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Outside accounting ordered in LLC dissolution

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a judgment in favor of one of the owners of a dissolved LLC, finding the trial court erred when it entered judgment against the other owner personally without ordering an outside accounting of the company's finances.

In Jeff Perkins v. James R. Brown, No. 49A02-0806-CV-569, Jeff Perkins appealed a judgment entered against him for $155,175, which represented 50 percent of the net profits and retained earnings of his and James Brown's executive search firm, Kessler Advisor LLC. When the company was formed, Perkins handled business development, and Brown handled search work, sent invoices to clients, and managed the accounting needs.

Brown objected to Perkins' desire to give greater compensation for business development instead of the even split between their two job duties. Actions were taken to keep him from having access Kessler's business, accounting, and customer information.

Brown filed a complaint against Perkins and Kessler, requesting declaratory judgment as to the ownership percentages, an equitable accounting of the company, and that it is dissolved with the net remaining assets distributed according to the ownership percentages.

Brown submitted evidence at trial that he believed Kessler's total income was nearly $388,000 and that usually 20 percent of that was used to cover operating expenses. Judgment was granted in favor of Brown and against Kessler and Perkins, awarding Perkins and Brown $155,175 each. Perkins filed a motion to correct error, which was denied. Brown's motion to amend the pleadings was granted.

The trial court erred in determining the amount of damages in the dissolution of Kessler without ordering an outside accounting of the company's finances, wrote Judge James Kirsch. There was no evidence presented at trial of what the actual finances of the company were prior to the dissolution, what income it actually received or what the expenses were at this time.

Without any direct evidence, the trial court couldn't accurately determine if Kessler had all the money it was owed from outstanding invoices, who its creditors were, and if 20 percent would have covered all the expenses, wrote the judge. Plus, the trial court was unable to determine whether Perkins made any distributions during this period of time that would have created personal liability.

Asset distribution upon the ending of an LLC must be distributed according to Indiana Code Section 23-18-9-6, but without the outside accounting, the Court of Appeals can't tell the assets were distributed according to the statute.

The appellate court reversed the denial of Perkins' motion to correct error and remanded with instructions for the trial court to order and oversee an outside accounting to determine the proper distribution to Kessler's creditors as well as to Brown and Perkins. The trial court also shall make an appropriate entry of damages due to each party, including any determination of personal liability of Perkins under the Indiana Business Flexibility Act.

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  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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