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Michigan Non Profit Corporations: 2018 Annual Statement Filing Deadline is October 1. Stay in Good Standing and Maintain your Corporate Formalities.

Good morning, all. I hope you are enjoying the summer. It is most definitely my favorite time to be in Michigan.

Today I received an e-mail from The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs(“LARA”) reminding that all annual statements and reports for Non Profit Corporations are due October 1, 2018.

2017-09-01 18.01.03

 

At the end of last year LARA transitioned to an

electronic filing system – and disposed of the fax filing. This caused a significant delay in business filings – many of my clients experienced this headache first hand. See my post on this delay.

 

Per LARA’s announcement:

“There are a total of 62,202 Michigan nonprofit corporations and 1,582 foreign corporations that are receiving 2018 reports.”

 

 

“Annual reports must be filed no later than October 1 of each year and can be filed online at www.michigan.gov/corpfileonline. ”

For more information about LARA, please visit www.michigan.gov/lara

 

Consequences for Failing to File:

LARA also reminds that:

“Section 922 of the NPA provides that if a domestic nonprofit corporation neglects or refuses to file a report or pay a fee required by this act for two years, the nonprofit corporation will be automatically dissolved.

It also provides that if a foreign nonprofit corporation neglects or refuses to file a report or pay a fee required by this act for one year, the nonprofit corporation’s certificate of authority is subject to revocation under section 1042.

“A nonprofit corporation that has been automatically dissolved or certificate of authority revoked is not entitled to a certificate of good standing; its corporate name will be available for use by another entity, and no document will be filed on behalf of the corporation.”

Is your Corporation in Good Standing?

Occasionally I will have a business client come in and I will ask – just to make sure – “is your business still in good standing?”

The common answer is “I think so.”

And of course, after I perform a quick internet check

with the State of Michigan it is all too common that I discover that either the Company is “not in good standing” or worse, the company has been dissolved automatically for failure to file annual statements.

In Conclusion:

Business owners, if you get these annual statements from the State of Michigan, or from your attorney – do not disregard them! Ma

intain your Corporate Formalities.

Questions? Comments?

E-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

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A Lawyer’s Reflections: The Way That Appears to be Right…But In the End Leads to Disaster.

Today I  took a photo of 50 Monroe in downtown Grand Rapids – right across the street from my office.

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The transformation of 50 Monroe, where my firm’s office used to be located for almost 20 years, is pretty fun to

watch.

I look forward to seeing the finished product.

As I posted a few days ago, there is a lot of development in Grand Rapids that makes downtown a fun place to be.

 

Now on to the topic of my post.

 

 

Lawyers are an easy target for scams…

 

 

 

I get strange e-mails all the time.

Most of these are allegedly from people from foreign countries, asking for legal services, or for me to assist with certain financial transactions that would compensate me significant money for little work.

 

This morning’s email.

Early this morning I received an e-mail from what appeared to be one of the attorneys at my office asking me if I was in the office and to respond to his e-mail and assist him with an urgent matter. The tone of the e-mail seemed strange.

Looking closer at the e-mail source, it was an impostor e-mail address.

Who knows what information my “colleague”  was going to ask me to provide him with because he “didn’t have access” that morning.

Nice try.

The lawyer scams are getting more creative these days.

 

Million Dollar Check.

Several years ago I received a nice check in the mail addressed to my law firm for approximately $1 Million.

It was related to a “request” from a foreign company (very far away, too far away to meet in person) to retain me as counsel in a business transaction in Michigan.

They wanted me to deposit the approx. $1 million check into our firm trust account, then disburse the check to the other party (less my legal fees, of course)
Fake Check for big bucks.

 

My first thought when the check came in…

Do they really think I am that stupid?

I know better.
Then it got me thinking, if I know better, then why do these scam artists really think I am going to fall for their  ploys?

Honestly, I receive countless of similar emails, fortunately, most of these emails get sent to my spam folder.

The answer becomes obvious when I peruse news headlines:

Estate planning lawyer gets 6 years in $46 million scheme preying on terminally ill

How awful is this headline? It breaks my heart just reading it.

