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.

We thank Empower U for hosting a Zoom.Us webinar on the Small Business Administration’s new Paycheck Protection Plan (“PPP”) and Emergency Income Disaster Loans (“EIDL”) designed to help small businesses sustain through the unprecedented economic interruption brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.  The session was held on April 2, 2020 entirely virtual to remain safe.

The webinar video link is here.  Please feel free to share it with others.

The attorneys on this presentation and their contact information are;

Finney Law Firm is offering individualized assistance in navigating regulations and procedures surrounding PPP and EIDL applications.  For professional assistance, contact Rebecca Simpson Heimlich.  If you or your business is encountering employment-related issues arising from the COVID-19 crisis, contact Stephen E. Imm.

If you liked this free video, please consider donating to EmpowerUOhio.Org to encourage this free programming.  Empower U has given more than 400 free adult education programs over the past decade, including valuable programming of this type.

There is a powerful feeling that the community is pulling together, rooting for one another, and digging deep to help each other, and we hope this information is helpful towards that end.

Also, we will continue to update the Finney Law Form blog to provide individuals and small businesses information on the programs that are available to help them through this crisis.

If you want to be added to the Finney Law Firm email updates, click here.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis gripping the nation, today Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued an executive order addressing commercial leases and commercial mortgages in Ohio.  However, from our perspective, the Order is not intended to have any binding effect, and he would have no authority under Ohio law to issue such a binding order if he so desired.

Here are the components of the order, each of which he labels as a “request,” not an Order at all:

  • Requesting that landlords suspend commercial lease payments for at least 90 days for “small business commercial tenants in the State of Ohio that are facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • Requesting that landlords also provide a moratorium on evictions of small business commercial tenants for a term of at least 90 consecutive days.
  • Requesting that mortgage lenders of Ohio-based properties forbear on collection or enforcement of such mortgage for a period of at least 90 days.

As with our prior blog on the stay-at-home Order, the Order does not seem to have any direct legal effect, but rather is designed to encourage restraint and cooperation in this difficult time all of the world is encountering.

A copy of the Order is linked here.

Join Empower U tonight from the comfort and safety of your home via your laptop, tablet or cell phone for a webinar on powerful tools for small business from the federal government in the CARES Act passed last Friday.

>>> The link to sign up for the free seminar is here. <<<

  • If you want to email questions in advance, click here.
  • For specialized assistance for your company, we are offering consultation through the program for a flat $1,500 fee to help businesses through the process.  Click here to get signed up and type “PPP” in the subject line of the email.
  • To have your email to be added to our firm mailing list and receive tonight’s PowerPoint, click here and say “add me to your list” in the subject line.

Joining us tonight are:

  • Attorney Rebecca Simpson Heimlich who will lead the presentation primarily on Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans available very shortly  to small businesses.
  • Attorney Stephen E. Imm who will answer questions of employers and employees about the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Melissa Knies from US Bank who will explain how to apply for the programs.
  • Attorney Christopher P. Finney will moderate.

We have a record audience for Empower U signed up for tonight. Please join us for this important program.

 

With the advent of the COVID-19 Crisis, Finney Law Firm and Ivy Pointe Title have quickly stepped to the plate, with technology that allows for the practice of law with appropriate social distancing, with attorneys who focus on practice areas to help their clients, and with cutting edge information on emerging programs to help businesses and individuals in need.

Technology allowing for electronic interaction

Finney Law Firm and Ivy Pointe Title  have carefully developed the tools to be prepared for a day such as this:

