Articles Posted in Loan Workouts and Enforcement

Contracts are utilized in every type of business and every business owner should know that written contracts should be carefully drafted, reviewed, and negotiated before signing. However, not every business deal is memorialized in writing and many agreements are based on verbal interactions and a handshake. Just as with written contracts, legal disputes can arise over deals that were verbally made. When a disagreement arises, the first question is naturally: is an oral contract enforceable under the law?

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Whether an oral contract is enforceable depends on several factors. The law requires that certain types of contracts be in writing in order to enforce the terms of the contract. Some contracts that may apply to businesses that must be in writing involve the following:

  • Contracts for the purchase or sale of goods that are worth more than $500;

While many well-known businesses are either corporations or limited liability companies, partnerships remain a common and savvy business entity selection. In fact, some of the biggest names in tech—Apple, Microsoft, and Google—started out as partnerships.

What is a Partnership?

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Partnerships exist whenever there is a cooperative endeavor of two or more people, entities, or some combination thereof, to provide a product or service. The main characteristic of any partnership is that the partners share in the profits and losses of the business.

Many business owners do not hire an experienced attorney for several reasons. Some believe they cannot afford it and others may believe there is no need for a lawyer unless a legal conflict arises. However, it is much more resource-effective (time, energy, and money) to have the guidance of a skilled business lawyer from the very start. Doing so can avoid costly litigation in the first place and will allow you to focus on your business operations and not on a legal case. The following are only some examples of how hiring a business attorney can help to avoid litigation.

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Business contracts – Businesses involve many different kinds of contracts, whether they are with fellow owners, suppliers, clients, or any other party. You may not recognize that a particular contract has unfair or adverse provisions that may leave your business vulnerable to losses or liability. Every single contract you consider signing should be carefully drafted, reviewed, and negotiated by a knowledgeable lawyer to protect your interests and avoid legal liability.

Compliance with business laws – California has a great number of laws that are relevant to businesses, and compliance is essential to avoid costly fines or legal conflicts. Such laws can regulate business formation, licenses, permits, zoning, taxes, employees, and many other issues. As a business owner, it may be challenging for you to identify all relevant laws and to ensure that you comply with them. An experienced attorney will know what steps you need to take to comply with necessary laws.

Too many startups fail to successfully get off the ground because of decisions that result in inadequate financing. As a founder of a startup, you can have a completely viable idea and still fail due to financing mistakes. For this reason, it is important to understand the different types of financing appropriate at different stages of your business. Financing can be complicated and it is always helpful to consult with a skilled business attorney who can evaluate your financing needs and provide valuable advice.

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One type of financing used by startups is called “mezzanine financing.” The name is appropriate because this type of financing is in the middle between equity and traditional bank debt. Your business is less leveraged because there is no hard collateral to mezzanine investors, though many charge more interest than a bank loan. On the other hand, you will give up less control of your company than you will if you pursue additional equity funding.

When is mezzanine financing appropriate?

Contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers have many tools at their disposal to protect their rights under construction contracts. While the mechanic’s lien is one of the most common ways a contractor or supplier can ensure full payment for their services, this type of legal tool can only be used for private construction projects against the private property owners. For this reason, many people who enter into government contracts may wonder what their options may be under the law to make sure they are properly compensated for their work. One of the most important tools under such circumstances is the payment bond.

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What is a payment bond?

Payment bonds are common in many large-scale private construction projects and are further required in by California law for the following:

Enforceable contracts that accurately describe an agreement between the parties are essential to any business, regardless of industry. Contracts arise in many relationships, including with partners, businesses, suppliers, employees, and client or customers, and a company of even moderate size could easily have thousands of contracts with various parties. For this reason, implementing a system to manage contracts and ensure compliance can significantly improve efficiency, improve compliance, and reduce the risk of incurring legal liability that can arise from contract disputes. In addition, an effective contract management system can help automate certain tasks, significantly reducing the risk of human error resulting in a costly dispute. Below are 4 ways in which implementing a contract management system can help businesses in every aspect of the contract lifecycle management process.

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  • Keep all contracts in a central repository – This benefit may seem simple, but consider the inefficiency involved in an employee searching through files upon files for a contract that may have been executed years ago. An effective contract management system can keep a copy of the contract itself while also summarizing key facts regarding the agreement in a way in which they are easily accessible to those searching.
  • Create a database of standard agreement and pre-approved substitutions – There is no need to reinvent the wheel every time your company enters into a new agreement. Creating a standardized contract for use in recurring situations as well as standard substitutions that are pre-approved for use can significantly improve efficiency in contract drafting and execution.

