10,000 Foot View of What You Need to Know

On February 11, 2022, Ohio’s law governing limited liability companies will change from its current form under Ohio Revised Code Chapter (“ORC”) 1705 (the “Old Law”) to its new form under ORC Chapter 1706 (the “New Law”). This means some significant changes for Ohio limited liability companies, which also apply to those organized under the Old Law. To make these changes less painful and reduce confusion, the New Law will use many of the same terms used in the Old Law. This blog is meant to provide an overview of some, but certainly not all, of those changes.

Changes Relevant to Operating Agreements

An operating agreement is a document governing the relations among the members of a limited liability company and the limited liability company. Many of the provisions of the New Law are default provisions, which a limited liability company can alter through its operating agreement. Due to the default nature of the provisions of the New Law, operating agreements existing under the Old Law should not be affected by the New Law.

Provisions That May Not Be Altered

Similar to the Old Law, a limited liability company may not alter certain provisions. For example, a limited liability company may not (i) eliminate the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, as discussed below; (ii) enforce promises to make capital contributions, which are not in writing; or (iii) create a situation where a limited liability company is not a separate legal entity. This is not an exhaustive list.

Limitation, Expansion, and Elimination of Fiduciary Duties

A limited liability company may alter certain duties and liabilities through an operating agreement. An example under the New Law is that a limited liability company may limit, expand, or eliminate fiduciary duties (defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as “a duty to act for someone else’s benefit, while subordinating one’s personal interests to that of the other person”) owed by members, managers, and others. However, this ability for a limited liability company to alter fiduciary duties is not absolute, as a limited liability company may not use an operating agreement to do away with what is referred to as the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The Old Law did not allow for the elimination of fiduciary duties but did allow for the limitation, expansion, and elimination of the duties of loyalty and care. 

            Penalties For Failure to Comply with an Operating Agreement

Under the New Law, a limited liability company may, also through its operating agreement, impose any penalty or consequence upon a member for failing to comply with its operating agreement. A couple of specific examples enumerated in the New Law include (i) forcing the sale of a member’s membership interest in a limited liability company and (ii) reducing a member’s proportionate interest in a limited liability company. The Old Law did not allow for such penalties.

            Third Parties’ Ability to Approve Amendments

Another wrinkle from the New Law dealing with operating agreements is that a limited liability company may vest the authority to approve amendments to its operating agreement in third parties (parties not involved in the limited liability company). The Old Law did not allow for this.

Separate Asset Series

One of the more critical changes in the New Law, which was not allowed under the Old Law, is the allowance for separate asset series in limited liability companies. Through its operating agreement, a limited liability company may establish separate series with separate (i) rights, powers, or duties regarding specified property or obligations of the limited liability company or its profits and losses; or (ii) purposes or investment objectives. Either of the foregoing is possible if each series has at least one member associated with it.

Where there is a separate asset series, the debts, liabilities, obligations, and expenses for that series are only applicable to that series, not any other series or the limited liability company in general, and vice versa.

To benefit from this treatment, a limited liability company must (i) maintain the assets of each series separately from any other series, and the limited liability company in general; and (ii) provide a statement in its operating agreement and its articles of organization (document filed with the Ohio Secretary of State to establish the limited liability company) similar to what is outlined in the preceding paragraph.

Membership Without Membership Interest or Contribution

Under the New Law, a party may become a member of a limited liability company without acquiring a membership interest or contributing to a limited liability company.

The Old Law required that a party be admitted (i) at the time a limited liability company was formed, (ii) by acquiring an interest directly from a limited liability company, or (iii) by acquiring an interest from a member of a limited liability company.

Statement of Authority

The New Law allows a limited liability company to file a statement of authority with the Ohio Secretary of State to state the authority of a specific party in a certain position to conduct business on behalf of a limited liability company. As such, where there is a statement of authority, it is no longer necessary to look to an operating agreement to determine who can conduct business on behalf of a limited liability company. Having a statement of authority will also limit the ability of third parties to enforce members’ and managers’ unauthorized decisions.

The Old Law did not provide for statements of authority but generally required parties transacting with a limited liability company to look to its operating agreement to determine who could conduct business on its behalf.

