Franchise Law

N.R.S. CHAPTER 33 – INJUNCTIONS

GENERAL PROVISIONS

NRS 33.010             Cases in which injunction may be granted.

NRS 33.015             Injunction to restrain unlawful act against witness or victim of crime.

Nevada’s Rules Governins Alternative Dispute Resolution defines a Settlement Conference as:

“Settlement conference” is a process whereby, with the approval of the district judge to whom the case is assigned, a district court judge not assigned to the particular case, senior judge, special master, referee or other neutral third person, conducts, in the presence of the parties and their attorneys and person or persons with authority to resolve the matter, a conference for the purpose of facilitating settlement of the case.

 

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Nevada’s Rules Governing Alternative Dispute Resolution defines Mediation as:

“Mediation” means a process whereby a neutral third person, called a mediator, acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two or more parties. It is an informal and nonadversarial process with the objective of helping the disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable and voluntary agreement. In mediation, decision-making authority rests with the parties. The role of the mediator includes, but is not limited to, assisting the parties in identifying issues, fostering joint problem solving, and exploring settlement alternatives.

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RULES GOVERNING ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION

(Arbitration and Mediation)

A. GENERAL PROVISIONS

Rule 1.  Definitions.  As used in these rules:

(A)  “Arbitration” means a process whereby a neutral third person, called an arbitrator, considers the facts and arguments presented by the parties and renders a decision, which may be binding or nonbinding as provided in these rules.

(B)  “Mediation” means a process whereby a neutral third person, called a mediator, acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two or more parties. It is an informal and nonadversarial process with the objective of helping the disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable and voluntary agreement. In mediation, decision-making authority rests with the parties. The role of the mediator includes, but is not limited to, assisting the parties in identifying issues, fostering joint problem solving, and exploring settlement alternatives.

(C)  “Settlement conference” is a process whereby, with the approval of the district judge to whom the case is assigned, a district court judge not assigned to the particular case, senior judge, special master, referee or other neutral third person, conducts, in the presence of the parties and their attorneys and person or persons with authority to resolve the matter, a conference for the purpose of facilitating settlement of the case.

[Added; effective March 1, 2005.]

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Jay Young, Nevada Business Attorney and Arbitrator

Jay Young is a Las Vegas, Nevada Arbitrator, Mediator, and Supreme Court Settlement Judge

For downloadable pdf of this article, click here.

Many of the complaints that I hear from litigators about arbitration could be resolved if the arbitration clause which forced the parties into litigation were written better.  Arbitrations are, of course, a creature of contract.[1]  Therefore, the parties’ arbitration agreement[2] is often the beginning and end of the arbitrator’s authority.[3]  The arbitrator is bound to give effect to the contractual rights and expectations of the parties “in accordance with the terms of the agreement.”[4]  In fact, although the Federal Arbitration Act presumes that arbitration awards will be confirmed except upon a few narrow circumstances,[5] the arbitrator who acts beyond the scope of the authority found in the parties’ arbitration clause risks having the award vacated.[6]  So, if you want the arbitrator to behave differently, write a better arbitration agreement.  (more…)

VIOLATION OF THE UNIFORM TRADE SECRETS ACT NRS CHAPTER 600A

In Nevada, the elements for a claim of misappropriation of trade secrets or violation of the uniform trade secrets act (known as the Nevada Trade Secrets Act or “NUTSA”) are:

  1. Plaintiff possesses a viable trade secret as part of its business, including but not limited to market research, customer lists, customer and product pricing information, formulas, patterns, compilations, programs, devices, methods, techniques, products, systems, processes, designs, prototypes, procedures and computer programming instructions which are extremely confidential and derive independent economic value from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by the public or any other persons who can obtain commercial or economic value from their disclosure or use;
  2. Plaintiff took adequate measures and maintained the foregoing information and technology as trade secrets, which secrecy was guarded and not readily available to others;
  3. Defendant intentionally, and with reason to believe that its actions would cause injury to plaintiff, misappropriated and exploited the trade secret information through use, disclosure, or non-disclosure of the use of the trade secret for defendant’s own use and personal gain;
  4. The misappropriation is wrongful because it was made in breach of an expressed or implied contract, or by one with a duty not to disclose the trade secret;
  5. Defendant misappropriated the trade secret information with willful, wanton, or reckless disregard of plaintiff’s rights;
  6. Causation and damages; and
  7. Punitive damages.

NRS Chapter 600A; Kaldi v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, 117 Nev. 273, 283-84, 21 P.3d 16, 23 (2001); Frantz v. Johnson, 116 Nev. 455, 466, 999 P.2d 351, 358 (2000) (a customer list can be a trade secret when extremely confidential and where the list was secret and guarded, where the list was missing after an employee had access to the list which went missing after the employee left his employment, then provided customers with “more competitive pricing”); Whitehead v. Nev. Com’n on Judicial Discipline, 110 Nev. 874, 904 n. 6, 878 P.2d 913, 932 (1994); 12 AMJUR POF 3d 711.

To prevail on a claim for a violation of Nevada’s Uniform Trade Secret Act, NRS 600A.010 et. seq., plaintiff must show that the defendant wrongfully used or disclosed a valuable trade secret.  NRS 600A.030(2); Caesars World, Inc. v. Milanian, 247 F. Supp. 2d 1171, 1203 (D. Nev. 2003); Frantz v. Johnson, 116 Nev. 455, 466, 999 P.2d 351, 358 (2000)(in determining whether information is entitled to trade secret protection, courts will consider “the extent and manner in which the employer guarded the secrecy of the information.”). An employer is the presumptively the sole owner of any patentable invention or trade secret information developed by the employee in his employment.  NRS 600A.500.  An employee’s use or disclosure of the same is wrongful when done in violation of a legal or contractual duty to refrain from such use of disclosure.  Caesars World, Inc. v. Milanian, 247 F. Supp. 2d 1171, 1203 (D. Nev. 2003).  That includes acting as a fiduciary, who owes a fiduciary duty and a duty of loyalty to the company and its owners.  Leavitt v. Leisure Sports, Inc., 103 Nev. 81, 86, 735 P.2d 1221, 1224 (1987).

Courts favorably view non-disclosure and invention assignments because, unlike covenants not to work for a competing business, these covenants do not restrict an employee’s ability to provide for themselves and their families.  See Revere Transducers, Inc. v. Deere & Co., 595 N.W.2d 751, 761 (Iowa 1999) (“Nondisclosure-confidentiality agreements enjoy more favorable treatment in the law than do noncompete agreements” because “noncompete agreements are viewed as restraints of trade which limit an employee’s freedom of movement among employment opportunities.”).  The Revere court announced its standard for whether a nondisclosure-confidential or invention assignment agreement is enforceable as: (1) the restricting prohibiting disclosure is reasonably necessary for the protection of the employer’s business; (2) the restriction doesn’t unreasonably restrict the employee’s rights; and (3) the restriction is not prejudicial to the public interest?  Id.

