Corporations

Spring 2004 – Professor McGovern

 

Chapter 1: Introduction

·        Four basic attributes of a corporation:

o       (1) Separate entity with perpetual existence

o        (2) Limited liability

o       (3) Centralized management

o       (4) Transferability of ownership interests

 

Chapter 2: Introduction to the Economics of the Firm

·        Business Risks

o       Two categories:

§         (1) Non-controllable

·        The weather, the state of the economy, the level of interest rates, market prices, etc

·        They cannot be completely eliminated

·        Ways to limit non-controllable risks

o       (1) They could pool the cost of these risks with others who also bear them – by purchasing insurance, for example

o       (2) To participate in numerous ventures, each involving risks different from the others

o       (3) To allocate the burden (and benefits) of the risk to the person most willing to bear it – which may well turn on who is in a better position to insure or diversify

§         (2) Controllable

·        Relates to the specific business: its competitive position, its product line, the quality of its management, the adequacy of its physical plant, etc

·        Are those which the parties, by acting or not acting, can affect

·        Shirking – When a person does less than is optimal to control a risk

·        Moral hazard – The danger that a person who does not bear a risk will not take steps to control that risk

·        To avoid the agent’s self-interested shirking, the principal must monitor the agent to ensure that he takes risk reducing precautions

o       Risk Preference

§         (1) Risk Neutral

·        Make decisions based solely on expected returns (the sum of each possible return multiplied by the probability of that return)

§         (2) Risk Averse

·        A risk averse person takes the magnitude of risk (along with expected return) into account when making a decision

§         Risk Premium – How much a risk avoider would pay to obtain certainty

§         (3) Risk Loving

·        Takes the magnitude of risk (along with the expected return) into account

·        Allocating Business Risks Within the Firm

o       Allocating risks to the principal

o       Allocating risks to the agent

o       Searching for a middle ground

·        The Role of Law in Allocating Business Risks

o       Mandatory and Default Rules

§         Defaults specify the parties’ relationship, unless they provide otherwise.

§         Enabling rules

·        The parties can take them or not

·        Significantly lower the costs of entering into a firm relationship by providing the rules that the parties presumably would have identified and negotiated for themselves

o       Types of Default Rules

§         Majoritarian defaults

·        Rules that most similarly situated parties would likely have bargained for

·        Bright line standards that specify the parties’ relationship from an ex ante prospective

·        Seek to provide an efficient result in common situations

§         Tailored defaults

·        Rules meant to give parties what they would have chosen had they bargained

§         Penalty rules

·        Rules to which the parties probably would not have agreed had they actually bargained

·        By imposing a penalty on one of the parties, the rule motivates that party to bargain for a party specific solution

 

Chapter 3: An Introduction to the Law of Corporations

·        Some Basic Terms and Concepts

o       1. Corporate statutes

o       2. Judge-made corporate law

o       3. Corporate choice of law

§         The relationships between owners and managers are governed by the corporate statutes and case law of the state where the corporation is incorporated

§         Choice of law rule, also known as the internal affairs doctrine

o       4. Organic documents

§         Articles of incorporation

·        Sometimes called the charter of the certificate of incorporation

·        Must be filed with state officials and represents the constitution of the corporation

§         Bylaws

·        Set forth the details of the corporation’s internal governance arrangements, such as procedures for calling and holding meetings

§         A corporation’s articles cannot conflict with the statute under which the corporation is organized, and a corporation’s bylaws cannot conflict with the statute or the articles.

o       5. The corporate actors

§         Stockholders or shareholders – Own the corporation

§         Board of directors – Responsible for managing or supervising the corporation’s business

·        Inside directors – Individuals who are corporate employees and affiliates

·        Outside directors – Individuals who generally have no other affiliation with the corporation

·        When directors act in their capacity as directors, they are supposed to represent the interests of the corporation and are not considered employees of the corporation.

o       6. Corporate securities

§         Common stock

§         Preferred stock

·        Represent financial rights with certain priorities over the common stock

§         The corporation’s articles of incorporation specify how many shares of common and preferred stock the corporation is authorized to issue

§         More stock can be issued only if the articles are amended

§         The portion of the authorized stock that has been sold and remains in the hands of stockholders is the stock outstanding

§         A corporation’s board of directors generally is free to sell authorized, but unissued stock on whatever terms it decides are reasonable

§         Equity security

·        Relates to the stockholders’ position at the end of the line when it comes to distributions of corporate funds

·        (1) Debt securities – Represent claims on a corporation’s assets that have priority over the claims represented by equity securities

·        (2) Debt securities – Include bonds, debentures and notes

 

o       7. Fiduciary principles

§         The basic fiduciary duties that officers and directors owe to the corporation are the duty of care and the duty of loyalty

§         Business judgment rule – A rule of abstention under which courts defer to the judgment of the board of directors absent highly unusual circumstances, such as a conflict of interest of gross inattention.

o       8. Litigation by shareholders

§         Corporate managers who breach their fiduciary duties can be held liable for any losses they cause the corporation

§         Derivative suit

·        An action in equity brought by a shareholder on behalf of the corporation

·        The action is brought against the corporation for failure to bring an action in law against some third party, most often a careless or unfaithful manager

·        The corporation is a nominal defendant and the plaintiff-shareholder controls prosecution of the suit

·        Any recovery belongs to the corporation for whose benefit the suit has been brought

o       Bayer v. Beran

§         The fiduciary must subordinate his individual and private interests to his duty to the corporation whenever the two conflict.

§         The court must determine whether the action of the directors was intended or calculated to subserve some outside purpose, regardless of the consequences to the company, and in a manner inconsistent with its interests

o       Note: The Business Judgment Rule

§         Creates a presumption that, absent evidence of self-dealing or the directors not being reasonably informed, all board decisions are intended to advance the interest of the corporation and its shareholders

§         Courts will not entertain shareholder suits that challenge the wisdom of such decisions

§         Implements the basic corporate attribute of centralized management by insulating the board’s decision-making prerogatives from shareholder (and judicial) second guessing

o       Gamble v. Queens County Water Co

§         A shareholder has a legal right at a meeting of the shareholders to vote upon a measure, even though he has a personal interest therein separate from other shareholders

§         In such a meeting, each shareholder represents himself and his own interests solely, and he in no sense acts as a trustee or representative of others

§         The general rule is that the will of the majority shall govern

 

·        Equitable Limitations on Corporate Actions

o       Schnell v. Chris-Craft Industries Inc

§         When the bylaws of a corporation designate the date of the annual meeting of stockholders, it is to be expected that those who intended to contest the reelection of incumbent management will gear their campaign to the bylaw date.  It is not to be expected that management will attempt to advance that date in order to obtain an inequitable advantage in the contest

§         Inequitable action does not become permissible simply because it is legally possible

·        Choice of the State of Incorporation: An Introduction

o       A small corporation will usually incorporate in the state in which it will conduct most of its business

o       A business can choose to incorporate under the laws of whatever state best suits its needs

o       It can reincorporate in another state if subsequent needs are better served by the laws of the other state

o       Internal affairs doctrine - The law of the state of incorporation governs the internal affairs of the corporation

§         Means that relationships between shareholders and managers will be governed by the corporate statutes and case law of the state where the corporation is incorporated

o       The external affairs of a corporation are generally governed by the law of the place where the activities occur and by federal and state regulatory statutes rather than by the place of incorporation

 

Chapter 5: The Corporation and Society

·        Corporate Social Responsibility Trends

o       Dodge v. Ford Motor Co

o       Comment

§         The business corporation is an instrument through which capital is assembled for the activities of producing and distributing goods and services and making investments.

§         A business corporation should have as its objective the conduct of such activities with a view to enhancing corporate profit and shareholder gain – this is known as the “economic objective”

§         The corporation is a social as well as an economic institution, and accordingly that its pursuit of the economic objective must be constrained by social imperatives and may be qualified by social needs.

o       Corporate Charitable Contributions and Social Responsibility

§         Theodora Holding Corp v. Henderson

·        The test to be applied in passing on the validity of a gift is that of reasonableness

 

 

§         Kahn v. Sullivan

·        The test to be applied in examining the merits of a claim alleging corporate waste is that of reasonableness, a test in which the provisions of the IRS Code pertaining to charitable gifts by corporations furnish a helpful guide

 

Chapter 6: The Choice of Organizational Form

·        Introduction

o       Three primary forms of business organizations available to joint owners: the partnership, the corporation, and the limited liability company

o       A general partnership is an entity in which all the participants have unlimited liability, an equal voice in management, and the authority to act as agents for the partnership and incur obligations that will bind all the partners

o       A corporation is based upon principles of centralized management and limited liability for the participants

o       A partnership can be a limited partnership, a limited liability partnership (LLP), or a limited liability limited partnership (LLLP)

o       Partnership – an association of two or more persons to carry on as co-owners a business for profit

o       In a general partnership, each partner possess an equal voice in management and the authority to act as agent for the partnership

o       In a limited partnership, a limited partner has no voice in the active management of the partnership, which is conducted by the general partner

o       In a general partnership, each partner can be held personally liable for all debts of the partnership, as well as for torts committed by other partners within the course of the partnership’s business

o       In a limited partnership, the general partners have comparable liability but a limited partner’s liability is limited to the capital she has contributed to the partnership

o       Most statutes provide that by electing to operate as an LLP or LLLP, a general partner can limit her liability to whatever amount she has invested, subject to the caveat that she can be held personally liable for tortuous conduct for which she or employees operating under her supervision is responsible

o       A corporation is a legal entity distinct from its owners

o       The management of the corporation is centralized in a board of directors

o       Shareholders’ liability is limited to whatever amounts they have agreed to contribute to the corporation and does not extend to any debts of or liabilities incurred by the corporation

o       An LLC is a legal entity distinct from its owners, who are called members

o       Members, like shareholders receive the benefits of limited liability

o       Management arrangements generally are specified in an operating agreement and can involve either decentralized member management or centralized manager management

o       An LLC can also elect to be taxed as a partnership – which attribute makes the LLC an attractive choice in a variety of business settings

·        Non-Tax Aspects

o       Formation

§         Forming a corporation requires formal action with the state

·        In order to incorporate, the person creating the corporation, or incorporators, must file articles of incorporation containing certain information about the company and its incorporators, such as the corporate name, the number of authorized shares, and the name and address of each incorporator

§         Forming a general partnership requires no filing with the state

§         A partnership also may be created by operation of law

§         A limited partnership requires the filing with the state of a certificate setting forth the rights and duties of the partners among themselves and identifying the general partners

§         The formation of an LLC also requires the filing of articles of organization, which must include the name of the LLC and the address of its registered agent, with the appropriate state agency

§         The members enter into an operating agreement that sets forth the members’ rights and duties

o       Limited Liability

§         There are three major exceptions to shareholder limited liability

§         Shareholders will be personally liable (1) where the corporation is not properly formed, (2) for unpaid capital contributions that they have agreed to make, and (3) where the veil of limited liability is pierced

§         A general partnership differs from a corporation in that the partners, as individuals, can be held liable for all unpaid obligations of the partnership

§         Partners’ liability for the torts of the partnership is joint and several, while partners’ liability for the partnership’s contractual obligations is only joint

§         Each partner has the power to bind the partnership

§         In limited partnerships, the general partners dace the same unlimited liability as partners in a general partnership

·        But it is limited to the amount of their investment in the partnership, so long as they do not participate in the management of the partnership

