply not part of the process in any significant way. Quite often, the minority owner is pushed out for a reason that is not entirely unjustified. But just as often, these feelings are the result of a misunderstanding that has spiraled out of control.» Read More
As I have said many times in this blog, when minority shareholder oppression occurs, the most likely remedy is a buyout. In other words, courts in New Jersey have the power to compel the majority shareholder to pay “fair value” to an oppressed minority shareholder so the victim of wrongdoing is not forced to remain captive as a shareholder in a company that is treating him improperly. » Read More
Minority owners of closely-held corporations (in New Jersey) often put themselves in a position where they are cut off from access to the company’s books and records. When that happens, several things can occur, and few of them are good.
For example, majority shareholders who have unfettered access to the company’s finances often abuse their power by granting themselves impermissible benefits that are not related to their employment by the company, and are not proportionately shared with the minority shareholders. » Read More
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
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
In my last post, I wrote about the fact that your right to simply withdraw from a New Jersey LLC and be paid fair market value for your shares – provided the Operating Agreement does not prohibit this – is being eliminated on March 1, 2014. Many readers of that post have contacted me, hoping there was a way to extend that deadline. » Read More
Minority shareholders often do not work at the company, and are not involved in management, making them, for lack of a better word, “passive investors.” While no broad rule can ever be applied to everyone, it is these types of minority shareholders who are the most vulnerable to abuse by the majority shareholders.
The easiest way for a passive minority shareholder to be abused is for the majority shareholders to keep increasing their salaries and bonuses to the point that they are significantly above market rates. » Read More
Shareholder disputes often arise because of a lack of information being disclosed by the majority to the minority shareholders. In New Jersey, there are limitations as to what financial documents must be shared with minority shareholders. However, most of the time business owners believe that their business partners should share more information than the bare minimum dictated by law.
A common tactic employed by majority shareholders who do not want to disclose any more financial information than required, yet want to stave off a minority shareholder lawsuit, is to provide a “slow drip” of information. » Read More