Partnership & Ownership Disputes
Seattle Partnership and Ownership Dispute Attorneys
Diligent Litigation Guidance in Bellevue
Disagreements are inevitable as a business venture changes and grows. Ideally, you and your partners will align on how to overcome challenges and evolve the company. Sometimes, however, disagreements between company leaders can become irreconcilable and may require litigation to resolve. If a partner or owner breaches their contract, fails to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities, or exploits their position, their misconduct can jeopardize the health of the entire company.
Our Seattle partnership and ownership dispute lawyers at Tomlinson Bomsztyk Russ can help partners and company leaders navigate contentious disagreements and allegations of wrongdoing. We are extensively familiar with the legal structures of many types of business entities and can provide guidance in matters involving partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), corporations, and more. Our team is made up of litigators who understand what is at stake, and we will work to do everything possible to resolve your conflicts as efficiently and effectively as possible.
What Should I Do When a Partner or Ownership Dispute Occurs?
Differences in opinion in how to run or grow a business are only natural. There is no need to necessarily hire a litigator if your partners or company leadership cannot immediately agree on something. However, involving a lawyer may become necessary if it becomes clear that a skilled intermediary-mediator would be beneficial or dispute may be irreconcilable. Moreover, you should immediately seek legal representation if one or more partners or owners begin to speak in or threaten ultimatums that potentially threaten the health of the company or are in violation of their contract and responsibilities.
In many cases, a dispute will arise over the conduct of one or more partners or owners. If you suspect or discover evidence that a partner or owner has done something unlawful or in violation of their legal responsibilities, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.
There are many types of partnership and ownership disputes. Some conflicts will hinge on contractual misunderstandings, while others may involve white-collar crimes. Methods of resolution will vary: In some cases, clarifying each party’s obligations and levels of authority will be enough to settle the matter. In others, civil litigation may become necessary.
Our Seattle partnership and ownership dispute attorneys can assist you with cases involving:
- Breaches of Contract. When a formal business entity is created, formation documents establish who has an ownership stake in the company. The document should explicitly define each owner’s rights, obligations, and responsibilities in managing the endeavor. Some partners and owners may be “silent” in that they are only obliged to contribute certain funds, while others will have far more responsibility to manage the day-to-day affairs of the business. When a partner, member or owner fails to live up to these obligations, the venture can suffer serious damages. We can help you negotiate or litigate these breaches and recover the maximum possible compensation.
- Breaches of Fiduciary Duty. Partners and owners owe a fiduciary duty to the business, its leadership, and, for corporations, its shareholders. In other words, partners and owners are obligated to put the needs of their business first. When they put their own needs first, or manipulate situations, they jeopardize the potential success of the business and violate their fiduciary duty. There can often be disagreements over what constitutes a breach of fiduciary duty among partners and owners. We can help you litigate these matters and work to protect the interests of your company, its leadership, and its shareholders.
- Exploitation of Trade Secrets. Many businesses rely on intellectual property, trade secrets, and proprietary information to maintain competitive advantages in crowded industries. All employees, including partners and owners, should enter restrictive covenant agreements that seek to limit the dissemination of sensitive and secret company information. When a partner or owner shares or misuses trade secrets, they potentially threaten the business’s ability to remain competitive. An exploitation of trade secrets can also occur when a partner or owner exits a venture and inappropriately shares proprietary information with another firm. Our team can examine your company’s restrictive covenant agreements and help you explore all available litigation options when exploitation occurs.
- Disagreements Over Authority. Every partner and owner in a venture should understand who has authority over what. Conflicts can erupt when a partner or owner that ostensibly has authority over some element of the company makes a decision that other partners or owners disagree with. Problems can also occur when a partner or owner appears to overstep boundaries of authority and makes a decision outside their authority. Formation documents should clearly establish who has final decision-making abilities and how disputes must be resolved. We can carefully evaluate your formation documents, determine who has what authority, and litigate any irreconcilable conflicts.
- Fraudulent Activity. “Fraud” refers to criminal activity undertaken for purposes of financial gain. This offense encompasses deliberate breaches of contract, intentional breaches of fiduciary duty, manipulations of accounting systems, and premeditated exploitation of trade secrets. It also comes in many other varieties, including securities fraud, promissory fraud, investor fraud, and consumer fraud. Any fraudulent act on the part of an owner or partner damages the reputation of the business and can leave the company vulnerable to criminal and civil action. Fraudulent activity tends to require civil litigation to effectively resolve. Depending on the type of fraud and who was harmed, these offenses can also result in government investigations and criminal charges.
- Misappropriation of Funds. This offense refers to the unlawful exploitation of another person or entity’s funds or assets. Individual owners or partners may engage in a misappropriation of funds by stealing or embezzling company money or assets for their own purposes.
- Shareholder Disputes. Corporations are made up of corporate officers, a board of directors that oversee those corporate officers, and shareholders who make up the “owners” of the company. Corporate leadership is beholden to shareholders and must always act in their best interests. Shareholder disputes can erupt for a myriad of reasons, including alleged breaches of shareholder agreements, disagreement over the company’s direction, oppression of minority shareholders, compensation disputes, and allegations of fiduciary misconduct. We can represent shareholders, corporate officers, and boards of directors in these types of conflicts.
Learn more about how our Seattle partnership and ownership dispute lawyers can help you litigate and resolve your conflict today. Contact our team at Tomlinson Bomsztyk Russ online or call (206) 203-8009 to get started.