End of the Member-Managed and Manager-Managed Distinction

The New Law implicitly does away with the distinction between member-managed and manager-managed limited liability companies. A limited liability company no longer needs to make this distinction in its operating agreement, which was necessary under the Old Law.

Under the New Law, a manager is any party authorized to manage the activities of a limited liability company. Such a party does not need to be defined as a manager but can be called a director, officer, or anything else. This may allow for more flexible management structures, which the Old Law did not contemplate.

Mechanism for Barring Certain Claims after Dissolution

Known Creditors

Under the New Law, when dealing with known creditors, a dissolved limited liability company may give notice of its dissolution to known creditors, setting a deadline for them to bring their claims. Such a deadline may not be less than 90 days from the date of the notice. If the known creditors fail to bring their claims within that period, then their claims are effectively barred, protecting the dissolved limited liability company from those claims.

Unknown Creditors

Under the New Law, when dealing with unknown creditors, a dissolved limited liability company may now (i) publish a notice of its dissolution on its then maintained website, if any, and (ii) provide a copy of such notice to the Ohio Secretary of State for it to publish on its own website. If the dissolved limited liability company does so and requests that unknown creditors present their claims in accordance with the notice within two years from the date of publication (or if the statute of limitations runs during the two years), then those claims are effectively barred, protecting the dissolved limited liability company from those claims.

Under the Old Law, the dissolution of a limited liability company did not prevent the commencement of a proceeding against it.

Conclusion

The foregoing changes are only some of those seen under the New Law. If you need help navigating the New Law, it would be prudent to reach out to the Finney Law Firm. We can provide further guidance and a more in-depth explanation of the foregoing changes.  Contact Jennings Kleeman (513.797.2858) for assistance with your LLC or corporate affairs.

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article about creative home buying by friends. Is this a good idea?

Well, economically, it could make sense.  A single person may not need a 4-bedroom home, but could easily share the cost of loan principal and interest, taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance costs with another friend with the same housing needs. But what happens when one friend loses their job? Has a drug or alcohol problem? Has a bad boyfriend (or girlfriend)?  Likes to party too much? Gets a job out of town?  Gets married? Has a different standard for maintenance and improvements to the home? No longer can afford “their share” of the expenses?

Let us assure you that without documenting the agreement carefully laying out expectations and contingencies of the parties going forward, co-ownership (known as co-tenancy in Ohio law, as counterintuitive as that may sound) could turn out to be expensive and legally problematic.

The bottom line is that co-owners, whether buying as an investment or to live in the property, should have a clear understanding in advance and in writing as to (a) the standard of maintenance and who decides, (b) the division of monthly expenses, and (c) an exit strategy on death, disability, or one co-owner just wanting “out.”

Finney Law Firm has drafted many LLC operating agreements, corporate buy-sell agreements, and co-tenancy agreements. Contact  Eli Krafte-Jacobs (513.797.2853) or Jennings Kleeman (513.943.6650) for help with such an agreement.

Today, President Joseph Biden announced immediate and significant changes to the Paycheck Protection program, as follows:

  1. Priority period for businesses with fewer than 20 employees for two weeks starting this Wednesday, February 24th.
  2. Different loan (grant) calculation for sole proprietors and a set-aside of $1 billion for businesses in low- and moderate income areas.
  3. Made eligible those with non-fraud felony convictions.
  4. Made eligible business owners with student loan defaults.
  5. Made eligible all lawful U.S. residents with visas or Green Cards.

Forbes magazine has more details on these breaking developments here.

We are proud to announce that experienced real estate attorney Bruce G. Hopkins today joined the transactional group at Finney Law Firm. Bruce and Chris Finney practiced law together in the real estate group at Frost & Jacobs (now Frost, Brown Todd) at the beginning of their careers, so this is a long-delayed reunion of careers.

His practice is focused on retail and mixed-use projects, including development, leasing, resolution and litigation of disputes with tenants, purchases and sales, due diligence, management and operations matters.  He frequently works on investment-grade properties located across the United States.

