Document requests are a critical component of the discovery process in legal proceedings, enabling parties to obtain essential evidence and information to support their cases. The case of Elleby v. Forest Alarm Service, Inc., 2020 IL App (1st) 191597, offers valuable insights into the requirements and intricacies of document requests in Illinois. In this blog post, we will delve into the Elleby case and explore the key elements and considerations involved in making effective document requests. Continue reading ›
Shareholder and LLC member disputes can be complex and contentious, especially when one party attempts a “freeze-out.” A freeze-out refers to the exclusion of a shareholder or member from the decision-making process or the benefits of ownership. In Illinois, recent court decisions have shed light on the legal principles surrounding these disputes. In this blog post, we will explore some of these notable cases and the lessons they offer for those facing or involved in freeze-out situations.
1. Ritchie Capital Management, LLC v. Gerard (2019 IL 124741)
In Ritchie Capital Management, LLC v. Gerard, the Illinois Supreme Court addressed the issue of “squeeze-outs” in limited liability companies (LLCs). The court emphasized that LLC managers owe fiduciary duties to the members, and a manager’s attempt to squeeze out another member for personal gain can lead to a breach of those duties. This decision underscored the importance of fairness and transparency in LLC operations and clarified the standards for assessing fiduciary duty violations.
2. Hagan v. Quinn (2020 IL 124989)
Hagan v. Quinn involved a shareholder dispute in a closely held corporation. The Illinois Supreme Court in this case held that shareholders in a closely held corporation owe each other a duty of utmost good faith and loyalty. The court emphasized that majority shareholders must act fairly and reasonably toward minority shareholders and avoid oppressive conduct. This decision reaffirmed the principles of fairness and equitable treatment among shareholders. Continue reading ›
It’s commonly said that you have to spend money to make money, but taken too far, that philosophy can easily bankrupt a company. When that company has investors and shareholders whose money you’re spending so you can try to make money, you have to justify your expenses to those shareholders. You have a responsibility to spend their money wisely so they can expect a good return on their investment.
According to a series of lawsuits filed against Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp., the company allegedly made a series of moves the shareholders considered to be in violation of the company’s fiduciary duty.
One such move was the decision made by MSG Network’s board of directors and controlling stockholders to merge with MSG Entertainment. The reason given for the move was to save costs, but the minority shareholders allege the move was not made with their best interests in mind. Continue reading ›
Yes, it is possible to sue a lawyer in a shareholder derivative action in certain jurisdictions including Illinois. A shareholder derivative action is a lawsuit brought by a shareholder on behalf of a corporation against a third party. The lawsuit is typically brought when the corporation has been harmed by the actions of a third party, but the corporation’s management has failed to take action.
In a shareholder derivative action, the shareholder acts as a representative of the corporation and brings the lawsuit on the corporation’s behalf. If the shareholder is successful in the lawsuit, any damages or remedies awarded go to the corporation, not to the individual shareholder.
In some cases, the corporation’s harm may be caused by the actions of the corporation’s own lawyers. For example, if a lawyer provides negligent or inadequate legal advice to the corporation, causing the corporation to suffer damages, the corporation’s shareholders may be able to bring a shareholder derivative action against the lawyer on behalf of the corporation.
In order to bring a successful shareholder derivative action against a lawyer, the shareholders must be able to show that the lawyer breached their duty of care to the corporation and that this breach caused harm to the corporation. The shareholders must also show that they have exhausted all other available remedies, such as asking the corporation’s management to take action against the lawyer.
In conclusion, it is possible to sue a lawyer in a shareholder derivative action if the lawyer’s actions have harmed the corporation. However, such lawsuits can be complex and challenging, and it is important to seek the advice of a qualified attorney before pursuing this type of legal action. Continue reading ›
In a recent 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, Warrington v. Rocky Patel Premium Cigars, Inc., No. 22-12575, 2023 WL 1818920 (11th Cir. Feb. 8, 2023), the court provided valuable lessons for partners, shareholders, and small business owners who may find themselves in disputes. This case serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the importance of careful strategy and legal counsel when pursuing litigation or arbitration.
