Category Archives: Publications

“How to Tighten Contracts & Minimize the Expense of Litigation” by Ryan C.C. Duckett

Simple Contract Drafting and Negotiation Tips

From the inception of creating a contract to the closing prior to execution, word accuracy and term clarity helps shield contracts from that not so slim chance that, my contract won’t be litigated.  Do not be so quick to “Frankenstein” a contract with a myriad of cut and pastes. A little precaution can save your client a great deal of fortune.

Introduction of Contracts: The introductory clause of a contract is as critical as the body because it identifies the parties of an agreement. What seems so simple is easy to overlook. For instance, in a 2015 celebrity case dismissed on 9/11, and affirmed in 2016 by the California Court of Appeal, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian filed suit against Chad Hurley and AVOS Systems, Inc. for broadcasting confidential video of Kanye’s marriage proposal to Kim in violation of a confidentiality provision precluding publishing any video of Kanye’s proposal before it was published by Kim’s reality TV show Keeping Up With The Kardashians. The case was decided on whether Hurley’s tweet with a link to video of the proposal was a breach of the agreement by AVOS. Although Hurley was CEO of AVOS, he never signed the agreement on behalf of AVOS – according to him – and, whether someone is acting on behalf of a company is a question of facts, which means, it’s for a jury to decide[1]. Hurley was found liable but his company AVOS got off scot-free. Seriously? How could it be more obvious what was intended by Kanye and Kim? Simple…A quick definition defining all parties at the onset of the contract removes any question of fact, making it clear who the agreement binds.

Terms of Contracts: The terms of a contract should be as black and white as the paper it’s on. Many common words such as “material”, “full disclosure” or “efforts,” originally thought of as pinpointing the intentions, recently are vastly becoming more diluted from overuse, leaving too much room for interpretation. For example, what is material to one may not be so material to another, especially in contracts when interests are adverse and what one cares about, the other does not. Unfortunately, parties wait until the heat of litigation until clarifying what was originally intended.

By way of another example: Q. How are best efforts different from reasonable efforts?When parties enter into an exclusive distribution agreement, they like to set the tone for the distributor about the “efforts” the distributor must apply. Although California courts have yet to divulge into intricacies behind levels of effort, New York courts have and find it “murky.” Under the Uniform Commercial Code § 2-306(2), the producer may want to remain silent on the degree of effort to be expended by the distributor because it requires “best efforts…unless otherwise agreed.” In an original case defining best efforts, Falstaff Brewing Co. bought Ballantine brewing labels, trademarks, and everything else but the beer, with a promise to use “best efforts” to distribute it. Well, along came Guinness beer with an unprecedented low price. Falstaff intuitively succumbed to distributing the lower priced beer. Falstaff, however, was held in breach for failing to continue selling Ballantine, even though Falstaff was forced to incur an economic loss by doing so.[2]

Where parties have contracted to use a lesser degree of efforts, such as ”reasonable efforts” or “commercially reasonable efforts,” the courts held that such efforts are “interchangeable” with “best efforts.”[3]  Bottom line being to expressly articulate criteria intended to qualify as meeting your client’s “justifiable expectations,”[4]instead of leaving it to a precarious chance by courts’ “case by case” rulings.

Dispute Resolution of Contracts:  At the negotiation stage, many parties try to rush through the dispute resolution terms in the face of a breach, hoping this will never be the case. Coincidentally, this is the best and only time to negotiate such difficult terms. In a February 18, 2016 case initiated by Allstate Insurance for an insured’s alleged breach, the Defendants successfully dismissed the action immediately when the trial court ruled that a pre-litigation demand letter adequately satisfied the terms to enter into “good-faith negotiations” before filing a lawsuit.[5] Literally, “good faith negotiations before filing a lawsuit” really means an agreement to try to agree, but requires no back and forth process. If you want more good faith interaction before someone races to file a lawsuit, the contract should explicitly state each step a party must take.

Although, only a few primary examples are discussed, there are frequent circumstances that ultimately lead to litigation resulting from contracts using common pitfalls. Taking the time to contact an attorney like those at Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP, may be the solution to tighten a contract enough to minimize the potential expense of litigation.