§         An LLP is liable for all tort and contract obligations that arise in the ordinary course of the LLP’s business

·        A general partner in an LLP can be held personally liable only for partnership obligations that arise as a consequence of the wrongful or negligent acts committed by that partner or an employee under her supervision

§         All LLC statutes limit the liability of the entity’s members and managers for all of its obligations

o       Management and Control

§         The management of a corporation is centralized in its board of directors

§         In a general partnership, absent provisions in the partnership agreement, responsibility for management is vested in all the partners

·        Each partner has an equal voice, regardless of the amount of her capital contribution

·        Decisions are generally made on the basis of a majority vote of the partners, but major changes require unanimous consent of all partners

·        Many partnership agreements provide that a partner’s voice in management will be in proportion to her capital contribution

·        Some partnership agreements assign exclusive responsibility for managing various aspects of the partnership’s business to one partner or a committee of partners

§         In a limited partnership, the limited partners may nor participate in the management of the business without losing the protection of limited liability

§         An LLC can be either member managed or manager managed

·        In a member managed LLC, all members have the authority to make management decisions and to act as agents for the LLC

·        IN a manager managed LLC, members are not agents of the entity and make only major decisions – the managers, who do not have to be members, make most ordinary business decisions and have the authority to act as agents

·        The basic document controlling management of an LLC is its operating agreement

·        If there is conflict between provisions of the articles of organization of an LLC and its operating agreement, the operating agreement usually governs, reflecting the explicitly contractual nature of the LLC

o       Continuity of Existence

§         A general partnership is dissolved upon the death, bankruptcy or withdrawal of a partner

·        Most partnership agreements provide that, upon the death of a partner, the surviving partners will continue the business and pay the estate of the deceased partner the value of her partnerships interest

·        A partner may withdraw at any time and thereby dissolve the partnership, even if that act violates a provision of the partnership agreement

·        If a partner causes the dissolution of the firm in contravention of the partnership agreement, that partner is subject to various penalties

·        The other partners also have the option of continuing the partnership’s business without the consent or participation of the partner causing the dissolution, and of buying out that partner’s interest

§         The business of a limited partnership generally continues upon the death, bankruptcy or voluntary withdrawal of a limited partner, but the limited partnership agreement must specify the latest date upon which the partnership must be dissolved

o       Transferability of Interests

o       Financing Matters

§         The sole method by which a general partnership can raise equity capital is to create new partnership interests

·        Planning Considerations

o       Balancing Ownership Interests

o       The Economics of the Choice

·        The Tax Consequences of the Choice: A Brief Examination

o       Partnership vs. Corporation

o       S Corporations

§         An S corporation is a corporation that has elected the tax treatment specified in Subchapter S of the IRS Code

§         It pays no tax itself, rather, its income is attributed to its shareholder, whether or not it is distributed to them

§         The shareholders then add their shares of the S corporation’s income to their individual incomes and pay tax at the rates applicable to individuals

§         Operation of an S Corporation

·        To qualify for Subchapter S treatment, a corporation must be a domestic corporation with no more than 75 shareholders

·        The corporation can have only one class of stock, although shares that have different voting rights may be treated as part of the same class if they are otherwise alike

·        All the shareholders of the corporation must consent to its decision to elect Subchapter S treatment for that election to be valid

§         Termination of a Subchapter S Election

·        A Subchapter S election terminates if over any three year period more than 25% of the corporation’s gross receipts constitute passive investment income

·        It will also terminate if the number of shareholders exceeds 75, or if any of the shareholders are nonresident aliens, or are not an individual, estate, or qualified trust

·        If a second class of stock is issued, the election will also be terminated

·        Can also be revoked by the holders of a majority of a corporation’s stock

·        Once a Subchapter S election is terminated or revoked, a corporation cannot make another election before the 5th taxable year

 

Chapter 7: Forming the Corporation

·        Lawyers’ Professional Responsibilities: Who is the Client?

o       Model Rules

§         1.6 – Confidentiality of Information

§         1.7 – Conflict of Interest: Current Clients

§         1.13 – Organization as Client

o       Entity Theory of Representation

§         Jesse By Reinecke v. Danforth

·        The entity rule contemplates that where a lawyer represents a corporation, the client is the corporation, not the corporation’s constituents

·        The clear purpose of the entity rule was to enhance the corporate lawyer’s ability to represent the best interests of the corporation without automatically having the additional and potentially conflicting burden of representing the corporation’s constituents

·        If a person who retains a lawyer for the purpose of organizing an entity is considered the client, however, then any subsequent representation of the corporate entity by the very lawyer who incorporated the entity would automatically result in dual representation.

·        RULE: Where (1) a person retains a lawyer for the purpose of organizing an entity and (2) the lawyer’s involvement with that person is directly related to that incorporation and (3) such entity is eventually incorporated, the entity rule applies retroactively such that the lawyer’s pre-incorporation involvement with the person is deemed to be representation of the entity, not the person.

·        Where the person who retained the lawyer provides information to the lawyer not directly related to the purpose of organizing an entity, then it is the person, not the corporation which holds the privilege for that communication.

§         State Bar of Arizona, Opinion

·        Can a lawyer represent an entity that does not yet exist?

o       Yes, as long as the incorporators understand that they are retaining counsel on behalf of the yet to be formed entity and will need to ratify this corporate action once the entity is formed.

o       Two views:

§         (1) A lawyer hired to form an entity can represent the to be formed entity, not the incorporators, and the entity rule applies retroactively

§         (2) Aggregate theory – The lawyer is found to represent the incorporators/constituents collectively as joint clients

·        A lawyer represents multiple co-clients during formation of the corporationa nd then once the entity is formed,t he clients must determine whether the lawyer will continue to represent all of the constituents and the entity, or just the entity.

·        Who a lawyer may represent depends upon whether the lawyer’s independent professional judgment would be materially limited because of the lawyer’s duties to another client of third person.

·        Can a lawyer represent only the yet to be formed entity and not the constituents?

o       Who a lawyer represents depends upon the reasonable perceptions of those who have consulted with the lawyer

o       When to or more individuals consult with a lawyer about forming an entity, it is the responsibility of the lawyer at that initial meeting to clarify who the lawyer will represent

·        What disclosures should a lawyer make to the incorporating constituents to obtain their informed consent to the limited representation of the entity?

o       Loyalty to clients

o       It is crucial for lawyers to specify exactly who they represent, who they do not represent, and how information conveyed to the lawyer by constituents of an entity client will be treated, for confidentiality purposes

§         The Reasonable Expectations Test

·        Under this test, if an attorney leads an individual or entity to believe that they are a client and the belief is reasonable under the circumstances, and attorney client relationship will be created, whether or not the client pays the attorney any money or enters into a formal retainer agreement

·        The Process of Incorporation

o       The organization is formally accomplished by an incorporator who, after incorporation, usually plays no other role in the corporation

o       The incorporator signs and files the articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State

o       What is required in the articles of incorporation: the name of the corporation, the number of shares it is authorized to issue, the name and address of each incorporator and the name and address of the corporation’s registered office and registered agent

o       After the corporation has come into legal existence, the statute requires that an organizational meeting be held, either by the incorporators, who select the first members of the board of directors, or, where the initial board is names in the articles of incorporation, by the board members so named.

o       At its first meeting, the board accomplishes a number of standard tasks, including the election of additional directors, if any; the adoption of bylaws; the appointment of officers; the adoption of a corporate seal; the designation of a bank as a depository for corporate funds; and often the sale of stock to the initial shareholders

o       Choice of the State of Incorporation

§         If the company will conduct its business primarily in a single state, incorporating in that state will reduce filing, reporting and tax burdens

§         If, however, a company intends to operate in more than one state, it may be required to qualify to do business as a foreign corporation in other jurisdictions

§         Some of the other factors to be considered in deciding where to incorporate are the organization tax rates and the franchise tax rates; the ease of operation of the corporation; the regulation of the sale of stock and the payment of dividends; the existence of specific provisions for a close corporations; and the possible liability of shareholders for wages

·        Ultra Vires

o       “Beyond the power” – Common law doctrine

o       Under this doctrine, a corporation could not engage in activities outside the scope of its defined purposes

o       Attorneys can circumvent this doctrine by drafting the articles of incorporation in broad terms

o       Statutes typically provide that every corporation under this act has the purpose of engaging in any lawful business unless a more limited purpose is set forth in the articles of incorporation

·        Defective Incorporation

o       Courts developed the concept that the business association could be a “de facto” corporation, even if it was not a corporation “de jure”

o       Courts also developed the concept of corporation by estoppel to achieve results deemed just where the de facto corporation doctrine could not be used

o       The MBCA imposes liability only on those persons who act as or on behalf of a corporation knowing that no corporation actually exists

o       If some steps have been taken to bring about the corporation, liability will not be imposed on the parties who do not know that the steps to achieve corporateness were not completed

·        Pre-Incorporation Activities of Promoters

o       As a general rule, when a promoter contracts for the benefit of a corporation which is contemplated but has not been organized, she is personally liable on the contract in the absence of an agreement to the contrary

o       Furthermore, she is not discharged from liability simply because the corporation is later organized and receives the benefits of the contract, even where the corporation adopts the contract

o       However, the parties may expressly agree to discharge the liability of the promoter

o       Pre-incorporation contracts may not expressly address promoter liability

o       Thus, the intentions of the parties, as determined from the contract and the facts and circumstances of the parties’ dealings, determine whether the promoter is personally liable

o       Factors used in analyzing whether a promoter will be held liable for a pre-incorporation contract include:

§         (1) Form of signature – did the promoter sign as an agent of the corporation?

§         (2) Action of seller – Did the seller intend to look only to the corporation for payment?

§         (3) Partial performance – Did the promoter’s partial performance of the contract indicate an intent to be held personally liable?

§         (4) Novation – Did action taken by the parties discharge the promoter’s liability?

·        A novation is a three-party arrangement in which a new corporation assumes all of a promoter’s rights and liabilities under a pre-incorporation contract thereby discharging the promoter

§         The intention of the contracting parties is the principal focus of judicial opinions on the question of promoter liability

o       Restatement §326 – Unless otherwise agreed, a person who, in dealing with another, purports to act as agent for a principal whom both know to be non-existent or wholly incompetent, becomes a party to such contract.

o       The third party’s intentions are also a factor to be considered.

