Left unresolved, shareholder disputes can become expensive stressful and time-consuming experiences. However, quick action can often resolve even the most bitter of shareholder disputes.
Partnership and shareholder disputes
For over 20 years, our team of experts has helped businesses resolve partnership and shareholder disputes – whatever the situation. Let us help you too.
Supportive and friendly with partner-led involvement, I would recommend Francis Wilks & Jones to anyone facing a similar situation.
A shareholder who turned to us after discovering that his co-shareholder was profiting well from their business while he was being paid a pittance. We helped him find a way out of the business by selling his shares
When directors fall out, we assist shareholders and business owners with the following issues:
Many businesses are set up with two individuals holding equal shares. Both tend to be the controlling minds of the business with neither holding more power than the other.
Whilst this often makes sense at the early stages of a business, it can lead to significant issues if the two shareholders later fall out or want to take the business in different directions. Whatever the reason, it is vital to address any deadlock issues early on. Left unresolved, they can lead to the failure of the company and any shareholding becoming worthless.
Our team regularly resolves deadlock situations for clients either by negotiation and mediation or by more formal court intervention or litigation.
Issues in family businesses and succession planning
We regularly advise clients who are shareholders in family businesses. Problems can often occur in family businesses, for example when parents are looking to retire / exit the business or where some family members are not seen to be “pulling their weight”. With the added complexity of family shareholders often being part of the management of the company, these types of shareholder disputes can quickly become very difficult indeed.
Our team can provide the swift and expert advice needed to resolve family shareholder disputes and at the same time, work through some of the succession planning issues and tax related affairs which might also arise.
Dealt with early and with the right level of expertise, our team can resolve the disputes and do what we can to ensure that the company and shareholder value remains intact.
Shareholder and divorce situations
Often, marital difficulties and/or formal divorce situations can materially impact a company where a husband and wife or those in a civil partnership are directors and / or shareholders in a business. Again, swift intervention can often remove the areas of dispute and preserve the value of the business – whilst negotiating a structured exit for one of the parties concerned. Or even a sale of the entire business.
It is sensible for couples who are also directors and / or shareholders of a company to identify what would happen to the company in the event of a separation. This is ideally addressed in a shareholders agreement which would help to reduce the risk to a company in the event of a separation.
Shareholder disputes with directors and management
One of the most common areas of dispute is between shareholders and the management / directors of a company.
Disputes can arise on a wide range of matters including:
- the failure to pay dividends
- understated dividends
- asset removal & fraud
- general director incompetence
- directors breaching their fiduciary duties
- excessive pay for directors
- directors setting up competing businesses
- abuse of director loan accounts
- attempts to dilute shareholder value
- directors ignoring pre-emption rights
- disagreement over corporate strategy and the direction of the business
- general abuse of position by the directors
- directors unlawfully removing another director or adjusting the share register without any formal transfer of shares
Whilst director disputes are never good for shareholders, particularly in smaller businesses, there are always things that can be done to help remedy the situation.
Whatever your situation – we have the team to help. We know what strategy to adopt to best achieve the desired outcome.
Unfair prejudice against minority shareholders
Being a minority shareholder does come with its risks. It can leave you open to exploitation or abuse by either directors or other shareholders. A shareholder who owns 50% or less of a company is classified as a minority shareholder.
The company may fail to pay you dividends, try to dilute the value of your shares, or take steps that risk your investment. For example, take the company in the wrong direction strategically or redirect company assets to a competing business in which you do not hold shares.
Our team regularly help minority shareholders and are well versed in the rights and remedies available to protect their position both now and moving forward. These include mediated or negotiated settlements, structured exit / share sales, court intervention, removal of directors or even a just & equitable winding up of the company.
Issues with sleeping partners
From time to time, disputes can arise with a sleeping partner. Sleeping partners are those individuals who take little if any interest or involvement in the company but may from time to time suddenly “re-awaken” their interest and begin to cause problems. Equally, a shareholder might need the assistance of a sleeping partner should wider issues arise in the company that need that person’s support to resolve.
Our specialist team has significant experience working with sleeping partners.
As a shareholder, you are always at risk of the company becoming insolvent and your shares becoming worthless.
If you believe that the company has financial difficulties or is adopting a high risk strategy which may impact your investment, there are steps you may be able to take to protect your position as a shareholder.
Equally, if the company asks your consent for the company to enter into an insolvency process, we can assist you to understand whether the insolvency process proposed is right for the company.
Where the company has entered an insolvency process, our specialist team can help deal with any post-insolvency issues arising in your capacity as a shareholder.
Do you require help with shareholder disputes?
Should you require any assistance, please contact our shareholder / director services team who can discuss such matters with you.
“I have found FWJ to be perceptive, to the point and realistic. They have been able to assimilate and forcefully defend a very aggressive claim with very limited historic information.”
A client we advised on a complicated property and partnership dispute