The doctrine of laches bars a plaintiff from bringing a stolen corporate opportunities lawsuit, the Illinois First District Court of Appeal has ruled. Lozman v. Putnam, No. 1- 06-0861 (February 18, 2008).
Plaintiff Fane Lozman and defendant Gerald Putnam met in 1986 as employees of the same Chicago securities firm. Eight years later, Lozman came up with an idea for a new type of software for traders, and hired another defendant, Townsend Analytics Inc., to program it. To market the software, Lozman and Putnam formed Blue Water Partners, Inc., an Illinois corporation, in 1994. Each was a 50% shareholder and a director. The plan was to barter the software for a share of a brokerage firm’s commissions on trades. Townsend Analytics and its owners, Stuart and Marrgwen Townsend, were offered 15% equity in Blue Water but no director or officer positions.
Later that year, Putnam formed Terra Nova Trading, LLC, with himself as 100% shareholder, to route profits from Blue Water. Another company, Analytic Services, LLC, was formed to sell the software, with Samuel Long as president. In April of 1995, Putnam and Lozman signed an agreement to share commissions generated through or paid by Townsend and its software. For a variety of personal and professional reasons, the relationship between Lozman and Putnam went sour, and they voluntarily dissolved the agreement six months later. A later termination agreement, back-dated to the day of the dissolution, preserved any legal claims. Putnam went on to form three more companies that used the same office and brokerage license as Blue Water, subcontracted with the Townsends and/or competed with Blue Water.