The dispute centered on Brad Warrington, a minority shareholder in Rocky Patel Premium Cigars, who wanted to divest from his holdings in the company. The buy-sell agreement between Warrington and Rakesh Patel, the majority shareholder, included an arbitration provision for any disputes arising out of the agreement. However, the case demonstrates how mistakes made during litigation can result in a waiver of the right to arbitration.
After years of disagreement over the value of Warrington’s shares and alleged improprieties by Patel, Warrington found a private buyer and notified Patel of his intention to sell. Patel refused to acknowledge the notice and subsequently sued Warrington in Florida state court, seeking a declaratory judgment and alleging breach of contract, among other claims.
While the state action was pending, Warrington sued Patel in federal court, bringing several counts, including breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Patel moved to dismiss, remand, or stay the federal action, but the district court denied his motion. It wasn’t until June 2022 that Patel moved to stay and compel arbitration under the agreement. However, the district court denied this motion, finding that Patel had waived his right to arbitrate by initially filing in state court and moving to dismiss or remand Warrington’s federal action. Continue reading ›
We’ve all heard stories of the plucky entrepreneur who started a game-changing business and managed to sell it for millions of dollars. It’s a great rags-to-riches story, and it proves the American Dream is real. But what if the business is fake?
Charlie Javice was one of those young entrepreneurs. The company she started was called Frank, and the idea was to simplify the financial aid process for college students. When JP Morgan bought the company from Javice in 2021, it was valued at $175 million, and Javice was made managing director for student solutions. Now JP Morgan is suing her for allegedly exaggerating the company’s value … by a lot.
College students are a goldmine for banks. Almost all college students need to take out a loan in order to pay for their higher education, loans they spend decades paying off while the banks collect interest.
A lot of college students are also taking out credit cards for the first time, and most of them have not been taught how to use credit cards to their advantage. Instead, they’re more likely to end up in debt to the credit card companies.
According to court documents, when JP Morgan bought Frank, Javice allegedly told the bank’s executives that the company had more than 4 million users. The idea was that, by buying Frank, JP Morgan would gain access to a database containing the names and contact details of all those users who would no doubt be in need of financial assistance and a bank to provide its services. Continue reading ›
When Stephen Easterbrook was first fired from his position as CEO of McDonald’s, the firing was listed as “without cause,” which allowed Easterbrook to keep his severance pay, including shares in the company. But that was before McDonald’s found out about the extent of Easterbrook’s alleged misconduct.
At the time he was fired, Easterbrook allegedly denied having any inappropriate relationships with any of his employees, except for one relationship, which he claimed had not been physical. Afterwards, an internal investigation found emails that allegedly revealed Easterbrook’s sexual relationships with multiple McDonald’s employees during his time as CEO. Once these emails were uncovered, the company sued Easterbrook in 2020.
The lawsuit resulted in Easterbrook returning his shares in the company, as well as cash, the combined value of which was about $105 million at the time he returned it. Continue reading ›
When starting a business, co-owners envision the best—working together productively and profitably. But it is all too common for business partners to encounter a serious impasse over how to operate the business. When partners are unable to work through a dispute, it may be time for one partner to exit the company via a buyout of their interest. It is not uncommon for this scenario to arise in conjunction with claims that the majority shareholder or shareholders are oppressing the minority shareholder or shareholders.
For Illinois corporations, the Illinois Business Corporation Act of 1983 (BCA) permits shareholders to pursue legal action against each other based on allegations of fraud, illegal activity, corporate waste or other disruptive conduct. The BCA provides for 12 categories of relief that a court may order as an alternative to dissolving the business. Minority shareholders frequently opt to pursue the remedy of a buyout, in which the exiting shareholder’s interest is purchased by the remaining shareholders for “fair value.” Similarly for Illinois LLCs, the Illinois Limited Liability Company Act provides that a court may order the entity or the remaining members to purchase the interest of the outgoing member.
