Many entrepreneurs need to control expenses – including legal fees. One way to do that is to incorporate online rather than work with a lawyer. Occasionally I am asked, “When is it OK to incorporate online?”
My greatest concern when entrepreneurs incorporate online is that they have no way to know whether the process has been completed properly. This is particularly true with respect to issuing shares – a critical task.
In answering this question, I look for activities that increase the likelihood of a dispute or a lawsuit. I ask:
Future services seem like a great no-cost way to buy equity in a startup. In California, however, whether you legally can buy equity with future services depends on whether the startup is a corporation or a limited liability company (LLC).
Corporations Code Section 409(a)(1) specifies the types of “consideration” that can be paid for corporate shares. These include, for example, “money paid; labor done; [and] services actually rendered to the corporation or for its benefit or in its formation or reorganization”.
However, “neither promissory notes of the purchaser [subject to certain exceptions] nor future services shall constitute payment or part payment for shares of the corporation“. So a California corporation cannot grant shares in exchange for future services.
I recently have received several inquiries about whether a foreign company or its owners need an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) when they bring their business to the US. The answer is, “No.” The rest of this post explains why that is the case.
When a company wants to do business in the US, it needs an EIN (Employer Identification Number).
For a foreign or foreign-owned company, obtaining an EIN can be intimidating. This is especially true if the principal officer lacks a US social security number. (The EIN cannot be obtained quickly and easily online.)
In a recent article (Foreign Entrepreneurs Learn Art of the American Pitch), the Wall Street Journal discussed the role of “pitch coaches” who help foreign entrepreneurs promote themselves in the US. While the article focused primarily on pitches to investors, it applies to selling one’s business to clients and colleagues, as well.
The thrust of the article is that selling in the US is different from selling in other countries. In my work with international clients, I have seen the same thing.
Here are some of the ways that pitch coaches say pitches need to be tailored to work best in the US.
When I form a corporation for a client, I purchase a customized corporate records book, which comes with share certificates and a corporate seal. This post explains what a corporate seal is and when it might be used.
A corporate seal is a hand-operated metal device that can emboss the corporation’s name and state and date of incorporation on a piece of paper. It, thus, can serve as evidence that the corporation acknowledges an agreement or other document as binding the corporation.
As an analogy, think of an English king, centuries ago, sealing a letter with molten wax and making an impression of his ring in the wax before it hardens. Whoever received the letter would know that it came from the king.
This post is based on a question I have seen online many times. Q. Can I have a corporation with multiple businesses?
A. Yes, you can have a corporation with multiple businesses. Furthermore, those businesses need not be similar or related. So, for example, your corporation might do both software development and per sitting.
However, there is a more important question. Should you have a corporation with multiple businesses?
In Directors’ Inspection Rights Include (Almost) Anything in California, I discussed corporate directors’ inspection rights. Quoting California Corporations Code Section 1602, I noted that directors have an “absolute right” to inspect corporate records and physical properties. This post explains that in enforcing inspection rights, “absolute” is not really “absolute”.
The fundamental limitation, established in case law, is that a director may not use inspection rights to harm the corporation.
Do you wonder why lawyers often have a bad reputation? If so, consider the ridiculous Yelp lawsuit alleging that Yelp’s reviewers are employees of the company.
Yelp is an online review site and local business search service. Consumers are encouraged to write reviews of, and rate their satisfaction with, various products and services.
Historically, controversies have concerned whether Yelp punishes businesses for not advertising on the site (which Yelp denies). More recently, business owners have complained about Yelp’s automated tools for removing false or inappropriate (e.g., paid) reviews based on unpublished criteria.
Recently, I have seen several limited liability company (LLC) members ask, online, how they can add a new LLC member. This post provides the answer, which is pretty simple.
Short answer: One must amend the Operating Agreement to add a new LLC member.
Slightly longer answer: An Operating Agreement (OA) can be oral or written. A written OA is better because it clearly documents the members’ agreement concerning the LLC.
Software developers may have decided to provide open source software, but they may not know which open source license to use. This post describes three resources developers can consult to help make that decision.
First, Open Source Initiative maintains a comprehensive list of open source software licenses. Licenses are grouped into categories, starting with the most popular licenses. However, the OSI site does not provide any tools to help decide which open source license to use.