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BGBC: Calculating lost profits requires analysis

February 1, 2012
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By Howard I Gross, Steven W. Reed and Casey L. Higgs

Computing the lost profits of a business as a result of a wrongful act is a complex task. And many times, the question to ask is: “But for” a wrongful act, what would the profits be? What would the value be?

Generally, lost profits are claimed as part of economic damages in litigation. A lost profits calculation, or economic damages analysis, is often performed to estimate the profits that were lost, or damages suffered, as a result of the wrongful act. In Robert L. Dunn’s 6th Edition of “Recovery of Damages for Lost Profits,” he writes that there are three requirements for damages recovery:

• The damages must be proximately caused by the wrongful conduct;

• The damages must be proven with reasonable certainty; and

• The damages must have been foreseeable at the time the contract was made (only for contract claims).

In calculating lost profits, net profits are recoverable. Net profits include the revenue the plaintiff would have earned “but for” the loss, reduced by the costs associated with generating the revenues. Gross profits are normally recoverable when net and gross profits are the same or if there is minimal or no additional costs necessary to realize the profits.

An important factor requiring identification is the damage period. Typically, the damage period begins on the date of the loss and ends when the company returns to the profitability or to the level of cash flow that it would have been at “but for” the loss.

There are several methods used to calculate profits that would have been attained “but for” the loss:

• Before-and-after method – This method projects operating results based off historical operating results as if there was no loss and then compares it to the actual results during the loss period to determine the damages.

• The Yardstick Approach – Under this method, the operating results from the loss period are compared to the operating results for the same period of a similar company for comparison purposes. The difference is used to determine the damages.

• Sales Project (But for) Method – Operating results are projected during the loss period absent the loss as if the loss did not occur. The projections are then compared to the actual results to determine the damages.

Which method is most appropriate depends on the circumstances of the issues at hand. Oftentimes, the calculation can use a combination of all three methods. The types and timeframe of financial data to be analyzed (e.g., actual, projections, etc.), the availability of competitor and industry information, among other factors, are all items that need to be considered when choosing the most appropriate method. Performing insufficient analysis of financial information, using an inappropriate growth rate to determine projections, and insufficiently considering other relevant factors can negatively impact the lost profits calculation.

Once a method of assessing damages is determined, the stream of lost profits needs to be discounted to their present values. Determining the appropriate discount rate is critical as a very small change in the discount rate can severely increase or decrease the amount of the lost profits calculated.

The process for calculating lost profits is based in sound and thorough analysis, but also requires the use of reasonable judgment and estimates. For these reasons, assessing damages can be a lengthy process. It is critical to be as accurate as possible when estimating cost revenues, calculating the costs associated with generating revenues and determining the appropriate discount rate. The calculated damages should be reasonable, based on reliable information using an appropriate methodology and performed by an experienced expert.•

__________

Howard I Gross, CPA/ABV/CFF, CFP; Steven W. Reed, CPA/ABV; and Casey L. Higgs, CPA/CFF, CFE, CVA are with BGBC Partners, LLP – Litigation, Forensic and Business Valuation. Contact BGBC at 317-633-4700 or visit www.bgbc.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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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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