Casual Convergence in Unincorporated Entity Law

offices-at-night-smProfessor Nadelle Grossman has a forthcoming book chapter entitled “Casual Convergence in Unincorporated Entity Law” in the Research Handbook on Partnerships, LLCs and Alternative Forms of Business Organizations (Robert W. Hillman & Mark J. Loewenstein eds., Edward Elgar Publ’g forthcoming 2015).  The abstract is below. You can access Prof. Grossman’s full book chapter at SSRN.

As seemingly uniform as the surface of the sea, unincorporated entity acts in most states are drafted from one of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Law’s (NCCUSL) uniform acts.  In fact, by the end of 2013, seven states had adopted NCCUSL’s latest uniform act governing limited liability companies (LLCs), called the Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act, or RULLCA, and more have since followed.

Supporters of uniformity, including NCCUSL, argue that uniformity among state LLC acts generates administrative and cost savings.  Critics, on the other hand, argue that uniformity undermines state experimentation to achieve more efficient LLC laws.

However, I argue in the chapter that these debates about uniformity are misguided. 

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US Supreme Court Review: Two Employee Benefit Cases (Dudenhoeffer and Hobby Lobby)

US Supreme Court logo(This is another post in our series, Looking Back at the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 Term.) This blog post is the third of three on labor and employment law cases by the United States Supreme Court in the last Term. This post focuses on two employee benefit law/ERISA cases: Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. First, a disclosure: Along with six other law professors, I co-wrote an Amicus Curiae brief in support of the Dudenhoeffer plaintiffs.

Dudenhoeffer involves so-called ERISA stock-drop litigation, which has been rampant in the federal courts for a couple of decades now. The basic formula of these cases is that, as part of the employer-sponsored retirement plan (whether an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) or a participant-directed 401(k) plan), the employer offers its own stock as either the entire pension plan investment or part of the pension plan investment.   When the company goes south and its stock price falls, plan fiduciaries find themselves in a difficult position as far as whether to sell the stock or to hold on to it. This is especially so when the plan fiduciary has conflicting duties as an officer of the company and as a fiduciary of the plan. As a corporate officer, not only is the person supposed to act in the best interests of shareholders to maximize the value of the company, but securities law forbids them to trade stock based on non-public material information. As a fiduciary to the ESOP or 401(k) plan, ERISA gives that same person an obligation to act in the best interest and with the same care as a prudent fiduciary would when making decisions about that employee benefit plan. And in case you are wondering, ERISA Section 408(c)(3) gives employers the ability to assign the same person both officer and plan fiduciary roles or set up so-called “dual-role fiduciaries.”

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Protecting the Public from (Certain) Emerging Growth Companies

JOBS ActPart one of this blog post concluded that Fantex’s IPO represents an unintended consequence of the 2012 JOBS Act.  The costs imposed on startups attempting to go public are significant, and the burden of complying with mandatory disclosure laws can deter even the most-attractive startups from commencing an IPO.  The JOBS Act is intended to decrease the burden on startups attempting to raise necessary capital by reducing the financial disclosure requirements normally imposed on public companies.

One way the Act reduces disclosure is through the status of “emerging growth company.”  Most notably, an emerging growth company is defined as an entity with less than $1 billion in annual revenue.  By falling within this broad definition, a startup may take advantage of reduced disclosure requirements for up to five years.

Based on this $1 billion threshold, the definition of emerging growth company is broad enough to encompass companies either experiencing an accelerated growth rate or with high-growth potential.  Unfortunately, Fantex also falls within this broad definition of emerging growth company, as noted in its prospectus.  Therefore, the real question is whether the definition is too broad so that companies with little, or no, demonstrated growth are being granted the same access to the investing public as companies that are actually growing.

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