  • DocuSign allows for execution of documents from your computer.  By federal and state law, e-signed documents are fully enforceable as with “inked” documents. Our team is licensed and trained in DocuSign technology for all documents in which clients will allow an electronic signature.
  • Electronic notary.  Finney Law Firm and Ivy Pointe Title contracted with one of only a handful of licensed e-notaries in Ohio for exclusive provision of e-notary services. Using the platform DocVerify, we have the strongest technology to allow real estate closings and other transactions to proceed.  By Ohio law, it is permissible to have documents signed and acknowledged (notarized) without person-to-person interaction via electronic signature and electronic notary.
  • Electronic payments. We use e-billing and credit card payments (and wire transfers and EFTs) for clients who prefer this method of billing and payment.
  • Electronic discovery and electronic depositions. Your litigation does not need to stop because of the COVID-19 crisis. Most of the work pre-trial can still move forward using e-mail, Zoom.US or Microsoft Teams for depositions, and motion work that can be electronically filed with almost all Courts.
  • Work-from-Home. If you do need to visit our offices, you will find that most of our professionals are not at their desks. Rather, they are safely (for you and them) working from home with the latest technology including Microsoft Surface laptops, Microsoft Teams Video Conferencing, Microsoft Office 365 data in the cloud, so we can access your data from anywhere in the planet, but with tremendous Microsoft security technology and backups.

Practice areas to help your business

Our business lawyers are up to date and prepared to help you through the thicket of issues that arise or are heightened with the COVID-19 crisis:

Attorney Isaac T. Heintz is proficient in contract interpretation, including how to enforce or avoid obligations under a lease or other agreement. He has already written purchase agreements with COVID-19 contingencies to extend due diligence periods to the declared end of the crisis. As you might expect, Isaac has also had many clients initiate their estate planning, or finish long-delayed estate planning work.

Attorney Stephen E. Imm heads our employment law group, and is advising clients on a myriad of new COVID-19 legislation and addressing employment law claims under previously existing law and the new enactments.

Attorney Bradley M.  Gibson heads our litigation group which is dealing with a multitude of business-to-business disputes, including those arising because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Attorney Richard P. Turner runs Ivy Pointe Title and in that capacity has been using every tool at our disposal to continue to close your transactions “accurately and on time, every time.”  These include closings respecting social distancing, and we stand prepared to be one of the first agencies in Ohio to implement fully electronic closings.  We also can do drive-by closings where you come to our office and sign documents from your car, or we come to you and you can sign them on our car hood.

Attorney Christopher P. Finney heads our public interest practice, and the host of issues addressing government-to-business and government-to-individual interaction arising from the COVID-19 crisis.

CARES Act assistance for your small business

Congress just passed the CoronaVirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which includes the Paycheck Protection Program that will provide what essentially are grants to businesses with fewer than 500 employees and enhanced Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).

Attorney Rebecca Simpson Heimlich has been counseling clients through this program, and on Thursday night she joins other presenters on a panel addressing “CARES Act, Including Paycheck Protection and Funds for Businesses.”

Conclusion

We are working furiously to meet the needs of our clients in this fast-emerging crisis. Let us know how we can help you or your small business navigate these turbulent waters to come to the other side safely and profitably.

And our hope is that each of you remain healthy throughout this pandemic.

 

 

You will soon hear the terms SBA 7(a) program and “Payroll Protection Program” as an important and significant program to help virtually every small business in the nation.

While labeled as a “loan program,” it in fact can operate as a generous grant program for any business or non-profit under 500 employees. The “loan” is 2.5 times your monthly payroll expenses. More details are available in this article from National Law Review.

Here are the key features:

  • You apply for a “loan” through an SBA-approved lender. Here is the SBA link to Cincinnati-Area approved lenders.  The Cincinnati-area list is very short: US Bank, Fifth Third Bank, The Huntington National Bank, First Financial Bank, PNC Bank, Center Bank and People’s Bank from Marietta.
  • The “loan” is in an amount that is 2.5 times your monthly business’ payroll, being the monthly average over the 12 months prior to the date the loan is made.
  • The “loan” is in a maximum amount of no more than $10 million.
  • The “loan” has no fees associated with it.
  • The “loan” requires no personal guarantees.
  • The “loan” requires no collateral.
  • The “loan” does not require proof that funds cannot be received elsewhere.
  • The “loan” has a simplified application process.
  • The “loan” will be funded quickly to avoid the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Most importantly, borrowers are eligible for loan forgiveness equivalent to the sum spent on covered expenses during the eight-week period after the loan is originated. 
  • Covered expenses include wages, benefits, rent, mortgage payments, and utility charges.
  • The “loan” is forgiven if you maintain your pre-crisis level of full-time equivalent employees for eight weeks after the loan is made.
  • If you fall below that level of employment, your loan forgiveness is reduced in proportion to the reduction in headcount. The same applies to salary reductions.
  • If you already have made staffing reductions, you qualify for loan forgiveness if you re-hire back to pre-crisis levels by June 30, 2020.
  • You do not need to demonstrate actual economic harm in order to qualify. Rather, you simply need to make a series of good faith certifications, primarily that (a) current economic conditions necessitate the loan to support ongoing business operations, and (b) that the funds will be used to maintain payroll and address other covered expenses.

In order to apply, you need to contact an SBA-approved lender Qualified SBA lenders are awaiting further instruction from the SBA.  Contact your lender to get on their email list to obtain application instructions as they become available.  We will update this BLOG as new information is forthcoming.

Here is an excellent article explaining the Payroll Protection Program from Inc. Magazine.

You may contact attorney Christopher Finney (513.943.6655 (o) or 513.720.2996 (c)) at any time for more information.

Attorney Christopher P. Finney

 

With the raging COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, the question that we are fielding the past few days is:

How can I get out of my contract to do “X”?

Each of the three analyses below hinges on the language of the contract.  Thus, “it depends.”

Contract Contingencies

First, with respect to contracts to buy companies, real estate or other assets, consider the contingencies in the contract.  For example, read here and here for easy “exits” from Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors residential contracts for buyers.

“Force majeure” provisions

But what about leases, long-term supply contracts, employment contracts, construction contracts and other commercial contracts?

Many such contracts contain what is known as a “force majeure” provision that essentially contemplates precisely the situation in which we find ourselves today: Some unexpected exigency such as war, famine, or pandemic.

In its essence, a force majeure clause is a contract provision that excuses a party’s performance under a contract when certain circumstances beyond their control arise, making performance impracticable, impossible or illegal. These clauses are common in complex commercial contracts, such as a commercial lease (and we really don’t expect to actually use them).  Yet here we are and they can be a business-saving resource in determining how to proceed.

Can this provision excuse your performance and let you “get out of” a contract? Well, as you might expect your attorney to say: “it depends.”  It depends on the language of the contractual provision.

Here is a sample force majeure provision from a commercial contract:

In the event a party shall be delayed or hindered in or prevented from the performance of any obligation (other than a payment obligation) required under this contract by reason of strikes, lockouts, inability to procure labor or materials, failure of power, fire or other casualty, acts of God, disease, restrictive governmental laws or regulations, riots, insurrection, terrorism, war or any other reason not within the reasonable control of such party, then the performance of such obligation shall be excused for a period of such delay, and the period for the performance of any such act shall be extended for a period equivalent to the period of such delay.

Would such a provision allow a tenant to terminate a lease? Would it allow an employer to terminate an employment contract for a term? Would it allow a manufacturer to avoid its obligations under a supply contract?

In this contractual language, we have the specific exceptions of “disease,” “acts of God,” and “restrictive governmental laws.”   Since we have a disease that is arguably an “act of God,” and government-imposed shutdowns, it would seem that there are multiple bases upon which to argue for termination.  But there could be countervailing arguments as well.  For example, payment obligations are not excused in this sample language.

Some courts have applied force majeure clauses very narrowly, meaning that the specific occurrence has to be contemplated by a force majeure provision. Thus, is the word “disease” in your force majeure clause? Well, COVID-19 would seem to fit tightly within that definition, but does it? Hamilton County, for example, as of this writing, has no reported cases, and yet tens of thousands of people have been thrown out of work because of the fear of pandemic.

Mere diminished performance or increased expenses to perform alone likely would not be a sufficient basis to excuse performance and invoke a force majeure clause.