Irreparable harm is presumed in situations where a confidentiality agreement or restrictive covenant has been breached or trade secrets have been misappropriated.  EchoMail, Inc. v. American Exr. Co., 378 F. Supp. 2d 1, 4 (D. Mass. 2005); Storage Tech. Corp. v. Custom Hardware Eng’g & Consulting, Inc.,  2004 WL 1497688 (D. Mass. 2004); FMC Corp v. Taiwan Tainan Giant Indus. Co., Ltd., 730 F.2d 61, 63 (2nd Cir. 1984) (trade secrets, once lost, is lost forever; its loss cannot be measured in money damages); Ivy Mar Co. v. C.R. Seasons, Ltd., 907 F. Supp. 547, 566 (E.D. N.Y. 1995); Computer Assoc., Inc. v. Bryan, 784 F. Supp. 982, 986 (E.D. N.Y. 1992); Refractory Technology, Inc. v. Koski, 1990 WL 119560, at *3 (N.D. Ill., Aug. 13, 1990) (loss of trade secret would cause plaintiff immediate, irreparable harm); ISC-Bunker Ramo Corp. V. Altech, Inc., 765 F. Supp. 1310, 1338 (N.D. Ill. 1990) (“it is often difficult to …. Determine the monetary damages suffered thereby”); CPG Prod. Corp. v. Mergo Corp., 214 U.S.P.Q. 206, 2145 (S.D. Ohio 1981) (the threat of disclosure, destruction, or dilution of trade secret constitutes irreparable injury justifying injunctive relief); Donald McElroy, Inc. v. Delany, 72 Ill. App. 3d 285, 294-95, 389 N.E.2d 1300, 1308 (1st Dist. 1979)(“Once a protectable interest has been established, injury to plaintiff will presumably follow if that interest is not protected:; threat of irreparable harm sufficient where former employee violated the terms of a non-disclosure agreement and was about to use confidential information against the plaintiff, irreparable injury was shown and preliminary injunction was properly granted).  Loss of goodwill, destruction of trade secrets, loss of client confidentiality and competitive disadvantage constitute irreparable harm for which no adequate remedy at law exists.  IDS Life Ins. O. v. SunAmerica, 136 F.3d 537, 543 (7th Cir. 1998) (irreparable injury presumed for loss of customer goodwill, future business, customer relationships, business reputation and trade secrets).  The law requires that such agreements be “supported by valuable consideration and . . . otherwise reasonable in its scope and duration.” NRS 613.200(4); see generally Camco, Inc. v. Baker, 113 Nev. 512, 936 P.2d 829, 832 (1997) (“[A]n at-will employee’s continued employment is sufficient consideration for enforcing a non-competition agreement.”).

Even without a non-disclosure agreement, confidential information obtained by an employee during employment by reason of his or her position cannot be used or disclosed to the detriment of the employer.  “An employee is obligated not to reveal employer’s confidential information during employment and after termination of employment.”  27 Am. Jur. 2d Employment Relationship § 224.  Nevada codified the Uniform Trade Secret Act (“UTSA” or “NUTSA”) at NRS 600A et. seq.  There is a split of authority whether any confidential information is protected if it is not covered by NUTSA.  These materials will treat all protected confidential commercial information as being contained in NUTSA and all others to be unprotected information.

At termination of employment, an employee who misuses confidential information (customer lists, formulas, etc.), is precluded from using the information and is required to return the materials to the employer.  27 Am. Jur. 2d Employment Relationship § 226 (citing NCH Corp. v. Broyles, 749 F.2d 247 (5th Cir. 1985); Advanced Magnification Instruments, Ltd. v. Minutemen Optical Corp., 522 N.Y.S.2d 287, 135 A.D.2d 889 (3d Dept. 1987); Gonzales v. Zamora, 791 S.W.2d 258 (Tex. App. Corpus Christi 1990)).   An employer, therefore, at common law, has some protection against disclosure of confidential information even without a valid non-disclosure agreement.  “However, an employee can use to his or her own advantage all the skills and knowledge commonly used in the trade that the employee acquired during the employee’s tenure of employment.” Id. (citing Serv. Ctr. of Chicago, Inc. v. Minogue, 180 Ill.App.3d 447, 535 N.E.2d 1132 (1989)).

Trade Secret is Defined by Statute

NUTSA defines exactly what is considered as protected confidential information in NRS 600A.030, which defines it as:

  1.  “Trade secret” means information, including, without limitation, a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, product, system, process, design, prototype, procedure, computer programming instruction or code that:

(a)  Derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by the public or any other persons who can obtain commercial or economic value from its disclosure or use; and

(b)  Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.

See elements for other claims at the Nevada Law Library

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What Type of Entity Should You Form?

Some of the most frequent questions that we receive from clients revolve around entity selection for conducting different types of businesses.  One aspect involves governance and authority.  The issue of governance and authority is important because it determines who has the legal authority to bind the company to contracts and to act on behalf of the company.

The three most popular types of entities are corporations, limited liability companies, and limited partnerships. There are others, however, that might be better suited to your needs. (more…)

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Litigators are fairly well known to be the scourge of the civilized world. After all, they are responsible for the number of lawsuits as well as the enormous costs associated with them, right? The truth is that I know litigators like that, but the majority of business attorneys I know do their best to keep their business clients from getting into legal battles. Saving the client from their own mistakes is sometimes difficult. It is made exponentially more difficult when the business owner decides it is cheaper to form the business using one of the various online services or legal software. They might as well be stamped with a warning that in case of a dispute, they almost guarantee full employment for litigators. (more…)

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When buying a business, the buyer should ensure that all assets must be free and clear of liens.  As a reminder, when purchasing a business, you can purchase either the ownership (the stock or the membership interest, for example) or the assets.  Either or both can be subject to liens.  Therefore, it is imperative that a lien search be conducted. (more…)

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What is Disability Insurance?

Disability insurance attempts to insure you against any injury, sickness or illness which would prevent you from earning an income. It is designed to replace up to 66% of your gross income on a tax-free basis should you become disabled. It covers both long term and short term disabilities. Don’t think you need disability insurance?

Consider these sobering statistics:

  • Just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before they retire. Source: Social Security Administration, Fact Sheet March 18, 2011;
  • Over 36 million Americans are classified as disabled; about 12% of the total population. More than 50% of disabled Americans are in their working years, from 18-64. Source: U.S. Census Bureau;
  • 8.3 million Disabled wage earners, over 5% of U.S. workers, were receiving Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits at the conclusion of March 2011. Source: Social Security Administration, Disabled Worker Beneficiary Statistics, www.ssa.gov; and
  • In December 2010, there were over 2.5 million disabled workers in their 20s, 30s, and 40s receiving SSDI benefits. Source: Social Security Administration, Disabled Worker Beneficiary Statistics,www.ssa.gov . Please consider whether you need disability insurance on yourself or a loved one today.

Smart business owners will partially fund their buy/sell agreements through disability insurance and will carry disability insurance on key employees to benefit the business. Even if you have a policy through your employer, you should consider an additional policy so that your family does not have to worry about income if you become disabled for even a short period of time.

 

How healthy is your business? Are you SURE? Take a free Legal Checkup today at www.alegalcheckup.com 

So, you are thinking of buying a business?  What types of documentation or information should you be seeking from the seller before you agree on a price, sign documents, or pay any money?  This list will get you started:

  • Seller entity information
  • Documents necessary to discover the seller’s full financial Information
  • Physical Assets of the seller
  • Real Estate (owned and leased)
  • Intellectual Property owned by the seller or to which the seller has rights
  • Employee contracts and employee benefits owed
  • Licenses and permits held by the seller
  • Environmental due diligence
  • Taxes (including verification) owed
  • Material contracts with the seller’s customers and suppliers
  • Customer information
  • Currently pending or threatened litigation
  • Insurance coverage

In Nevada, the elements for a claim of intentional interference with prospective economic advantage (sometimes called intentional interference with prospective economic interest or prospective contractual relationship) are:

  1. A prospective contractual relationship between plaintiff and a third party;
  2. Defendant has knowledge of the prospective relationship;
  3. The intent to harm plaintiff by preventing the relationship;
  4. The absence of privilege or justification by the defendants;
  5. Actual harm to plaintiff as a result of defendant’s conduct; and
  6. Causation and damages.