 

Chapter 8: An Introduction to Financial Accounting and Valuation

·        Introduction to Accounting Principles

o       Two basic financial statements are the balance sheet and the income statement

o       Balance sheet

§         The “snapshot”

§         Presents a picture of the firm at some given moment, listing all property it owns (its assets), all amounts it owes (its liabilities), and the value, at least conceptually, of the owners’ interest in fhr form (its equity)

o       Income statement

§         The “motion picture”

§         Presents a picture of the results of the firm’s operations during the period between the dates of successive balance sheets

 

 

o       Financial statements are produced through a three-stage process

§         1. A company records in its books information concerning every transaction in which it is involved – the recording and controls state

§         2. The company verifies the accuracy of the information it has recorded – the audit stage

§         3. The company classifies and analyzes the audited information and presents it in a set of financial statements – the accounting stage

o       MBCA §16.20 requires corporations to furnish their shareholders with annual balance sheets and income statements, but allows corporations to decide what accounting principles to use when preparing those statements

o       Most firms use generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP

o       Assumptions and Principles – Page 202-03

§         Separate entity assumption

§         Continuity assumption

§         Unit of measure assumption

§         Time period assumption

§         Cost principle

§         Consistency principle

§         Full disclosure principle

§         Modifying principles

o       The goals of the accounting process include presenting information about a firm’s financial position and the results of its operations that (i) is as accurate as possible, (ii) is as reliable as possible, and (iii) can be prepared at reasonable cost

·        The Fundamental Equation

o       Assets = Liabilities + Equity

o       Assets – Refers to property, both tangible and intangible, owned by the reporting firm

o       Liabilities – Refers to the amounts that firm owes to others, whether pursuant to written evidence of indebtedness or otherwise

o       Equity – Represents the accounting value of the interest of the firm’s owners

§         Initially includes the value of the property (including money) the owners contribute when they organize the firm

§         Since the owners bear the risk of the firm’s operations, equity increases thereafter whenever the firm earns a profit and decreases when it incurs a loss

§         Equity also increases whenever they withdraw property from it

§         Equity reflects the value of the owner’s residual interest, assuming that all assets could be sold for their balance sheet values and that all liabilities will be paid in full

·        Financial Statement Terms and Concepts

o       Realization Principle – A firm must recognize revenue in the period that services are rendered or goods are shipped, even if payment is not received in that period

o       Matching Principle – A firm must allocate to the period in which revenues are recognized the expenses it incurred to generate those revenues

o       Third financial statement:

§         Statement of Cash Flows

·        A firm must use cash, not income, to pay its bills, repay its debts, and make distributions to its owners

·        Cash, not income, must be on hand when the firm needs it

·        The statement of cash flows reports on the movement of cash into and out of a firm

·        The statement reflects all transactions that involve the receipt or disbursement of cash, whether they relate to operations or involve only balance sheet accounts such as purchases of plant and equipment, new borrowings, repayment of loans, equity investments, or distributions to equity holders.

o       Balance Sheet Terms and Concepts

§         1. Assets – Are listed in the balance sheet in the order of their liquidity, beginning with cash, followed by assets that the firm expects to convert to cash in the reasonable near future, and continuing to other assets, such as plant and equipment, that the firm uses in its business.

·        A. Current assets – Include cash and other assets which in the normal course of business will be converted into cash in the reasonable near future, generally within one year of the date of the balance sheet

o       1. Cash – Is money in the till and money in demand deposits in the bank

o       2. Marketable securities – Are securities purchased with cash not needed for current operations

o       3. Accounts receivable – Are amounts not yet collected from customers to whom goods have been shipped or services delivered (GAAP required that accounts receivable be adjusted by deducting an allowance for bad debts)

§         Notes or loans receivable – Are somewhat analogous to accounts receivable.  The usually represent a very large portion of the assets of firms engaged in financing businesses.

o       4. Inventory – Represents goods held for use in production or for sale to customers

§         GAAP require inventory to be valued at the lower of cost or markey

§         Items sold from inventory, called cost of goods sold, often represent a firm’s largest single expense

§         Firms that hold a relatively small number of identifiable items in inventory often use the specific identification method

§         To computer cost of goods sold, firms add their purchases during a reporting period to the value of their inventory at the start of the period (called opening inventory) and the subtracts the value of their closing inventory.

§         The firm can then use one of three methods to value its closing inventory:

·        Average cost method – Which visualizes inventory as sold at random from a bin

·        First in, first out method – Which visualizes inventory as flowing through a pipeline

·        Last in, first out method – Which visualizes inventory as being added to and sold from the top of a stack

o       5. Prepaid expenses – Are payments a firm has made in advance for services it will receive in the coming year, such as the value of ten months of on-year insurance policy that a firm purchased and paid for two months before the year ended

§         Deferred charges – Represent a type of asset similar to prepaid expenses, in that they reflect payments made in the current period for goods or services that will generate income in subsequent periods, such as advertising to introduce a new product

·        B. Fixed assets – Sometimes referred to as property, plant and equipment, are the assets a firm uses to conduct its operations (as opposed to assets it holds for sale)

o       Depreciation expense

o       Allowance for depreciation or accumulated depreciation

·        C. Intangible assets – Have no physical existence, but often have substantial value – a cable TV franchise granting a company the exclusive right to service certain areas, or a patent or trade name, etc

o       Amortization – The equivalent of depreciation, applied to intangibles

o       Goodwill

§         2. Liabilities – Usually are divided into current liabilities and long-term liabilities

·        A. Current liabilities – Are the debts a firm owes that must be paid within one year of the balance sheet date. 

·        B. Long-term liabilities – Are debts due more than one year from the balance sheet date

o       Off balance sheet financing – Transactions that involve long-term financial obligations, but which, because of their form, are not recorded as liabilities on the balance sheet

o       Contingent liabilities

§         3. Equity – Represents the owner’s interest in a firm

·        Also referred to as its net worth

·        Par or stated value

·        Stated capital

·        Paid-in capital

·        Retained earnings or earned surplus – Reflects the cumulative results of the corporation’s operations over the period since it was formed

·        Dividends – Or any amounts the corporation has paid to repurchase its stock

 

Chapter 9: Financial Structure of the Corporation

·        Corporate Securities

o       Introduction

§         Corporate securities can be divided into two broad categories: equity securities and debt securities

§         Equity securities

·        Represent more or less permanent commitments of capital to a corporation

·        Returns on equity securities are generally contingent on the corporation earning a profit and the right of holders of equity securities to share in the corporation’s assets in the event of liquidation are subordinated to the claims of creditors, including those who hold the corporation’s debt securities

·        Holders of equity securities typically elect the corporation’s board of directors and thus exert more control over the conduct of the corporation’s business and the risks it incurs

§         Debt securities

·        Represent capital invested for a limited period of time

·        Holders of debt securities bear less risk, their claims are fixed, as is their right to be repaid their capital at some fixed future date

·        Debtholders can secure their rights by placing liens on some or all of a corporation’s assets or by negotiating contractual covenants restricting the corporation’s operations

·        Debtholders ordinarily play no role in the management of the firm

o       Equity Securities

§         Two kinds: Common stock and Preferred Stock

§         Corporate statutes require that at least one class of security must have voting rights and the right to receive the net assets of the corporation in the event the corporation is dissolved or liquidated.  These rights are usually assigned to common stock.

§         Common Stock

·        The most basic of all corporate securities

·        Holders of common stock usually have the exclusive power to elect a corporation’s board of directors, although in some corporations one or more classes of common stock is non-voting and in many corporations preferred stock has limited voting rights

·        Common stock represents a residual claim on both the current income and the assets of the a corporation

·        All income that remains after a corporation has satisfied the claims of creditors and holders of its more senior securities – debt and preferred stock – belongs, in a conceptual sense, to the holders of common stock

·        If no income remains, shareholders receive nothing

·        If some income does remain, the board of directors can distribute it to shareholders, in the form of a dividend, or can reinvest it in the business

·        The board should reinvest income only if it believes that the future returns from the investment will be greater than those that shareholders could generate by reinvesting that income on their own

·        If the corporation is liquidated, common stock also represents a residual claim in that the corporation’s assets first must be used to pay the claims of creditors and holders of preferred stock

·        Holders of common stock receive whatever remains

·        Holders of common stock are the first to lose their investment if the corporation experiences economic difficulties and have the greatest potential for gain if the corporation is successful

·        Holders of common stock, if they wish to exit a firm, generally do so by selling their stock to other investors, who buy it at a price that reflects the firm’s current value

·        Holders of common stock are first in line with respect to control

·        They often have the exclusive right to elect the board of directors and to vote on other matters that require shareholders’ approval

·        Holders of common stock also are the primary beneficiaries of the fiduciary duties that corporate law imposes on the board of directors

§         Preferred Stock

·        Stock is classified as preferred stock when the articles of incorporation assign to it economic rights senior to those customarily assigned to common stock

·        If no attribute is assigned to a class of stock with respect to its voting rights, right to dividends, or right to redemption or in liquidation, courts generally will presume that stock is stock – that stock with certain preferences otherwise has the same rights as does common stock

·        Preferred stock almost always have dividend rights senior to those of common stock

·        The seniority of preferred stock arises out of provisions limiting the payment of dividends on common stock until dividends due on preferred stock have been aid

·        A preferred stock’s dividend preference usually will be stated as a fixed amount that must be paid annually or quarterly

·        The preference may expire if a dividend due for a given period is not paid or it may be cumulative – meaning that if a dividend is not paid when due, the right to receive that dividend accumulates and all accrued dividend arrearages must be paid before any dividends can be paid on common stock

·        Preferred stock also may be participating

o       Such preferred stock will receive dividends whenever they are paid on common stock, either in the same amount as or as a multiple of the amount paid on common stock

·        Preferred stock often has a preference on liquidation, generally stated as a right to receive a specified amount before any amounts are distributed with respect to common stock

·        The amount of this preference most often is the amount that the corporation received when it sold the preferred stock plus, in the case of cumulative preferred, any accumulated dividends

·        The preferred stock’s equity of redemption is subordinate tot eh claims of creditors

·        The amount for which stock is to be redeemed generally is equal to the preference to which it is entitled in the event of liquidation, although it is not uncommon to provide that, when stock can be redeemed by the corporation, some premium must be paid

·        Preferred stock can have voting rights, and will be deemed to have voting rights equal to those of common stock unless the articles of incorporation provide otherwise

·        But the voting rights of preferred stock often are limited to specified issues and circumstances

·        Preferred stock usually has a statutory right to vote on changes in the corporate structure that affect adversely its right and preferences

·        Preferred stock often is given the right to elect some or all of a corporation’s directors if dividends due on such stock are not paid for some designated period

·        Right to convert preferred stock into common stock at some specified ratio, the right to vote on certain transactions, or the right to require the corporation to redeem preferred stock if and when specified events should occur

o       These rights are essentially contractual in nature and must be spelled out in the articles of incorporation

·        Corporations often sell preferred stock in lieu of debt

o       The price at which a company can sell preferred stock is influenced by factors similar to those that determine the price at which it can borrow – the dividend rate, the redemption features, whether the preferred can be converted into common stock, and, if so, at what price

·        Blank check preferred stock – can be set by the board of directors at the time the stock is sold

o       Debt Securities

§         Usually denominated as bonds or debentures – represent liabilities of a corporation

§         They constitute a part of a corporation’s long-term capital structure

§         Bonds differ from debentures in that bonds are secured by a mortgage on corporate assets, whereas debentures are backed only by the general credit of the corporation

§         Bonds also generally have longer maturities than debentures

§         The terms of a bond usually are fixed by a complex contract known as an indenture

§         It is fundamental that the debt contract set forth a fixed obligation to repay a fixed amount of principal on a particular date

§         The instrument should also require that interest in a fixed amount be paid at periodic intervals

§         A corporation that fails to pay interest on a bond when due will be in default

§         If a bond is secured, the best contract also must specify the terms of the security arrangement

§         Covenants or negative covenants require the borrower to refrain from taking certain actions that might jeopardize the position of the bondholders

§         Bonds may be made redeemable or callable at a fixed price at the option of the borrower

§         Bonds usually do not carry the right to vote

§         A borrower corporation’s directors owe bondholders only such obligations as are spelled out int eh debt contract

§         Their interests are protected only to the extent that they have negotiated appropriate covenants as part of their debt contracts

§         A corporation’s board of directors has the authority to issue debt securities without shareholder approval

o       Designating a Corporation’s Capital Structure

§         Tax Considerations

·        The IRS provides a corporation with a powerful incentive to rely as heavily as possible on debt financing

