Shareholder Oppression

The Ohio Supreme Court in the seminal case Crosby v. Beam, 47 Ohio St. 3d 105 (1989) set forth protections for Ohio minority shareholders. Minority shareholders sought redress via the Ohio courts. In their complaint, the minority shareholders alleged that the majority shareholders had oppressed them by: (1) awarding themselves unreasonable salaries; (2) using corporate property for their personal enterprise; (3) having the company purchase life-insurance only for the majority’s benefit; and (4) taking improper, low-interest loans from the company.
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Recently, the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed a Monmouth County General Equity Judge’s finding in favor of an oppressed minority shareholder. Kaible v. Gropack, 2013 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1453 (App. Div. 2013). The Appellate Division also affirmed the Trial Court’s verdict in favor of the oppressed minority shareholder which awarded him damages and attorneys’ fees pursuant to the New Jersey Minority Oppression statute. See N.J.S.A. 14A:12-7(c); & N.J.S.A.14A:12-7(8)(d).
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Unlike the New Jersey Business Corporation Act (“BCA”), the Limited Liability Company Act, N.J.S.A. 42:2B-1 to -70 (“LLCA”) had no equivalent oppressed shareholder provision. See, Denike v. Cupo, 394 N.J. Super. 357, 378, 926 A.2d 869 (App. Div. 2007), rev’d on other grounds, 196 N.J. 502, 958 A.2d 446 (2008). Fortunately for oppressed members of a New Jersey LLC, the LLCA has since been repealed. See L. 2012, c. 50, (eff. March 18, 2013) (enacting the Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act [the “RULLCA”], making the RULLCA applicable to all New Jersey LLCs formed after the legislation’s effective date, and replacing the LLCA with the RULLCA as to all existing LLCs as of March 1, 2014).
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Often oppressed minority shareholders cannot afford the cost to retain an attorney to stand up to the oppressor. The majority shareholder will use the company’s financial resources to pay their attorney while the oppressed minority shareholder will be forced to cover their attorney fees personally. Although, Courts have discretion to award counsel fees, rarely do

On June 14, 2013, the New Jersey Appellate Division released a decision in a minority oppression case. In Kaible v. Gropack, A-5666-1T3, the Appellate Division affirmed a trial court’s finding that the Plaintiff was the victim of oppression. Moreover, the Kaible Court affirmed the trial court’s decision to award counsel fees to the Plaintiff.
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