Business Interruption Insurance

Do you have business interruption insurance that would cover the COVID-19 pandemic consequences?

If you were prescient or cautious enough to buy business interruption coverage, that usually covers only a direct physical loss such as a fire, flood or earthquake.  Some policies require that a loss be specifically designated, while other policies have no such requirement.

  • In the case of COVID-19, it may be tough to prove a direct physical loss but what if a workplace is contaminated and unusable due to a COVID-19 outbreak?
  • Possibly, business interruption coverage could be invoked if a supplier shuts down and can’t supply product or parts due to COVID-19

Additional considerations

Before triggering contingencies, invoking a force majeure provision or making a claim for insurance coverage, consider the following:

  1. Are alternative means to perform your contractual obligations.
  2. Will the other party to the contract consider mitigation of the performance problem, such as a rent reduction or other part-performance?
  3. Could the parties reach a mutual agreement to terminate a contract or delay performance?

Conclusion

Virtually overnight, our firm and our clients have found ourselves in the middle of single worst crisis in perhaps 100 years.  The first option should be to work towards accommodation with the other party to the contract.  Beyond that, we have the options set forth above to consider for relief in this incredibly challenging environment.

Call one of our skilled and experienced attorneys if you want to explore your legal options or pursue one of these remedies.

Finney Law Firm attorney Eli N. Kraft-Jacobs

So, you have decided to cease operations, close down your business, and begin the process of dissolving your entity.  You know that there are formalities that must be attended to, but the what/when/how remains elusive.  The first step is to identify if the entity is a corporation or a limited liability company.  Notwithstanding some unique provisions of the Ohio Revised Code, and without discussing the process for nonprofit corporations, professional associations, or partnerships, the following is a general overview of the steps necessary to dissolve domestic corporations and limited liability companies in the State of Ohio.

Electing to Dissolve a Corporation:

A corporation may be dissolved voluntarily by the adoption of a resolution of dissolution by the directors or by the shareholders.  The requirements for dissolving the corporation by resolution of the directors differ from those for dissolving the corporation by the shareholders.

Once a resolution of dissolution has been adopted, and after obtaining the necessary tax clearance, a Certificate of Dissolution shall be prepared, which must include pertinent information for dissolving the corporation.  There are other notification requirements that must be met prior to filing the Certificate of Dissolution with the Ohio Secretary of State.

A corporation may also be dissolved judicially by either: (1) an order of the supreme court or a court of appeals or (2) an order of the court of common pleas in the county where the entity’s principal office is located.  If this is the path your company is taking, the good news is that the relevant court will, purposefully or otherwise, identify the things that need to be accomplished in order to dissolve and wind up the affairs of your company.  The bad news, of course, is that a court is ordering the dissolution of your entity and much of the process will be public record.  If the dissolution occurs pursuant to the supreme court or court of appeals, then the court may either: (a) order the directors to effectuate the dissolution and wind up the entity in the same manner as would occur during a voluntary dissolution or (b) direct the relevant court of common pleas to effectuate the same.  A court of common pleas may only order dissolution in an action brought by the shareholders, the directors, or the prosecuting attorney of the relevant county.

Regarding dissolution in a court of common pleas, if the action is brought by the shareholders, the court may only order dissolution if: (a) the articles have been canceled or the period of existence has expired, (b) the corporation is insolvent and dissolution is the only means through which to protect the creditors, or (c) the corporation has failed or is unable to meet its objectives.  If the action is brought by the directors, the court may order dissolution if there is an even number of directors who are unable to break a deadlock or there is an uneven number of directors, but the shareholders are deadlocked on a vote to elect new directors.  If the action is brought by the relevant prosecuting attorney, the court may order dissolution if it is found that the corporation was organized for, or otherwise engages in, activity including, but not limited to, the following:  prostitution; gambling; loan sharking; drug abuse or illegal drug distribution; counterfeiting; obscenity; extortion; corruption of law enforcement offices or other public officers, officials, or any employees; or any other criminal activity.

