Articles Tagged with Contracts

Corporate merger and acquisitions are highly technical transactions with a lot at stake for all parties involved. It can take thousands of hours of dedicated work to finalize this type of deal and the last thing you want is to commit time, energy, and money to the process only to have one party back out at the last minute. For this reason, the early stages of any merger and acquisition should involve a carefully drafted and negotiated letter of intent (LOI) that is signed by all parties.

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What is a Letter of Intent?

Before you begin the merger and acquisition process, both parties should be on the same page regarding the basic terms of the transaction. These terms are set out in a letter of intent that the parties can review and negotiate to ensure they are in general agreement regarding the basic terms of the final agreement before they commit resources to the transaction. Though you want the terms of a letter of intent to be attractive to the other party, you should also always be realistic.  Disputes can arise later in the M&A process that can halt the process and you could even be accused of acting in bad faith.

Every time a contract is signed, the potential exists that one party fails to perform the obligations specified under the contract. In such cases, the aggrieved party may elect to file a lawsuit to try to seek performance under the contract or, more typically, for losses incurred as a result of the other party’s non-performance. However, in some cases, there may be a defense to the enforcement of the contract.  One such defense is undue influence.

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Undue influence is the unfair or improper persuasion of one person by another or excessive persuasion that causes another person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming that person’s free will resulting in inequity. A party’s apparent consent to a contract (or transaction) is not free or real when it is obtained through undue influence. In other words, a contract obtained though undue influence is voidable.  Consent is deemed to have been obtained through undue influence when the purported consent would have been refused if the acts constituting undue influence had not existed.

In California, there are four circumstances, prescribed by the civil code, in which undue influence occurs:

Many partnerships begin among friends or individuals with similar interests who have a business idea together. However, having a good business idea and being able to cooperate to actually run a successful partnership are two very different things. In many cases, you may realize that your partner is not pulling his or her own weight or is even bringing the business down through his or her actions, or lack thereof. In such situations, you may naturally wonder what you have to do to remove that partner from the partnership and continue running the company without them.

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Unfortunately, simply removing a partner and continuing with business as usual is often much harder than it seems. Your options should be closely evaluated depending on your specific circumstances.  Having the assistance from a San Jose partnership attorney will help your business establish a binding partnership agreement that will allow the business to run smoothly and efficiently even if a situation arises between partners.

Do You have a Partnership Agreement?

The Terms of Use for a website is critical to maintaining control of how users access and use the information on the website, and in limiting liability for unapproved uses. Regardless of whether users actually read the Terms of Use – many don’t because it typically contains complex legal jargon – the Terms of Use binds users to its terms by virtue of their use of the website. The Terms of Use constitutes a contract between the business and the customer. That legal jargon protects from liability from users and allows control over the information contained on the website.

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Businesses with an online presence — whether it be social media, e-commerce, mobile, static or interactive site — should always craft a carefully written Terms of Use. These terms are written to include a variety of different subjects relating to the business, the customer, information that is exchanged, information received and how that same information may be used.

Avoid Using Boilerplate or “One Size Fits All”

When the shareholder of a corporation files bankruptcy, the shareholder’s stock becomes part of the debtor’s bankruptcy estate and will generally be subject to liquidation by the bankruptcy trustee for the benefit of the debtor’s creditors.

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However, when a limited partner in a limited partnership (LP) or a member of a limited liability company (LLC) files bankruptcy, the debtor’s ownership interest may well be treated differently because interests in LPs and LLCs are typically considered and treated as more contractual in nature.

Membership Interests in LLCs

If your company sells products or services online, the purchase process almost certainly includes a click through agreement, also known as “clickwrap,” “web-wrap,” or “click and accept” agreements. This refers to the button the consumer must click to indicate they accept all of the terms of the sale. If they choose not to accept, the sale will not go through. This agreement often includes intellectual property protections for the company, license restrictions, liability limitations, disclaimers involving warranties, among other standard contract terms.

