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. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  2. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  3. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  4. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  5. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well