·        It allows corporations to deduct from their taxable income all interest paid on bonds they have issued, but does not allow the deduction of dividends paid on preferred or common stock

§         Leverage and the Allocation of Risk

·        A corporation will find it profitable to finance business activities with borrowed money whenever it can earn more income from those activities than it will pay in interest on the borrowed money – this is known as leverage

·        Leverage also increases the shareholders’ risk

o       If a corporation earns less from the activities being financed than the interest on the borrowed money, the corporation’s income will decline because the corporation must then pay interest on the borrowed funds whether or not the investment they financed proved to be profitable

o       If a corporation is not confident that leverage will work to its advantage, it often will choose to issue new equity rather than rely on borrowed money to finance its activities

§         Equity-Linked Investors v. Adams

§         Whether an instrument is classified as equity or debt – factors on page 452

 

·        Authorization and Issuance of Equity Securities

o       Authorized shares – Are those shares of stock created by an appropriate clause in the articles of incorporation

o       Until shares are first sold to stockholders, they are authorized but unissued

o       When sold, they are authorized and issued or authorized and outstanding

o       If they are repurchased by the corporation, they become authorized and issued, but not outstanding

o       Shares that are authorized and issued, but not outstanding are commonly referred to as treasury shares

o       The statutes require that the articles of incorporation include the number of shares that a corporation is authorized to issue and describe certain characteristics of those shares

o       Before a corporation that has issued all the shares authorized in its articles of incorporation can issue more stock, it must amend the articles of incorporation to authorize additional shares

o       The board of directors must recommend the amendment, which must then be approved by holders of at least a majority of its outstanding stock

o       However, if a corporation has not issued all the shares authorized in its articles of incorporation, then its board of directors ordinarily has the authority to decide on what terms to issue authorized but not yet issued shares

o       If a corporation’s shareholders authorize more shares than the corporation currently plans to issue, they also delegate ot eh board of directors authority to decide if, when and on what terms additional shares should be issued

o       The Significance of Authorizing Stock

§         Convenience usually decides the question in favor of an initial (and subsequent) authorization of many more shares than the corporation currently has plans to issue

§         Shareholder approval is required if the corporation issues, for consideration other than cash or a cash equivalent, shares with voting power equal to more than 20% of the voting power outstanding immediately before the transaction

o       Blank Check Preferred Stock and Poison Pills

§         Poison pill plans which constituted powerful defenses against uninvited takeover bids

·        Such plans were based on the availability of authorized but unissued blank check preferred

·        A corporation’s board of directors would create a new class of preferred stock with unusual features, such as a right to require the corporation to redeem the preferred at a price equal to some multiple of its market value

·        Then the board would authorize distribution to shareholders, as a dividend, of rights to purchase shares of the newly created preferred at its market value

·        Shareholders would be entitled to exercise these rights only after some triggering event occurred, such as acquisition by a bidder, without the board’s consent, of more than a given percentage of the corporation’s stock

·        Until such an even occurred, the corporation would have the option of redeeming the rights for nominal consideration

·        While the rights remained outstanding, they had the potential to make a hostile takeover prohibitively expensive and thus effectively deterred uninvited bids

o       Preemptive Rights and Other Duties in the Issuance of Shares

§         Equity dilution

§         Economic dilution – The possibility that sales of additional shares will reduce the value of the shares held

§         Preemptive rights

·        A shareholder had an inherent right to maintain her interest in a corporation by purchasing a proportionate share of any new stock issued for cash

·        Courts developed several exceptions to the rule that shareholders always were entitled to preemptive rights

o       Legislatures modified state corporate laws to provide corporations with the option of avoiding preemptive rights and almost all public corporations have exercised this option

o       MBCA §6.30 adopts an “opt-in” approach to preemptive rights – if a corporation wishes to provide its shareholders with such rights, it must include an appropriate provision in its articles of incorporation – absent such a declaration, no preemptive rights exist

·        Unless the articles provide otherwise, no preemptive rights exist with respect to shares issued to compensate executives, shares issued within six months after a company is organized, or shares sold for consideration other than cash

·        Preemptive rights are limited in corporations with multiple classes of stock

·        Regulation of Legal Capital

o       Legal capital – The terms and conditions on which a corporation is permitted to sell stock and pay dividends

o       The principal purpose served by legal capital rules today is to provide a benchmark for the propriety of the declaration of dividends

o       A Concise History of Legal Capital and Par Value

§         Par value – What the shareholder ought to have paid for his stock

§         Stock issued without a corresponding pay in of assets valued at an amount equal to par value was called watered stock – stock issued not against assets but against water

§         Low par stock

§         The general idea of the legal capital scheme is that no distribution may be made to shareholders unless, after a distribution, the corporation has not only enough assets to pay its creditors but also an additional specified amount.  This amount is called stated capital.  Anything over the sum of the stated capital and liabilities is known as surplus.

o       The Issuance of Stock and Stockholders’ Liabilities

§         Statutes that retain legal capital rules all hold shareholders liable for watered stock

§         Corporate lawyers avoid these problems by setting the par value far below the price at which the corporation plans to sell its stock and by monitoring carefully transactions in which stock is issued

o       Dividends and Other Distributions

§         Statutes generally classify both dividends and payments made to repurchase stock as “distributions”

§         More common are statutes that allow dividends and other distributions to be paid out of surplus, without regard to whether it is earned or not

§         Klang v. Smith’s Food and Drug Centers

·        A corporation may not repurchase its shares if, in doing so, it would cause an impairment of capital, unless expressly authorized

·        A repurchase impairs capital if the funds used in the repurchase exceed the amount of the corporation’s surplus

§         Unless a corporation’s articles provide otherwise, MBCA §6.40(c) simply prohibits distributions as defined in §1.40(6), if after the distribution

·        (1) The corporation would not be able to pay its debts as they become due in the usual course of business – equity insolvency test, or

·        (2) The corporation’s total assets would be less than its total liabilities plus any sum needed to satisfy the claims of preferred stockholders in the event of dissolution – balance sheet test

 

Chapter 10: The Regulation of Securities Issuance

·        When a corporation issues its securities, it implicitly represents to investors that future payments by the corporation justify the investment

·        The Securities Act of 1933 requires issuers of securities to provide investors with detailed information about the company, its management, its plans and finances, and the securities being offered

·        Federal Regulation of Securities Offerings

o       Overview of the 1933 Act

§         Two basic objectives:

·        Require that investors receive financial and other significant information concerning securities being offered for public sale; and

·        Prohibit deceit, misrepresentations, and other fraud in the sale of securities

§         Securities sold in the US must be registered

§         Registration forms call for: a description of the company’s properties and business; a description of the security to be offered for sale; information about the management of the company; and financial statements certified by independent accountants

§         Exceptions to having to be registered:

·        Private offerings to a limited number of persons or institutions who have access to the kind of information that registration would disclose and who do not plan to redistribute the securities

·        Offerings restricted to residents of the state in which the issuing company is organized and doing business

·        Securities of municipal, state, federal and other domestic governmental instrumentalities as well as charitable institutions and banks

·        Small issues not exceeding certain specified amounts made in compliance with SEC regulations

·        Offerings of small business investment companies made in accordance with SEC regulations

§         The Registration Process

·        Should my company go public?

o       Benefits:

§         Access to capital will increase

§         Company will become widely known

§         You may obtain financing easier from investor interest

§         There may be a read market for the shares

§         The company will be able to attract higher qualified personnel

o       New Obligations

§         Must keep shareholders informed about the company’s business operations

§         You may be liable if you do not fulfill these legal obligations

§         You may lose flexibility in managing the company

§         The public offering will taken money and time to accomplish

 

 

·        How does my small business register a public offering?

o       SEC requires the company to file a registration statement with the SEC before the company can offer its securities  for sale

o       You cannot sell the securities until the SEC declares the registration effective

o       Two principal parts of registration statements:

§         Prospectus – the legal offering or selling document; must describe the important facts about its business operations, financial condition, and management

§         Additional information that the company does not have to deliver to investors

·        State Blue Sky Laws

o       Speculative schemes which have no more basis than so many feet of blue sky, these statutes regulate the sale of securities to purchasers within the jurisdiction

o       Generally speaking these laws contain some form of one or more of three basic regulatory devices

§         Anti fraud provisions hat prohibited a false or misleading statement in connection with the sale of a security

§         Registration or licensing of securities brokers, dealers, agents and investment advisers prior to their operating within the state

§         Registration of securities prior to their sale or trading, frequently through administrative approval of the merits of a particular security

 

Chapter 11: Protection of Creditors: Limitations on Limited Liability

·        Overview

o       A corporation’s creditors can look only to the corporation’s assets for payment of their claims; they are not entitled to recover from the corporation’s shareholders unless shareholders have agreed to guarantee or otherwise secure a corporate obligation

o       In certain circumstances, however, courts allow claimants to disregard the corporate entity and recover directly from its shareholders

o       This result is described metaphorically as allowing a plaintiff to pierce the corporate veil

·        Tort Creditors

o       Walkovsky v. Carlton

§         The courts will disregard the corporate form, or pierce the corporate veil whenever necessary to prevent fraud or to achieve equity

§         Whenever anyone uses control of the corporation to further his own rather than the corporation’s business, he will be liable for the corporation’s acts upon the principle of respondeat superior applicable even where the agent is a natural person

o       Radaszewski v. Telecom Corp

§         Factors for piercing the corporate veil:

·        Complete domination of the subsidiary by the parent

·        This control must have been used to commit fraud or wrong

·        This control and breach of duty must have proximately caused the injury

·        Undercapitalization

·        Financial responsibility

·        Contract Creditors

o       Kinney Shoe Corp v. Polan

·        Parent-Subsidiary Corporations

o       Gardemal v. Westin Hotel

§         The alter ego doctrine allows the imposition of liability on a corporation for the acts of another corporation when the subject corporation is organized or operated as a mere tool or business conduit

·        Alter ego is demonstrated by evidence showing a blending of identities, or a blurring of lines of distinction, both formal and substantive, between two corporations

·        An important consideration is whether a corporation is underfunded or undercapitalized, which is an indication that the company is a mere conduit or business tool

·        There must be evidence of complete domination by the parent

·        The control necessary is not mere majority or complete stock control, but such domination of finances, policies, and practices that the controlled corporation, has no separate mind, will or existence of its own and is but a business conduit for its principal

§         Single Business Enterprise Doctrine

·        When corporations are not operated as separate entities, but integrate their resources to achieve a common business purpose, each constituent corporation may be held liable for the debts incurred in pursuit of that business purpose

·        The single business enterprise doctrine is an equitable remedy which applies when the corporate form is used as part of an unfair device to achieve an inequitable result

o       OTR Associates v. IBC Servces

§         Where a corporation holds stock of another, not for the purpose of participating in the affairs of the other corporation, not for the purpose of participating in the affairs of the other corporation, in the normal and usual manner, but for the purpose of control, so that the subsidiary company may be used as a mere agency or instrumentality for the stockholding company, such company will be liable for injuries due to the negligence of the subsidiary

§         It is where the corporate form is used as a shield behind which injustice is sought to be done by those who have control of it that equity penetrates the corporate veil

§         Thus, the basic finding that must be made to enable the court to pierce the corporate veil is that the parent so dominated the subsidiary that it had no separate existence but was merely a conduit for the parent