The large majority of online consumers often click through without carefully reading the terms of the agreement. If a consumer later contests a term in the click through agreement, will a court uphold and enforce the terms of the initial agreement? This is important to know, as an unenforceable agreement can result in liability and losses. Consulting with an e-commerce attorney is the best way to guarantee a legally binding contract.

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Court Ruling on “Shrinkwrap Agreements”

In the early stages of a merger and acquisition (M&A) transaction, owners may be willing to overlook certain differences in favor of focusing on the benefits of the deal. However, as the M&A transaction is completed, the rose-colored glasses may come off and sudden concerns may develop into serious legal disputes between owners. If these disputes are not handled correctly, it can result in long-term consequences, both financially and regarding the relations of the parties. The following are some information regarding common post-closing M&A disputes.

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Deferred Payment of Purchase Price

Many M&A agreements are structured such that part of the purchase price is paid at closing and the rest is paid at some point in future.  This is done with “earn-out” clauses and purchase price adjustment clauses, among others.  An earn-out clause is where the amount of future money paid depends on selling company’s performance after the acquisition, i.e. the money has to be earned after the closing before it is paid out.  These types of clauses are sometimes interpreted differently by buyers and sellers after the closing.  For example, if the selling company’s product is upgraded after the closing, the buyer and seller may view the revenues from those sales differently under an earn-out clause.  As another example, if the buyer and seller have different accounting practices that could certainly affect their interpretation of purchase price adjustment clauses.  Resolving these disputes can involve complex accounting and negotiations by both parties.

Businesses are moving away from the traditional storefront and are instead setting up shop online. Both the internet and apps connect individuals across the globe, providing businesses with greater and more innovative ways to reach new customers. For example, on Black Friday 2016, the busiest shopping day of the year for most retailers, online sales rose 21% year-over-year for a total of $3.34 billion. A full one-third of that figure was just from mobile sales.  On Cyber Monday 2016, the largest online shopping day, online sales rose over $3 billion with 26% of sales just from mobile devices.

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As a greater number of businesses devote their focus to the development of an online presence and using e-commerce to conduct their business, businesses must pay more attention to properly establishing and operating their online business.

Starting Your Business

What happens to an LLC member’s membership interest in the LLC if the member files bankruptcy? How does the member’s (the debtor) bankruptcy filing impact the LLC and its other members? Does the bankruptcy trustee (or the debtor in possession in a chapter 11) step into the debtor’s shoes contrary to an express provision in the LLC’s operating agreement restricting transfers by members and prohibiting a transferee or assignee of a member from becoming an LLC member without the other members’ consent? Is the bankruptcy trustee bound by the terms of the LLC’s operating agreement, or does the trustee acquire the debtor’s membership interest free and clear of any transfer or other restrictions imposed by the LLC’s operating agreement? To answer these questions, the Bankruptcy Court in the debtor’s bankruptcy must first determine whether the LLC’s operating agreement is an “executory” contract under Section 365 of the Bankruptcy Code.

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What is an Executory Contract?


The Bankruptcy Code does not define “executory contract.” However, many circuits, including the Ninth, have adopted the “Countryman Test,” which provides that a contract is executory if ‘the obligations of both parties are so far unperformed that the failure of either party to complete performance would constitute a material breach and thus excuse the performance of the other.’ Determining whether a contract, including an operating agreement, is executory therefore requires a case-specific examination of the contract in question.

Going to court is expensive and can take your focus away from running your business for a significant period of time. In order to avoid the added cost and stress of litigation whenever possible, include these steps in your business practices.

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Every business relationship should be memorialized in a written contract. This includes between owners, with clients and customers, with employees, with vendors, and more. Having a contract that is properly drafted to best govern the specific relationship and responsibilities at hand can help avoid disagreements down the road. Each party will know his or her obligations and expectations because it is in writing and the contract can help dictate how disputes will be resolved out of court.