Articles Posted in Business Transactions

AdobeStock_299947443-300x162It is important to structure a business entity that will best meet your needs before starting a new business. Even once you have selected a corporation over a partnership or LLC, there are still choices to be made. S corporations and C corporations have some similarities. There are also critical differences, and it is important to understand how each type of corporation functions before selecting the one that will best meet your business needs. 

Only One Class Of Stock

There are several key differences in how ownership may be held in S corporations and C corporations. S corporations may issue only one class of stock, while C corporations can have multiple classes. S corps are limited to a maximum of one hundred shareholders – all of whom must be United States citizens or lawful residents. C corporations have no such restrictions on ownership. S corporations also cannot be owned by other S corporations, C corporations, LLCs, partnerships, or trusts. These stock and ownership restrictions make an S corporation unsuitable for many corporations. Be sure to consult with your business lawyer about your specific plans for issuing stock and apportioning ownership in your new business.

AdobeStock_238077911-300x200A private placement memorandum (PPM) is used to offer security in a private company to specific groups of qualified investors. It is used as a marketing tool to provide information and generate interest, but it also serves to meet the requirements of SEC regulations. It is therefore important to be sure that your company’s PPM is reviewed by an experienced investment attorney. An incomplete or vague PPM can expose your business to liability or SEC fines. While investment bankers usually prepare these memos, they may not be qualified to provide legal advice. A small investment of attorney’s fees now could save your business significant fines, penalties, and legal fees later on.

United States Investors Versus Overseas Investors

Regulation S of the Securities Act of 1933 allows private securities offerings to be made to foreign investors. These offers can, however, bring up other complicated legal issues. For example: if the offer is made directly to foreign investors in another country, the offeror could be subject to that country’s securities laws and regulations.

AdobeStock_278805688-300x200Term sheets are, by design, made to be simple. They are supposed to give a general overview of a proposed investment in very broad terms. Despite this, a term sheet can contain provisions that could create complications for your business in the future. An experienced investment lawyer can help you fully understand the implications of all term sheet provisions in order to protect your business from future problems.

Investment Amount

The amount to be invested is usually the most important provision of a term sheet. Many investors, especially new investors, get distracted by the overall amount of the proposed investment, which can distract an entrepreneur from other important investment terms. The investment could be contingent on the business being valued above a set amount. It could come in installments. The installments could also be contingent on the business meeting certain goals by certain dates. Business owners must thoroughly understand the terms of any such contingencies and how they could impair the company’s ability to secure the full amount of the proposed investment.

AdobeStock_224157473-300x200Convertible notes are a popular method used by startup companies to raise capital for a new business. There are, however, different types of convertible notes, and it is important for new business owners to understand the pros and cons of each. It is also critical that business owners understand the long-term consequences of convertible notes on their future business operations and financing.

Maturity Date

SAFE (a Simple Agreement for Future Equity) is a convertible note in which an investor converts his or her investment into equity in the company. With a SAFE agreement, the investment converts to equity at any future equity financing. There is no maturity date. Thus, the investor could convert the debt to equity the very next day if an applicable equity financing is completed. KISS is a different type of convertible equity that may or may not have a maturity date.

AdobeStock_312736469-300x200There are many ways to capitalize a new business. Angel financing, venture capital, and private equity are popular methods of raising capital, but it is important for business owners to understand the difference. These different methods are appropriate at different stages of your business life cycle. Successful entrepreneurs know when and how to use them effectively. 

Stages of the Business Life Cycle

Before a business starts any operations or has a single customer, it will need startup capital. It is at this beginning when angel financing (or “seed investors”) comes in. These initial investments of “seed money” allow entrepreneurs to take their initial idea and turn it into reality. The earliest phase of the business cycle, however, is also the riskiest. There is a high chance that angel financiers will lose their entire investment. But angel financing typically has the highest returns on investment to compensate for this risk.

AdobeStock_377846636-300x225Shareholders have important legal rights under California law. These rights protect a shareholder’s ability to make informed financial decisions about their ownership rights in a company. If you do not understand these legal rights, a company can try to get around them and benefit itself at the expense of its own shareholders. The experienced shareholders’ rights attorneys at Structure Law Group can help you protect your legal rights in order to shield your financial interests. Learn more about your shareholder rights – and the limitations placed on these rights.