Custom Tel., Inc. v. Int’l Tele-Services, Inc., 254 F. Supp. 2d 1173, 1180-81 (Nev. 2003); Wichinsky v. Mosa, 109 Nev. 84, 88, 847 P.2d 727 (1993); Leavitt v. Leisure Sports, Inc., 103 Nev. 81, 88, 734 P.2d 1221, 1225 (1987).  Intention to interfere is the sine qua non of this tort.  M&R Inv. Co. v. Goldsberry, 101 Nev. 620, 707 P.2d 1143, 1144 (1985); Local Joint Exec. Bd. Of Las Vegas v. Stern, 98 Nev. 409, 651 P.2d 637, 638 (1982).

 

See elements for other claims at the Nevada Law Library

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With challenges to the economy, companies are looking for every way possible to save money. A potential risk for employers is to mischaracterize an employee as an independent contractor, which may save payroll taxes in the short term but may lead to penalties on such taxes as well as other inadvertent violations of worker’s compensation laws, FMLA, etc, which each hold separate penalties for violation.

There are also state law implications, which vary by state so you may want to consult an attorney in your particular state as to that state’s definitions. Focusing purely on federal issues, the IRS previously had a 20-part test to evaluate whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor.

However, the new and improved IRS test focuses on three areas: (1) behavioral control, (2) financial control, and (3) the type of relationship.

1.  Behavior control addresses the amount of instruction given to a worker, such as work hours, specific job duties, and training.

2.  Financial control addresses the extent to which a worker can realize a profit or loss or seek reimbursement of business expenses.

3.  The third type of control is the type of relationship. Factors include the presence or absence of a written agreement and the permanency of the relationship.

Call today to speak with someone in our employment law department representing businesses and business owners and can answer specific questions in more detail concerning your business. They can also document employment agreements or properly document independent contractor agreements should the workers qualify as independent contractors.

 

How healthy is your business? Are you SURE? Take a free Legal Checkup today at www.alegalcheckup.com

 

In Nevada, the elements for a claim of constructive discharge (also known sometimes as tortious discharge) are:

  1. The employee’s resignation was induced by actions and working conditions by the employer which are so intolerable as to amount to firing despite a lack of termination. The actions of the employer violate public policy;
  2. Objectively difficult or unpleasant working conditions to the extent that a reasonable employee would feel compelled to resign;
  3. The employer had actual or constructive knowledge of the intolerable actions and their impact on the employee;
  4. The situation could have been remedied; and
  5. Causation and damages.

Dillard Dept. Stores, Inc. v. Beckwith, 115 Nev. 372, 376, 989 P.2d 882 (1999); Martin v. Sears Roebuck & Co., 111 Nev. 923, 899 P.2d 551 (1995).

 

See elements for other claims at the Nevada Law Library

By Guest Blogger Matthew Kreutzer

Last night I reviewed a franchise agreement and found a surprising, and illegal, provision buried deep in the contract. If ever there was a compelling case for being careful when you are choosing legal counsel, I just found the provision that makes it.

But first, some background. My law practice involves representing both franchisors and prospective franchisees. For franchisors, I primarily draft franchise disclosure documents (“FDDs”) and franchise agreements; I assist my clients in obtaining franchise state registrations; and I assist them with day-to-day issues that arise in running their businesses. For prospective franchisees, I will review their proposed franchise agreements and FDDs and help them understand what they will be committing to do if they decide to buy the franchise. If the franchise company is willing to negotiate, I help prospective franchisees through that process.

I find that reviewing other companies’ FDDs and franchise agreements also helps me in my practice for franchisors; it’s always instructive to see what other industry leaders are doing. I have noticed that, in a small minority of systems, some franchisors go well beyond what is legally permitted to be included in the franchise agreement and include provisions that unquestionably violate the FTC Franchise Rule (the “Franchise Rule”) as well as various state franchise laws.

The Provision

If you’re on either side of the franchise relationship, you should know if your contract has a provision like this one. Pull out your franchise agreement now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

You have it now? Good. Here’s the provision we’re looking for:

Release of Prior Claims. By executing this Franchise Agreement, Franchisee, and each successor of Franchisee under this Franchise Agreement forever releases and discharges Franchisor and its Affiliates, Its designees, franchise sales brokers, if any, or other agents, and their respective officers, directors. representatives, employees and agents, from any and all claims of any kind, in law or In equity, which may exist as of the date of this Franchise Agreement relating to, in connection with, or arising under this Franchise Agreement or any other agreement between the parties, or relating In any other way to the conduct of Franchisor, its Affiliates, its designees, franchise sales brokers, if any, or other agents, and their respective officers, directors, representatives, employees and agents prior to the date of this Franchise Agreement, including any and all claims, whether presently known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, arising under the franchise, business opportunity, securities, antitrust or other laws of the United States, any stale or locality.

In plain English: “you, the franchisee acknowledge that we, the franchisor, may have lied to you and might be lying to you right now. Our entire FDD might be one of the greatest works of fiction since Moby Dick. You agree, however, that you waive all your legal rights to take action against us based on those lies, even if you have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars of your hard-earned money in this phony business.” Wow.

Do you have that one in your franchise agreement? You might have to do a bit of hunting for it. You would think something like that would be on the first page, bolded, in caps, with a box around it and perhaps accompanied by a self-lighting sparkler that draws your attention directly to the provision when you open the contract. But no, in the case of the contract in which I found this provision, it was buried on page 36 of a 39-page franchise agreement, with no particular emphasis placed upon it.

I will never include a provision like this in a franchise agreement I draft, nor will I ever recommend that a prospective franchise buyer sign a contract when it includes this provision. Why? It’s not only unfair, but it’s also illegal under the Franchise Rule and under various state franchise laws.

The Problem with Having the Provision

Now, I highly doubt that in most situations, the franchisor even knows this provision is in its franchise agreement. Most start-up franchise companies trust their franchise counsel to draft the agreement and don’t necessarily carefully consider each provision in the contract. This sort of provision is typically created by counsel, who is seeking to protect his or her client. An admirable goal, to be sure.

The problem is that this provision is impossible to justify to a prospective franchisee that notices it and understands its implications. If you’re a franchisor, imagine trying to explain that to a potential buyer: “we’re not lying to you.  But you have to agree as a condition of buying this franchise that we might be and that you won’t ever do anything about it if we are.”

A franchisor may be able to slip this one by a franchisee unnoticed, but a franchisee that notices and understands this provision is always going to have a problem with it. A franchisee that has experienced franchise legal counsel review the agreement for them will certainly flag the term and warn the franchisee against agreeing to it. That could cost you a sale.

To make matters worse for the franchisor, the types of franchisees that actually read the agreement before signing it and have legal counsel review it for them are exactly the type of franchisees the franchisor wants: franchisees that take their commitments seriously and are willing to put their time, effort, and money into understanding commitments before they make them.