§         The court must also find that the parent has abused the privilege of incorporation by using the subsidiary to perpetrate a fraud or injustice or otherwise to circumvent the law

§         And the hallmarks of that abuse are typically the engagement of the subsidiary in no independent business of its own but exclusively the performance of a service for the parent, and, even more importantly, the undercapitalization of the subsidiary rendering it judgment proof

·        Piercing the Veil of Other Limited Liability Entities

o       LLCs should be governed by rules similar to those applicable to corporations

o       LLPs have not been tested

·        Alternatives to Limited Liability

o       Imposing Shareholder Liability Under Federal Law

o       Fraudulent Conveyance and Equitable Subordination Concepts

 

Chapter 12: Actions Binding the Corporation

·        The board of directors has the central role in the conduct of the corporation’s business

·        Delegation of Board Authority to Corporate Executives

o       Introduction: Some Basic Agency Concepts

§         An agency is a consensual relationship between two parties, the principal and the agent

§         The principal selects the agent, who then must agree to act on the principal’s behalf

§         The principal has the power to terminate the agency relationship unilaterally and can dictate to the agent how the agent will perform her duties

§         The agent is a fiduciary of the principal, which means the agent owes to the principal duties of care, loyalty and obedience

§         The agent must always put the interests of the principal above her own

§         An agent has the legal power to bind the principal in legal relationships with third parties

§         (1) Actual Authority

·        Is the power of the agent to affect the legal relations of the principal by acts done in accordance with the principal’s manifestations of consent to her

·        Actual authority may be express, growing out of explicit words or conduct granting the agent power to bind the principal, or may be implied from words or conduct taken in the context of the relations between the principal and the agent

§         (2) Apparent Authority

·        May be created by written or spoken words or any other conduct which, reasonably interpreted, causes the third person to believe that the principal consents to have the act done on her behalf by the person purporting to act for her

·        To create apparent authority the principal must do or say something that induces a third party to believe that the agent has authority

§         (3) Inherent Agency Power

·        Example: respondeat superior

§         (4) A principal can become obligated to a third party by ratifying the act of another who, at the time of the act, lacked the power to bind the principal

o       Agency in Corporations: The Authority of Officers

§         Chief executive officer (president)

§         Chief financial officer (treasurer)

§         Secretary

§         What is the authority of corporate officers?

·        In some cases, courts find that officers have express authority by being appointed to their office by the board of directors

·        In other cases, courts find that the officer has apparent authority because a person dealing with the corporation reasonably believes the officer has authority

·        Or, sometimes courts find implied authority because of prior dealings between the officer and third party that the board never challenged

§         The rule most widely cited is that the president only has authority to bind his company by acts arising in the usual and regular course of business but nor for contracts of an extraordinary nature

§         Courts require a third party who knows that a given transaction will benefit some officer personally to inquire in greater depth as to whether the officer has valid authority to enter into the transaction

§         Menard v. Dage-MTI

·        Actual authority is created by written or spoken words or other conduct of the principal which, reasonably interpreted, causes the agent to believe that the principal desires him so to act on the principal’s account

·        Apparent authority refers to a third party’s reasonable belief that the principal has authorized the acts of its agent; it arises from the principal’s indirect or direct manifestations to a third party and not from the representations or acts of the agent

·        Inherent agency power is a term used to indicate the power of an agent which is derived not from authority, apparent authority or estoppel, but solely from the agency relation and exists for the protection of persons harmed by or dealing with a servant or other agent

o       This status based form of vicarious liability rests upon certain important social and commercial policies, primarily that the business enterprise should bear the burden of the losses created by the mistakes or overzealousness of its agents because such liability stimulates the watchfulness of the employer in selecting and supervising the agents

o       Originates from the customary authority of a person in the particular type of agency relationship so that no representations beyond the fact of the existence of the agency need be shown

·        An agent’s inherent authority subjects his principal to liability for acts done on his account which (1) usually accompany or are incidental to transactions which the agent is authorized to conduct, if although they are forbidden by the principal, (2) the other party reasonably believes that the agent is authorized to do them and (3) has no notice that he is not so authorized

o       Ascertaining Corporate Authority

§         Counsel representing a party involved in a major transaction with a corporation usually will insist on receiving adequate evidence that the individuals who purport to act on behalf of the corporation have authority

§         Wheat is required is evidence that the officer has been delegated to act on behalf of the corporation

§         This can come from a number of sources: (1) a provision of statutory law, (2) the articles of incorporation, (3) a bylaw of the company, (4) a resolution of the board of directors, or (5) evidence that the corporation has allowed the officer to act in similar matters and has recognized, approved or ratified those actions

§         Usually, the best evidence of delegated authority will be a copy of the minutes of the board of directors’ meeting at which a resolution formalizing the board’s grant of authority was adopted

 

·        Formalities of Board Action

o       Board Action at a Meeting

§         Unless the articles or bylaws provide otherwise, the vote of a majority of the directors present at a board meeting at which there is a quorum is necessary to pass a resolution

§         Underlying almost all decisions is a single policy: to protect shareholders and their investment from arbitrary, irresponsible or unwise acts on the part of the directors

§         Different justifications to bind corporations on agreements never approved at formal board meetings (exceptions for holding formal meetings)

·        Unanimous director approval

·        Emergency

·        Unanimous shareholder approval

·        Majority shareholder-director approval

o       Notice

§         Notice facilitates personal attendance by directors

§         For special meetings, MBCA 8.22(b) requires that two days’ notice be given of the date, time and place of the meeting, unless the articles or bylaws impose different requirements

§         For regular meetings, directors are assumed to know the schedule and MBCA 8.22(a) does not require notice

§         Any director who does not receive proper notice may waive notice by signing a waiver before or after the meeting, or by attending or participating in the meeting and not protesting the absence of notice (8.23)

§         A director who attends a meeting solely to protest the manner it was convened is not deemed to have waived notice (8.23)

o       Quorum

§         The quorum requirement precludes action by a minority of the directors

§         The statutory norm for a quorum is a majority of the total number of directors, although the articles or bylaws may increase the quorum requirement or reduce it to no less than one third of the board

o       Committees of the Board

§         The executive committee is a common board committee because it can have the full authority of the board in all but a few essential transactions such as the declaration of a dividend or approval of a merger

§         The audit committee’s functions include selection of the company’s auditors, specification of the scope of the audit, review of audit results, and oversight of internal accounting procedures

§         Other common committees include: finance, nomination, compensation

§         A board committee can be permanent or temporary

§         Its functions can be active or passive

§         Committees are desirable because directors who are committee members have more incentive to develop expertise in the area of the committee’s responsibility

·        Third-Party Legal Opinions

o       Clean (or flat) opinions state the lawyer’s views in simple, conclusory terms – such as a straightforward statement without reservations that the corporation has been duly formed

o       Reasoned opinions provide fuller explanations and analysis, are used when the facts are unclear or the legal rules are subject to differing opinions

§         It will often state doubts and express reservations, particularly when it relates to actual or potential litigation

o       Qualified opinion – a lawyer will have one if his knowledge of the matter, role in the transaction, or level of inquiry is limited

§         The opinion may also be qualified if its scope narrowly focuses on specified matters

§         A qualified opinion typically will state what matters the opinion does not cover or which inquiries were not made

o       Unqualified opinion

o       Lawyers are not liable simply because her opinion was mistaken

§         Instead, it must be shown that the opinion was negligently rendered and that any losses were proximately caused by the lawyer’s failure to meet the relevant professional standard

 

Chapter 13: Governance Role of Shareholders

·        Shareholders have the right to vote on certain fundamental transactions, such as mergers, sale of the corporation’s significant business assets, voluntary dissolution of the corporation, and amendments to the articles of incorporation

·        Basics of Shareholder Voting

o       Shareholders act at regularly scheduled annual meetings and at special meetings conveyed for particular purposes

o       All directors are up for election at the annual meeting, unless the articles provide otherwise

o       If an annual meeting has not been held in the previous 15 month, any holder of voting stock can require the corporation to convene an annual meeting, at which new directors can be elected

o       Shareholders may vote by proxy

§         A proxy is simply a limited form of agency power by which a shareholder authorizes another, who will be present at the meeting, to exercise the shareholder’s voting rights

o       The general principle governing shareholder voting is majority rule

o       Simple majority – Affirmative vote of the majority of shares present in person or represented by proxy at the meeting and entitled to vote on the subject matter

o       Absolute majority – A majority of all shares entitled to vote

o       Majority voting is a default rule

o       When the directors act in good faith in a contest over policy, they have the right to incur reasonable and proper expenses for solicitation of proxies and in defense of their corporate policies, and are not obliged to sit idly by

o       The members of the so-called new group could be reimbursed by the corporation for their expenditures in this contest by affirmative vote of the stockholders

o       Reimbursement rule

o       Shareholder Rights in Fundamental Transactions

§         The transactions that trigger shareholder voting rights generally include amendments to the articles of incorporation, significant mergers, the sale of all or substantially all of a corporation’s assets, and dissolution – that is, transactions that change a firm’s firm, scope or continuity of existence

§         Shareholders can only block fundamental changes, they have no power to initiate them

§         A shareholder can dissent from certain transactions and demand that the corporation pay her in case the value of her shares as determined by a court in an appraisal proceeding, even thought he requisite majority approves the transaction  - “opt out”

o       The Mechanics of Corporate Combinations

·        A corporate combination places the business of two or more corporations under the control of one management

·        Four basic negotiated combination techniques:

o       (1) A statutory merger

o       (2) A triangular merger

o       (3) A statutory share exchange, and

o       (4) A purchase by one corporation of the assets of another

·        The MBCA focuses on whether a business combination will dilute substantially the voting power of the acquiring corporation’s shareholders

·        If the combination involves issuance of shares with voting power equal to more than 20% of the voting power that existed prior to the combination, the acquiring corporation’s shareholders must vote to approve the combination

·        The MBCA also requires shareholder approval of dilutive share issuances whenever shares are issued for non-cash consideration, not only when shares are issued in business combinations

·        The MBCA makes appraisal rights available only when a corporate transaction fundamentally affects share rights and there is uncertainty about the fairness of the transaction’s price, not merely because a shareholder opposes the transaction

 

·        (1) Statutory Merger

o       A statutory merger means a combination effected pursuant to a corporate statute’s merger provisions, as distinguished from other forms of business combinations often described by the generic term merger

o       To effectuate a statutory merger, the boards of directors of P and T first adopt a plan of merger that

§         (a) Designates which corporation is to survive the merger,

§         (b) Describes the terms and conditions of the merger,

§         (c) Describes the basis on which shares of T will be converted into shares of P, and

§         (d) Sets forth any amendments of P’s articles of incorporation necessary to effectuate the plan of merger

o        Short form merger

o       Voting requirements

o       Appraisal rights

§         Market exception – Assumes that shareholder dissatisfied with the terms of a merger do not need the protection of a judicial valuation if there is a public market for their stock.

