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© 2009-2018 Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law

Required Officers – California Corporations are Unique

Cover of the California Corporations Code, which has a statute about required officers in corporationsOfficers conduct a corporation’s day-to-day business. Among the states, California law is unique in its set of required officers.

California Corporations Code Section 312(a) states that each California corporation must have:

  • A chairman of the board or a president or both;
  • A secretary; and
  • A chief financial officer.

Additional officers are optional.

That Code section also provides that the president is the chief executive officer of the corporation, unless the articles of incorporation or the bylaws state otherwise.

Other states typically take an approach similar to that specified in Delaware General Corporation Law Section 142 (emphasis added):

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The Definition of Director May Depend on the Context

California Secretary of State logo

While working with one of my international clients several months ago, I re-learned a lesson that I already knew: The meaning of a word (in this case, the definition of Director) may depend on the context.

The client is located in Vietnam and wanted to open a branch office in the Bay Area. It would be “doing business” in California, so it needed to qualify as a foreign corporation.

I duly prepared a Statement and Designation by Foreign Corporation and had it signed by the client’s most senior officer. That officer’s title, translated as “Director,” was entered onto the form.

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Do LLC Officers Have a Fiduciary Duty?

Picture of a meerkat on duty, symbolizing whether LLC officers have fiduciary duties

Officers of a corporation have a fiduciary duty to both the corporation and its shareholders. (See California Officers Need to Be More Careful than Directors.) I recently had to consider, for a limited liability company in California, whether LLC officers have a similar duty.

Section references below have been updated to reflect California’s new LLC law that took effect on January 1, 2014 (see RULLCA Brings New LLC Laws to California in 2014).

I was preparing the operating agreement for a client’s LLC. The client was to be the sole member (equity owner) and manager. (more…)

Corporate Officers in California Need to Be More Careful than Directors

Logo of Indymac Bank, whose corporate officers in California were not protected by the Business Judgment Rule

In California, corporate directors the so-called Business Judgment Rule (“BJR“) protects corporate directors. They are not responsible for honest mistakes of business judgment. A recent case revealed that the BJR does not protect corporate officers in California.

During 2007, Indymac Bank bought more than $10 billion in risky residential loans. These loans ultimately generating losses of more than $600 million. Indymac closed. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was appointed receiver.

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Corporate Officer Can Be Personally Liable for Copyright Infringement

Blue Nile logo

In Blue Nile v. Ideal Diamond Solutions, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington held that co-defendant Larry Chasin, founder and an officer of defendant IDS, was personally liable for infringement of plaintiff Blue Nile’s copyrighted images, even though Chasin claimed he had no role in putting infringing images on websites and he did not know the images were infringing.

Blue Nile is an online jewelry and diamond retailer. Chasin founded and operated IDS to create websites for brick-and-mortar jewelers to help them compete online. The websites included some of Blue Nile’s copyrighted images.

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How to Resign as Agent for Service of Process (or Disclaim a Corporate Position)

California Secretary of State Form RA-100 - Resignation of Agent

In “Incorporation: Not All (States’) Agents are Created Equal“, I discussed how agents for service of process in California are less formal – in both their appointment and their responsibilities – than registered agents in other states. California agents can resign more easily, too.

Corporations Code Section 1503(a) states that an agent for service of process may resign simply by filing a signed and acknowledged written statement. The Secretary of State? has provided Form RA-100 for this purpose. (more…)

What Does the Chairman of the Board Do?

GavelEarlier today I answered the following Quora question: What does the Chairman of the Board do?

Here is the answer that I provided:

The Chairman of the Board does what the Bylaws and the Board of Directors say s/he will do. Here is some typical Bylaws language: (more…)

Who Can Sign Contracts for a Corporation?

Photo of hand with pen on paper, symbolizing who can sign contracts for a corporationA couple of weeks ago, I answered a question on Avvo about who can sign contracts on behalf of a corporation. This issue comes up from time to time, so I will discuss it at some length in this post.

Authorization to sign contracts is addressed in the corporation’s bylaws and / or in resolutions of the board of directors.

If specific authorizations are set forth in the bylaws, changing those authorizations can be a bit of a hassle, because the bylaws must be amended. As a result, I prefer to have specific authorization to sign contracts established by the board, with the board’s powers being established by the bylaws. Here is a typical such bylaws provision:

Executing Corporate Contracts. Except as otherwise provided in the articles or in these bylaws, the board of directors by resolution may authorize any officer, officers, agent, or agents to enter into any contract or to execute any instrument in the name of and on behalf of the corporation. This authority may be general or it may be confined to one or more specific matters. No officer, agent, employee, or other person purporting to act on behalf of the corporation shall have any power or authority to bind the corporation in any way, to pledge the corporation’s credit, or to render the corporation liable for any purpose or in any amount, unless that person was acting with authority duly granted by the board of directors as provided in these bylaws, or unless an unauthorized act was later ratified by the corporation.

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