________________________________

151215-Stubbs-116-retouched_600x400For any further information on tips or avoiding litigation, contact Ryan C. C. Duckett at rduckett@stubbsalderton.comor 818-444-4546. Ryan Duckett is an attorney of Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP. Ryan’s practice focuses primarily on employment, commercial, intellectual property and entertainment litigation. He has successfully litigated cases for both plaintiffs and defendants with trials and appellate experience that has secured over millions of dollars in jury verdicts for his clients, to arguing California jury instructions that were created by the case he second chaired.  He manages and handles all aspects of civil actions from pre-litigation matters to law & motion to trials, post-trials & appeals.

 

[1] Pacific Concrete Products Corp. v. Dimmick (1955) 136 Cal.App.2d 834, 838.

[2] Bloor v. Falstaff Brewing Co. (1979) 601 F.2d 609, 609-613.

[3] Samson Lift Tech., LLC v. Jerr-Dan Co. (Sup. Ct. 2014)

[4] E. Allan Farnsworth, Contracts § 7.17 (3d Ed. 2004)

[5] Allstate Ins. Co. v. Berg (Cal.1st.Dist., Div. 4, Feb. 2016 – affirmed)

The contents of this article do not constitute legal advice and are not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice or opinions.

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Highlights of the PATH Act and How It Benefits Startup Companies – By: Michael Shaff

PATH-Act-carnegie-invest.jpgCongress passed and the President signed a tax act in December. Here are some highlights that may benefit startup companies.

R&D Changes

  1. R&D Credit made permanent. The research and development (“R&D”) credit of 20% of qualified research expenditures had expired for costs incurred after December 31, 2014. The new tax act (known as the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes or the PATH Act) retroactively extends the credit for costs incurred after December 31, 2014. If your company filed a tax return for a fiscal year or a short year ending during 2015 and your company had qualifying R&D costs, consider filing an amended return to claim the credit on the qualifying expenses.
  1. R&D Credit applicable against AMT. An eligible small business (one with average annual gross receipts over the most recent three year period of not more than $50 million) may claim the R&D Credit against the alternative minimum tax (“AMT”). AMT is imposed when the alternative minimum tax [imposed at 20% for corporations and for individuals and other non-corporate taxpayers at 26% (for AMT net income not more than $175,000) or 28% (for AMT net income over $175,000) but computed without many deductions and credits], exceeds the regular tax. The regular tax is imposed at up to 39.6% for individuals and other non-corporate taxpayers and 35% for corporations.
  1. R&D Credit applicable against payroll tax. A qualified small business—meaning an entity having less than $5 million in gross receipts and which did not have taxable receipts in any year more than five years previous (meaning a startup that recently started to have sales income)—may claim some or all of the R&D Credit against the employer portion of FICA withholding. The amount of the R&D credit that may applied to reduce the business’s employment tax liability is limited to $250,000 per year. There are several further limitations on the use of the R&D credit against employment taxes, one of which applies to limit the use of the R&D credit against the entity’s employment tax liability, to the lowest of (a) the amount of the R&D credit elected for use against the employment tax liability, (b) the amount of the R&D credit for the year, or (c) the amount of the R&D credit that would otherwise go unused for the year.

Small Business Changes

  1. 1374 tax on built in gain for S corporations only applies for 5 years now. When a C corporation elects S corporation status or when an S corporation acquires assets of a C corporation in a tax-free transaction, it must determine its subchapter C built in gain—the excess of (i) the value of the assets of the C corporation at the time that the corporation’s subchapter S election becomes effective or the time that the acquisition of the assets of the C corporation by the S corporation is effective over (ii) the tax basis of those assets. If the S corporation sells those assets within five years of the date of the subchapter S election or the date of acquisition of those assets, the S corporation is taxable at the corporate level on the subchapter C built in gain. That five year period was reduced from ten years. A C corporation now only has to wait five years after the effective date of its subchapter S election before it becomes a completely pass-through entity.
  1. Section 1202 100% exclusion now permanent. Section 1202 allows a complete exclusion from tax on gain from the sale of stock of a qualified small business corporation. This may be a very attractive provision for startup companies that engage in a qualified business, in general any business other than personal services, real estate, farming or hotel management. Any C corporation engaged in a qualified business with aggregate gross assets having a value of $50 million or less may be a qualified small business. If an investor (other than a C corporation investor) holds the qualified small business stock for five years, any gain on the sale is permanently excluded from federal income taxation. This had been the treatment since 2010. This provision was annually extended. The PATH act made the 100% exclusion permanent. Incidentally, if qualified small business stock is disposed of after being held for six months but less than five years, the gain may be deferred if the amount realized (not just the gain) is rolled into new qualified small business stock within 60 days of the first sale. That latter rule was unaffected by the PATH act.

