Michael L. Weissman will be a speaker at an upcoming Illinois State Bar Association program titled Navigating Today’s Muddy Banking Waters. The program takes place on Thursday, October 4, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at the Chicago ISBA Regional Office located at 20 S. Clark Street, Suite 900. To register for the program, please click here.
It was a hard fought battle. You successfully sued a party in a commercial dispute who wronged you and a judge or jury awarded you seven-figure sum. Because the Defendant didn’t immediately take out its checkbook, however, you now face the task of collecting the judgment. Oftentimes, litigation doesn’t end when the judge bangs the gavel and you walk out of the courtroom with a judgment – a piece of paper saying that you’re entitled to money. You can’t bring the judgment to a car dealership and buy a car with it and the judgment itself won’t pay your mortgage. So what do you do to turn the judgment into actual dollars?
The Illinois Legislature and Illinois Supreme Court have carefully crafted laws and rules that allow you, as the successful plaintiff, to discover the judgment debtor’s assets in an attempt to collect your judgment. The process usually begins by serving the defendant with Citation to Discover Assets. The Citation to Discover Assets is first served on the defendant, usually either a person or a business, and, much like a summons or a subpoena, commands the defendant to appear at a specified time and place, usually a courtroom, to answer, under oath, questions about its assets. Typically, a Document Rider is attached to the Citation to Discover Assets requiring the judgment debtor to produce documents, such as bank records, titles to property, and the like, that will enable your attorney to locate assets. Importantly, service of the Citation to Discover Assets also acts as a form of lien or injunction on the defendant’s assets, generally preventing the defendant from disposing of assets while the post-judgment proceedings are pending.
As the victor, you are not only permitted to serve a Citation to Discover Assets on the defendant, you are also entitled to serve one on anyone who holds the defendants assets or who owes the defendant money, such as a customer, employer, bank, relative, investment company or anyone holding assets belonging to the defendant. These Third Party Citations require the third-party to provide sworn written answers to your questions within a certain period of time and, if it fails to do so, the judgment can also be entered against that third-party.
After you’ve been able to discover the existence of assets, you then ask the court to enter an order requiring the party holding the assets to turn them over to you. It takes a court order to get a bank to turnover a defendant’s cash. If you’re asking the court to order the turnover of tangible things, as opposed to cash, typically the order will require the assets to be turned over to the sheriff so the sheriff can sell them and turn them into cash.
There are many effective ways to satisfy a judgment, many are complex and require the assistance of an attorney familiar with the procedures. While most litigators know how to obtain a judgment, far fewer know how to effectively collect the judgment, leaving you holding little more than a very expensive piece of paper.
For more information on post-judgment proceedings, please contact:
Howard Teplinsky at email@example.com or 312-368-0100
On May 25, 2018, the European General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) went into effect. US-based companies that had offices in the European Union or European Economic Area (collectively, “EU”) or those companies whose target market consisted of persons living in the EU were forced to take both IT and legal measures to ensure compliance, or face heavy fines or potential court damages. However, many US-based companies simply decided that they would disable their e-commerce websites to the EU, and discontinue selling products to the EU, as a means of avoiding compliance with the GDPR.
While this strategy of avoidance may be successful for certain companies to avoid taking compliance measures required by GDPR, it will not be successful as a long term strategy as more States (and potentially the federal government) adopt privacy laws similar to the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (“CCPA”).
Passed in June, 2018, the CCPA will become effective January 1, 2020. Once effective, US companies will have additional regulations with which to comply regarding the processing of personal information (“PI”) of California residents. PI is defined broadly to include “any information that …relates to … a particular consumer or household”. The law was designed to provide California consumers with a means of controlling their personal information, putting them in a better position to protect their privacy and autonomy. Specifically, the CCPA:
Who Must Comply? Companies must comply if, in the course of their business, they receive PI from any California residents and if they or their parent or subsidiary either: (1) generate annual gross revenues in excess of $25 million, (2) collect PI of 50,000 or more California residents, households or devices annually, or (3) generate 50% or more of its annual revenue from selling California residents’ PI. Interestingly, parent companies and subsidiaries using the same branding are covered by the definition of “business” even if they themselves do not meet or exceed these parameters. Thus, essentially, most all US companies whose websites collect PI (even though obtaining IP addresses) are subject to the CCPA, unless they can ensure that less than 50,000 California residents or less than 50,000 of their devices visit the company’s site annually.
