You likely came across this article if you Googled the term “shareholder dispute.” However, it is just as likely that you Googled the term “business divorce.” One business owner suing the other(s) to be bought out, or some other escape, is often rightly referred to as business divorce because it is analogous to a divorce among spouses in obvious ways. This posting is about the less obvious ways the two types of legal actions are similar.» Read More
Many shareholders contemplating getting a “business divorce” have put up with an intolerable situation for years, because they fear that filing a shareholder oppression lawsuit will somehow make matters even worse. They might be partly correct in the short term. But the long-term gains often outweigh temporary negatives.
For example, one client had been marginalized and sidelined for years from all important company decisions and all company financial information. » Read More
In closely-held businesses in New Jersey with multiple owners, it seems fairly obvious that the more co-owners you can recruit to your side in a business divorce litigation, the better. You don’t need a lawyer to tell you that. However, what is not so obvious is the possibility of recruiting co-owners to your side once the litigation has commenced.
Litigation – especially business divorce litigation – can be quite divisive. » 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
In my last post, I addressed the fact that, just because a minority shareholder has gone along with certain practices in the past, his acquiescence will not necessarily be fatal to a shareholder oppression claim. However, that does not mean you should simply go along with something that you fundamentally disagree with, and assume it will have no consequences to you in the future.» 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
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