Section 179 Expensing Changes

  1. Section 179 allows a business to deduct up to $500,000 in qualified capital expenditures that otherwise would have to be capitalized and depreciated over the useful life of the assets purchased. The PATH act provides that the $500,000 expensing limitation will now be indexed for inflation. The ability to expense the cost of capital assets is reduced for each dollar over $2 million that capital expenditures represent, so at $2.5 million in capital expenditures, the deduction is reduced to zero.
  1. Section 179 allows for expensing of the cost of computer software that might otherwise have to be depreciated or amortized. The computer software would have to satisfy the other requirements of Section 179 for expensing capital expenditures.
  1. The right to revoke the 179 election without IRS consent has been made permanent by the PATH act.
  1. The PATH act made permanent the right to expense up to $500,000 (commencing in 2016) of the cost of qualified real property, which is defined as qualified restaurant property or qualified retail improvement property that was (1) of a character subject to the allowance for depreciation, (2) acquired for use in the active conduct of a trade or business and (2) not excluded under any of the rules that exclude other types of property from being “section 179 property.” The cap on the cost of qualified real property that could be expensed was $250,000 for 2015.

Section 181

Section 181 of the Internal Revenue Code allows expensing of up to $15 million ($20 million for expenses incurred in certain designated distress and low income communities) in film and TV production costs as long as 75% of the compensation costs for actors, directors, production personnel and producers were for services performed in the U.S. Section 181 was supposed to sunset for production costs incurred after 2015, but the PATH act extended the eligibility for the Section 181 deduction for production costs.

______________________

Michael_Shaff_crop

Michael Shaff joined the firm in 2011 as Of Counsel. He is chairperson of the Tax Practice Group. Michael specializes in all aspects of federal income taxation. Mr. Shaff has served as a trial attorney with the office of the Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service for three years. Mr. Shaff is certified by the Board of Legal Specialization of the State Bar of California as a specialist in tax law. Mr. Shaff is a past chair of the Tax Section of the Orange County Bar Association. He is co-author of the “Real Estate Investment Trusts Handbook” published annually by West Group.

For more information about the PATH Act and the Tax & Estate Planning Practice at Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP, contact Michael Shaff at mshaff@stubbsalderton.com

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“How to Tighten Contracts & Minimize the Expense of Litigation” by Ryan C.C. Duckett

Simple Contract Drafting and Negotiation Tips

From the inception of creating a contract to the closing prior to execution, word accuracy and term clarity helps shield contracts from that not so slim chance that, my contract won’t be litigated.  Do not be so quick to “Frankenstein” a contract with a myriad of cut and pastes. A little precaution can save your client a great deal of fortune.

Introduction of Contracts: The introductory clause of a contract is as critical as the body because it identifies the parties of an agreement. What seems so simple is easy to overlook. For instance, in a 2015 celebrity case dismissed on 9/11, and affirmed in 2016 by the California Court of Appeal, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian filed suit against Chad Hurley and AVOS Systems, Inc. for broadcasting confidential video of Kanye’s marriage proposal to Kim in violation of a confidentiality provision precluding publishing any video of Kanye’s proposal before it was published by Kim’s reality TV show Keeping Up With The Kardashians. The case was decided on whether Hurley’s tweet with a link to video of the proposal was a breach of the agreement by AVOS. Although Hurley was CEO of AVOS, he never signed the agreement on behalf of AVOS – according to him – and, whether someone is acting on behalf of a company is a question of facts, which means, it’s for a jury to decide[1]. Hurley was found liable but his company AVOS got off scot-free. Seriously? How could it be more obvious what was intended by Kanye and Kim? Simple…A quick definition defining all parties at the onset of the contract removes any question of fact, making it clear who the agreement binds.