What about Companies Who Do Not Do Business in California?
Many US companies may have difficulty showing that they do not do business in California. According to the California Civil Code, only companies whose “commercial conduct takes place wholly outside of California” would be able to avoid the CCPA. Further, a company outside California is deemed to be “doing business” in California if it actively engages in any transaction for the purpose of financial or pecuniary gain or profit in California”. Those companies outside California but that are qualified to do business in California may be subject to the CCPA if they enter into “repeated and successive transactions” in California, including online transactions. However, while this is only limited to California, it is very probably that other states will adopt similar legislation.
Whose Information Is Affected?
The new law defines “consumer” broadly to include not only customers, but also employees, patients, tenants, students, parents and children. (Cal. Civ. Code Sec. 1798.140(g). A “resident” includes natural persons who are in California for anything other than a temporary or transitory purpose, and, those natural persons who are domiciled in California who are out of the State for a temporary or transitory purpose.
What Are The Penalties of Non-Compliance?
If a business is not incompliance with CCPA, the California Attorney General’s Office may bring a civil action against the business. The Office may levy penalties for non-compliance of up to $7500 per intentional violation of any provision or $2500 per violation for unintentional violations that are not cured within 30 days of notification.
What are Companies To Do?
Moving forward, all US Companies must engage in data mapping to determine what PI it collects, and then put in place updated privacy notices, and other procedures to comply with all relevant regulations. While California is often the ringleader, certainly other states are also developing similar laws aimed at the protecting PI of its residents. Until such time as a federal privacy regulation is put into place, US companies will need to analyze carefully where they do business and comply with a patchwork of state laws.
To learn more about the CCPA and other privacy related matters, please contact the author:
Natalie A. Remien, CIPP/US at:
firstname.lastname@example.org or (312) 368-0100.
Morris Saunders will be a presenter at a seminar entitled “Estate Planning and Administration: The Complete Guide” for the National Business Institute. Morris will be giving two presentations at Illinois Business and Industry Services located at 1100 East Warrenville Road, Suite 150 Naperville IL 60563. The first presentation titled “Transfers During Life and Inter-Vivos Trusts” will take place on September 26 from 2:30-3:30, and the second presentation titled “Tax Consequences of Trusts” will take place on September 26 from 3:30-4:30. To register, or for more information please click here.
In the purchase and sale of real property which is leased to tenants, sellers and purchasers must pay particular attention to the allocation of rent collected both before and after the closing. A typical purchase and sale agreement will include, among other things, language addressing the allocation of rent by the parties for the current period as well as the collection of delinquent rent after closing which is attributable to the seller’s period of ownership prior to closing. In negotiating a contract, the parties will need to determine whether the purchaser is responsible for attempting to collect pre-closing delinquent rents and the rights of the seller to pursue tenants after closing for any such pre-closing delinquent rents.
Collection of pre-closing delinquent rent can be a complicated issue for purchasers and sellers to resolve. On the one hand, the purchaser may be reluctant to allow the seller to undermine the financial condition of a tenant by pursuing lawsuits against a tenant that may be paying current rent to the new landlord. On the other hand, a former owner does not have a full range of typical landlord remedies at its disposal to effectively induce tenants to pay delinquent rent as the former owner cannot assert an eviction action against a tenant and terminate the tenant’s right of occupancy.