 

Unwitting lawyer is suspended for arranging client loans to secure Nigerian inheritance

 

Just perform a google search and you can find other stories of lawyers in unethical situations…

“Attorney Pleads guilty to stealing $1.3 Million from clients”

“Traverse City Lawyer to Stand Trial, Accused of Embezzling from Elderly Clients”

 

The list goes on and on.

Well, there is, literally, my answer to my own question.

 

 

What is going on with our world?

As hard as it is for me to believe, these are real stories.

 

To answer my own question, the reason scam artists direct schemes at lawyers is because some lawyers fall for the schemes!

 

These con artists are relying on dollar signs trumping common sense and sound judgment in lawyers.

 

Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”

I personally don’t believe that most people, including the people in the referenced headlines, wake up one day and decide to commit a crime, or make a serious lapse in judgment (like wiring a million dollars to a company in Nigeria) that costs them and others dearly.

I think people start with small compromises, that lead to big compromises. The proverbial “frog in the boiling water

The compromises that “appear to be right” in their own minds, but leads to devastation.
A Call to Leaders. Self-Examination.

As leaders in our families, business, non-profit, church, community, we find ourselves in positions with some varying degrees of power.

That power can easily be abused.

In small ways that lead to big ways.

This is a good call for daily self-examination: am I placing safeguard in my life to keep me from taking small steps in the wrong direction?

 

Questions? Comments? 

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauk

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Business Law Update: A Booming Downtown Real Estate Market Means Businesses Should Pay Careful attention to Contracts.

June 5, 2018 1 comment

Happy Tuesday, all.

I took this photo yesterday from the skywalk between the Amway Grand Plaza and the DeVos Place Convention Center. I like walking downtown and watching the development unfold.

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It is an exciting time to be working or living in downtown Grand Rapids. Everywhere you look, real estate development is transforming the town.

Check out Experience Grand Rapids for a detailed list of all the current downtown development.

Not to rain on anyone’s parade (but that is kind of a lawyer’s job)…

With increased commercial activity comes increased opportunity to fall into legal pitfalls.

 

 

As I tell my clients – if you are in business for any amount of time, it is just a matter of time, you will probably get into a business dispute.

Real estate development is no exception. The more transactions, the more opportunity for hiccups along the way.  A Court opinion I read last week brought this reality to  my mind.

 

Case Study

Last week an unpublished Michigan court of appeals case was released that highlights some contract drafting pitfalls. You can check out the May 31st unpublished decision of Greater Faith Transitions, Inc. v Ypsilanti Community Schools here

 

The case was about a commercial lease in which Landlord also granted Tenant an option to purchase the Building.

These “lease with options to purchase” can pose interesting questions – as the facts of this case illustrate.

Summary of the Facts

  • On August 13, 2013, plaintiff and defendant entered into a lease with option to purchase a property in Ypsilanti owned by defendant.
  • The parties intended the lease to be effective until August 31, 2018.
  • Under the lease terms, plaintiff was required to make monthly rent payments and to pay for all utility bills, including water bills.
  • According to plaintiff, it had attempted to enforce its option to purchase the property in a text to defendant on February 2, 2017, that stated:
    I tried to call you to make you aware of the fact that we’re buying the church this year.
  • On February 13, 2017, defendant sent to plaintiff a letter from its attorney and a Notice to Quit Termination of Tenancy, claiming that plaintiff was in default of the lease for repeated failure to pay water bills.

Plaintiff, tenant, sued its landlord, among other things, for interfering with its right to exercise its option to Purchase.  The trial court ended up dismissing Tenant’s lawsuit.

The tenant appealed.

The opinion of the Court of Appeals was interesting, essentially holding that the tenant’s claim for breach of contract was not ripe – since a contract was not yet breached. The tenant was not yet evicted.

(See opinion, page 2 – “Plaintiff claims that “Defendant’s improper use of summary proceedings to evict Plaintiff from the leased premises will breach the parties’ Lease
with Option to Purchase because Plaintiff will be deprived of its right to cure any defaults during the term of the Lease (i.e., through August 31, 2018) so that Plaintiff can exercise its option to purchase thereunder.”)