Terms of Contracts: The terms of a contract should be as black and white as the paper it’s on. Many common words such as “material”, “full disclosure” or “efforts,” originally thought of as pinpointing the intentions, recently are vastly becoming more diluted from overuse, leaving too much room for interpretation. For example, what is material to one may not be so material to another, especially in contracts when interests are adverse and what one cares about, the other does not. Unfortunately, parties wait until the heat of litigation until clarifying what was originally intended.

By way of another example: Q. How are best efforts different from reasonable efforts? When parties enter into an exclusive distribution agreement, they like to set the tone for the distributor about the “efforts” the distributor must apply. Although California courts have yet to divulge into intricacies behind levels of effort, New York courts have and find it “murky.” Under the Uniform Commercial Code § 2-306(2), the producer may want to remain silent on the degree of effort to be expended by the distributor because it requires “best efforts…unless otherwise agreed.” In an original case defining best efforts, Falstaff Brewing Co. bought Ballantine brewing labels, trademarks, and everything else but the beer, with a promise to use “best efforts” to distribute it. Well, along came Guinness beer with an unprecedented low price. Falstaff intuitively succumbed to distributing the lower priced beer. Falstaff, however, was held in breach for failing to continue selling Ballantine, even though Falstaff was forced to incur an economic loss by doing so.[2]

Where parties have contracted to use a lesser degree of efforts, such as ”reasonable efforts” or “commercially reasonable efforts,” the courts held that such efforts are “interchangeable” with “best efforts.”[3]  Bottom line being to expressly articulate criteria intended to qualify as meeting your client’s “justifiable expectations,”[4] instead of leaving it to a precarious chance by courts’ “case by case” rulings.

Dispute Resolution of Contracts:  At the negotiation stage, many parties try to rush through the dispute resolution terms in the face of a breach, hoping this will never be the case. Coincidentally, this is the best and only time to negotiate such difficult terms. In a February 18, 2016 case initiated by Allstate Insurance for an insured’s alleged breach, the Defendants successfully dismissed the action immediately when the trial court ruled that a pre-litigation demand letter adequately satisfied the terms to enter into “good-faith negotiations” before filing a lawsuit.[5] Literally, “good faith negotiations before filing a lawsuit” really means an agreement to try to agree, but requires no back and forth process. If you want more good faith interaction before someone races to file a lawsuit, the contract should explicitly state each step a party must take.

Although, only a few primary examples are discussed, there are frequent circumstances that ultimately lead to litigation resulting from contracts using common pitfalls. Taking the time to contact an attorney like those at Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP, may be the solution to tighten a contract enough to minimize the potential expense of litigation.

________________________________

151215-Stubbs-116-retouched_600x400For any further information on tips or avoiding litigation, contact Ryan C. C. Duckett at rduckett@stubbsalderton.com or 818-444-4546. Ryan Duckett is an attorney of Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP. Ryan’s practice focuses primarily on employment, commercial, intellectual property and entertainment litigation. He has successfully litigated cases for both plaintiffs and defendants with trials and appellate experience that has secured over millions of dollars in jury verdicts for his clients, to arguing California jury instructions that were created by the case he second chaired.  He manages and handles all aspects of civil actions from pre-litigation matters to law & motion to trials, post-trials & appeals.

 

[1] Pacific Concrete Products Corp. v. Dimmick (1955) 136 Cal.App.2d 834, 838.

[2] Bloor v. Falstaff Brewing Co. (1979) 601 F.2d 609, 609-613.

[3] Samson Lift Tech., LLC v. Jerr-Dan Co. (Sup. Ct. 2014)

[4] E. Allan Farnsworth, Contracts § 7.17 (3d Ed. 2004)

[5] Allstate Ins. Co. v. Berg (Cal.1st.Dist., Div. 4, Feb. 2016 – affirmed)

The contents of this article do not constitute legal advice and are not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice or opinions.

