New York’s statutory scheme for dissolution of closely held business entities sometimes looks like a crazy quilt. For instance, for reasons that defy all logic, a petition for dissolution of a business corporation based on shareholder oppression triggers an absolute right on the part of the other shareholders to avoid dissolution by purchasing the petitioner’s shares for fair value, but if the petition is based on director or shareholder deadlock, there’s no buyout right. A petition for dissolution of a business corporation requires service upon the state tax commission and publication notice of the order to show cause in advance of the hearing, but no such service or publication is required in a proceeding for judicial dissolution of a limited liability company (LLC).
Here’s another. The statute governing judicial dissolution of LLCs, contained in Section 702 of the LLC Law (LLCL), has no provision for appointment of a temporary receiver to protect the company’s assets pending the dissolution proceeding. In contrast, Section 1113 of the Business Corporation Law (BCL) expressly authorizes a court to appoint a temporary receiver for that purpose in a dissolution proceeding.
The divergence on this point between the BCL and the LLCL is highlighted in a recently decided case called At the Airport, LLC v. Isata, LLC, 15 Misc 3d 1145(A) (Sup Ct Nassau County June 6, 2007). The case was brought by a 20% member of an LLC seeking its dissolution based on income diversion, financial mismanagement, and denial of access to company records. In a decision by Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Leonard B. Austin, the court notes that the only provision of the LLCL authorizing appointment of a receiver or liquidating trustee, found in LLCL Section 703(a), by its terms applies after the company has been dissolved. Said the court, "[petitioner] is putting the cart before the horse since there must first be a finding of the right to judicial dissolution before a receiver can be appointed."
The petitioner in that case was forced to seek appointment of a temporary receiver under the more formidable standards for receivership found in Article 64 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules. The court held that he failed to make the requisite clear showing that the company’s property was in imminent danger of being materially injured or destroyed, and therefore denied the application for appointment of a receiver.
The petitioner in the same case fared no better on a subsequent application for reconsideration based on newly discovered evidence (read opinion here). If anything, the court’s second ruling makes the point more emphatically, that compared to applications involving corporations under the BCL, the courts have strictly limited authority to appoint a temporary receiver for an LLC prior to an order of dissolution.
Update October 27, 2010: Over at the LLC Law Monitor blog, Doug Batey comments on a recent Delaware Chancery Court decision in Ross Holding and Management Co. v. Advance Realty Group, LLC in which Vice Chancellor Noble rejected the argument that the absence of express authority in Delaware’s LLC Act for appointment of a receiver precludes the court from invoking its inherent equitable power to appoint a receiver where there is evidence of fraud, gross mismanagement or other extraordinary circumstances causing imminent danger of real loss. The result, if not the vehicle for getting there, appears to mirror the outcome in the Isata case discussed above.