Fair Market Value vs. Fair Value

An Illinois appellate court recently ruled in an unusual dissenting shareholder case on the valuation of shares in a single asset, real estate “C” corporation. It’s a highly interesting decision, pitting equitable considerations against valuation orthodoxy. You can either guess which prevailed, or you can read this week’s New York Business Divorce.

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Valuation discounts are among the most hotly contested issues in minority shareholder buy-out proceedings triggered by dissolution petitions. As between the discount for lack of marketability and the minority discount (a/k/a discount for lack of control), New York case law allows one of them and prohibits the other. Do you know which is which? Find out in this week’s New York Business Divorce.

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It’s the perfect LLC storm: Accusations by the minority member of overreaching and breach of fiduciary duty by the controlling members, no operating agreement, and an LLC statute that affords neither party a judicial means of achieving the separation they each want. Read about it in this week’s New York Business Divorce.

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Justice Ira Warshawsky of Nassau County Supreme Court’s Commercial Division has issued a “BIG” decision (as in discount for Built-In Gains tax) in a stock valuation arising out of a dissolution proceeding brought by minority shareholders claiming oppression. Read about it in this week’s New York Business Divorce.

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Is there a difference in determining the “value” of a partnership interest under Partnership Law Section 73 and the “fair value” of a stock interest under the Business Corporation Law? This week’s New York Business Divorce looks at a recent New York appellate decision that answers the question in a dispute over application of discounts for lack of control and lack of marketability.

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New York’s statutes governing buyouts in dissolution and dissenting shareholder cases use the term “fair value” (FV) as the standard used to determine purchase price. The statutes do not define FV.

In contrast, “fair market value” (FMV) is a widely recognized standard of value used in the business world, in tax assessment proceedings and elsewhere. The International Glossary of Business Valuation Terms defines FMV as “the price, expressed in terms of cash equivalents, at which property would change hands between a hypothetical willing and able buyer and a hypothetical willing and able seller, acting at arms length in an open and unrestricted market, when neither is under compulsion to buy or sell and when both have reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts.”

Are FV and FMV the same?

Not by a long shot. As succinctly stated in one of the more prominent valuation treatises, “the term fair value is usually a legally created standard of value that applies to certain specific transactions”. S. Pratt, R. Reilly & R. Schweihs, Valuing a Business, p. 32 (4th ed. 2000). My even more succinct translation: FV means whatever the courts say it means.

In New York case law, the main difference between FMV and FV concerns application of a minority discount in valuing the shares of a dissolution petitioner or dissenting shareholder. A minority discount, also referred to as a discount for lack of control (“DLOC”), reflects the lower price a hypothetical buyer would pay for shares in a corporation that do not give their owner control of the board of directors, company management, distributions, changes to the articles of incorporation, etc.   For over 20 years New York courts consistently have ruled that, unlike in proceedings applying the FMV standard of value, the FV standard excludes DLOC. In many other states that also use the FV standard in statutory buyout proceedings, unlike New York, the courts also exclude the discount for lack of marketability (“DLOM”) applicable to non-publicly listed shares that cannot be sold quickly and at low cost. Bottom line: in New York statutory valuation proceedings applying the FV standard, the selling shareholder gets a significantly higher price compared to the FMV standard.

For those who want to learn more on the subject, I recommend reading a recent appellate decision out of Arkansas in which the court explains the difference between FMV and FV in the context of a dispute over the valuation of the interests of withdrawing partners in a family limited partnership.


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See full size imageBusiness appraisers generally apply discounts of one sort or another to value an interest in a closely held business entity. Discounts for lack of control (DLOC) and lack of marketability (DLOM) are most commonly used, depending on the context (estate taxes, matrimonial divorce, dissenting shareholder appraisal, etc.) and the applicable standard of value (fair market