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Preccelerator Program Company LockAware Publishes Article Regarding Locksmith Scams and their Entrepreneurial Journey

 

Lockawre-logoSAM Preccelerator Program company LockAware published an article about the source of their idea for LockAware, a startup designed to combat fraud in the locksmith industry.  To read the full article, click here.

For more information about LockAware, visit www.lockaware.com

For more information about the Preccelerator® Program, visit www.preccelerator.com or contact Heidi Hubbeling at hhubbeling@stubbsalderton.com.

 

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SAM Wire – November 2015

 

 

November 10, 2015
SAM Wire

You’re Invited! Startup Superhero Series with James Citron and Networking Under the Stars – Nov 12, 2015

Please join Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP and CohnReznick LLP for a special invitation-only speaker session followed by an opportunity to network under the stars.
What is a startup superhero? Join us as James Citron, CEO of Pledgeling, is interviewed by Matt Swider, US Mobile Editor for TechRadar, on the highs and lows of entrepreneurship and what it feels like to create a brand used by thousands of people.
When:
Thursday, November 12, 2015
5:30-7:00pm – Startup Superhero Series with James Citron
7:00pm-9:30pm – Networking Under the Stars (2nd Floor Patio)
Location:
Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP
1453 3rd Street Promenade, Suite 300
Santa Monica, CA 90401
RSVP:
Katie Garcia, 310-843-8218

For more information, click here.

 Preccelerator Program Spotlight

 

Rally provides location-based marketing services for mobile companies. We convert foot traffic at our partner locations into mobile engagement and users through the use of digital technology, including free wifismart phone charging, proximity beacons and digital displays.
We engage customers with contextual messaging at points of influence. Our sponsorship campaigns offer methods of exclusive, high-impact interactions for your brand to maximize your reach and attract valuable users within key demographics.

Partner locations include bars, restaurants, coffee shops, malls, stadiums and hotels. For more information, check out  www.rallypwr.com 

Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP Featured as One of the 25 Top Boutique Law Firms in California by the Daily Journal

Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP is proud to announce that we have been selected as one of the top 25 boutique law firms in California by the Daily Journal in their October 2015 “Top Boutiques” supplement. Only two firms were selected whose practice is primarily business and technology law.  The term “boutique” is assigned to a law firm of any size where at least 90 percent of the firm’s attorneys devote 100 percent of their practice to one specialty.
Stubbs Alderton is a business law firm with a niche in emerging growth and technology. We handle public securities, mergers and acquisitions, entertainment, intellectual property and brand protection while representing Southern California businesses from venture-backed emerging growth companies to midsize and large companies involved in technology, entertainment, video games, apparel and medical devices.

Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP also sets itself apart with our innovative business model which includes SAM Venture Partners, SAM Development Company, Preccelerator Program, and its joint venture FlashFunders.
We take great pride in fostering growth in the Los Angeles startup eco-system.

 

To read the full article, click here.

 

SAM Joint Venture Online Equity Funding Platform FlashFunders Surpasses Twelve Million In Investments for Startups

 

SAM joint venture, FlashFunders, the online equity funding platform accelerating innovation within the capital raising landscape, today announced on its one-year anniversary that it has successfully funded over twelve million dollars in startup seed rounds. In addition to this investments milestone, FlashFunders will partner with Raven Ventures to further ensure that featured offerings are provided access to an extensive global network of accredited investors. Raven Ventures, a leading global seed and early stage venture capital firm, has committed to investing five million dollars in startups listing on the FlashFunders platform effective immediately.
 
To read the full article, click here. 

 Preccelerator Program Pizza and Pitch Day

Big shout out to our Preccelerator companies that participated in this month’s Pizza and Pitch day!  A mock pitch session was organized for each company to present to their peers and mentors and receive constructive critiques.  A great success!  Prizes were given for pitching the closest to the alotted time frame, best PowerPoint presentation, and the People’s Choice award.   A big “thank you” to Preccelerator mentor Mark Wald of Supporting Strategies for sitting in as a guest judge today.  For more information about the Preccelerator Program, contact Heidi Hubbeling, Director of Operations, at hhubbeling@stubbsalderton.com or (310) 746-9803.
To view Pizza and Pitch day!, click  here.