 

The ultimate ruling aside, the case, to me, provides a good opportunity to highlight a few drafting issues that can come up in commercial leases.

First, a general point I want to bring to the business owner’s attention:

Why Careful attention to Business Contracts is important – Freedom of Contract 

First and foremost, when entering a business contract each party should understand – they will be bound to the contracts they sign.

In a commercial lease context the courts’ mantra is “Freedom of Contract“.

The Court will look at the contract that the parties’ agreed to, and, absent extraordinary circumstances, enforce it by its term. (therefore in  a commercial lease you might see language such as the following “rent is due with no right of offset, setoff, counterclaim…”) In such instance, the landlord is telling the tenant that tenant has no right to withhold rent just because landlord may have breached a duty under the lease.

The Courts have recognized that commercial landlords and tenants are “free to contract”:

 

Drafting Issues.

Going back to the court opinion, it doesn’t appear to me from reviewing the opinion that the parties disputed that the tenant defaulted in failing to pay utility bills.

Question:

Did the lease have a provision that said that the “Option to Purchase” terminated if:

  • the tenant had been in default at any time?
  • or, only in Default at the time the Option was being exercised?
  • Or, did it say nothing on the subject of Default?

Another question:

was there a lease provision that strictly provided where “notices” must be sent?

e.g. – was it left up to the parties to interpretation whether or not notice delivered “via text message” was an appropriate method?

 

If these issues are plainly addressed in business contracts, then possibly, the parties avoid a lawsuit.

 

 

Questions? Comments?

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauk

 

 

 

Michigan Limited Liability Companies: LARA extends 2018 Annual Statement Filing Deadline to March 1. Stay in Good Standing and Maintain your Corporate Formalities.

February 15, 2018 1 comment

It is the middle of the dreary season – February 15th. Not too long and I, like many folks in West Michigan with school-aged kids will be heading to Florida for Spring Break.

2017-04-09 21.33.41

This is a photo I took last year – sunnier days ahead.

Anyway, on to the point of this post:

 

Today I received an e-mail from The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs(“LARA”) reminding that all annual statements and reports for LLCs and PLLCs are due March 1, 2018.

 

 

 

 

Annual Statements are Due on February 15th each year, “however, due to increased demand for pre-assigned Customer ID Number (CID) and PIN information, an automatic 14-day extension will be granted.

 

As a practical note, if you are experiencing delay in receiving filings from LARA – just know that LARA has recently transition to an electronic filing system – and disposing of the fax filing.

All things considered, I am not surprised at the extension, and it is good news.

 

Per LARA’s announcement:

“Annual statements and reports can be submitted online at www.michigan.gov/corpfileonline. The first step to submit annual statements and reports online is to login to the system with the entity’s CID and PIN. If you have forgotten the CID or PIN, please contact the Corporations Division at LARA-CSCL-CorpPIN@michigan.gov or call (517) 241-6470 to obtain that information. Please do not send multiple email requests for CID/PIN numbers, as this will slow processing time.”

For more information about LARA, please visit www.michigan.gov/lara

 

 

Consequences for Failing to File:

LARA also reminds that:

“Section 909(2) of the Michigan Limited Liability Company Act, 1993 PA 23, provides that if a domestic or foreign professional limited liability company does not file the annual report by February 15, then in addition to its liability for the fee, a $50.00 penalty is added to the fee.”

“Penalties will be assessed for 2018 annual reports received after March 1, 2018.”

Further LARA reports that, an LLC that “fails to file its annual statement/report or the filing fee is not paid for two years, the limited liability company will not be in good standing.  The status of the limited liability company will be “active, but not in good standing.”

“A limited liability company that is not in good standing is not entitled to a certificate of good standing; its company name will be available for use by another entity, and no document will be filed on behalf of the company other than a certificate of restoration.”

 

Is your LLC in Good Standing?

Occasionally I will have a business client come in and I will ask – just to make sure – “is your business still in good standing?”