Prior to becoming a lawyer, Bruce worked for almost a decade in the real estate industry doing commercial real estate appraisal work, commercial real estate lending and development for a major life insurance company, and commercial real estate development and management for a private developer.

Read more about Bruce here and let us know how Bruce can help your real estate project.

President Trump signed into law at the very end of 2020 another COVID-19 stimulus bill. Much of the writing about it has focused on the $600 direct payments to to individuals whose income falls below a certain thresholds. but this bill also contains important subsidies and changes for small businesses, including a new and significant second round of direct payments to small businesses payments under the Paycheck Protection Program (loans later forgiven).

Finney Law Firm attorney Rebecca Heimlich will follow up on her blockbuster Spring performances on the initial PPP with information on the new stimulus programs, and be joined by Seth Morgan of the MLA Companies, a financial service and advisory group on Wednesday, January 13th from 6:00 to 7:15 PM via live webinar.

The Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors is also co-hosting the webinar.

Webinar topics include:

  • Second round PPP:
    • Amounts (including increased amounts for restaurants)
    • Eligibility (much tighter than round #1).
    • Expanded qualifying expenses for Round #2.
    • Forgiveness.
  • First and second round PPP tax deductibility.

Click here to register.

For assistance with the PPP or more information, contact Rebecca Heimlich (‭513-797-2856). Also contact her if there is anything more we can do to help your small business.

We have been looking for details of the calculations of and eligibility for the second round of PPP in the most recent COVID stimulus bill. We found this excellent in article in Entrepreneur.Com here.

Some details from the article follow (note, since the PPP “loans” are forgivable, the word “loan” essentially means “grant” for most eligible businesses):

Qualifications:

  • A loss of revenue of 25% or greater, for any one quarter — comparing 2019 to 2020. If your firm had swings in revenue or had a pronounced one-quarter loss due to COVID or other causes, you may be eligible even if your annual revenue did not dip by 25%.
  • 300 employees or fewer.
  • Must have already used or plan to use their original PPP funding.

Loan terms:

  • Maximum loan limit of $2 million.
  • Loans of 2.5 months of payroll, which is the same as the original PPP. We are checking the legislation to see if the loan amount will change based upon increased payrolls from the original calculation (for example, if additional employees were added).
  • Restaurants food businesses (we are checking on the meaning of that term) qualify for 3.5 months of payroll as their loan amount.
  • Qualifying expenses are expanded from payroll and rent or mortgage payments in the original PPP to now include operating expenses, workplace protection costs to protect employees from COVID-19 and covered property damage.
  • Loan proceeds are not taxable and loan expenses are deductible (this is true for the new program and the original PPP payments).
  • Loans less than $150,000 have significantly simplified loan forgiveness (a one-page form).

For additional details on second round PPP loans, contact attorney Rebecca Heimlich (513.797.2856) of Finney Law Firm.

Tonight, a second historic COVID relief bill passed both Houses of Congress and awaits signature by President Trump.

The bill provides significant supplemental relief for small business in addition to direct payments to individuals. Here are some highlights of the bill’s business provisions:

  1. Paycheck Protection Program funds distributed under the first relief bill this spring and summer already by law were not to be counted as income, but the IRS had ruled that businesses could not count their expenditure as deductions, which essentially reversed the “tax free” nature of the forgivable loans. Under this bill, for all businesses who received the PPP this spring or summer, Congress has clarified that the expenses are deductible, which results in a benefit of another 30% or more from the previously-granted funds for businesses that are profitable.
  2. A second round of PPP funding will be handed out, but this time it is limited to businesses with documentable and demonstrable downturn of 30% or more as a result of the COVID pandemic. Other tight conditions will apply. Thus, the pool of eligible borrowers (grantees) is far more limited than under the first PPP program. Amounts of the loans (grants) are not yet available.
  3. In a significant give and take for landlords, Congress extended the eviction moratorium until the end of January, but they added $25 billion in assistance to tenants in arrears on their rent, allowing landlords to make application for the funds. It is expected that the Biden administration will extend the moratorium further after he takes office January 20 of next year. The applications are allowed for tenants who meet eligibility requirements, including (i) earning less than 80% of median income, (ii) at least one person in their households has lost a job and (iii) are at risk of losing housing.
  4. Making meals and drinks for business entertainment of clients and customers 100% deductible.