Now, I have my doubts that this type of provision will be enforceable in any event because, as I said, including a provision like this one is an explicit violation of the Franchise Rule, which “prohibits franchise sellers from disclaiming or requiring a prospective franchisee to waive reliance on any representation made in the disclosure document or in its exhibits or amendments.” This provision does exactly that – and, as a result, the franchisor that included it in its agreement is in violation of the Franchise Rule (and various state laws) just for having the term in the contract.

Violating the Franchise Rule and state franchise laws leaves the franchisor exposed to lawsuits by franchisees that may have a state law “unfair trade practices” cause of action against the franchisor because of it. When those legal claims exist, a franchisor could face claims for damages or rescission. Moreover, state franchise administrators could refuse to register the franchise offering with a provision like this one (if they notice it) or worse, later take administrative action against the franchisor based on its violation of franchise law.

The better practice for franchisors that want to protect themselves, but do so within the bounds of the law, is to use exculpatory provisions and “compliance questionnaires” as part of the agreement signing process. A well-drafted exculpatory provision will provide a measure of protection to franchisors for unauthorized statements made by a renegade sales person, but will not seek to disclaim statements made by the franchisor in its FDD (and therefore is permissible under the Franchise Rule and many state laws).

The Lesson for Franchisors and Franchisees

If you are a franchisor, inclusion of a provision like this in your franchise agreement should make you question your legal counsel. Ask yourself: are you willing to risk losing a potential sale to a qualified, savvy, and ideal franchisee because you have a provision in your franchise agreement that probably isn’t enforceable anyway? Are franchisees that sign your contract without even reading or understanding it really the type of franchisees you want? And is “sneaking something past” your unwitting franchisees who don’t review every term of your contract really the way you want to do business? As I explain above, there are better (and legally-enforceable) ways to protect yourself in your franchise agreement, anyway.

If you are a prospective franchise buyer, this situation highlights the importance of: (1) reading your franchise agreement, cover-to-cover; and (2) hiring legal counsel experienced in franchise law to review your contract before you sign it. Contrary to the opinion of some, franchise agreements aren’t all boilerplate, and not all franchise contracts are created equally. Don’t assume that your franchise agreement doesn’t contain something objectionable just because other franchisees signed it.

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While you may be tempted to cash any check received these days, with a memo noted “paid in full”, the cashing of that check may modify your earlier agreement and extinguish your contract.

For example, say you had an agreement to provide goods or services for $5,000.  You invoice the client.  The client sends you a check for $3,500 with a note marked “paid in full”.  If you cash the check, you may be held to effectively amend the agreement to accept the contract price of $3,500.

So, you ask, what are you to do when you get a check for less than the full amount?  Under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), you are not required to return the check; therefore, you could simply destroy the check.  As a business point, and this is not in the UCC, you can negotiate a payment plan or other settlement. (more…)

 

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Many homeowners or car owners are shocked, after an accident, to find that their insurance does not pay for all of their losses (or those of someone they injured), or in some cases, even most of their losses.

How Much is Enough?

Whether you have the right amount and type of coverage may well depend on the amount of assets you have to protect. If you make $30,000 a year and rent an apartment, $100,000/ $300,000 coverage may suffice. If, on the other hand, you earn a six figure annual salary, have a business, or significant assets, carrying that little amount of coverage would be foolish. (more…)

Officers and directors have a fiduciary duty to protect the interests of the corporation and act in the best interests of its shareholders.  Guth v. Loft. fuc., 5 A.2d 503, 510 (Del. 1939).  Where a director is charged with breach of his or her fiduciary obligations, the ‘business judgment’ rule is utilized.  Horowitz v. Southwest Forest Indus., 604 F. Supp. 1130, 1134 (D. Nev. 1985)  The business judgment rule applies to protect managers of limited liability companies just as it does to protect directors of corporations.  Froelich v. Erickson, 96 F. Supp. 2d 507, 520 (D. Md. 2000).

Simply stated, the business judgment rule “bars judicial inquiry into the actions of corporate directors taken in good faith and in the exercise of honest judgment in lawful furtherance of corporate purposes.”  Id.  However misguided the business decision may be, the rule protects directors from judicial review of the wisdom of that decision.  See Citron v. Fairchild Camera & Instrument Corp., 569 A.2d 53, 64 (Del. 1989) (protecting Board decision for an arguably lower offer for the company). (more…)

In Nevada, the elements for a claim of business disparagement are:

  1. A false and disparaging statement that interferes with the plaintiff’s business or are aimed at the business’s goods or services;
  2. The statement is not privileged;
  3. The statement is made with malice; and
  4. Proof of special damages.

Clark County School District v. Virtual Educ. Software, Inc., 125 Nev. 374, 213 P.3d 496 (Nev. 2009).

 

See elements for other claims, including extensive research on defamation at the Nevada Law Library

 

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When people are attacked, the natural reaction is to attack back. While competent trial attorneys are well equipped to attack the other side for you, a wise attorney will also step back from his role as an adversary and counsel you regarding your settlement options. In doing so, he is not necessarily telling you he doesn’t believe your side of the story. Rather, he is trying to get you, the astute businessperson, to make a smart business decision which considers only your bottom line, and not the emotion of the lawsuit or who is right and wrong. (more…)

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In Nevada, the elements for a claim trademark infringement are:

  1. Plaintiff has a valid, protectable symbol or name described as:______ (the “Mark”);
  2. Plaintiff owns the Mark as a trademark;
  3. Defendant used the Mark in commerce in connection with the sale or advertising of goods or services without the consent of the plaintiff in a manner that is likely to cause confusion among ordinary consumers as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or approval of the goods; and
  4. Causation and damages.

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There are state and local licensing requirements to do business in Nevada.

Effective October 1, 2009, the Nevada Legislature transferred the authority for issuance and collection of fees for a Nevada Business License from the Department of Taxation to the Secretary of State.  This step prevented the renewal of company charters by the filing of the “annual list” (whether an LLC, corporation, partnership, etc.) without paying the state business license.

All entities, except nonprofit corporations, movie companies, companies run from home (with certain income limitations), and certain religious organizations, are required to file a State Business License application or renewal at the time their annual list is due (whether they are a Nevada entity or qualifying as a foreign entity).

The business license fee is $200 annually, which may be prorated if your current business license expiration date falls after your annual list due date.  See the Nevada Secretary of State’s website at:  Nevada Secretary of State for more information.

Additionally, there are local business licensing requirements that vary widely depending on your jurisdiction (Clark County, City of Las Vegas, City of Henderson, City of North Las Vegas, etc.).  Before contacting the local jurisdiction, you will need to have organized or qualified your entity with the Secretary of State and have obtained a state business license.

 

By: Guest Blogger Mary Drury, Esq.

In Nevada, the elements for a claim of aiding and abetting another’s breach of a fiduciary duty are:

  1. A fiduciary relationship exists;
  2. The fiduciary breached the fiduciary relationship;
  3. The third party knowingly participated in the breach; and
  4. Causation and damages.

In re: Amerco Derivative Litigation, 252 P.3d 681 (Nev. 2011); J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. KB Home, 632 F. Supp. 2d 1013 (D. Nev. 2009); Klein v. Freedom Strategic Partners, LLC, 595 F. Supp. 2d 1152 (D. Nev. 2009).

