A year ago, in Tzolis v. Wolff, 10 NY3d 100 (2008), New York’s highest court recognized the common law right of LLC members to bring a derivative action on the LLC’s behalf. Late last month, in Gottlieb v. Northriver Trading Co., LLC, 58 AD3d 550 (1st Dept 2009), an intermediate appellate court cited Tzolis in support of its decision recognizing the right of LLC members to seek an equitable accounting under common law.
The "equitable action on account" has a rich legal history in early English and American law, reflecting a time when forms of pleading and the scope of judicial powers made sharp distinctions between actions "at law" and those "in equity." In modern usage, the accounting action allows a trust beneficiary, partner, etc. to compel a fiduciary entrusted with property to render an account of his or her actions and for the recovery of any balance found to be due. The accounting involves more than simply turning over existing financial records. In New York practice, if the court grants an accounting, it may order the fiduciary to prepare a "long accounting" with detailed schedules of income and expenses over a defined period, followed by the filing of objections to the accounting, followed by proceedings before a court-appointed referee to hear and determine the accounting. (To view a form of order of reference to determine an account, click here.)