The bill is 5,593 pages in length, meaning there remains a lot of dissection of its intricacies. Attorney Rebecca Heimlich of the Finney Law Firm will be leading another EmpowerU webinar in early January covering how businesses and individuals can fully take advantage of the deductions and subsidies the bill provides. We will announce that webinar shortly.

More on the bill is detailed here in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Advancing our objective of “Making a Difference” for our clients, Finney Law Firm has made a point of briefing the various COVID relief and legal developments for our clients throughout 2020, and that will continue on this blog into 2021. Stay tuned for updates.

The State of Ohio has added two programs to further assist small businesses with the unprecedented business interruption associated with the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, (a) $125 million in Small Business Relief Grants and (b) $1.5 billion in refunds to small businesses from the Workers Compensation program. Details on both programs are below

  1. Small Business Relief Grant.

    The Small Business Relief Grant (“SBRG”) is designed to provide necessary relief to Ohio businesses that have been negatively impacted by the effects of COVID-19. The State has designated up to one hundred twenty-five  million dollars ($125,000,000) of funding received by the State of Ohio from the Federal CARES Act to provide $10,000 grants to small businesses to assist in ensuring the survival and stability of these crucial businesses.

    Some of the terms  are:

    • The applicant business is a for-profit entity (corporation, LLC, partnership, joint venture, sole proprietor).
    • The applicant business is an employer firm with at least 1 and no more than 25 Ohio employees paid via W2 wages as of 1/1/2020, determined either by a headcount or full-time equivalent employee calculation.
      • NOTE: A headcount calculation should include both part-time and full-time employees. A full-time equivalent calculation equals the total hours compensated for all W2 employees in calendar year 2019 divided by 2,080.
    • The applicant business has a physical location in Ohio and earns at least 90% of annual revenue from activities based in Ohio.
    • The applicant business has been in continuous operation since January 1, 2020, except for interruptions required by COVID-19 public health orders, and has the ability to continue operations as a going concern, taking into account a potential program grant.
    • The applicant business has experienced revenue loss or incurred unplanned costs substantially caused by COVID-19 and a grant is necessary to help it recover from the impact of COVID-19.
    • The applicant business is in good standing with the Ohio Secretary of State, the Ohio Department of Taxation, and any other governmental entity charged with regulating the business.
    • If applicable, the applicant business has fully utilized any other government support received (including both grants and loans) by the applicant business for business expenses incurred due to COVID-19 or that can be utilized for business expenses incurred due to COVID-19.
    • The link for the Ohio Small Business Relief Grant program from the Ohio Development Services Agency is here.

    There are also restrictions that may nullify your ability to obtain a grant.  Contact Jane Schulte at Finney Law Firm for more information on how we can assist you in navigating the application process.

  2. Workers Compensation refunds.

    • This is the second refund program this year, this time distributing $1.5 billion in excess funds held by the Ohio Worker’s Compensation program to Ohio employers. BWC started sending checks to up to 200,000 private and public employers in its system in late October after first applying the dividend to any unpaid balances. The dividend follows a similar dividend in April, where the average check size was $8,500.
    • The refunds are automatically calculated and the checks sent by the BWC. No action on the part of employers is necessary.
    • The announcement from the BWC is here.

As the New York Times reports here, the 10-day pause in SBA funding for Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) applications enabled lenders to get in order and carefully complete their paperwork for tens if not hundreds of thousands of new applicants, but when the portal finally opened up today at 10:30 AM, it was overwhelmed, causing the server to crash.  This allowed only a trickle of applications to be successfully processed on the first day of Round II of PPP funding.

As the article says, “bankers were expecting the money to once again run out quickly,” meaning knowledgeable market participants predict that there will be winners and losers among the contestants for a still-limited supply of federal monies. Those who get processed quickly will get full funding; those that do not may get nothing.  Clearly, Congress will need to approve a third and perhaps fourth round of funding for the program to fund all eligible small businesses.

Contact Rebecca Simpson Heimlich (513.797.2856) for help accessing PPP funds or assuring your path to their forgiveness.

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