The common answer is “I think so.”

And of course, after I perform a quick internet check with the State of Michigan it is all too common that I discover that either the LLC is “not in good standing” or worse, the company has been dissolved automatically for failure to file annual statements.

A Word on Resident Agents:

My law firm is happy to provide our business clients with resident agent services. One of the benefits of an LLC is that it provides its owners a level of privacy protection.

 

You can check out a recent ABAJournal Article on how a Court is making Jared Kushner’s real estate partners disclose their identity.

 

Michigan law requires Limited Liability Companies to have appointed a Resident Agent.

MCL 450.4207(1)(b) requires an LLC to have a resident agent. A person, or business with a physical presence in the State of Michigan.

Michigan law does not require that an “owner” of the LLC be the resident agent.

“The resident agent appointed by a limited liability company is an agent of the company upon whom any process, notice, or demand required or permitted by law to be served upon the company may be served.” MCL 450.4207(1)(b).

Many of my real estate investment clients will utilize my law firm as resident agent when filing their articles of organization with the State of Michigan.

In Conclusion:

Business owners, if you get these annual statements from the State of Michigan, or from your attorney – do not disregard them! Maintain your Corporate Formalities.

Questions? Comments?

E-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Business Law Basics: A 5 Million Dollar Comma

February 13, 2018 Leave a comment

Today in downtown Grand Rapids is the “World of Winter Festival” where Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.  provides a “Snow Globe” experience. Very colorful.  A lot of fun downtown.

 

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Rosa Parks Circle, Grand Rapids, Michigan

 

Today I read an article posted by the ABAJournal that illustrates the profound impact on word and grammar usage in contracts and legislation.

As the ABAJournal reported:

“A dairy company in Maine has agreed to pay $5 million to its drivers after a federal appeals court last year found ambiguity in a state overtime law because it lacked an Oxford comma.”

The ABA Journal reported in its story last year Oxford comma issue benefits drivers in overtime case:

“FOR WANT OF A COMMA”

Ambiguity caused by lack of a comma in a law on overtime pay has benefited Maine dairy delivery drivers.”

“The Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals pointed out the issue in the first sentence of its March 13 decision(PDF). ‘For want of a comma, we have this case,” the court said in an opinion by Judge David Barron.

Because the statute was ambiguous, it should be interpreted in favor of the dairy workers who distribute milk but do not pack it, the appeals court found.

 

As a result – a 5 Million Dollar  Comma.

 

A SINGLE WORD CAN BE LEGALLY SIGNIFICANT TO SHIFT RISK

A few years back I wrote about how the words used in a contract dispute significantly impacted the rights and obligations in a business dispute, based upon the Michigan Supreme Court’s interpretation.

The Michigan Supreme Court made a distinction between the inclusion of the word “in” in a Title Company’s Closing Protection Letter in a prior case, and the “exclusion” of the word “in” in that instant case. In the Court’s determination:

“Although the distinction is slight—the only difference is the word “in”—the distinction is legally significant.”

Words Matter.

E-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

www.dwlawpc.com

Community Revitalization To Include Downtown Grocery Stores: Update on The Urban Food Initiative.

August 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Yesterday I read a story about a Detroiter, Raphael Wright who plans on opening a “mission-driven supermarket” in downtown Detroit. Check out the article on NextCity.

Raphael’s idea is sparked by a much needed grocery option in Detroit- particularly for low-income residents.

I love this idea.

A few years back I took my family to New York City. We loved the walk-ability of City life – that you could walk down a block to a grocery store and get all of your household needs.

food-healthy-vegetables-potatoesI love downtown Grand Rapids.

 

If Grand Rapids wants to encourage urban living, it needs a downtown grocery store.

In February, House Bill 4207 was introduced in the Michigan house. Known as the “Urban Food Initiative” it would provide incentives for community revitalization that would include a downtown Grocery Store.

 

 

Specifically, HB 4207 would make “Urban Food Initiatives” allowable to receive funds under the Michigan Community Revitalization Program

 

An update since my last post, in May, the Trade and Commerce Committee recommended a substitute bill, check here.