Statutes

The California Corporations Code provides shareholders with the specific legal right to inspect corporate documents. The statute allows for the inspection of the accounting books, records, and minutes of proceedings of the shareholders and the board and committees of the board (or a true and accurate copy if the original has been lost, destroyed, or is not normally physically located within the State of California). This inspection can be made with a written demand on the corporation by any shareholder (or holder of a voting trust certificate) at any reasonable time during usual business hours. The statute requires that the demand be made for a purpose reasonably related to the holder’s interests as a shareholder.

AdobeStock_288866301-300x200When real estate is transferred in California, it generally constitutes a change in ownership that triggers a reassessment of the taxable value of that property. There are, however, a few key exclusions that can be used to avoid this trigger and protect your business from added tax liability. If you are considering transferring any property to or from your business, be sure to consult with an attorney about the best way to do this. The investment of attorney’s fees can pay dividends in reduced legal and tax liabilities. Errors, however, can lead to costly reassessments, in addition to tax penalties and interest on the added amount due.

Protecting Property Through the Creation of a Business Entity

There are a few different ways to transfer property to a business entity without triggering a reassessment. One is the legal entity exclusion. This rule allows you to avoid a reassessment if 50 percent or less of the interest in a legal entity is transferred to another legal entity. So if real property is held by a legal entity, up to half of the interest in that legal entity can be transferred without triggering a reassessment. If 51 percent or more of the legal interest is transferred, there will be a reassessment. The strategy is often used by business owners who are creating a new legal entity without changing the ownership of their business.

AdobeStock_343368495-300x200The coronavirus has created many new legal issues with unclear answers. Courts across the country will spend months – and likely years – sorting through a backlog of civil cases involving legal questions about the financial losses created by COVID-19. While it is not possible to predict the outcome in every case, there is some guidance from prior case law that can help business owners effectively plan to mitigate their liability. The experienced business lawyers at Structure Law Group can help develop a mitigation strategy that is tailored to your business. Learn more about the history of breach of contract case law – and how it can help you make informed decisions about your company’s contracts in the era of coronavirus.

Is COVID-19 a Valid Excuse to Breach a Contract?

Case law involving breach of contract goes back hundreds of years. Many different reasons for breach have been explored by the courts, but, of course, they have never before faced COVID-19. This is a new global phenomenon that has created unique challenges for business owners all over the world. To predict how courts will treat breach of contract related to COVID-19, one must examine the reasons they have excused breach in the past – or not excused it, imposing liability on the breaching party.

AdobeStock_271469937-300x200In general, shareholders are protected from liability for the debts of the corporation. This is because the corporation is viewed as a separate legal entity with its own assets and liabilities. This “corporate veil” of protection can, however, be pierced in certain situations, and personal liability imposed on the shareholders. Creditors use this legal tactic strategically to be sure they can access funds for what they are owed. The experienced California business attorneys at the Structure Law Group can help advise creditors on how to effectively pierce the corporate veil in order to satisfy the debts they are owed.

Elements of Alter Ego Liability

In order to pierce the corporate veil, the plaintiff must prove “alter ego liability.” Alter ego literally translates to “other self.” In alter ego liability, the corporation has been treated as an extension of shareholders’ personal interests, so the courts find it fair to hold shareholders liable for the corporation’s debts, as well. Plaintiffs in California must establish: (1) that there is a unity of ownership and interest between the owners (or shareholders) and the corporation, and (2) that it would be unfair to only hold the corporation accountable for its debts in order to establish alter ego liability.

AdobeStock_314925095-300x200The Supreme Court of California recently issued an opinion with significant consequences for any business that enters into contracts. This opinion addresses liability for interfering with an at-will contract, as well as the limits of the few exceptions to the statutory ban on non-compete agreements in our state. It is essential for business owners to understand the implications of this ruling in order to enter into enforceable contracts that will not leave them liable for damages, court costs, and other costly expenses.

The Latest Supreme Court Ruling

On August 3, 2020, the Supreme Court of California issued an opinion that answered critical questions about how California law on tortious interference with business relations applies to an at-will contract. The Court ruled that companies are not liable for encouraging others to end an at-will contract unless there is “independent wrongfulness.” This analysis relied heavily on the uncertain nature of an at-will contract. While parties to a binding contract are negotiating for certainty in their future business relationship, there is no such certainty in an at-will contract. For this reason, legitimate business competition takes precedence over the terminable relationship in such a contract.