Electing to Dissolve a Limited Liability Company:

The process of dissolving a multiple member limited liability company (“LLC”) is similar to dissolving a corporation.  Regarding voluntary dissolutions, an LLC shall be dissolved upon the occurrence of any of the following: (1) the expiration of the period of existence as stated in the operating agreement or the articles of organization, (2) the occurrence of one or more events specified in the operating agreement as causing dissolution, (3) the unanimous written agreement of all members of the LLC, (4) the withdrawal of a member of the LLC unless otherwise stated in the operating agreement, or (5) a decree of judicial dissolution.  A Certificate of Dissolution must be filed with the Ohio Secretary of State in order to effectuate the dissolution of the LLC.

Regarding tribunal dissolutions, a tribunal may declare an LLC dissolved and order the business to be wound up upon the occurrence of any of the following: (1) an event making it unlawful for all or most of the business to continue or (2) a determination by the tribunal that any of the following is or are true: (a) the economic purpose of the LLC is likely to be unreasonably frustrated, (2) a member of the LLC has engaged in conduct relating to the business that makes it not reasonably practicable to carry on business with such member, or (c) it is not otherwise practicable to carry on the business.

The process for dissolving a single member LLC differs from the above process for a multiple member LLC.

Voluntary Winding Up:

Once an entity voluntarily elects to dissolve and files a Certificate of Dissolution with the Ohio Secretary of State, the relevant parties are authorized to proceed with the winding up of the corporation/LLC.  Winding up is the process of selling the assets of the business, paying off creditors, and distributing any remaining assets to the  members or shareholders in accordance with Ohio  law.  This is separate and distinct from a judicial or tribunal dissolution, during which the court will control the process of winding up.

There are some minor distinctions between LLCs and corporations with regard to the winding up process, but they largely follow the same path.

It is important to note that dissolution is not a magic wand with which one may avoid company liabilities.

While the dissolution process may seem straight forward, you should always seek legal counsel to ensure the I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed.

One important but often overlooked provision of Ohio corporate law is the requirement that “foreign corporations” (meaning any corporation established outside the state of Ohio) must obtain a license to transact business within the state of Ohio when doing business in Ohio.

No foreign corporation. . .shall transact business in this state unless it holds an unexpired and uncanceled license to do so issued by the secretary of state. To procure such a license, a foreign corporation shall file an application, pay a filing fee, and comply with all other requirements of law respecting the maintenance of the license as provided in those sections.

R.C. 1703.03.

Although a failure to obtain a license does not invalidate any contracts a foreign corporation enters into in Ohio, a lack of registration means that a foreign corporation cannot maintain a lawsuit in Ohio courts.

The failure of any corporation to obtain a license…does not affect the validity of any contract with such corporation, but no foreign corporation that should have obtained such license shall maintain any action in any court until it has obtained such license. Before any such corporation shall maintain such action on any cause of action arising at the time when it was not licensed to transact business in this state, it shall pay to the secretary of state a forfeiture of two hundred fifty dollars and file in the secretary of state’s office the papers required by divisions (B) or (C) of this section, whichever is applicable.

R.C. 1703.29.

A similar provision for foreign limited liability companies is located at R.C. 1705.58.

This is a common provision throughout the United States. In Kentucky the requirement is codified at Kentucky Revised Statute 14.9-20.

A recent Hamilton County Court of Appeals case highlights the importance of licensing your foreign corporation. In LV REIS, Inc. v. Hamilton County Board of Reviison, et al., C-160732. the First District Court of Appeals upheld the Common Pleas Court’s dismissal of a case brought by a Nevada corporation that had failed to register with the state before filing a Board of Revision appeal in the Common Pleas Court.

Had LVREIS been successful in the underlying case, it would have saved approximately $17,000 in property taxes per year – making the failure to register a costly oversight. It should be noted however, that even though the Common Pleas Court granted the motion to dismiss, it also provided some analysis of the merits of the appeal, suggesting that LVREIS would not have prevailed had the case been decided on the merits. 