§         The market exception reflects the view that a stock’s current market price is more likely to reflect accurately the stock’s value than a later valuation by a judge or judicially appointed appraiser

·        (2) Triangular Merger

o       Is a variant form of statutory merger in which P uses a wholly owned subsidiary to acquire and hold T’s business

o       Rather than having P distribute its own shares tot eh shareholders of T, S distributes shares of P to the shareholders of T

o       The shareholders of P do not vote on the merger because P is not formally a party to the merger agreement

o       S becomes the owner of T’s property and assumes T’s liabilities

o       T’s shareholders are entitles to vote on the transaction, and, if they dissent from the merger and do not have a market option, they can exercise appraisal rights

·        (3) Exchange of Shares

o       First, the boards of P and T must approve an agreement, called a plan of exchange that spells out the terms on which shares of T will be exchanged for shares of P

o       Stockholders of T must then approve the plan of exchange and may seek appraisal, subject to the market exception

·        (4) Purchase of Assets

o       First step is approval of the relevant agreement by the boards of directors of P and T

o       The shareholders of T then must approve the terms of the sale agreement and, under the MBCA, T’s shareholders also have appraisal rights, subject to a market exception

o       P’s shareholders have voting rights if P must issue stock equal to more than 20% of the stock outstanding prior to P’s purchase of T’s assets

o       P’s shareholders do not have appraisal rights since P is not disposing of assets

o       If a corporate combination is structured as an exchange for assets, T’s assets must be transferred by deed or other form of conveyance, a process that can generate a good deal of paperwork

·        (5) Tender Offers

o       T’s shareholders approval the transaction by individually accepting P’s offer rather than through a formal vote

o       There are no appraisal rights; T’s shareholders who do not wish to accept P’s offer can simply refuse to tender their shares

o       If holders of a majority of T’s shares tender their stock

o       P will have the power to control T after it purchases this majority interests

o       P then will seek to acquire the remaining T shares in some form of second step transaction (such as a statutory or short form merger) so P can operate T without the presence of a minority interest in T

o       P can make a tender offer without any vote by its shareholders, unless P offers its shares as consideration and either lacks sufficient authorized shares to effectuate the exchange or the issuance would constitute a dilutive share issuance

o       P’s shareholders do not have appraisal rights in the tender offer, since their shares are not reduced in the transaction

o       Whether either company’s shareholders have voting or appraisal rights in the second step will depend on the form of that transaction and the corporate statutes that govern shareholder rights

o       De Facto Merger Doctrine

§         Under the de facto merger doctrine, some courts have looked beyond the form of the corporation, and recognized shareholder rights if the substance of the combination is that of a merger

§         A transfer of assets from one corporation to another, and the subsequent dissolution of the former corporation, constituted a de facto merger

§         Hariton v. ARCO Electronics

o       Sale of Substantially All Assets

§         Gimbel v. Signal Companuies

·        The statute requires shareholder approval upon the sale of all or substantially all of the corporation’s assets

·        The critical factor in determining the character of a sale of assets is generally considered not the amount of property sold but whether the sale is in fact an unusual transaction or one made in the regular course of business of the seller

·        Every transaction out of normal routine does not require shareholder approval

·        If the corporation would leave the corporation without a significant continuing business activity

·        A corporation retains a significant continuing business activity if the retained business constituted at least 25% of the corporation’s consolidated assets and 25% of either its consolidated revenues or pre-tax earnings from pre-transaction operations

§         Absent some statutory requirement for shareholder approval, a board has the power to take all actions it deems necessary or appropriate in managing a corporation’s business

§         The shareholders’ most appropriate vehicle for expressing disapproval of directors’ business judgment is the election of new directors

·        Shareholders’ Power to Initiate Action

o       Procedures for Shareholder Meeting

§         Calling the meeting

§         Notice

·        Shareholders can waive notice either in writing or by attending the meeting and not objecting to the absence of notice

·        To satisfy the notice requirement, a board must set a record date, prior to the meeting and provide that only shareholders of record as of that date will be entitled to vote at the meeting

·        A meeting can generally be set for anywhere between 10 and 60 days after notice is sent

§         Quorum

·        Usually consists of a majority of the shares entitled to vote, unless the articles provide otherwise

·        The MBCA sets no minimum or maximum quorum, but requires an amendment establishing (or reducing) a supermajority quorum requirement to meet that same requirement

§         Action by written counsel

·        Unless the bylaws provide otherwise, the record date for determining which shareholders must consent to an action is the date the first shareholder consents in writing to that action

o       What Actions Can Shareholders Initiate?

§         Shareholder Recommendations

·        Auer v. Dressel

o       The stockholders who are empowered to elect directors have the inherent power to remove them for cause

·        Amendment of Bylaws

o       International Brotherhood of Teamsters

§         There is no exclusive authority granted boards of directors to create and implement shareholder rights plans, where shareholder objection is brought and passed through official channels of corporate governance

§         Shareholders may propose bylaws which restrict board implementation of shareholder rights plans, assuming the certificate of incorporation does not provide otherwise

o       Whether shareholders of Delaware corporations have the power to adopt bylaws that effectively limit directors’ power is unclear

·        Removal and Replacement of Directors

o       Campbell v. Loew’s

§         The stockholders have the power to remove a director for cause

§         When the shareholders attempt to remove a director for cause, there must be the service of specific charges, adequate notice, and full opportunity of meeting the accusation

§         The charge of a planned scheme of harassment constitutes a justifiable basis for removing a director

§         An opportunity must be provided such directors to present their defense to the stockholders by a statement which must accompany or precede the initial solicitation of proxies seeking authority to vote for the removal of such director for cause

§         If not provided then such proxies may not be voted for removal

§         And the corporation has a duty to see that this opportunity is given the directors at its expense

 

Chapter 14: The Role of the Shareholder

·        Introduction

o       There is a requirement that the shareholders approve certain transactions that affect the structure of a corporation, such as amendments to the articles, mergers, and sales of assets

o       Most corporation statutes permit shareholders to amend corporate bylaws

o       Vote by written proxy

§         First, the statute permits shareholders to vote in person or by proxy

§         Second, it limits the validity of the proxy to a period of 11 months form the date of its execution unless the appointment form specified a longer period

§         Under certain circumstances, not relevant in a public corporation, the shareholder can make her appointment of a proxy irrevocable

§         Proxy is simply another word for agent

§         State law validates the process of proxy voting, and federal law prescribes the conditions on which it may proceed

§         SEC Act of 1934 delegated the specifics of federal proxy registration to the SEC by making it unlawful to solicit any proxy in contravention of such rules and regulations as the commission may prescribe as necessary or appropriate in the public interest or for the protection of investors

o       How the Proxy Process Works: Law and Practice

§         The Annual Meeting

·        The board of directors selects the date of the annual meeting which is fixed in the bylaws

·        It is necessary to fix a record date to determine which shareholders are entitled to receive notice and to vote at the meeting

§         Shareholder Voting

·        The board of directors must select the nominees for election as directors on whose behalf proxies will be solicited

·        That is, the material sent to the shareholders solicits authorization for the proxy holder to vote in favor of specified persons who will be placed in nomination at the annual meeting

·        No one is actually nominated until the meeting has convened, but by that time the shareholder voters will have already instructed their proxy for whom to vote

·        SEC rule require those soliciting a proxy to disclose for whom they intend to vote, and not deviate from that choice except under unusual circumstances

·        Other candidates may be nominated at the meeting, but in effect, the votes have been cast and the election decided before the candidates have been nominated

·        The board of directors must also decide what other matters to submit for action at the meeting

§         Filing Proxy Material

·        The proxy materials must be prepared for filing with the SEC

·        Ordinarily the proxy materials are reviewed by the board of directors but most of the work must be performed by management, which has the data, and by counsel who understands the legal requirements

§         Identifying the Shareholders: Street Names

·        Largely for convenience, many shareholders choose to have their shares registered in the name of their broker where the shares are kept on deposit

·        When shares are transferred from one brokerage firm to another on behalf of a customer the change may be reflected only on the records of a central clearing house depository, which is used to minimize the danger of losing stock certificates by eliminating their physical movement

·        Many shares are owned in trust or custodial accounts under the supervision of a bank

·        Much of the ownership of securities is recorded in what is known as street name

·        From the list of record owners, the corporation is unaware of who are the beneficial owners of the stock; all it knows is the name of the record holder and at least the number of beneficial owners

·        If an insurer requests, however, brokers and banks will furnish the names and addresses of non-objecting or consenting beneficial owners with whom the insurer may communicate directly

·        In many cases, insurers will not request these lists because they will be required to give them to a plaintiff seeking a shareholder list in litigation

·        Without such lists, the insurer can communicate only with the record holder

·        SEC rules require corporations to attempt to communicate with the beneficial owners through the record owners, and establish procedures for doing so

§         Control of the Machinery

·        The expenses are borne by the company

·        If a shareholder seeks to oppose management’s proposals, or if she wishes to offer a candidate in opposition to those nominated by the board of directors, she must duplicate the entire process and bear the expense on her own, subject to obtaining reimbursement of expenses in limited circumstance

§         Counting the Proxies

·        If a contested election of directors is involved or if there has been opposition to a proposed transaction, or if approval of a transaction requires more than a majority vote, then the count of the proxies becomes crucial

·        Proxies are revocable and they may be revoked either by notice to the company or by a later designation of someone else as a proxy to vote in a different way

·        In the latter case, the later dated proxy constitutes the valid designation of an agent and automatically cancels the earlier designation

·        Ordinarily, the board of directors designates inspectors of election, and, in some cases, state law requires the appointment of inspectors of election

·        Generally, these people are not members of management, but are professionals hired to do the job

·        If there is an election campaign with two sides actively seeking proxies, the lawyers for each side customarily agree on a set of rules in advance of the meeting to serve as the ground rules applicable to that election

·        In some instances, courts have intervened in the practices of those who act as inspectors of election at shareholder meetings

o       The Collective Action Problem

§         (1) Rationally Apathetic

§         (2) Free rider

§         (3) The systematic exploitation of the large by the small

 

Chapter 17: The Duty of Care of Corporate Directors

·        Introduction

o       Fiduciary duty is perhaps the most important concept in the law of corporations

o       It means faith or confidence

o       The basic notion survives that officers, directors, and controlling shareholders owe enforceable duties to the corporation and, through the corporation, to the shareholders

o       A duty of care and a duty of loyalty

·        Standards of Care

o       A director should exercise independent judgment for the overall benefit of the corporation and all of its shareholders, even if elected at the request of a controlling shareholder, a union, a creditor, or an institutional shareholder or pursuant to contractual rights

o       A director should become familiar with the corporation’s business

o       A director should be satisfied that an effective system is in place for periodic and timely reporting to the board

o       Directors should do their homework.  They should review board and committee meeting agendas and related materials sufficiently in advance of meetings to enable them to participate in an informed manner.  They should receive and review reports of all board and committee meetings.

o       Each member of the board of directors, when discharging the duties of a director, shall act (1) in good faith, and (2) in a manner the director reasonably believes to be in the best interest of the corporation

o       The members of the board of directors should discharge their duties with the care that a person in a like position would reasonably believe appropriate under similar circumstances

o       The good faith and best interest standards apply to each director and describe the director’s duties generally – whether in a decision making or oversight capacity

o       The standards concerning becoming informed and devoting attention to oversight apply when directors act together and focus on specific aspects of the directors’ decision making and oversight functions

o       Compliance with the duty of care is based on diligence applied to the ordinary and extraordinary needs of the corporation, including the following:

§         Regular attendance

§         Agendas

§         Adequate information

§         The right to rely on others and the need to keep informed

§         Inquiry

o       The duty of care is tempered by the business judgment rule, which presumes directors act in good faith, with the care and diligence of reasonably prudent persons

·        Duty of Oversight

o       Supervision of Ongoing Business

§         Francis v. United Jersey Bank

·        General directors are accorded broad immunity and are not insurers of corporate activities

