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Personal Liability, Bank Directors and the Business Judgment Rule

Last April, a trade association for bank directors, the American Association of Bank Directors reported the results of a survey designed to measure the impact of concerns about personal liability on the decision of bank board members to resign and by individuals to turn down board seats on banking organizations.

One of the key concerns, the survey highlighted, is the possibility of an FDIC lawsuit against the directors if a bank failure occurs. The fear was bank directors would be liable for decisions made as directors notwithstanding what is commonly referred to as the business judgment rule. Generally, the business judgment rule shields corporate directors, including bank directors, from liability when board decisions result in losses to the corporation or to shareholders.

The AABD mentioned in particular a then pending lawsuit in Georgia arising out of FDIC claims related to the failure of Buckhead Bank. These claims against the directors sounded in simple negligence regarding the making of loans. And the directors had asserted the business judgment as a defense.

A few days ago the Georgia Supreme Court ruled on the matter and the decision is worth a review by bank directors and managers even though they don’t do business … Continue Reading

Keeping up with the dot-anythings

For the past several weeks, our colleagues at Technology Law Source have been working hard to keep readers apprised of developments related to The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ new generic top-level domain (gTLD) program. This program, which is essentially redefining the face of the Internet, is likely to impact any business — or, indeed, any entity — with a web presence. If you haven’t been able to keep up with the hundreds of gTLDs already delegated this year, download this hot-off-the-press e-book: Protecting Your Brand in a New gTLD World.

You also may want to subscribe to Technology Law Source (use the “Subscribe by email” prompt in the left column of the site) to receive weekly updates about the evolution of the gTLD program and the dot-anythings launching each month.

 … Continue Reading

Ohio Supreme Court Reconsiders Acordia and Partially Reverses Itself

Bankers and other financial institution executives may find it of interest that the Ohio Supreme Court recently granted a motion for reconsideration in a widely-reported, much-criticized decision concerning the enforcement of non-competition agreements, a subject that is almost always of interest. 

Essentially, in the first case the Court reasoned that a successor to a corporate merger could not enforce a  contract that pre-existed the merger.  Such reasoning came as a surprise to many observers.  The new decision is Acordia of Ohio, L.L.C. v. Fishel, 2012-Ohio-4648. A summary of the Court’s decision can be found here.

The Court now stated that it had previously – and erroneously – mis-read Ohio precedent regarding the legal effect of a corporate merger.

Here’s an excerpt:

"Upon further consideration, we now recognize that the lead opinion’s reading of Morris [v. Investors Life Insurance Co.] was incomplete. While Morris does state that the absorbed company ceases to exist as a separate business entity, the opinion does not state that the absorbed company is completely erased from existence. Instead, the absorbed company becomes a part of the resulting company following merger. The merged company has the ability to enforce noncompete agreements as if the

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Duty of Ohio LLCs to pay the Litigation Expenses of Their Managers, Officers, Employees and Agents

Both Ohio corporations and Ohio LLCs are permitted (but not required) to enter into indemnity agreements with their officers, directors, managers and employees. But when forming an Ohio corporation or Ohio LLC, entities should carefully consider the differing mandatory indemnity obligations that also apply to each type of organization.  

As we noted in a previous post, the Ohio Supreme Court recently stated in Miller v. Miller that even without an indemnity agreement, Ohio corporations have certain mandatory responsibilities to pay directors’ litigation expenses (provided that a director first submits an "undertaking" to the corporation) under Ohio Revised Code §1701.13(E)(5)(a).

Mandatory indemnity requirements for Ohio LLCs are quite different. Ohio Revised Code §1705.32(C) states that to the extent that a "manager, officer, employee or agent" of a limited liability company has been successful on the merits or otherwise in defense of any action, suit or proceeding related to their status as a manager, officer, employee or agent, such person "shall" be indemnified against expenses that were actually and reasonably incurred. 

This statute does not allow an Ohio LLC to avoid the indemnity by making a statement in its articles of organization or operating agreement. The LLC statute also applies to managers, officers, employees and … Continue Reading

Ohio Supreme Court Rules On Duty of Corporations to Pay the Litigation Expenses of its Directors

Ohio corporations should carefully consider whether their articles of incorporation or code of regulations should state that Ohio Revised Code §1701.13(E)(5)(a) does not apply to the corporation. Without making that exclusion, the lack of an indemnity agreement will not prevent a director from exercising his statutory right to receive (from the corporation) payment of his litigation expenses.

Corporations and their directors often enter into indemnity agreements. These agreements usually state that the company will reimburse the director for certain expenses (such as legal fees) incurred by the director as a result of his or her status as a director. But Miller v. Miller, a recent decision by the Ohio Supreme Court, makes clear that even without an indemnity agreement, Ohio corporations have (unless otherwise stated in their articles of incorporation or code of regulations) certain mandatory responsibilities to pay directors’ litigation expenses. 

Ohio Revised Code §1701.13(E)(5)(a) states that Ohio corporations "shall" pay the expenses (when they are incurred) of directors who are subject to "actions, suits, or proceedings" asserted against a director because he is a director. The only step a director must take to receive such advances is to execute an "undertaking," which must state that the director will: (i) reasonably cooperate with … Continue Reading

JOBS Act Impact on Community Banks

The U.S. House of Representatives, by a vote of 380 to 41, has passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, or JOBS Act [link to House Bill], in the form previously approved by the Senate last week [link to Senate Amendment]. The bill now goes to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law. The JOBS Act could significantly impact community banks, among other businesses, regarding the categories summarized below.

SEC Registration

The JOBS Act increases the threshold for SEC registration from 500 shareholders of record to 2,000 shareholders of record for banks and bank holding companies. The increase allows some banks to raise capital by selling stock to new investors without having to register under Section 12(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.… Continue Reading

Ohio Corporate Law Changes

Recently-enacted legislation makes a number of important changes to the Ohio General Corporation Law and the Ohio Limited Liability Company Act that financial institutions and their executives should consider.  The bill will become effective May 4, 2012.

Here are some key points:

Dissenting Shareholder  Rights:  The bill substantially changes our statutes, which have not been substantively amended since 1970, to make Ohio dissenting shareholder processes similar to those followed in other major commercial states, such as Delaware.  The significant provisions are:… Continue Reading

What Border Officials Can Do With Your Laptop And Cellular Phone

Having your laptop or smartphone searched or detained by Customs on your way back from a business trip would be a nightmare for most travelers, including bankers and other finance professionals. However, this scenario is quite possible under new governmental policies. In 2009, Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) both issued their respective new policies on border searches of electronic devices. It was a coordinated effort of CBP and ICE to update and harmonize their border policies to detect an array of illegal activities, including terrorism, cash smuggling, contraband, child pornography, copyright, and export control violations.

With all the technology innovations that allow business travelers to carry massive amounts of information in small electronic devices, CBP and ICE are facing an enormous challenge. On the one hand, travelers have a legitimate right to carry information on electronic devices. In that respect, there are serious concerns regarding the traveler’s expectation of privacy. On the other hand, the government has a duty to combat illegal activities and to enforce U.S. law at the border. The difficulty is finding the right balance between the government’s duty to enforce the law and the rights of travelers.

The legal basis Continue Reading

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