The Bill substitute changed the name,  Urban Food Initiatives, to “NEIGHBORHOOD AND COMMERCIAL CORRIDOR FOOD INITIATIVE”  – thereby broadening the applicability of these community revitalization incentives –  I have bracketed the additional language:

Property that will be used primarily as a retail supermarket, grocery store, produce market or delicatessen that is located in a downtown [OR IN A DEVELOPMENT AREA AS DEFINED IN SECTION 2 OF 3 THE CORRIDOR IMPROVEMENT AUTHORITY ACT] area…that offers unprocessed USDA inspected meat and poultry products or meat products that carry the USDA organic seal, fresh fruit and vegetables, and dairy products for sale to the public.”

The other substantive revision to the substitute bill would require that at least 5% of community revitalization incentives be awarded to these initiatives. Check out the Bill Analysis from the House Fiscal Agency, for more information.

 

Clearly having available and healthy food options in a downtown are necessary to City living, particularly for low-income residents. Check out a previous article from Next City about the Food Revolution in Detroit.

A downtown grocery store is necessary if a City wants to attract urban living – it is also necessary to provide healthy food options for those living downtown without readily available transportation.

 

 

I think particularly of the under-employed and the homeless who receive services from organizations like Mel Trotter Ministries. Grand Rapids has a need for affordable housing for the most vulnerable in our society. It would be great to see grocery options as well.

I am looking forward to tracking the progress of this bill. I am also encouraged by the many businesses in West Michigan taking serious their responsibility as community stakeholders and asking the question: “How am I building a better community?

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Business Law Update: Business Owners: Bill Would Restrict Non-Competition Agreements with Employees.

2017-05-09 08.08.30On June 14, 2017, House Bill 4755 was introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives.

If passed it would limit the enforceability of a non-competition agreement signed between an employer and an employee.

In my opinion – in some pretty significant ways.

I have spent several articles discussing the legal consequences/enforceability issues of non-competes.

It appears the Legislature is wrestling with the question posed by Nick Manes of MIBiz in an article a few years back: “Are noncompetes a barrier to growth?

You can check out the text of the bill here

The Bill was referred to the committee on commerce and trade.

The Bill has a few key components to it:

1. Require Employers to follow a Specific Procedure prior to enforcing a non-compete.

The Bill would only permit Employers to enforce a non-competition agreement if the Employer followed a procedure intended to notify the Employee of the requirement of signing a non-compete as a condition of employment.

(A) INFORMED THE PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEE IN WRITING OF THE REQUIREMENT AT OR BEFORE THE TIME OF THE INITIAL OFFER OF EMPLOYMENT.

(B) Disclose the Terms of the Non-Compete in writing; and

(C) Post the Text of the Law at the Worksite in a CONSPICUOUS LOCATION

2. Non-Compete unenforceable if the Employee is a “low wage” worker.

Defined generally as $15.00/hr or $31,000 annually.

 

3. Voids Certain Provisions in a Non-Compete – shifts the burden to Employer.

The Bill also has some teeth in it for Employees, including:

  1. Prohibits an Employer from including a clause that states a different state’s laws control the Agreement – this would be an obvious attempt to circumvent the prohibition of non-compete against “low wage” workers;
  2. Gives the Attorney General power to prosecute a violation of the Act;
  3. Automatically places the Burden on the Employer to prove that the Non-Compete was reasonable, as to “scope, duration, time limit.”
    1. Moreover, if a Court limits the non-compete in any respect, the employee is entitled to recover attorney fees.

 

Wow. This bill has a lot of bite to it. My first thoughts – if this Bill does come out of the Trade and Commerce Committee, I can’t imagine it will look the same as its current version.

I understand the legislature’s interest in protecting “low wage workers” from unreasonable restrictions. Check out my prior post on the subject of Jimmy John’s non-competes.

However, in my opinion the restrictions as written places an enormous burden on the employer to narrowly tailor the non-compete, to a judge’s definition of “reasonableness”.

 

 

 

Questions? Comments?

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

http://www.dwlawpc.com