·        Determination of the liability of a director requires findings that she had a duty to her clients, that she breached that duty and they her breach was a proximate cause of their losses

·        As a general rule, a director should acquire at least a rudimentary understanding of the business of the corporation

·        A director should become familiar with the fundamentals of the business in which the corporation is engaged

·        If one feels that he has not had sufficient business experience to qualify him to perform the duties of a director, he should either acquire the knowledge or refuse to act

·        Directors are under a continuing obligation to keep informed about the activities of the corporation

·        Directors may not shut their eyes to corporate misconduct and then claim that because they did not see the misconduct, they did not have a duty to look

·        Directorial management does not require a detailed inspection of day to day activities, but rather a general monitoring of corporate affairs and policies

·        A director is well advised to attend board meetings regularly

o       Regular attendance does not mean that directors must attend every meeting, but that directors should attend meetings as a matter of practice

·        Directors should maintain familiarity with the financial status of the corporation by a regular review of financial statements

·        In some circumstances, directors may be charged with assuring that bookkeeping methods conform to industry custom and usage

·        The review of financial statements, however, may give rise to a duty to inquire further into matters revealed by those statements

·        Upon discovery of an illegal course of action, a director has a duty to object and, if the corporation does not correct the conduct, to resign

·        Sometimes a director may be required to seek the advice of counsel concerning the propriety of his conduct, the conduct of other officers and directors or the conduct of the corporation

·        A director may have a duty to take reasonable means to prevent illegal conduct by co-directors; in any appropriate case, this may include threat of suit

·        A director cannot protect himself behind a paper shield bearing the motto, dummy director

·        Shareholders have a right to expect that directors will exercise reasonable supervision and control over the policies and practices of a corporation

·        When directors may owe a fiduciary duty to creditors also, that obligation generally has not been recognized in the absence of insolvency

·        With certain corporations, however, directors are deemed to owe a duty to creditors and other third parties even when the corporation is solvent

o       Monitoring of Legal Compliance

§         Compliance programs

§         Plaintiffs are forced to rely solely upon the legal proposition advanced by them that directors of a corporation, as a matter lf law, are liable for losses suffered by their corporations by reason of their gross inattention to the common law duty of actively supervising and managing the corporate affairs

§         Directors are entitled to rely on the honesty and integrity of their subordinates until something occurs to put them on suspicion that something is wrong

·        If such occurs and goes unheeded, then liability of the directors might well follow, but absent cause for suspicion there is no duty upon the directors to install and operate a corporate system of espionage to ferret out wrongdoing which they have no reason to suspect exists

§         The question of whether a corporate director has become liable for losses to the corporation through neglect of duty is determined by the circumstances

·        If he has recklessly reposed confidence in an obviously untrustworthy employee, has refused or neglected cavalierly to perform his duty as a director, or has ignored either willfully or through inattention obvious danger signs of employee wrongdoing, the law will cast the burden of liability upon him

§         In Re Caremark International

·        Director liability for a breach of duty to exercise appropriate attention may, arise in two distinct contexts:

o       (1) Such liability may be said to follow from a board decision that results in a loss because that decision was ill advised or negligent

§         This will typically be subject to review under the director-protective business judgment rule

o       (2) Liability to the corporation for a loss may be said to arise from an unconsidered failure of the board to act in circumstances in which due attention would, arguably, have presented the loss

§         Entail circumstances in which a loss eventuates not from a decision but, from unconsidered inaction

·        The business judgment rule is process oriented and informed by a deep respect for all good faith board decisions

·        The core element of any corporate law duty of care inquiry: whether there is a good faith effort to be informed and exercise judgment

·        Absent cause for suspicion there is no duty upon the directors to install and operate a corporate system of espionage to ferret out wrongdoing which they have no reason to suspect exists

·        Absent grounds to suspect deception, neither corporate boards nor senior officers can be charged with wrongdoing simply for assuming the integrity of employees and the honesty of their dealings on the company’s behalf

·        A corporate board has no responsibility to assure that appropriate information and reporting systems are established by management

·        A director’s obligation includes a duty to attempt in good faith to assure that a corporate information and reporting system, which the board concludes is adequate, exists, and that failure to do so under some circumstances may, in theory at least, render a director liable for losses caused by non compliance with applicable legal standards

·        In order to show that directors breached their duty of care by failing to control their employees, plaintiffs would have to show either (1) that the directors knew or (2) should have known that violations of law were occurring and, in either event, (3) that the directors took no steps in a good faith effort to prevent or remedy that situation, and (4) that such failure proximately resulted in the losses complained of

§         Internal Controls Under Sarbanes-Oxley

·        Mandates oversight by corporate boards, senior management, and even company lawyers of company financial reporting

 

o       Director’s Criminal Liability

§         Corporate managers are liable for criminal acts committed by their subordinates

·        Business Judgment Rule

o       Intro

§         The business judgment rule traditionally protects directors from liability for specific business decisions that result in losses to the corporation

§         The rule is a rebuttable presumption that directors are better equipped than the courts to make business judgments and that the directors acted without self dealing or personal interest and exercised reasonable diligence and acted with good faith

§         A party challenging a board of directors’ decisions bears the burden of rebutting the presumption that the decision was a proper exercise of the business judgment of the board

o       Business Judgment Rule and Directorial Negligence

§         Under the business judgment rule, directors are not measured by a reasonable director standard

§         The rule calls on directors to discharge their duties with the care that a person in a like position would reasonably believe appropriate under similar circumstances

§         Policies for Business Judgment Rule

·        (1) Shareholders to a very real degree voluntarily undertake the risk of bad business judgment

o       since shareholders can and do select among investments partly on the basis of management, the business judgment rule merely recognizes a certain voluntariness in undertaking the risk of bad business decisions

·        (2) Courts recognize that after the fact litigation is a most imperfect device to evaluate a corporate business decision

·        (3) Because potential profit often corresponds to the potential risk, it is very much in the interest of shareholders that the law not create incentives for overly cautious corporate decisions

o       Duty to Become Informed

§         Smith v. Van Gorkom

·        The rule in itself is a presumption that in making a business decision, the directors of a corporation acted on an informed basis, in good faith and in the honest belief that the action taken was in the best interests of the company

·        The party attacking a board decision as uninformed must rebut the presumption that its business judgment was an informed one

·        The determination of whether a business judgment is an informed one turns on whether the directors have informed themselves prior to making a business decision, of all material information reasonable available to them

·        A director’s duty to exercise an informed business judgment is in the nature of a duty of care

·        The concept of gross negligence is the proper standard for determining whether a business judgment reached by a board of directors was an informed one

·        Since all of the defendant directors take a unified position, they were all treated as one as to whether they are entitled to protection of the business judgment rule

·        That considerations acted in good faith, are irrelevant in determining the threshold issue of whether the directors as a board exercised an informed business judgment

·        The burden must fall on the defendants who claim ratification based on shareholder vote to establish that the shareholder approval resulted from a fully informed electorate

o       Reliance of Directors on Information from and Action by Others

§         In Van Gorkom, the court rejected the directors’ argument that they were protected from liability because they relied on the information that the CEO presented to them

§         Directors, especially outside directors, who are necessarily less involved in the everyday affairs of a corporation – routinely rely on the CEO and other top management for information and recommendations in connection with their decision making

§         Such reliance is clearly efficient, and it is sound policy that directors generally should be entitled to rely on that information when the care with which they have acted is challenged

§         There may be limits on the extent to which reliance may be justified

§         Directors also frequently rely on opinions provided by attorneys, accountants, engineers, financial specialists, and other expert professional advisors

§         The general rule is that such reliance is justified and protects directors who relied in good faith on such advice against liability if the advice turns out to be poor

§         A director must reasonably believe her decisions are in the corporation’s best interests after becoming sufficiently informed

·        Limitation of Directors’ Liability: Statutory Exculpation, Indemnification and Directors’ and Officers’ Insurance

 

Chapter 18: Duty of Loyalty

·        Intro

o       The duty of loyalty runs to the corporation and to the stockholders

o       In the most basic terms, the duty of loyalty requires a director to place the corporation’s best interests above her own

o       Even though the director is subject to competing demands because of her financial stake in the transaction, the existence of a conflict does not mean that the consummated transaction will be unfair to the corporation

o       The law requires that the transaction be fair to the corporation

·        The Common Law Standard

·        The Statutory Approach

o       Remillard Brick v. Remillard Dandini

§         CA statute – An interested director transaction will not automatically be void or voidable either because there has been disclosure to, and approval by, a disinterested decision maker or because the transaction is fair to the corporation

o       The Delaware Approach

·        Corporate Opportunity

o       The doctrine forbids a director, officer or managerial employee from diverting to herself a business opportunity that belongs to the corporation

o       What is a corporate opportunity? –Tests to determine whether it exists

§         (1) Interest or Expectancy

§         (2) Line of business

§         (3) Fairness

§         (4) Financial or economic capacity

 

Chapter 19: Duty of Controlling Shareholders

·        Intro

o       A person who owns a large block of stock that is less than 50% often has de facto control, because he usually is in the best position to mobilize sufficient votes to elect a majority of the board unless another person owns a comparable block

o       Courts determine minority control on a transaction basis, rather the deciding whether a minority is generally in control

·        Transactions Between the Controlling Shareholder and the Controlled Corporation

o       Sinclair Oil v. Levien

§         When the situation involves a parent and a subsidiary, with the parent controlling the transaction and fixing the terms, the test of intrinsic fairness, with its resulting shifting of the burden of proof, is applied

§         A parent does indeed owe a fiduciary duty to its subsidiary when there are parent-subsidiary dealings

·        However, this alone will not evoke the intrinsic fairness standard

·        This standard will be applied only when the fiduciary duty is accompanied by self-dealing – the situation when a parent is on both sides of a transaction with its subsidiary

·        Self-dealing occurs when the parent, by virtue of its domination of the subsidiary, causes the subsidiary to act in such a way that the parent receives something from the subsidiary to the exclusion of, and detriment to, the minority stockholders of the subsidiary

·        Cash Out Mergers

o       Introduction

§         The most common form of controlling shareholder transaction is the cash out merger in which the person who controls a corporation seeks to terminate, or cash out, other shareholders’ equity interest in that corporation, usually by forcing those shareholders to accept cash for their stock

§         Three factors limit the ability of S’s non-controlling shareholders, other than by judicial means, to block cash out mergers that they believe are unfair: collective action problems, the absence of real bargaining between P and those shareholders, and the obstacles those shareholders would face were they to seek to oust P from control of S

o       Weinberger v. UOP

§         When directors of a Delaware corporation are on both sides of a transaction, they are required to demonstrate their utmost good faith and the most scrupulous inherent fairness of the bargain

§         Individuals who act in a dual capacity as directors of two corporations, one of whom is parent and the other subsidiary, owe the same duty of good management to both corporations, and in the absence of an independent negotiating structure, or the directors’ total abstention from any participation in the matter, this duty is to be exercised in light of what is best for both companies

§         The concept of fairness has two basic aspects: fair dealing and fair price

§         Fair dealing embraces questions of when the transaction was timed, how it was initiated, structured, negotiated, disclosed to the directors, and how the approvals of the directors and the stockholders were obtained

§         Fair price relates to the economic and financial considerations of the proposed merger, including all relevant factors: assets, market value, earnings, future prospects, and any other elements that affect the intrinsic or inherent value of a company’s stock