 

Startup Formation – 4 Points to Consider When Deciding to Form Your Startup as a California or Delaware Corporation

A preliminary (legal) question that startup companies typically want answered is where they should form their startup entity.  With the rise of “Silicon Beach” in the LA market, this question often arises in the context of whether a company that has set up shop in LA should form a California or Delaware corporation.[1]  There are several items to consider in answering this question and while there is often no “right” or “wrong” answer, here are four common discussion points.
To register, click  here.

 

Issue: 16

In This Issue

Upcoming Events 
November 12, 2015 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Corporate & Business Matters

Trademark and Copyright Practice

 

Business Litigation

Public Security Practice 

Mergers  & Acquisitions

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Interactive Entertainment
& Video Games

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Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP Featured as One of the 25 Top Boutique Law Firms in California by the Daily Journal

Supplement 10-14-15 LDJ TBFURN101415Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP is proud to announce that we have been selected as one of the top 25 boutique law firms in California by the Daily Journal in their October 2015 “Top Boutiques” supplement. Only two firms were selected whose practice is primarily business and technology law.  The term “boutique” is assigned to a law firm of any size where at least 90 percent of the firm’s attorneys devote 100 percent of their practice to one specialty.

Stubbs Alderton is a business law firm with a niche in emerging growth and technology. We handle public securities, mergers and acquisitions, entertainment, intellectual property and brand protection while representing Southern California businesses from venture-backed emerging growth companies to midsize and large companies involved in technology, entertainment, video games, apparel and medical devices.

Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP also sets itself apart with our innovative business model which includes SAM Venture Partners, SAM Development Company, Preccelerator Program, and its joint venture FlashFunders.

We take great pride in fostering growth in the Los Angeles startup eco-system.

To read the full article, click Stubbs Alderton DJ2015 Top Boutiques.

For more information, contact:

Heidi Hubbeling
Director of Marketing
Director of Operations, Preccelerator Program
(310) 746-9803
hhubbeling@stubbsalderton.com

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SAM Joint Venture Online Equity Funding Platform FlashFunders Surpasses Twelve Million In Investments for Startups

flashfunders2SAM joint venture, FlashFunders, the online equity funding platform accelerating innovation within the capital raising landscape, today announced on its one-year anniversary that it has successfully funded over twelve million dollars in startup seed rounds. In addition to this investments milestone, FlashFunders will partner with Raven Ventures to further ensure that featured offerings are provided access to an extensive global network of accredited investors. Raven Ventures, a leading global seed and early stage venture capital firm, has committed to investing five million dollars in startups listing on the FlashFunders platform effective immediately.

To read the full press release, click here.

About FlashFunders

FlashFunders, the online equity funding platform, provides equal investing and funding opportunities for all. FlashFunders empowers startups to raise capital for free and democratizes investor access. Startups are able to manage their whole offerings online while investors can discover new companies and invest as little as $1,000. FlashFunders is a broker-dealer, securities law firm and technology platform rolled into one ecosystem–a powerful combination providing efficiencies that save investors time and startups money. Launched in 2014, FlashFunders is headquartered in Santa Monica, California. For more information, visit www.flashfunders.com and follow FlashFunders on Twitter at https://twitter.com/flashfunders.

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Startup Formation – 4 Points to Consider When Deciding to Form Your Startup as a California or Delaware Corporation

Tim PoydenisTim G. Poydenis is an associate of the Firm and was formerly an associate of Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, P.C. in Santa Monica.  Prior to Stradling, Tim was an associate and baseball sports agent at Beverly Hills Sports Council. Tim’s practice focuses on corporate matters, including venture capital financings, mergers and acquisitions, private equity transactions and general corporate and business matters.  Tim also advises emerging growth and development stage companies on entity formation, corporate governance and day-to-day corporate matters.

_________________________________________________________________________

A preliminary (legal) question that startup companies typically want answered is where they should form their startup entity.  With the rise of “Silicon Beach” in the LA market, this question often arises in the context of whether a company that has set up shop in LA should form a California or Delaware corporation.[1]  There are several items to consider in answering this question and while there is often no “right” or “wrong” answer, here are four common discussion points.