 

See elements for other claims at the Nevada Law Library

In Nevada, the elements for a claim of breach of fiduciary duty are:

  1. A fiduciary relationship exists between two persons such that one of them is under a duty to act for or give advice for the benefit of another upon matters within the scope of that relationship;
  2. Failure of the party owing the duty to use due care or diligence, act with utmost faith, exercise ordinary skill, or act with reasonable intelligence;
  3. Plaintiff suffered losses or injuries resulting from defendants’ breach of duty; and
  4. Causation and damages.

NRS 78.138-39; Klein v. Freedom Strategic Partners, LLC, 595 F. Supp. 2d 1152, 1162 (D. Nev. 2009)  Stalk v. Mushkin, 125 Nev. 21, 199 P.3d 838 (Nev. 2009); Shoen v. SAC Holding Corp., 122 Nev. 621, 137 P.3d 1171 (Nev. 2006); Foley v. Morse & Mowbray, 109 Nev. 16 (1993); Hoopes v. Hammargren, 725 P. 2d 238 (Nev. 1986); Linland v. United Business Inv., Inc., 693 P.2d 20 (Ore. 1984); 18 Am.Jur 2d Corporations 1695, 1710, 1712-13; Restatement (Second) of Torts  § 874 Cmt. a (1979).

 

See elements for other claims at the Nevada Law Library

TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER, PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION, AND PERMANENT INJUNCTION

In Nevada, in order to obtain a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, or permanent injunction, generally, the following are considered by the courts:

  1. A party must demonstrate that it has a reasonable probability of success on the merits of its underlying claims;
  2. Without injunctive relief, plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm for which compensatory damages are inadequate;
  3. The court may weigh the public’s interest in seeing the harm stopped, as well as the relative hardships of the parties should the court take or refuse to take action; and
  4. The purpose of the restraining order/injunction is to preserve the status quo, or to “preserve a business or property interest.” Buion v. Terra Mktg. of Nev., Inc., 90 Nev. 237, 240, 523 P.2d 847, 848 (1974).
  5. Imposition of a bond is required by NRCP 65(c).

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In Nevada, the elements for a contract claim of breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing are:

  1. Existence of a valid contract;
  2. Every contract in Nevada contains an implied covenant to act in good faith in performance and enforcement of the contract;
  3. Justifiable expectation by the plaintiff to receive certain benefits consistent with the spirit of the agreement;
  4. Defendant performed in a manner that was in violation of or unfaithful to the spirit of the contract (the terms of the contract are complied with in a literal sense, but the spirit of the contract is breached);
  5. Unfaithful actions by the defendant were deliberate; and
  6. Causation and damages.

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Buy-sell agreements can alleviate disputes that can arise between or among owners and can provide for payments to buy out an owner’s interest in the business at an owner’s death or disability without disrupting the ongoing business.   It can avoid family fights, fights between surviving owners and the deceased owner’s spouse, while maintaining the integrity of the company’s goodwill and liquidity. They are an essential part of proper corporate governance for any closely held business. If an owner is unable to continue in the business, the agreement triggers the sale of that owner’s portion of the company at a price designated in the agreement. (more…)

In Nevada, the elements for a claim of breach of the duty of loyalty are:

  1. Defendant is a fiduciary to Plaintiff company;
  2. Defendant owed plaintiff the duty of loyalty, requiring defendant to maintain, in good faith, the corporation’s and its shareholders’ best interests over anyone else’s interests;
  3. Defendant breached the duty of loyalty; and
  4. Causation and damages.

Shoen v. SAC Holding Corp., 122 Nev. 621, 632 (Nev. 2006); White Cap Indus., Inc. v. Ruppert, 119 Nev. 126, 67 P.3d 318 (2003); Rhine v. Miller, 94 Nev. 647, 649, 583 P.2d 458 (1978).

 

See elements for other claims at the Nevada Law Library

Generally, a Covenant Not to Compete is “[a]n agreement, generally part of a contract of employment or a contract to sell a business, in which the covenantor agrees for a specific period of time and within a particular area to refrain from competition with the covenantee.”  Black’s Law Dictionary 364 (6th ed. 1990).   The Covenant Not to Compete is known by multiple other names: the “restrictive covenant,” “non-competition agreement,” or as an “agreement not to compete” (hereinafter the “Covenant”).  Griffin Toronjo Pivateau, Putting the Blue Pencil Down: An Argument for Specificity in Noncompete Agreements, 86 Neb. L. Rev. 672, 675 (2008). (more…)

The following abstract explains Nevada law on contract damages, and explains how our courts view, determine, and award damages.

EXPECTATION/COMPENSATORY DAMAGES

Expectation/Compensation Damages as the General Goal of Contract Damages.

The general goal of contract damages is to provide compensation for the injured party based on the injured party’s expectation interest.  3 D. Dobbs, Law of Remedies § 12.2(1), at 22 (2d ed. 1993); Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 347cmt. a (2008).  Although there are other remedies available for an injured party in a breach of contract situation, the general and traditional goals of awarding damages in a breach of contract case are aligned with the expectation/compensation remedy. Dobbs, § 12.2(1), at 22. (more…)

BREACH OF CONTRACT

In Nevada, the elements for a claim of breach of contract are:

  1. Valid contract (offer, acceptance, consideration) exists between plaintiff and defendant;
  2. Defendant breached the contract or failed to render performance when it became due;
  3. Defendant’s breach or failure of performance was unexcused;
  4. All conditions precedent to defendant’s duty to perform were fulfilled by plaintiff or were excused;
  5. Plaintiff was damaged by the breach;
  6. Causation and damages were a forseeable consequence of a particular breach (causation is an essential element of liability).

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In Nevada, the elements for a claim of intentional interference with contractual relations are:

  1. A valid and existing contract between plaintiff and a third party;
  2. Defendant had knowledge of the valid contract or had reason to know of its existence;
  3. Defendant committed intentional acts intended or designed to disrupt the contractual relationship;
  4. Actual disruption of the contract; and
  5. Causation and damage.

Klein v. Freedom Strategic Partners, LLC, 595 F. Supp. 2d 1152 (D. Nev. 2009); Blanck v. Hager, 360 F. Supp.2d 1137 (D. Nev. 2005); Nat. Right to Life P.A. Com. v. Friends of Bryan, 741 F.Supp. 807, 813 (D. Nev. 1990); J.J. Industries, LLC v. B. Bennett, 19 Nev. 269, 71 P.3d 1264, 1268 (2003); Wichinsky v. Mosa, 109 Nev. 84, 88, 847 P.2d 727 (1993); Sutherland v. Gross, 105 Nev. 192, 772 P.2d 1287, 1288 (Nev. 1989); M & R Inv. Co. v. Goldsberry, 707 P.2d 1143 (Nev. 1985).

 

See elements for other claims at the Nevada Law Library

If you are a businessperson, sooner or later you will have to deal with a lawyer. In the franchise world, it helps – tremendously – to deal with attorneys who understand franchising and franchise law. It doesn’t matter whether you are a franchisor or a franchisee; no matter which side of the transaction you happen to be on, you will want an experienced franchise attorney to be on the other side.

Surprisingly, the level of franchise law knowledge among attorneys who actually get involved in franchise transactions varies considerably. The majority of the time, lawyers who are knowledgeable in franchise law are on both sides of the transaction. But that is not always the case. Sometimes, the attorney on the other side is inexperienced, and “dabbling,” in franchise law.

This is the first of a two-part piece on why these dabbling attorneys can hinder a transaction, or worse, do harm to their clients.