The tension between purchasers and sellers with respect to pre-closing, delinquent rent is further complicated by a recently decided opinion issued by the Illinois Appellate Court in 1002 E. 87th Street LLC v. Midway Broadcasting Corporation (2018 IL.) App. 1st 171691, June 5, 2018). In that case, the Court upheld a lower court ruling that Illinois law does not permit the purchaser of real estate to pursue claims against a tenant for pre-closing, unpaid rent under a lease assigned to the purchaser at closing. The purchase and sale agreement between the purchaser and seller in that case contained standard provisions confirming that the “landlord” under the lease included any successors and assigns. It also provided that all obligations and liabilities of the original landlord were binding on the purchaser, as successor landlord. That would include any pre-closing landlord defaults that remained uncured. Notwithstanding the successor landlord’s assumption of the lease, including, potential liability for pre-closing defaults of its predecessor, the Court ruled that the successor landlord did not have the right to recover pre-closing rent. The Court specifically stated that the rule in Illinois is that rent in arrears is not assignable.
The lesson to be learned from the 1002 E. 87th Street case is that it is important to negotiate and set the expectations of the parties with respect to pre-closing delinquent rents at the time of contract. Since a predecessor landlord may have little power other than initiating litigation (which is not desired by the successor landlord) against a tenant for delinquent rent and the successor landlord is unable to maintain an action for that delinquent rent, parties must give careful thought to the method of addressing the collection of pre-closing delinquent rent. Fortunately, there are a number of different approaches that the parties may employ to coordinate and enhance the collection of pre-closing, delinquent rent.
For further information regarding the purchase and sale of commercial real estate as well as matters involving the rights of sellers, purchasers and tenants, please contact:
email@example.com or 312-368-0100.
In Part 1, we explored doing business as a sole proprietor or in a partnership. A problem with those types of business entities was that they did not shield the sole proprietor or the general partner from the claims of creditors of the business. This installment will briefly discuss the operation of a business through a corporation or a limited liability company, two forms which, if established and operated correctly, can provide the owners with limited liability.
In a corporation, the owners (“shareholders”) generally have limited liability for the corporation’s conduct of the business. This liability is “limited” to the shareholder’s investment in the corporation. This is applicable, even if there is only one shareholder. While generally the liability is limited, the corporation must observe all the corporate formalities, such as having regular meetings of its directors and shareholders, documenting all action taken (leasing property, setting up a bank account, paying compensation and dividends to the shareholders), and owning or leasing its own property, and treat the business as a separate entity. If they fail to do so, creditors may be able to “pierce the corporate veil” and assert the liability of the corporation against the shareholders.
In a limited liability company (”LLC”) as in a corporation, the owners (“members”) generally have limited liability for the LLC’s conduct of the business. Unlike a corporation, an LLC does not have to observe formalities, such as conducting meetings and documenting the actions of the LLC. However, the members must treat the LLC as a separate entity with its own assets, including bank accounts, and liabilities.
Note that other issues may arise when selecting your choice of entity. A corporation may be either a “C-corporation” or an “S-corporation.” An LLC can be ignored for income tax purposes if there is only one member; if there is more than one member, it may be treated as a partnership. If the member(s) otherwise elect, an LLC could be treated as a corporation (C-corporation, or S-corporation). No matter what the income tax election or consequences, the income tax treatment has no effect on liability issues.
This article and Part 1 have each addressed, in general terms, the types of business entities available to the business owner. No decision should be made without considering all of the issues. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you have regarding this or any other legal issues confronting your business.
If you are starting a business or have any questions regarding the legal alternatives available to your business, please contact:
312-368-0100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations, you have decided to start a new business. You are going to become an “entrepreneur”, a business owner. You have put together your business plan, located potential business premises, talked with your advisors, and are ready to get started.
