July, 2010

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So You Have Formed Your Corporation/LLC, Now What?

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Start-up companies many times do not know the extent of their legal and other needs after forming a business. The drafting and filing of Articles of Incorporation or Articles of Organization are just the beginning of your company’s service needs. I recommend that each new business owner immediately reach out to establish relationships with the myriad of services providers your business needs, now and in the future. Such service providers include many of the following:

- a corporate law attorney specializing in employment, contracts, intellectual property, litigation and other corporate issues;

- a CPA for your business accounting and tax services;

- an insurance broker for your business liability, E&O, and other insurance needs;

- a banker with whom you have a personal relationship with;

- a financial advisor for your 401K, retirement and other accounts;

- an IT services firm to be on call for your computer networking needs;

- a payroll company to handle weekly payroll and taxes for your employees; and

- a company to develop your website, and then focus on your internet advertising, search engine optimization, and other advertising needs in order to properly publicize your business over the internet.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me should you need referrals in any of the above areas.

How Does a Franchisor Prove Damages in Litigation Against a Franchisee?

Friday, July 9th, 2010

In representing franchisor clients against defaulting franchisees, it is imperative to give adequate thought to how the franchisor is going to prove its damages that resulted from a franchisee’s breach of the franchise agreement. When confronted with this issue, I most often utilize a financially competent representative of the franchisor to testify with regard to that amount of monetary damage suffered by the franchisor. The franchisor’s representative must be able to prove the damage by evaluating the franchisee’s financial statements, including revenues and/or profits, expenses, and royalties paid to the franchisor, and then determine what sums the franchisor would have earned either during and/or after the franchise term had it not been for the franchisee’s breach.

In order to testify convincingly and thoroughly, the franchisor’s representative must be able to analyze the franchisee’s financial numbers and draw a conclusion from such numbers. Therefore, a chief financial officer of a small franchisor, or an auditor or accountant of a larger franchisor, is an ideal representative in these instances, provided that the representative has been with the company long enough to be able to testify knowledgeably with regard to the details of the franchisor’s system.

Generally, a well-prepared franchisor representative will be permitted to testify as to the value or the projected profits of a franchised business provided the representative has a sufficient foundation for the analysis and opinion, including particular knowledge of the financial issues presented by virtue or his or her position in the franchisor company. This simply means that a franchisor representative may opine on the issue of lost profits where they know the franchisor and franchisee’s business and financial system intimately, and have the professional ability to analyze the franchisee’s financial statements.

To see how a franchisor SHOULD NOT approach the issue of proving its damages against a franchisee, see Lifewise Master Funding v. Telebank, 374 F.3d 917 (10th Cir. 2004), which in essence holds that a company’s witness as to damages must have personal knowledge of all items factored into his opinion in order for the opinion to be admissible. The court concluded that a business owner or executive may give “a straightforward opinion as to lost profits using conventional methods based on [the company's] actual operating history.” However, because in this case the witness lacked personal knowledge of the factors used in the damages analysis, the opinion was inadmissible.