This part one looks at it from the point of view of the franchisor, which is negotiating with a prospective franchise purchaser. Let’s assume this prospective franchisee is the party represented by a lawyer without franchise law experience. This situation is much more common than the reverse – where it is the franchisor, and not the franchisee, that has inexperienced counsel.

Why Franchise Agreements are Different from other Business Contracts

Some, but not all, franchise agreements are negotiable. The most significant problem involving  inexperienced counsel occurs when the franchisor is otherwise willing to negotiate with the prospective franchisee.

If a prospective franchisee seeks legal counsel, s/he will typically seek out that person’s usual business attorney, if there is one. If the prospective franchisee doesn’t have or know an attorney, that person will ask friends and family for referrals. Frequently, the referral is to a business attorney who has little or no experience in franchise law.

The business attorney may be tempted to do the work, instead of referring it to another lawyer. After all, the terms in franchise agreements look a lot like the ones you might find in other types of business contracts. But the problem is that the franchise relationship isn’t a typical business relationship. It is critical for the attorneys on either side of a negotiation to understand what makes franchising different.

Specifically, franchise agreements are (on the whole) much more one-sided than other business contracts. This is for a good reason: the provisions are there (in one way or another) to protect the health and integrity of the system as a whole, including its intellectual property and goodwill. Protecting the system is paramount, because if the system fails, all of its franchisees lose.

An attorney representing either side of the franchise transaction needs to understand this basic truth at the core of franchising. When s/he has experience in franchise law, counsel will understand which provisions are typical or atypical. They will also understand which terms may be negotiable and whether, taken as a whole, the franchise contract is more or less one-sided than is typical for those agreements. Having this experience will make the negotiation more productive and efficient. A more efficient negotiation will typically result in lower attorney fees.

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What Do I do If I have been sued

 

“NOTICE!” YOU HAVE BEEN SUED.”

These are words none of us ever wants to see.  However, lawsuits are almost an inevitable cost of conducting business in today’s environment.  A recent statistic suggests that over 120,000 Nevada businesses were sued last year alone in Nevada Courts.  An old, but unfortunately true adage to keep in mind: “there are only two types of businesses … those that have been sued already and those that will be sued.”  While I am not sure the future is quite that bleak, all professionals should know what their options and responsibilities are once they have been served with a copy of a complaint.  More importantly, you should know what you can do to help avoid suits. (more…)

By Guest Blogger Matthew Kreutzer

The top stories in the franchise world continue to be about efforts by the cities of Seattle, Chicago, and others in raising the minimum wage with laws that discriminate against small business owners who own franchises. For the full story, see some of my previous blog posts on the issue. These laws are a serious concern for franchisees and franchisors alike.

In brief, these laws (which are written substantially the same way in the different cities that have adopted them) require small businesses to raise the minimum wage of their workers from the current level to $15 an hour. Under these new ordinances, businesses with more than 500 employees have 3 to 4 years to increase the minimum wage to the new $15/hour level, while “small businesses,” defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees, have up to 7 years to reach the new level.

The problem? For the purpose of calculating the “500 employees” number, all franchises in the same system are counted together. The net result of this is that these locally-owned small businesses with a few employees, which also happen to be franchises, are being discriminated against as compared to their non-franchised counterparts.

After reading some of my blog posts on the subject, another franchise attorney (one who exclusively represents franchisees) commented to me that these laws, which treat franchises differently than similarly situated non-franchise small businesses, could arguably be viewed as “industry specific” laws for the purposes of Item 1 of a franchisor’s Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). I can see the argument on both sides of that point.

The Federal Trade Commission‘s (FTC) Franchise Rule requires a franchisor to state in Item 1 of its FDD “any laws or regulations specific to the industry in which the franchise business operates.” The FTC has elaborated on this requirement by saying that laws applying to all businesses generally do not need to be disclosed; instead, “only laws that pertain solely and directly to the industry in which the franchised business is a part must be disclosed in Item 1.”

The minimum wage laws adopted by some cities like Seattle target franchises by treating them differently from other similarly-situated small businesses; laws that are specific to a certain “industry” are the types of laws that need to be disclosed in Item 1.

So, the question then becomes: is franchising as a whole an “industry?” Are these the types of laws the FTC was contemplating when creating the Item 1 disclosure requirement? Should Item 1 of a franchisor’s FDD should disclose these laws?

I can see the arguments on both sides. On the one hand, franchising itself isn’t really an “industry.” Merriam-Webster defines “industry” as “a department or branch of a craft, art, business, or manufacture; especially: one that employs a large personnel and capital especially in manufacturing.” In that sense, franchise systems are not part of the same “industry” because they are diverse, representing businesses in a multitude of different streams of commerce (like retail, food service, personal services, and business services just to name a few).

However, Merriam-Webster does recognize an alternative definition. “Industry” can also be defined as “a distinct group of productive or profit-making enterprises <ex: the banking industry>.” In that sense, franchising could be considered an industry because franchise companies are in a distinct group that has its own set of goals, concerns, and issues. It is in this sense that the International Franchise Association and business periodicals regularly refer to franchising as an “industry.

In its guidance, the FTC hasn’t specified which of these definitions it meant when it created the Item 1 disclosure requirement. The better argument, in my view, is that the FTC didn’t intend to single out franchising as a whole as its own “industry” when it created the Item 1 disclosure requirement. That is because the FTC itself, in its rulemaking process, used the word “industry” a number of times, but used it in different contexts. Specifically, the FTC repeatedly referred to franchising itself as an “industry,” and then in other contexts that are clearly different, it talked about the franchisor’s duty to disclose certain information unique to “industry” in which the franchisee’s business will operate. It is clear from the context of the FTC’s guidance that the two uses of the word are different from one another.

Based on the contextual distinction between the two uses and definitions of the word “industry” by the FTC in its rulemaking, I think the more convincing legal argument is that a franchisor does not have to disclose minimum wage laws that discriminate against the franchise “industry” as a whole.

But, from a practical and informational perspective (and considering the purpose of the Franchise Rule), I think a good argument can be made that these laws should be disclosed anyway (even if disclosure is not legally required). That a franchisee may be required to pay its employees a higher minimum wage than his or her similarly situated non-franchise competitors is something that she or he would certainly want to know.

As a result, I am recommending to my franchisor clients that, when they update their FDDs for 2015, they include a disclosure in Item 1 that says:

Some jurisdictions have passed laws that require businesses to pay their employees a higher minimum wage than what is required under federal law, which laws may disproportionately affect franchised businesses.

It’s a simple enough disclosure to include. Moreover, it would certainly help a franchisor in later defending against a legal claim by a franchisee that the franchisor knew about, but didn’t disclose, the existence of these laws prior to the franchisee committing to buy the business.

What do you think? Do you think these discriminatory minimum wage laws must be, or should be, disclosed in Item 1?

