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Appeals court rules on corporate subsidiaries case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled against a Bluffton electric company, finding that corporations can’t simply create subsidiaries internally and declare them separate entities in order to avoid paying higher tax rates under state unemployment compensation law.

Instead, the state’s appellate court affirmed a determination by a liability administrative law judge with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and found that Franklin Electric Company and two subsidiaries constituted only one employer for purposes of the Indiana Unemployment Compensation Act.

The decision today came in Franklin Electric Company v. Unemployment Insurance Appeals of the Department of Workforce Development, No. 93A02-0911-EX-1121.

Dating back to late 2003, parent company Franklin Electric created the two subsidiaries Franklin Electric Sales and Franklin Electric Manufacturing by transferring employees to those new corporations in exchange for 100 percent stock ownership in both. At first, the state DWD gave both new employer accounts and allowed them to be taxed at 2.7 percent rather than 4.9 percent that Franklin Electric had paid in 2004 – a savings of about $64,000. But the state later investigated that change and examined the organizational structures of all three, and eventually cancelled the new employer accounts and transferred their accounts back to Franklin Electric. An LALJ determined last year that the new corporate subsidiaries didn’t constitute partial successorships, and so no new employers were created to receive the lower tax rate. The judge did determine the company hadn’t tried to defraud the state agency in paying a lower amount. Franklin Electric appealed, and the state agency asked the appellate court to disregard their corporate structures for purposes of the compensation act.

Relying on Indiana Supreme Court precedent on the issue of “piercing-the-corporate-veil” and what the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has found, the Indiana Court of Appeals pierced the corporate veils of both FEM and FES because Franklin Electric owns 100 percent of the stock from both subsidiaries and neither has its own separate board of directors. Franklin Electric also controls the bank accounts of all three and displays ownership activity in multiple ways.

That led to its holding affirming the judgment.

“In summary, we conclude that the LALJ correctly disregarded the corporate forms of FEM and FES for purposes of the Act,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the unanimous panel. “Allowing FEM and FES to qualify as independent new employers would work an injustice to the taxpayers and citizens of the State of Indiana.”

A footnote on the final page of the opinion adds, “Were we to accept Franklin Electric’s argument, any Indiana corporation could avoid ever having to pay a contribution rate of greater than the new employer rate by periodically creating a new corporation and selling itself to it.”
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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