Business Divorce and Small Businesses

Friday, 11 November 2016 by

At one time or another there will be an end to your business. When you started your business, you should have developed an exit strategy, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. The business may end happily in a merger or acquisition and sometimes less happily by dissolution or bankruptcy. Without clear guidelines at the outside, you will find that extricating yourself from your partners may be costly. A business divorce may have similar acrimony to a family divorce. In a family divorce, there is the combustible combination of kids and money. In a business divorce, the business partners undoubtedly will also argue about money—and will contend for control over their business, which for founders, can be like an extension of their families. The disputes among partners are not easy disputes. And business divorces like their family counterparts have numerous moving parts in various areas of the law such as business organizations, contracts, unfair trade practices, employment law and trade secrets. This article summarizes some of the considerations you should keep in mind when discussing with your small business lawyer what steps you and your partners should take to minimize the risk of a messy divorce with your partners down the line.

You have now consulted with your small business attorney and to your surprise the attorney has advised you as a small business owner that a selling LLC interests may be subject to securities laws.
Selling a piece of your limited liability company, even if it is a small business, may put you on the radar of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It doesn’t mean that you have to go public. “Going public” for those not in the know basically means that you have to register the securities with the SEC. Think big bucks for your securities lawyers and investment bankers. If you have a security, then you either have to register with the SEC or you must meet an exemption. If you fall within an exemption to the securities laws, you do not need to register the securities. Just to hammer home the point, the SEC succinctly states: If a small business is offering and selling securities, even if to just one person, the offer and sale of the securities must either be registered with the SEC or conducted in accordance with one of the many registration exemptions under the Securities Act. As a small business owner, if the membership interests may be considered securities, you are looking for an exemption as you do not want the risk of substantial fines from the SEC and possibly worse yet, you do not want the purchaser to try to rescind the purchase. This article reviews the various exemptions from the securities laws.

This article is about some of the traps that lie in wait for unwary founders. Remember that any startup has numerous issues to deal with starting on day one of the formation of the new business. A new business owner who fails to be ready on day one proceeds at his or her own peril. Startup legal problems can take numerous forms and this article discusses some of the major issues such as failing to assign the IP to the new company, failing to reduce investor or partner agreements to writing, agreeing to a “standard” agreement, failing to observe corporate formalities, and failing to take into account that partners may die, get divorced or file for bankruptcy.

Negotiating LLC Operating Agreements

Tuesday, 09 February 2016 by

This blog post highlights some of the critical issues in negotiating operating agreements for a new business. The operating agreement for a limited liability company (LLC) is the critical document that governs formation, governance, distributions and dissolution of your business, among other issues. You will want to give special attention to negotiating the operating agreement, especially when your business has several partners or investors. The LLC is a creature of state law and the operating agreement is an agreement. You have great latitude in negotiating the terms of the operating agreement as most states have few mandatory provisions. The operating agreement for your LLC is the most important agreement that will govern your business for the life of the business. These terms may be difficult to negotiate but if a dispute arises, they will be even more difficult to resolve without the guidance from your operating agreement. You should go over the terms and conditions of the operating agreement carefully with your small business lawyer and make sure you understand and agree before you jump in to a relationship with partners and investors.

Your startup attorney may suggest that you look at the S corporation and LLC as the two most attractive options for forming your new business. There are a number of considerations for you to keep in mind for your startup business and for you to decided on a LLC or S corporation. They generally fall into four major categories: Protecting personal assets: the business owner wants to assure that the new business’ creditors can only get at the assets of the business, not those of the individual owners; Transferring interests in the business: whatever form you have, you want to be able to transfer stock, or ownership interests in your business; Admitting new investors: you want to make sure that you have a mechanism to admit or restrict new investors in the business; Taxes: which corporate form allows you to pay the least amount of taxes. In this blog post, I am going to focus on two of the most common forms available for small businesses: S corporations named after subchapter S in the tax code, and limited liability companies (LLCs). New business owners generally like the flexibility of the limited liability companies over a corporation and they can still have their LLC taxed as a C corporation or S corporation if they want and can qualify.

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