You have talked with an attorney and an accountant and they have advised you to form a “business entity”. Now you have to decide which one is right for you. So, what are your choices? Following are just a few options:
Sole Proprietorship. You could own and operate the business and not form a separate entity. This is generally the “simplest” legal way of owning and operating a business. Other than obtaining the required business licenses, all you need to do is to put an “open for business” sign up and you are ready to go. The business is owned by only one individual and “dies” when the owner either stops doing business or dies. The individual owner has unlimited liability for all obligations of the business.
Partnership. If you have decided to go into business with other owners, you could form a partnership. There are two kinds of partnerships: general partnerships and limited partnerships.
In a general partnership, you and your partners will have unlimited liability for acts and obligations of the business, including those incurred by any of the partners in the business. If you have no agreement, the partnership will be governed solely by the laws regarding partnerships in your state. Without an agreement, if one partner dies or withdraws, the partnership terminates.
In a limited partnership, there must be at least one general partner who manages the affairs of the partnership and who will be liable for all the acts and obligations of the partnership. The “limited partners” may not participate in the management of the partnership and are treated as investors. They will not generally be liable for the acts and obligations of the partnership. The partnership must file a Certificate of Limited Partnership in the state in which it wishes to organize.
In proprietorships and general partnerships, there can be serious legal consequences to the individual(s) who operate the business. As pointed out, a sole proprietor, while “King” of the business, has unlimited liability for the obligations of the business. General partners are entitled to their share of the business income, but also have unlimited liability. Limited partners may not participate in management, but have limited liability.
So, what can a business owner do to limit his or her liability?
[To be continued, in Part 2, where we will discuss Corporations and LLCs, two of the more preferred ways of operating a business in order to minimize personal liability].
If you are starting a business and have any questions, please contact:
312-368-0100 or email@example.com.
Defending lawsuits is sometimes an unfortunate but necessary part of doing business. Whether the case was quickly dismissed by the court, or whether you won the case after a trial, you and your attorneys knew the case was unfounded from the beginning and yet you had to spend substantial time and money that you could have devoted to your business in order to successfully defeat the case.
Depending on the facts and circumstances and whether the suit was pending in state or federal court, your fees may be recoverable from other side as a sanction for filing a “frivolous” claim against you. However, absent a contract or statute providing otherwise, you will most likely be unable to recover your attorneys’ fees simply because you won your case.
Assuming the suit was filed in Illinois, sanctions may be available. Generally, to recover fees against a party or his or her attorney under either rule, it must be shown that the party and/or his attorney either: (1) failed to reasonably investigate the facts or the law before filing the offending complaint, (2) filed the complaint for the purpose of harassment, delay, or to increase the cost of litigation for the opposing party. One principal difference between the federal rule and the Illinois rule is that under the federal rule, only an attorney can be monetarily sanctioned based on unwarranted legal contentions. Thus, if the complaint was filed in federal court, while both the attorney and client are responsible for ensuring that the facts contained in the complaints are accurate and complete, only the attorney may be sanctioned for a complaint based on a claim or argument that is not warranted by existing law. By contrast, under certain circumstances, the Illinois rule permits the court to sanction both the party and his attorney—even if the complaint is found to have been legally (as opposed to factually) unwarranted.
It is important to note that not every meritless case is considered “frivolous” for purposes of recovering attorneys’ fees. The United States Supreme Court has held that an action or claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Similarly, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has characterized a filing that is incoherent and lacks a legal basis as “frivolous.” Thus, “frivolous” does not necessarily mean “meritless,” but rather, a frivolous suit lacks a factual or legal basis, and as such, has very little chance of being won. For this reason, it is recommended that a party wishing to seek sanctions do so at the end of the case, i.e., after the court makes a determination that the claim lacks legal and/or factual merit.
In addition, as the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently determined, whether a case or claim is “frivolous” is not the end of the inquiry. A request for attorneys’ fees may nonetheless be denied where fees that were incurred were “self-inflicted” by, for example, pursuing one strategy over another, or briefing an appeal on the merits rather than filing a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.