If you are operating a foreign corporation or limited liability company in Ohio, this case should serve as a warning to make sure you’ve properly registered in every state in which you operate. If you are not currently registered in Ohio, you can register now.

For those involved in disputes with foreign entities corporations, this can be an important defense to raise in litigation, as even though a foreign corporation can cure the defect prospectively, the case law suggests that if an unregistered foreign corporation files suit but later registers with the state, such registration does not cure the lack of jurisdiction.

Contact Finney Law Firm for assistance with your corporate or property tax matter here.

Attorney Julie M. Gugino

“Joint and several liability” is a legal concept that provides that each obligor under a contract is fully liable for the obligations under that contract as to the other party to the contract (i.e, the party to whom the joint obligors are obligated).  So, in the instance that two or more guarantors sign a guarantee instrument to a bank for a loan, if they are “joint and severally liable,” it means that each guarantor owes the entire debt to the bank in the event of default.  The bank can’t collect twice the guaranteed amount, but it can choose which guarantor from which to obtain payment.

So, the question addressed in this article is “what is the default position as to joint and several liability on a contract if the instrument is silent on the topic?”  We address topic this under Ohio and Kentucky law.

The answer: In short, “joint and several” is the default interpretation absent language in the instrument that absolves parties of such liability.

General Contract Principles

A contract is a promise or a set of promises for the breach of which the law gives a remedy, or the performance of which the law in some way recognizes as a duty. Restat 2d of Contracts, § 1 (2nd 1981). Further, where there are more promisors than one in a contract, some or all of them may promise the same performance, whether or not there are also promises of separate performances. Restat 2d of Contracts, § 10 (2nd 1981). Such is the situation when more than one individual signs a guaranty or a promissory note.

Standard contract language

The standard modern form to create duties which are both joint and several is “we jointly and severally promise,” but any equivalent words will do as well. In particular, a promise in the first person singular, signed by several persons, creates joint and several duties. Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 289 (1981). What this means is that, generally, under the common law, promises of the same performance create “joint” liability on the part of each promisor unless an intention is manifested to create a “solidary” obligation. Restat 2d of Contracts, § 289 (2nd 1981). However, many states have state specific statutes which have altered or refined this rule.

Common law when contract is silent

In Ohio, an individual signing a note as a co-maker with another individual is jointly and severally liable for the debt, except as otherwise provided in the instrument. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 1303.14(A). Star Bank, N.A. v. Jackson, 2000 Ohio App. LEXIS 5567, *1. Under U.C.C. Art. 3, a party signing a promissory note as a co-maker is jointly and severallyliable for the debt. Darrah v. Leakas, 1994 Ohio App. LEXIS 220, *1. As among themselves, co-makers are presumed liable in equal amounts, however, these rights are governed by the particular terms of the contract between the co-makers. Poppa vs. Hilgeford, 1982 Ohio App. LEXIS 13658, *1.

In Kentucky, likewise, in the absence of an express agreement to the contrary, when two or more individuals execute a note, such persons are jointly and severally liable to the holder, even though the instrument contains no such express provision.  KRS 355.3-118. Schmuckie v. Alvey, 758 S.W.2d 31, 33-34.

Duty of contribution from co-makers

As between or among themselves, however, in the absence of evidence of a contrary agreement, co-makers are presumed to be liable in equal amounts and a right of contribution, based upon an implied contract of reimbursement and not the instrument, exists between or among them. 11 Am. Jur. 2d, “Bills & Notes” § 588 (1963). Id.

Conclusion

What this means is that if you sign a note or guaranty or other like instrument with another individual, the holder of that note, in their sole discretion, can choose to recover the full amount against you and only you. As between you and your co-maker, depending on your agreement, you likely retain the right to seek contribution from them pro-rata.

For more information on commercial instruments and personal guarantees, contact Julie Gugino at (513) 943-5669.