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Entries in Corporate Law (4)

Tuesday
Aug112009

Buy-Sell Agreements - Attorney

A good buy-sell agreement can prevent conflicts between business owners and help maintain the closely held status of a small businesses. In the context of a corporation, this issue is typically dealt within a buy-sell agreement between the shareholders; in the context of a limited liability company, buy-sell provisions are usually drafted into the operating agreement. Any business that has multiple owners should always deal with this issue, in writing, before potential arguments and problems arise.

If you would like to see more information regarding the types of questions business owners should consider when having a buy-sell agreement prepared, check out my recent blog post on the topic over at IndianaStartup.com.

Sunday
May312009

Business Incorporation - Why you should consider your home state.

Martin Zwilling over at Startupprofessionals.com has a nice post regarding why start-ups should consider incorporating / organizing their business in their home state.  The post can be found here, but here is a brief summary:

  • Don't automatically flock to incorporating in Delaware.  Sure there might still be some advantages to doing so, but they don't really apply to start-ups.
  • In Indiana, where I practice law, the filing fees for incorporating a business are inexpensive and the process is relatively straightforward - not the case in popular states such as Delaware and Nevada.
  • Attorneys in your home state, if you are using an attorney (hopefully you are), will be more familiar with your state incorporation laws.
  • Your company may qualify for an intrastate securities law exemption in the event it offers securities for sale.
  • There is no need to register as a foriegn entity in your home state - and added expense if you incorporate elsewhere. 

As he points out, there are many other concerns that should be addressed when determining in what state you should incorporate - concerns you should address with a corporate attorney in your home state.

Friday
May222009

Raising Venture Capital - What documents do you need?

Raising venture capital / private equity requires more than just pitching your idea and business plan to a group of people with money to invest - although your pitch is obviously a crucial component.  There are lots of documents that will be required, and those documents will usually require the careful scrutiny of a venture capital attorney.  Below is a short, but not inclusive, list of what you might expect:

  1. Venture Capital AttorneyVenture Capital Term Sheet - These are typically non-binding outlines of the terms of a venture capital deal.  Don't let the "non-binding" portion fool you, though.  Terms laid out in a term sheet serve as the basis for all future negotiations, and any attempt to deviate from those terms will not be met kindly during deal negotiations. 
  2. Stock Purchase Agreement - This is the definitive agreement setting forth the terms of the venture capital investment, such as the purchase price, the closing date, and the conditions surrounding the issuance of stock - which more likely than not will be preferred stock.   There will also be numerous representation and warranty provisions, among other provisions, that will need to be carefully crafted by a venture capital attorney.
  3. An Amendment to the Bylaws - Assuming the company is a corporation and that the VC is conditioning its investment on the receipt of preferred stock (which it likely will), the bylaws of the corporation will need to be amended.  This amendment will create a new class of preferred stock and will include anti-dilution provisions. dividend rights, liquidation rights and conversion rights.  Some states require a "Certificate of Designation" to accomplish this, rather than an amendment to the bylaws.
  4. Right of First Refusal / Voting Agreement - This agreement will grant the VC a right of first refusal to purchase any shares in the company that come available for sale.  It will also likely contain a number of restrictions on the transfer of common stock, as well as tag-along rights allowing the VC to participate in the sale of any common shares.  Finally, there will likely be a voting agreement requiring that the common shareholders elect the VC's nominee(s) to the company's board of directors.
  5. Consulting Agreement - Often times a VC will require payment of a monthly fee by the company in return for certain management services provided by the VC. 

These are just a few of the documents that a company might normally expect to see during the process of raising capital.  As always, you should consult an attorney with knowledge of the venture capital process.

Business lawyer Brian V Powers represents businesses raising venture capitalContact us today to discuss your needs.

Friday
May012009

Starting a Business - Forming a Corporation

A corporation is an entity created under statute that is separate and distinct from its owners. In other words, a corporation can be created only by following the requirements of the relevant statute (in Indiana, it is the Indiana Business Corporation Law) and will not automatically be created (as can be the case with some partnerships). Once formed, the corporation is recognized as being independent from you, the owner/shareholder. The corporation is managed by directors and officers; sometimes, the directors and officers are also the shareholders. From a liability standpoint, the corporation affords you complete protection; creditors must rely on the assets of the corporation and you are notpersonally liable for anything beyond your investment and financial commitment to the corporation.

That said, lenders frequently require shareholders of smaller corporations to personally guarantee the debt of the corporation. Corporations are the most complex entities, both in terms of creation and operation. In addition to filing articles of incorporation, corporations need to adopt by-laws, elect directors and officers, and in many states, have regular meetings. There may also be annual reporting requirements with the Secretary of State in addition to annual fees.

The shares of a corporation are freely transferable and unlike a partnership or limited liability company, the transferee of yourshares will succeed to all of your rights in those shares. In other words, the person to whom you transfer your shares will be just as much an owner of the corporation as you were. This ease of transferability can have significant impact later on as you begin to implement exit strategies (that is, you are ready to retire from
the enterprise).

From a tax perspective, corporations can also be more complex than their partnership and limited liability company counterparts. Usually, a corporation is a separate taxable entity. It pays tax on its income and later, when it distributes accumulated income to the shareholders, the shareholders will pay a second layer of income tax on those dividends. This “double taxation” is a significant drawback for most corporations. There is a special type of corporation (commonly referred to as an “S” corporation) that generally is not subject to double taxation. An “S” corporation allocates income and losses on a pro-rata basis to its shareholders, although the use of losses by a shareholder is limited to that shareholder’s basis in the corporation. You must strictly adhere to rigid equirements imposed on “S” corporations, and shareholders sometimes are surprised by how easy it is to terminate an existing “S” election inadvertently.

Occasionally, a business owner might intentionally choose the double taxation of a regular corporation to take advantage of certain corporate tax benefits. For instance, while partners in a partnership cannot be employees of that partnership, shareholders in a corporation can be employees; as a result, these shareholders can participate in certain fringe benefits extended to “employees” under the federal tax law, such as flexible spending accounts. Other examples include (i) the ability of a corporation to participate in tax-advantaged reorganizations unavailable to partnerships and limited liability companies and (ii) the potential for up to $50,000 ($100,000 on a Married Filing Joint Return) of losses from the sale, exchange, or worthlessness of certain small business corporation stock to qualify for ordinary loss treatment (as opposed to capital loss treatment).

As you can see from this post and my prior business entity selection and formation posts, a good deal of thought and care must go into your decision of what type of legal form your new business should take. Quite often, the advantages of one form will be offset by disadvantages not present in another. As mentioned, within similar types of legal forms, nuances exist that make the decision all the more difficult. By identifying the right combination of advantages and disadvantages and with the assistance of competent advisors, the right choice of entity selection can help ensure your business success.

Contact Indiana business attorney Brian v. Powers if you need legal advice on setting up your Indiana business, and for your other business, legal needs.