Too often, a contractor, subcontractor, laborer, or material supplier on a construction job does not receive the compensation they deserve for the work they have performed or supplies they provided for the project. Fortunately, California law provides a method by which contractors and others can pursue adequate payment. If the job is a private construction project, a primary tool for receiving payment is the mechanics lien. The following are some brief explanations for frequently asked questions amount mechanics liens in California.

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What exactly is a mechanics lien?

A mechanics lien is a tool that creates a security interest in the property on which you worked. After a certain amount of time and if payment is not received from the property owner, you can then sue to foreclose on the lien to satisfy the lien amount.

At a recent conference with San Jose and Silicon Valley real estate owners and lenders, Attorneys Jack Easterbrook and Tamara Pow presented their “Top 10 List” of issues that commonly arise in commercial real estate loan transactions. Having been involved in countless real estate and commercial loan transactions, Tamara and Jack developed the list to share with the participants key points to be attentive to when entering into a real estate transaction. The Top 10 List assumed that the basic business terms of the transaction had been decided, so the focus was on items that can arise in the documentation phase and create issues or obstacles in getting a deal to closing.

A previous blog presented three items from this Top 10 List, including: (1) inconsistency between a borrower’s state of registration and a lender’s requirement; (2) the special purpose entity and the independent direct/manager requirements of the lender; and (3) the personal guaranty. Here are three more items to keep in mind when negotiating a commercial real estate loan:

No. 4: Treatment of Other Creditors, Including Any Mezzanine Lender.

Attorneys Tamara Pow and Jack Easterbrook recently participated in a panel discussion of San Jose and Silicon Valley commercial real estate owners, lenders, borrowers and other professionals about issues arising in recent commercial real estate transactions. Jack and Tamara, at the conference, presented a “Top 10 List” of things to be alert to in real estate loan documents. It was assumed that the basic business terms of the purchase and sale agreement and loan transaction had been negotiated and agreed upon. The question posed was, “So what pitfalls can occur after that, and what issues do you want to be alert to as the deal gets documented – particularly in connection with the debt financing?” The point being emphasized was that a transaction can move to a closing with a minimum of angst if the parties identify early on those issues that will be important deal points, but may not be covered in detail in the financing terms outlined in a term sheet or commitment letter.

This blog addresses three of the “Top 10” points raised in the presentation. Subsequent blogs will address remaining items discussed at the conference. No one point is necessarily more important than the others, as the relative importance of a particular item will vary transaction to transaction. However, the attorneys at Structure Law Group see these factors repeatedly arising in real estate loan transactions.

No. 1: Inconsistency Between Borrower’s State of Registration and Lender’s Requirement.

The personal guarantee has long been used to bolster the quality of a commercial loan, real estate loan or business loan. Often the personal guarantee is a full guarantee, extending to all obligations of the borrower and giving a lender potential recourse to all property of the guarantor in an enforcement action. Sometimes, however, the lender and guarantor agree that the guaranty will be more limited. A recent case out of the Bay Area, Series AGI West Linn of Appian Group Investors DE LLC v. Eves, 217 Cal. App.4th 156 (2013), dealt with such a limited guarantee , which carved-out the guarantor’s home and exempted it from the lender’s reach under the guarantee. The personal guarantee was very broad, but for the specific exclusion for the house. After the guarantee was signed, but before the loan soured and the lender demanded payment, the guarantor sold the exempted house for cash and put the proceeds of the sale in segregated accounts. Once defaults occurred under the loan, the question at issue was whether the carve-out under the guarantee exempted only the asset named, a house in Como, Italy (but for our purposes it could have been a home in San Jose or Palo Alto as well!) or extended to the proceeds from the cash sale of the house.

In the AGI West Linn case, the lender sued the guarantor and also asked the court to enter a right to attach order and writ of attachment to lock up the cash from the sale of the house. The guarantor opposed this, arguing that the money was simply proceeds of the excluded residence and, as the house itself was excluded from lender’s recourse, the direct proceeds of the sale of the house should be excluded as well. The lender countered that the guarantee did not say anything about “proceeds” being excluded, only the house.

The court held for the lender, taking a strict reading of the guarantee.