  1. Certainty in Law:

The Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”) is a current and internationally recognized corporation statute that is frequently updated to account for new legal and business developments.  In addition, Delaware has well-developed case law that has been authored by top judges in the field.  Aside from the readily apparent benefits of the foregoing (e.g., a corporation being able to guide its formation and activities consistent with the DGCL and developed case law), litigation related to a Delaware corporation’s corporate activities is often less likely to occur than with a California corporation as the DGCL and past Delaware case law likely already address a substantially similar dispute or issue that may arise (and thus litigation may be unnecessary).  Accordingly, Delaware edges out California with regard to this point.

  1. Investor and Buyer Preference:

Whether it is early in a startup’s evolutionary path with raising money from friends and family, late round financings, or an eventual exit, potential investors and buyers typically prefer that a company be formed as a Delaware corporation. Delaware is preferred for many reasons that include, but are not limited to: the DGCL is an internationally recognized business corporation statute that is updated regularly; there is well-developed case law analyzing various provisions of the DGCL; the Delaware Court of Chancery is considered by many to be the leading business court; and, simply put, most investors and buyers are more comfortable with a Delaware corporation since they are likely accustomed to seeing Delaware corporations in transactions rather than California corporations.  As a result, potential investors and/or buyers may require that a California corporation convert to a Delaware corporation as a condition precedent to the funding of an investment or a closing of an acquisition.  Although the conversion mechanics are not overly burdensome, it is often better to have a Delaware corporation from the outset to avoid additional hurdles and/or action items to process that may later delay the closing of a needed financing or pending acquisition.

  1. Efficiency of the Secretary of State:

The Secretary of State of the State of Delaware is generally thought of as the most efficient secretary of state in the US.  From same-day filings, to expedited one-hour or two-hour filings, to a customer friendly and knowledgeable support staff, the Secretary of State of the State of Delaware takes away many of the (potential) miscues or headaches associated with transactions that may result from requests directed at the applicable secretary of state.  This is not to say the Secretary of State of the State of California does not offer similar services and expertise (which it does), but the general consensus is that the reliability and speed of the Secretary of State of the State of Delaware is preferred.

  1. “Quasi California Corporation

Notwithstanding the fact that a corporation may be formed in Delaware, a Delaware corporation may be subject to certain provisions of the California Corporations Code (the “CCC”).  Section 2115 of the CCC provides that certain provisions of the CCC may apply to a foreign corporation (e.g., a Delaware corporation) if certain factors are met.  One of the factors set forth in the CCC is an assessment of whether more than one-half of the outstanding voting securities of a corporation are held of record by persons having addresses in California, which is often the case with Silicon Beach startups.  This is not to say that a California-based company should incorporate in California if the factors of Section 2115 of the CCC will be met, but this is just another item to consider when determining the appropriate state of formation.

                As highlighted above, there is often no “right or “wrong” answer when it comes to picking the appropriate state of incorporation, but there are many items to discuss (well beyond the 4 highlighted above) with your business, legal and/or tax advisors.

[1]               Please note that the discussion points in this article are limited to Delaware and California corporations.  Information regarding additional jurisdictions and/or entity types available upon request.

______________________________________________________________________

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.   For more information regarding your legal needs, contact Tim Poydenis at tpoydenis@stubbsalderton.com or (818) 444-4547.

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Business Law Breakdown – FCC Issues Guidance for Companies Promoting Apps via Text Message

Nick-Feldman-smNick Feldman’s practice focuses on corporate transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, dispositions, private equity transactions and general corporate matters for both public and private clients, focusing on middle-market and emerging growth companies. In addition, Nick counsels companies in connection with entity formation, corporate governance, federal and state securities laws and compliance, joint ventures, employee incentive plans, executive employment agreements and other executive compensation matters. Nick also serves as an Adjunct Professor at Loyola Marymount University, where he lectures on media law topics.

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Text message promotions have long been touted as a marketing jackpot for mobile applications due to their high open rates and short click-path to download—look no further than companies like Lyft for success stories. However, refer-a-friend invitations have also come under fire for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (the “TCPA”), a law originally implemented to crack down on invasive telemarketing. Class action lawsuits that successfully establish that individuals received unsolicited text messages could result in penalties of up to $1,500 per text message.