Both the federal rule and the Illinois rule are discretionary and are strictly applied by the courts. As such, sanctions are infrequently granted. Regardless of how and when your litigation was resolved, you and your attorneys should evaluate whether it would be appropriate to seek sanctions, and if so, whether it would be worthwhile from a cost perspective.
If you have any questions regarding a litigation matter you find yourself involved in, please contact:
(312) 368-0100 or firstname.lastname@example.org
 This article is the first of a three-part series: Part II will address the recovery of attorneys’ fees pursuant to various Illinois statutes, and Part III will address the recovery of attorneys’ fees pursuant to a contract where the dispute is resolved outside of the litigation context.
How can a business protect its critical information when an employee goes to work for a competitor? Many employers simply assume that if it deems information “confidential,” the law automatically protects it when an employee leaves and goes to work for a competitor. That’s not necessarily the case. In order to protect its confidential information, such as intellectual property, information, systems, customer lists, pricing information and the like, an employer must take affirmative steps long before the rogue employee leaves to ensure that its information is protected. Such information can be protected from disclosure both under Illinois common law and pursuant to the Illinois Trade Secrets Act (“ITSA”).
An employer’s trade secrets, such as its customer lists, are a protectable interest. An employer has a clear and ascertainable right in protecting its trade secrets. To show information is a trade secret under ITSA, an employer must meet two threshold requirements. First, it must show the information was sufficiently secret to provide the employer with a competitive advantage. Second, the employer must show that it took affirmative measures to stop others from acquiring or using the information. Examples of steps employers typically take to keep information confidential include keeping the information under lock and key, limiting computer access, requiring confidentiality agreements, and other employer efforts to advise employees that the information imparted to them must be kept secret. Establishing this second prong is where employers typically fall short.
Where employers have invested substantial time, money, and effort to obtain a secret advantage, the secret should be protected from an employee who obtains it through improper means. Although employees may take general knowledge or information with them that they developed during their employment, they may not take confidential information, including trade secrets. The taking does not have to be a physical taking by actually copying the names. A trade secret can be misappropriated by physical copying or by memorization. Using memorization to rebuild a trade secret does not transform the trade secret from confidential information into non-confidential information. A trade secret can also be obtained through reverse engineering
Whether and how an employer keeps information secret is one of the most important factors when determining whether information is a trade secret. When information is generally known or understood in an industry, even if it is unknown to the public at large, it does not constitute a trade secret. If a business fully discloses information throughout an industry through a catalog or other literature, it is not considered a trade secret. If the information can be readily duplicated without considerable time, effort, or expense, it is not considered a trade secret. If a customer list, for example, is generally available to all employees and the employees are not required to sign confidentiality agreements, the list is likely not considered a trade secret.
By far the most litigation in this area is over whether an employer’s customer list is a confidential trade secret. Whether customer lists constitute trade secrets largely depends on the facts of each case. Customer lists and other customer information can be considered a protectable trade secret if the information has been developed by the employer over a number of years at great expense and kept under tight security. However, the same type of information is not protectable where it has not been treated as confidential and secret by the employer, was generally available to other employees and known by persons in the trade, could be easily duplicated by reference to telephone directories or industry publications, and where the customers on such lists did business with more than one company or otherwise changed businesses frequently so that their identities were known to the employer’s competitors.
Illinois courts have found that customer lists do not constitute protectable trade secrets where, for example: a) the particular industry was competitive and customers often dealt with multiple companies; b) the employer had failed to produce sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the customer list was subject to reasonable efforts to protect its secrecy; and c) sufficient efforts had not been taken to maintain the list’s secrecy. To be a protectable trade secret, the employer must demonstrate the information it seeks to protect was sufficiently secret to provide it with a competitive advantage. However, for steps to be deemed sufficient to protect a trade secret, extensive steps must be taken to protect both the electronic and hard copies of the purported trade secret.
For more information regarding the protection of a company’s confidential information, please contact:
(312) 368-0100 or email@example.com