The BCA defines “fair value” as the value of the shares “taking into account any impact on the value of the shares resulting from the actions giving rise to a petition under this Section.” The statute goes on the explain that “‘fair value,’ with respect to a petitioning shareholder’s shares, means the proportionate interest of the shareholder in the corporation, without any discount for minority status or, absent extraordinary circumstances, lack of marketability.” For many companies, this provides a much more favorable valuation to a minority shareholder than selling shares for fair market value or any other metric of value normally employed when selling an interest in a small business. This is particularly true for closed (or closely held) corporations where a market for the minority’s shares might not otherwise exist since the statutory valuation does not generally speaking allow for a discount for the lack of marketability of the minority’s shares. Continue reading ›
Earlier this year, the governor of Delaware signed Senate bill 273 which amended various provisions of the Delaware General Corporation Law (GCL). The changes became effective August 1, 2022. Most notable among the changes was the amendment of Section 102(b)(7) of the GCL to allow corporations to exclude or limit certain officers from personal liability for breaches of their fiduciary duty of care. In order for corporations to take advantage of this change in the law, companies must include a provision in their certificate of incorporation eliminating or limiting its officers from personal liability for breaches of the duty of care.
Under Delaware corporate law, directors and officers of Delaware corporations owe the corporation and its shareholders certain fiduciary duties. One of the two chief fiduciary duties that directors and officers owe to the corporation and shareholders is called the duty of care. The duty of care requires directors and officers to exercise care and act in an informed manner when acting for the corporation and making decisions on its behalf.
Since 1986, with the addition of Section 102(b)(7) to the GCL, corporations have been authorized to eliminate or limit the personal liability of directors for monetary damages for breaches of the duty of care. However, until passage of the amended Section 102(b)(7) this year, corporations could not do the same for its officers, even though the Delaware Supreme Court repeatedly affirmed that officers owe the same fiduciary duties as directors. Now corporations can insulate its officers as well as directors from personal liability for breaches of the duty of care.
It is important to understand the limits of this newly amended Section 102(b)(7). First, it doesn’t apply to all officers but only to those officers “deemed to have consented to service by the delivery of process to the registered agent of the corporation pursuant to § 3114(b) of Title 10” which includes the president, chief executive officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, chief legal officer, controller, treasurer, or chief accounting officer along with anyone identified in the corporation’s SEC filing as one of the most highly compensated executive officers, or anyone who has, by agreement with the corporation, consented to be identified as an officer for the purposes of Section 3114(b) of the GCL. Continue reading ›
As we have written about previously, shareholders in a corporation have two different types of claims they can assert, direct claims and derivative claims. Direct claims are filed by the shareholder for the benefit of the shareholder. Derivative claims are filed by a shareholder but for the benefit of the corporation itself. An Illinois appellate court recently considered the issue of whether a successful shareholder in a derivative action can obtain an award of attorney fees directly from the defendants personally, as opposed to from the common fund created by the judgment.
The parties were investors in a business known as 15th Street Blue Island, LLC (15BI). The plaintiffs made financial contributions totaling approximately $3.7 million to become members of 15BI. The plaintiffs received 47% interest in 15BI as “Class A Members.” An entity owned by defendants Jerry Karlik and Keith Giles, Kargil Blue Island, LLC (KBI), received a 53% interest in the company as a “Class B Member,” and was named as the manager of 15BI.
15BI was formed in 2006 for the purpose of developing condominiums on a vacant parking lot located in Chicago. After the economic crash of the global recession that began shortly thereafter, the original business plan was scrapped for a new one that involved developing rental residences, which was considered a more feasible plan under the economic conditions.
In 2006, another entity jointly owned by Jerry Karlik and Giles, Kargil Development Partners (KDP), entered into a contract to purchase a vacant parking lot (15BI Property) located at 15th Street and Blue Island Avenue in Chicago for $3.72 million. Pursuant to that agreement, KDP deposited an initial earnest money payment of $100,000 from 15BI accounts into an escrow account. In June 2007, Karlik signed a purchase agreement on behalf of 15BI to acquire property known as the Testa Parcel, for $6,250,000. This purchase agreement also required a $100,000 earnest money deposit from 15BI. In an unusual move for a buyer, Karlik later negotiated a $250,000 increase in the purchase price and provided for payment of a commission to yet another company that he and Giles jointly owned. 15BI later abandoned its efforts to buy the Testa Parcel, resulting in 15BI losing 70% of its earnest money deposit.
In 2008, Karlik and Giles sold a portion of KBI, which managed and owned a percentage of 15BI, to new investors, Gangas and Housakos, for approximately $750,000. Karlik testified that the law firm of Branson & Kahn invoiced 15BI and 15BI paid for its work on that sale.
Defendants stipulated that work “should not have been billed through 15B1.” Continue reading ›