On July 10, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission released a Declaratory Ruling and Order clarifying portions of the TCPA. In response to petitions from app-based service providers TextMe and Glide, the FCC set out best practices for companies utilizing text message promotions. In doing so, it established that the app user, not the company, may be responsible for initiating the text message in certain scenarios, opening the door for wider use of refer-a-friend text message promotions.

In order to comply with the TCPA, the FCC determined that companies must satisfy a balancing test which requires some direct connection between a person or entity and the sending of the text message. Specifically, the test examines who took the steps necessary to physically send the text message and whether another person or entity was so involved in sending the text message as to be deemed to have initiated it.

Pursuant to the FCC’s 2013 DISH Declaratory Ruling, persons or entities that merely have some minor role in the causal chain that results in the sending of a text message generally do not take the steps necessary to physically send such a text message, and thus are not deemed to “initiate” the text message.

In the case of TextMe, the app’s users invited friends to use the service via text message by engaging in a multi-step process in which the users had to make a number of affirmative choices.  First, they were required to tap a button that read “invite your friends.” They were then able to choose whether to invite all their friends or individually select contacts, and finally they were prompted to send the invitational text message by tapping another button.

The FCC determined that, to the extent that TextMe controlled the content of the advertising message, the company might be liable under the TCPA. Despite that cause for concern, however, the TextMe app users’ choices and actions caused the user to be so involved in sending the text message as to be deemed its initiator. For that reason, TextMe’s invite flow was deemed not to violate the TCPA.

TextMe’s practices contrasted with those of Glide, which sent text message solicitations automatically to all of its app users’ contacts unless a user affirmatively opted out. In that scenario, the FCC determined that Glide initiated the text messages because the app user played no role in deciding whether to send the invitational text messages, to whom to send them, or what to say in them.

Ultimately, not all app providers are exempt from liability under the TCPA. In light of the FCC’s guidance, a company that desires for its users to send text message invitations to their contacts should require the user’s affirmative consent with respect to (1) whether to send a message, (2) who the message is sent to, and (3) when the message is sent. To further limit potential liability, the company should allow the user to determine or modify the language of the invitation message.

It is also worth noting that FCC’s declaratory rulings are not binding on trial courts, but are instead interpreted as persuasive authority. However, due to the limited amount of case law interpreting the TCPA, FCC opinions like this one are the primary source of guidance as to how companies should comply with the law.

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For more information about services for your legal needs, contact Nick Feldman at nfeldman@stubbsalderton.com or (818) 444-4541.

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SAM Wire – August 2015

August 6, 2015

SAM Wire

Why Your Exit Strategy Matters 

By: Michael Shaff

Exit strategy, the plan for monetizing or disposing of a business, may seem remote and speculative when organizing a new business.  But it is important to know what exit strategies are available and how those strategies are likely to be taxed depending on the form of entity through which the start up does business.  

 To view the full article, click  here.

 SAM Preccelerator Program Spotlight

 

 

Verde Circle develops cloud-based Software as a Service solutions that help you optimize and manage your business operations.  www.verdecircle.com

Verde Circle
Verde Circle

Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP Continues to Expand First Class Business Litigation Practice Group

Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP, Southern California’s leading business law firm, has announced that litigator Joshua Stambaugh has joined the firm as a Business Litigation partner in its Sherman Oaks office. The addition of Mr. Stambaugh continues to bolster the growth of the Business Litigation practice, bringing the group to 8 seasoned attorneys.

To read the full press release, click here.

SAM Managing Partner Scott Alderton Honored with Heart Centered Tech Award

 

Stubbs Alderton & Markiles’ Managing Partner Scott Alderton was presented with the Heart Centered Tech LA Award at the Annual LA Venture Association (LAVA) Meeting on Thursday, July 15th. The award was handed off to Scott from Rich Abronson, last month’s HCTLA Award recipient.  SAM’s involvement in the LA Tech community led by Scott, along with his personal efforts to foster the growth of Silicon Beach and dedication to startups was the basis for this award recognition.

To read the full article, click  here. 

In this session, Len Lanzi will focus on techniques and ways to network in the VC and Angel Community.  We will interact and share best practices on business development and promoting your start-up.

To register, click here.
Issue: 13

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