Last week, this blog wrote about a decision by Manhattan Commercial Division Justice Saliann Scarpulla in the burgeoning Yu family melee, in that case pitting one brother against the other and their sister over dissolution of two single-asset real estate holding LLCs. In her decision, Justice Scarpulla denied dissolution of the LLCs, despite the plaintiff’s allegations that his brother and sister had a personal “vendetta” against him, which they carried out by amending the operating agreement to remove the plaintiff as a manager, authorizing a mandatory capital, and, when he was unable to meet the capital call, foreclosing on his membership interest.

This week, we look at a companion decision by Justice Scarpulla, issued the same day as the first, expanding the intra-family brouhaha to include the three siblings’ parents. In Matter of Yu v Bong Yu, 2018 NY Slip Op 32009(U) [Sup Ct, NY County Aug. 15, 2018], the court considered the important but novel question of what impact, if any, does a shareholder’s assignment of voting rights under a stock pledge agreement have on his or her standing to sue for statutory dissolution of the business as well as under the common law. Continue Reading Stock Pledge Agreement Defeats Minority Shareholder’s Standing to Sue for Statutory But Not Common-Law Dissolution

door“Marriage is tough, business relationships may be tougher.”

Wise words from someone who should know — Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Timothy S. Driscoll, who presided over matrimonial cases before joining the Commercial Division where he has adjudicated some of the thorniest business divorce cases such as the AriZona Iced Tea donnybrook.

The quoted words appear in an oral argument transcript in a case called Cardino v Feldman pending before Justice Driscoll involving a fight between 50-50 owners of a construction company operated by the defendant Feldman. It’s a factually and procedurally complex matter, the details of which I’ll spare readers in favor of focusing on the main takeaway from Justice Driscoll’s recent decision in the case, namely, that once a business owner asserts a claim for judicial dissolution under Section 1104-a of the Business Corporation Law — even if not pleaded in strict accordance with the statute — it’s very difficult to reverse course after the other shareholder timely elects to purchase the petitioner’s shares for fair value under BCL Section 1118. Continue Reading Once Opened, The Door to Judicial Dissolution and Buy-Out Is Hard to Close

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Some months ago, in a post about the intersection of the at-will employment doctrine and fiduciary duty among shareholders in close corporations, I wrote:

The most common allegation of oppression by minority shareholders involves termination of employment by the controlling shareholders.  The Court of Appeals in Matter of Kemp & Beatley noted that obtaining employment is often the main reason for becoming a shareholder in a closely held company that typically pays no shareholder dividends.  As I’ve pointed out before, case law holds that the majority’s termination of the minority’s at-will employment does not give rise to a wrongful termination remedy under either a contract or tort theory, but it may be oppressive for purposes of seeking judicial dissolution where the shareholder joined the venture with the reasonable expectation of getting and keeping a job. 

This principle is vividly on display in a recently decided case called Ambar v. Devington Technologies, Ltd., 2009 NY Slip Op 32373(U) (Sup Ct NY County Oct. 13, 2009), where the court refused to dismiss a petition for involuntary corporate dissolution brought by a minority shareholder whose employment was terminated by the controlling shareholders, notwithstanding at-will employment provisions in their shareholders’ agreement.

Continue Reading Fired Minority Shareholder’s Oppression Claim Not Barred by At-Will Employment Provisions in Shareholders’ Agreement