§         All aspects of the issue must be examined as a whole since the question is one of entire fairness

§         Fair dealing – one possessing superior knowledge may not mislead any stockholder by use of corporate information to which the latter is not privy

§         This case suggests that in a cash out merger, the parent might have a duty to the minority shareholders to disclose its own internal reports

o       Short Form Mergers (838)

 

 

 

·        Effect of Shareholder Ratification

o       In re Wheelabrator Technologies

§         The ratification decisions that involve a duty of loyalty are two kinds: (1) interested transaction cases between a corporation and its directors and (2) cases involving a transaction between the corporation and its controlling shareholder

§         (1)

·        An interested transaction of this kind will not be voidable if it is approved in good faith by a majority of disinterested stockholders

·        This will invoke the business judgment rule and limits judicial review to issues of gift or waste with the burden of proof upon the party attacking the transaction

§         (2)

·        These involve primarily parent subsidiary mergers

·        In a parent subsidiary merger, the standard of review is ordinarily entire fairness with the directors having the burden of proving that the merger was entirely fair

·        But where the merger is conditioned upon approval by a majority of the minority stockholder vote, and such approval is granted, the standard of review remains entire fairness, but the burden of demonstrating that the merger was unfair shifts to the plaintiff

 

Chapter 20: Shareholder Litigation

·        Direct and Derivative Actions

o       A derivative suit typically is brought by a shareholder on behalf of a corporation in whom she holds stock

o       The shareholder is allowed to assert rights belonging to the corporation, even though she normally cannot act as the corporation’s decision maker, because the board of directors has failed to do so

o       The corporation is names as a nominal defendant; an amounts recovered belong to the corporation, not the shareholder-plaintiff

o       A shareholder can bring a derivative suit against any party who has harmed the corporation, not only against directors or controlling shareholders who have breached duties they owe to the corporation

o       A shareholder-plaintiff who brings a derivative suit acts as representative of all injured shareholders

o       The plaintiff is required to fairly and accurately represent the interests of the shareholders similarly situated in enforcing the rights of the corporation

o       The shareholder-plaintiff also takes on certain fiduciary responsibilities

o       Direct

§         In certain circumstances, a shareholder also can sue a corporation’s managers or controlling shareholders directly

§         To do so, she must be able to show that the defendants’ actions harmed her directly; if the harm is indirect, resulting from damages incurred by the corporation, only a derivative suit will lie

o       A wrongful act that depletes corporate assets and thereby injures shareholders only indirectly, by reason of the prior injury to the corporation, should be seen as derivative in nature

o       A wrongful act that is separate and distinct from any corporate injury, such as one that denies or interferes with the rightful incidents of share ownership, gives rise to a direct action

o       The plaintiff typically wants to characterize the action as direct, while the defendant prefers to characterize it as derivative

o       The policy reasons for requiring a shareholder to sue derivatively when her claim is based on the alleged injury to the corporation may not be present when the suit involves a close corporation in which there is a close identity between shareholders and managers

·        The Requirement of Demand on Directors

o       Marx v. Akers

§         Requirement of plaintiff in derivative action to demand that the corporation initiate an action, unless such demand was futile, before commencing an action on the corporation’s behalf

§         The purposes of the demand requirement are: (1) to relieve courts from deciding matters of internal corporate governance by providing corporate directors with opportunities to correct alleged abuses, (2) to provide corporate boards with reasonable protection from harassment by litigation on matters clearly within the discretion of directors, and (3) to discourage strike suits commenced by shareholders for personal gain rather than for the benefit of the corporation

§         The Delaware Approach

·        Two prong test for determining the futility of a demand: (1) the directors are disinterested and independent and (2) the challenged transaction was otherwise the product of a valid exercise of business judgment

§         Universal Demand

·        Demand in all cases, without exception, and permits of the commencement of a derivative proceeding within 90 days of the demand unless the demand is rejected earlier

§         New York’s Approach

·        A demand would be futile under the following circumstances:

o       (1) Demand is excused because of futility when a complaint alleges with particularity that a majority of the board of directors is interested in the challenged transaction

o       (2) Demand is excused because of futility when a complaint alleges with particularity that the board of directors did not fully inform themselves about the challenged transaction to the extent reasonably appropriate under the circumstances

o       (3) Demand is excused because of futility when a complaint alleges with particularity that the challenged transaction was so egregious on its face that it could not have been the product of sound business judgment of the directors

Chapter 23: Closely Held Corporations

·        Close Corporation Dilemma

·        Methods of Electing Directors

o       Cumulative Voting

§         Straight voting

·        Each share is entitled to one vote for each open directorship, but a shareholder is limited in the number of votes she may cast for any given director to the number of shares she owns

·        Directors are elected by a plurality of the votes cast, so those who receives the most votes are elected, even if they receive less than a majority

·        That means that any shareholder or group of shareholders controlling 51% of the shares may elect all of the members of the board

§         Cumulative Voting

·        Allows shareholders to elect directors in rough proportion to the shares held by each group and thus to be guaranteed minority representation on the board

·        Under cumulative voting, each share carries a number of votes equal to the number of directors to be elected, but a shareholder may cumulate her votes

·        Cumulating simply means multiplying the number of votes a shareholder is entitled to cast by the number of directors for whom she is entitled to vote

·        If there is cumulative voting, the shareholder may cast all her votes for one candidate or allocate them in any manner among a number of candidates

·        The number of shares required to elect a given number of directors under a cumulative voting regime may be calculated by the following formula:

o       Number of shares represented at the meeting (x) Number of directors it is desired to elect

o       --------------------------------------------------------

o       Total number of directors to be elected (+) 1

·        +

·        1

 

 

o       Class Voting

§         Class voting entails dividing the stock into two or more classes, each of which is entitled to elect one or more directors

·        Shareholder Voting Arrangements

o       Shareholders typically use one of three classes of devises to limit or control the manner in which shares will be voted: (1) voting trusts, (2) irrevocable proxies, and (3) vote pooling agreements

o       (1) Voting Trust

§         Shareholders create a voting trust by conveying legal title to their stock to a voting trustee or a group of trustees pursuant to the terms of a trust agreement

§         The transferring shareholders – now beneficiaries of the trust – receive voting trust certificates in exchange for their shares; these evidence their equitable ownership of their stock

§         Voting trust certificates usually are transferable and entitle the owner to receive whatever dividends are paid on the underlying stock

o       (2) Irrevocable Proxy

§         Sometimes the parties want to make the grant of the proxy irrevocable, subject perhaps to some contingency or to the passage of a specified time

§         In such a case, the shareholder loses control of her vote for the period of the proxy, and it can be said that the vote is separated from the stock

§         The modern trend in corporate law is to recognize this principle and to uphold irrevocable proxies that are coupled with an interest

§         The more conservative view is that the interest must be in the stock itself, such as when a shareholder pledges her stock and grants the pledgee an irrevocable proxy to vote the stock

§         Irrevocable proxies have been upheld where the proxy has been given as an inducement to the holder to furnish money to the corporation

§         MBCA permits irrevocable proxies when given to (1) a pledgee; (2) a person who purchased or agreed to purchase the shares; (3) a creditor of the corporation who extended it credit under terms requiring the appointment; (4) an employee of the corporation whose employment contract requires the appointment or (5) a party to a voting agreement

o       (3) Vote Pooling Agreement

§         Their basic purpose is to bind some of the shareholders to vote together – either in a particular way or pursuant to some specified procedure

·        Restrictions on Board Discretion

o       Shareholder Agreements

§         Triggs v. Triggs

o       Smith v. Atlantic Properties

·        Dissention and Oppression in the Close Corporation

o       Two kinds of dissension recur frequently:

§         (1) There are cases in which the majority cut off minority shareholders from any returns, thus leaving them holding illiquid stock that generates no current income

§         (2) There are cases in which the majority exercised control to frustrate the preferences of the minority

o       How courts respond to dissention in close corporations has turned on two factors:

§         (1) How the courts view close corporations

§         (2) Whether the legislature in the relevant jurisdiction has incurred in its corporate statute provisions aimed at protecting shareholders in close corporations

·        Fiduciary Protection of Minority Interests

o       Wilkes v. Springside Nursing Home

§         Freeze outs – one device is to deprive the minority stockholders of corporate offices and employment with the corporation

§         By terminating a minority stockholder’s employment or be severing him from a position as an officer or director, the majority effectively frustrate the minority stockholder’s purposes in entering on the corporate venture and also deny him an equal return on his investment

§         When an asserted business purpose for their action is advanced by the majority, however, we think it is open to minority stockholders to demonstrate than the same legitimate objective could have been achieved through an alternative course of action less harmful to the minority’s interest

§         If called on to settle a dispute, our courts must weigh the legitimate business purpose, if any, against the practicability of a less harmful alternative

o       Nixon v. Blackwell

§         One cannot read into the situation presented in the case at bar any special relief for minority stockholders in this closely held, but not statutorily close corporation because the provisions of the statute relating to close corporations preempt the field in their respective areas

·        Statutory Remedies for Oppression

o       Many modern statutes grant a court power to dissolve a corporation is a shareholder establishes that (a) the directors are deadlocked, the shareholders cannot break the deadlock, and the deadlock is injuring the corporation or impairing the conduct of its business; (b) the shareholders are deadlocked and have not been able to elect directors for two years; (c) corporate assets are being wasted; or (d) those in control of the corporation are acting in a manner that is illegal, oppressive, or fraudulent

o       Court should be cautious when considering claims of oppression to genuine abuse rather than instances of acceptable tactics in a power struggle for control of a corporation

o       Corporate statutes usually provide that a corporation can be dissolved with the approval of the board of directors and the shareholders

o       Corporate existence is terminated in an orderly fashion: the corporation sells off its assets, pays off its creditors, and distributes whatever remains to its shareholders

o       Matter of Kemp & Beatley

§         The statute permits dissolution when a corporation’s controlling faction is found guilty of oppressive action toward the complaining shareholders

§         Oppression arises when those in control of the corporation have acted in such a manner as to defeat those expectations of the minority stockholders which formed the basis of their participation in the venture

§         A court considering a petition alleging oppressive conduct must investigate what the majority shareholders knew, or should have known, to be the petitioner’s expectations in entering the particular enterprise

§         Oppression should be deemed to arise only when the majority conduct substantially defeats expectations that, objectively viewed, were both reasonable under the circumstances and were central to the petitioner’s decision to join the venture

§         Implicit in this direction is that once oppressive conduct is found, consideration must be given to the totality of the circumstances surrounding the current state of corporate affairs and relations to determine whether some remedy short of or other than dissolution constitutes a feasible means of satisfying both the petitioner’s expectations and the rights and interests of any other substantial group of shareholders

§         Every order of dissolution must be conditioned upon permitting any shareholder of the corporation to elect to purchase the complaining shareholder’s stock at fair value

·        Non-Dissolution Remedies in Oppression Cases

o       Buy Outs

§         Electing to buy out at fair value the shares of a shareholder who petitions for involuntary dissolution

§         Gives the majority a call right of minority’s shares to prevent strategic abuse of the dissolution procedure

§         Under this optional procedure, the shareholders who elect to purchase must give notice to the court within 90 days of the petition and then negotiate with the petitioning shareholder

§         If after 60 days the negotiations fail, the court must stay the proceedings for involuntary dissolution and order a buyout and determine the fair value of the petitioner’s shares