Fiduciary Duties of LLC Organizers Argued Before New York's Highest Court

Last year the New York Appellate Division ruled that LLC organizers are fiduciaries of the investors they solicit to be members, and that as such they have a duty to disclose their self-dealing. Roni LLC v. Arfa, 903 N.Y.S.2d 352 (App. Div. 2010). I reported on the case, here.

The Roni decision was critiqued by New York lawyer Peter Mahler, who blogs on New York business law, here, and by law professor Larry Ribstein, here. To oversimplify a bit, the gist of the criticism is that the rule of the old corporate cases, on which the Roni court relied, (a) has been made unnecessary by the disclosure rules of federal and state securities laws, and (b) should not apply to LLCs because the contractual nature of the relationship between LLC members allows them to allocate risks and define duties inter se, which is not characteristic of corporations.

Roni has since been appealed to New York’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals. Oral arguments in the case were heard by the court on November 15, 2011, and yesterday Peter Mahler blogged on the briefing and the oral arguments, here. His article is a fascinating review of the oral arguments before the high court. The judges’ questions apparently ranged widely from “Why should LLCs be treated differently?” to concerns over line-drawing and the reach of the Roni rule articulated by the Appellate Division.

So now we wait for the high court’s decision, which Peter Mahler predicts will likely be in the early months of next year. One can hope, if the Appellate Division ruling is upheld, that the court will provide some guidance on the scope of the Roni duty to disclose.

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