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In Nevada, the appointment of a receiver over a business may be appropriate if:

  1. The appointment of a receiver is governed by statute and is appropriate only under circumstances described in statute.  State ex rel. Nenzel v. Second Jud. Dist. Ct., 49 Nev. 145, 155, 241 P. 317 (1925); Shelton v. Second Jud. Dist. Ct., 49 Nev. 487, 494, 185 P.2d 320 (1947);
  2. Any stockholder may apply if the corporation is insolvent. NRS 78.347;
  3. Any holder of 1/10 of a corporation’s issued and outstanding stock may apply for the appointment of a receiver when a corporation has been mismanaged. NRS 78.650.  A showing of any one of the ten circumstances enumerated in the statue will authorize the appointment of a receiver upon application by a ten-percent shareholder. Transcontinental Oil Co. of Nev. v. Free, 80 Nev. 207, 210-11, 391 P.2d 317, 319 (1964);
  4. A holder of 1/10 of issued stock may apply for appointment of a receiver of a solvent corporation where the business is being conducted at a great loss, the operation is prejudicial to creditors or stockholders such that the business cannot be conducted with safety to the public. NRS 78.630;
  5. The Court must consider the entire circumstances of the case when considering the appointment of a receiver. Bowler v. Leonard, 70 Nev. 370, 383 (1954);
  6. A Receiver may be appointed when a corporate is in imminent danger of insolvency. NRS 32.010;
  7. A Receiver is a neutral party appointed by the court to preserve, protect, and administer the business’ assets for benefit the business. In all cases, directors or trustees who have been guilty of no negligence nor active breach of duty must be preferred over all others in making the appointment of a receiver. NRS 78.650.  Peri-Gil Corp. v. Sutton, 84 Nev. 406, 411 422 P.2d 35, 38 (1968).  Such directors have a right to be heard as to their qualifications. Shelton v. Second Jud. Dist. Ct., 64 Nev. 487, 492-93, 185 P.2d 320, 323 (1947); and
  8. Appointment of a receiver is appropriate when the business’ property at issue is at risk of waste, loss of income, or is insufficient to secure a debt. NRS 32.010; NRS 107.100;

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In Nevada, the elements for a claim of alter ego or piercing the corporate veil are:

  1. Corporation must be influenced and governed by the person asserted to be its alter ego;
  2. There must be a unity of interest and ownership such that the corporation and person are inseparable from another;
  3. Facts are such that adherence to the corporate fiction of a separate entity under the circumstances would sanction a fraud or promote injustice;
  4. There is no litmus test for determining when the corporate fiction should be disregarded (there are as many as 14 factors that courts may consider, including undercapitalization, comingling of funds, failure to observe corporate formalities, loans to or from the corporation without sufficient consideration, and generally treating the assets of the corporation as the assets of the person); and
  5. A showing that recognizing separate corporate existence, would bring about an inequitable result is sufficient for the claim to lie.

Brown v. Kinross Gold U.S.A., Inc., 531 F. Supp. 2d 1234 (D. Nev. 2008); In re Nat’l Audit Defense Network, 367 B.R. 207 (Bankr. D. Nev. 2007); LFC Mktg. Grp. v. Loomis, 116 Nev. 896, 8 P.3d 841 (2000); Polaris Indus. Corp. v. Kaplan, 103 Nev. 598, 601-02, 747 P.2d 884, 887 (1987); Ecklund v. Nevada Wholesale Lumber Co., 93 Nev. 196, 197, 562 P.2d 479, 479-80 (1977) (quoting McCleary Cattle Co. v. Sewell, 73 Nev. 279, 282, 317 P.2d 957, 959 (1957)); accord Lorenz v. Beltio, Ltd., 114 Nev. 795, 807, 963 P.2d 488, 496 (1998). “Each of these requirements must be present before the alter ego doctrine can be applied.” N. Arlington Med. Bldg., Inc. v. Sanchez Constr. Co., 86 Nev. 515, 520-21, 471 P.2d 240, 243 (1970) (emphasis added). The party asserting the alter ego theory and attempting to pierce the corporate veil bears the burden of proving each of these elements by a preponderance of the evidence. LFC Mktg. Grp. v. Loomis, 8 P.3d 841, 846 (Nev. 2000).

The Nevada Supreme Court has held that, though generally “[t]he corporate cloak is not lightly thrown aside,” nevertheless there are some situations in which blind “adherence to the fiction of a separate entity [of the corporation] [would] sanction a fraud or promote injustice.” Baer v. Amos J. Walker, Inc., 85 Nev. 219, 220, 452 P.2d 916, 916 (1969). The court has therefore carved out an exception to the general rule of faithfully respecting the corporate form and corporate independence, i.e., the so-called “alter ego” exception, by which the corporate veil can be pierced.  Id.  The Supreme Court of Nevada, in the matter of McCleary Cattle Co. v. Sewell, adopted a three prong test for ignoring the separate existence of a corporation in determining “alter ego liability.” McCleary, 73 Nev. 279 at 282, 317 P.2d 957 (1957). This test has since been codified in by Nevada Statute, NRS 78.747:

  1. Except as otherwise provided by specific statute, no stockholder, director or officer of a corporation is individually liable for a debt or liability of the corporation, unless the stockholder, director or officer acts as the alter ego of the corporation.
  2. A stockholder, director or officer acts as the alter ego of a corporation if:

(a)       The corporation is influenced and governed by the stockholder, director or officer;

(b)       There is such unity of interest and ownership that the corporation and the stockholder, director or officer are inseparable from each other; and

(c)       Adherence to the corporate fiction of a separate entity would sanction fraud or promote a manifest injustice.

NRS 78.747(l)-(2). The elements of an alter ego claim must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence.  Truck Ins. Exch. v. Palmer J. Swanson. Inc., 124 629, 635, 189 P.3d 656, 660 (2008).

In determining whether there is such unity of interest and ownership that the corporation and the stockholder, director or officer are inseparable from each other, courts will consider whether there was:

  1. Majority ownership and pervasive control of the affairs of the corporation. McCleary Cattle Co. v. C.A. Sewell, 73 Nev. 279, 281, 317 P.2d 957, 959 (1957) overruled on other grounds by Callie v. Bowling, 123 Nev. 181, 160 P.3d 878 (2007)(holding that an order adding president as a party to domesticated foreign judgment violated president’s due process rights)); Carson Meadows Inc. v. Pease, 91 Nev. 187, 191,533 P.2d 458, 460-61 (1975); Ecklund v. Nevada Wholesale Lumber Co., 93 Nev. 196, 197-99, 562 P.2d 479, 479-81 (1977); Arlington Med. Bldg., Inc. v. Sanchez Constr. Co., 86 Nev. 515, 522-23, 471 P.2d 240, 244-45, n.3 (1970).
  2. Thin capitalization. Arlington Med. Bldg., Inc. v. Sanchez Constr. Co., 86 Nev. 515, 522-23, 471 P.2d 240, 244-45, n.3 (1970).
  3. Nonobservance of corporate formalities or absence of corporate records. Ecklund v. Nevada Wholesale Lumber Co., 93 Nev. 196, 197-99, 562 P.2d 479, 479-81 (1977); Roland v. Lepire, 99 Nev. 308, 316-18, 662 P.2d 1332, 1337-38 (1983) (no alter ego because of lack of fraud/injustice); Arlington Med. Bldg., Inc. v. Sanchez Constr. Co., 86 Nev. 515, 522-23, 471 P.2d 240, 244-45, n.3 (1970).
  4. No payment of dividends. Roland v. Lepire, 99 Nev. 308, 316-18, 662 P.2d 1332, 1337-38 (1983) (no alter ego because of lack of fraud/injustice).
  5. Nonfunctioning of officers and directors. SEC v. Elmas Trading Corp., 620 F. Supp 231, 233-34 (D. Nev. 1985); DeWitt Truck Brokers. Inc. v. W. Ray Flemming Fruit Co., 540 F. 2d 681, 686-87 (4th Cir. 1976); Nat’l. Elevator Indus. Pension Health Benefit and Educ. Funds v. Lutvk, 332 F.3d 188, 194 (3rd Cir. 2003); Hildreth v. Tidewater Equip. Co., Inc., 378 Md. 724, 735-736, 838 A.2d 1204, 1210 (Md. 2003); Yankee Microwave, Inc. v. Petricca Commc’n Sys., Inc., 53 Mass. App. Ct. 497, 521, 760 N.E.2d 739, 758 (Mass. App. Ct. 2002); Pepsi-Cola Metro Bottling Co. v. Checkers. Inc., 754 F.2d 10, 14-16 (1st Cir.1985); 1 W. FLETCHER, CYCLOPEDIA OF THE LAW OF PRIVATE CORPORATIONS § 41.30 at 430 (rev. vol. 1983) (cited by Wilcor Constr. and Dev. Corp. v. Hemphill, 872 F.2d 432 (9th Cir. 1989)).
  6. Insolvency of the corporation at the time of the litigated transaction; Roland v. Lepire, 99 Nev. 308, 316-18, 662 P.2d 1332, 1337-38 (1983) (no alter ego because of lack of fraud/injustice).
  7. Siphoning of corporate funds or intermingling of corporate and personal funds by the dominant shareholder(s). Carson Meadows, Inc. v. Pease, 91 Nev. 187, 191,533 P.2d 458, 460-61 (1975) Arlington Med. Bldg., Inc. v. Sanchez Constr. Co., 86 Nev. 515, 522-23, 471 P.2d 240, 244-45, n.3 (1970).
  8. Use of the corporation in promoting fraud. Arlington Med. Bldg., Inc. v. Sanchez Constr. Co., 86 Nev. 515, 522-23, 471 P.2d 240, 244-45, n.3 (1970).
  9. The authorized diversion of an entity’s funds;
  10. Ownership of the entity by one person or one family. Roland v. Lepire, 99 Nev. 308, 316-18, 662 P.2d 1332, 1337-38 (1983)(no alter ego because of lack of fraud/injustice); Arlington Med. Bldg., Inc. v. Sanchez Constr. Co., 86 Nev. 515, 522-23, 471 P.2d 240, 244-45, n.3 (1970).
  11. The use of the same address for the individual and entity. Arlington Med. Bldg., Inc. v. Sanchez Constr. Co., 86 Nev. 515, 522-23, 471 P.2d 240, 244-45, n.3 (1970).
  12. Employment of the same attorneys and employees.
  13. Formation or use of the entity to transfer to it the existing liability of another person or entity.
  14. The failure to maintain arm’s length relationship between related entities. McCleary Cattle Co. v. C.A. Sewell, 73 Nev. 279, 317 P.2d 957 (1957) (overruled on other grounds by Callie v. Bowling, 123 Nev. 181, 160 P.3d 878 (2007)(holding that an order adding president as a party to domesticated foreign judgment violated president’s due process rights)); Arlington Med. Bldg., Inc. v. Sanchez Constr. Co., 86 Nev. 515, 522-23, 471 P.2d 240, 244-45, n.3 (1970).

It is not necessary that the plaintiff prove actual fraud in order to recover against a corporate alter ego. It is enough if the recognition of the two entities as separate would result [in an injustice. In determining whether adherence to the corporate fiction of a separate corporate entity would sanction a fraud or promote an injustice, courts consider whether: (1) the facts are such that adherence to the fiction of a separate corporate entity would sanction a fraud or promote an injustice; (2) the family of controlling officers benefits from the controlling officer’s/entity’s actions; (3) the plaintiff will be able to recover damages against the corporate defendant or whether the corporate defendant is insolvent; because the entity cannot pay, will support the finding of injustice; and (4) the corporate entity was undercapitalized. Finally, alter ego recovery has been granted specifically because the corporation obtained a loan, did not use the loan for its specified purpose, and was unable to repay the loan.  See In re Erdman, 236 B.R. 904 (Bankr. N.D. 1999).

 

So, you are thinking of buying a business?  What types of documentation or information should you be seeking from the seller before you agree on a price, sign documents, or pay any money?  This list will get you started:

  1. Seller entity information
    2.         Documents necessary to discover the seller’s full financial Information
    3.         Physical Assets of the seller
    4.         Real Estate (owned and leased)
    5.         Intellectual Property owned by the seller or to which the seller has rights
    6.         Employee contracts and employee benefits owed
    7.         Licenses and permits held by the seller
    8.         Environmental due diligence
    9.         Taxes (including verification) owed
    10.       Material contracts with the seller’s customers and suppliers
    11.       Customer information
    12.       Currently pending or threatened litigation
    13.       Insurance coverage

business

By: Guest Blogger Donald R. Parker, CFA, AVA |  Gryphon Valuation Consultants, Inc.

Buy/Sell Agreements provide a blueprint for the transfer of business interests, allowing business owners to control and protect their investment and the integrity of the ownership structure.  

These agreements address certain “triggering events” such as the death, divorce or departure of business owners and should be a part of every business planning process.  A well-constructed Buy/Sell Agreement serves five crucial functions:

  • Creates a ready-made market for a company’s shares or membership interests upon the occurrence of well-defined triggering events or under very specific transfer scenarios;
  • Defines a price (value) at which the shares or membership interests will be transferred and the construct of the transaction;
  • Ensures that any transaction is funded in a predefined manner;
  • Imposes transfer restrictions that protect the integrity of the ownership structure; and
  • Allows for succession and estate planning needs while mitigating possible conflicts.

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Certain employers cannot lay off employees without giving advance notice or paying them for a period of time.

In 1989, the government enacted WARN – the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.  WARN protects workers by requiring employers to provide sixty days advance notice of certain mass layoffs. In general, employers are subject to WARN if they have a 100 or more employees, not counting employees who have worked less than six months in the last twelve months, and not counting employees who work an average of less than twenty hours a week.

An employer subject to WARN must give sixty days’ advance notice if an employee site will be shut down and the shutdown will result in employment loss for fifty or more employees during any thirty-day period.  This is commonly known as a “plant closing”, although it does not merely apply to manufacturing sites.

Alternatively, an employer subject to WARN must give notice if there is to be a “mass layoff” which will result in an employment loss at the employment site during any thirty-day period for 500 or more employees or a lay off 50 to 499 employees if the number to be laid off makes up at least 33% of the employer’s active workforce.

In either case, employees who have worked less than six months in the last twelve months or employees who work less than twenty hours a week do not count in determining whether an employer is subject to WARN.

WARN also applies in the case of a sale of a business.  However, there is an additional twist.  Not only is the seller responsible for providing notice of the “plant closing” or “mass layoff”, but if the buyer of the business would anticipate a “plant closing” or “mass layoff”, such buyer must also give the sixty-day notice.  As an alternative to giving sixty days notice, if a company is subject to WARN, the employer can pay the laid-off employees for those sixty days.

 

By Guest Blogger Mary Drury, Esq.

 

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What is an Umbrella Insurance Policy?

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Upon review, it appeared that the buyer was setting the seller up to force the seller out of business so that buyer did not actually have to pay any money to eliminate its competitor. It is critically important that confidentiality be maintained during the pendency of the transaction.  There are many ways to do this: (more…)

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With the economic downturn, clients are increasingly asking specific questions about the rights and remedies of creditors.

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