(309) 306-1095 tom@collateralbase.com
What is an Agricultural Lien under the UCC?

What is an Agricultural Lien under the UCC?

agricultural lien

What is a UCC Agricultural Lien

As we detailed in our introductory article on security interests, a security agreement gives a creditor some form of legal right over the property of a creditor. While this definition is fairly straightforward, there are all kinds of quirks which are unique to agricultural liens. Under the 2001 amendment of Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), agricultural liens are a special kind of interest for lenders.

810 ILCS 5/9-102(a)(5) defines an “agricultural lien” to mean an interest, other than a security interest, in farm products:

  • (A) which secures payment or performance of an obligation for goods or services furnished in connection with a debtor’s farming operation;
  • (B) which is created by statute in favor of a person that in the ordinary course of its business furnished goods or services to a debtor in connection with a debtor’s farming operation; and
  • (C) whose effectiveness does not depend on the person’s possession of the personal property.

There are at least three types of statutory liens in Illinois that involve agriculture:

  1. agister’s lien;
  2. thresherman’s lien; and
  3. landlord’s crop lien.

Problem Ag Loan

What is an Agister’s Lien?

An “agister” cares for livestock. They have a special statutory lien set forth in §50 of the Innkeepers Lien Act, 770 ILCS 40/0.01, et seq.:

Agisters and persons keeping, yarding, feeding or pasturing domestic animals, shall have a lien upon the animals agistered, kept, yarded or fed, for the proper charges due for agisting, keeping, yarding or feeding thereof. 770 ILCS 40/50.

The agister’s lien is a possessory lien which extends animals in the care and possession of the farmer or rancher. Therefore, it does not fit the UCC definition of “agricultural lien,” and compliance with the filing requirements of Article 9 is not required.

What is a Thresherman’s Lien?

The next kind of lien, a a thresherman’s lien, is defined at §50a of the Innkeepers Lien Act:

Every person who, as owner or lessee of any threshing machine, clover huller, corn sheller or hay baler, threshes grain or seed, hulls clover, shells corn or presses hay or straw at the request of the owner, reputed owner, authorized agent of the owner or lawful possessor of such crops shall have a lien upon such crops, beginning at the date of the commencement of such threshing, hulling, shelling or baling, for the agreed contract price of the job, or, in the absence of a contract price, for the reasonable value of the services or labor furnished. Such lien shall run for a period of eight (8) months after the completion of such services or labor notwithstanding the fact that the possession of the crops has been surrendered to its owner or lawful possessor, provided that such lien shall not be valid and enforceable against a purchaser of said crops from the owner or lawful possessor thereof unless the lien holder shall, previous to or at the time of making final settlement for such crops by such purchaser, serve upon such purchaser a notice in writing of the existence of such lien. 770 ILCS 40/50a.

crop liensUnlike the agister’s lien, the thresherman’s lien continues after possession of the crops has been surrendered and therefore it fits the UCC definition of “agricultural lien.” Consequently, the rules for perfection, priority, and enforcement of this lien are provided by Article 9. Perfection is achieved by filing with the Secretary of State, and the priority rules of first to file apply. See 810 ILCS 5/9-310(a), 5/9-322.

What is a Landlord’s Crop Lien?

Lastly, for a landlord’s crop lien in Illinois, §9-316 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS
5/1-101, et seq., provides in part:

Every landlord shall have a lien upon the crops grown or growing upon the demised premises for the rent thereof, whether the same is payable wholly or in part in money or specific articles of property or products of the premises, or labor, and also for the faithful performance of the terms of the lease. Such lien shall continue for the period of 6 months after the expiration of the term for which the premises are demised, and may be enforced by distraint as provided in Part 3 of Article IX of this Act.

A good faith purchaser shall, however, take such crops free of any landlord’s lien unless, within 6 months prior to the purchase, the landlord provides written notice of his lien to the purchaser by registered or certified mail. Such notice shall contain the names and addresses of the landlord and tenant, and clearly identify the leased property.

A landlord may require that, prior to his tenant’s selling any crops grown on the demised premises, the tenant disclose the name of the person to whom the tenant intends to sell those crops. Where such a requirement has been imposed, the tenant shall not sell the crops to any person other than a person who has been disclosed to the landlord as a potential buyer of the crops. 735 ILCS 5/9-316.

  • Historically, the landlord’s lien was beyond the scope of Article 9. The most common priority dispute was between a UCC lien creditor and a landlord claiming a crop lien. The landlord’s lien usually prevailed. See Dwyer v. Cooksville Grain Co., 117 Ill.App.3d 1001, 454 N.E.2d 357, 73 Ill.Dec. 497 (4th Dist. 1983); Farmers Grain & Supply Co. v. Skinner, 161 Ill.App.3d 201, 514 N.E.2d 216, 112 Ill.Dec. 750 (3d Dist. 1987).
  •  
  • However, with P.A. 91-893, the Illinois General Assembly amended the landlord’s crop lien statute to fit within the Article 9 definition of “agricultural liens.” Furthermore, by P.A. 92-819, in 2002 the legislature added the following provision to the statutory crop lien:

A lien arising under this Section shall have priority over any agricultural lien as defined in, and over any security interest arising under, provisions of Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code. 735 ILCS 5/9-316.

As a result of this law, the landlord’s statutory lien for rent against crops grown on leased land continues to be superior to any consensual lien that the tenant may give on the crops, even those created under Article 9. Schweickert v. Ag Services of America, Inc., 355 Ill.App.3d 439, 823 N.E.2d 213, 215, 291 Ill.Dec. 203 (3d Dist. 2005) (“The 2002 amendment restored the original language of the statute as it was before the 2001 amendment.”). Therefore, the statutory lien for landlords requires no financing statement to perfect the lien.

Limitations for Ag Liens Under Bankruptcy

While Illinois created protections for lienholders, those protections are a different story under bankruptcy. The landlord’s statutory lien for unpaid rent may be avoided under the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. §101, et seq. 11 U.S.C. §§545(3), 545(4). See Marshall v. Aubuchon (In re Marshall), 239 B.R. 193 (Bankr. S.D.Ill. 1999); Pogge v. Powers (In re Smith), 302 B.R. 865 (Bankr. C.D.Ill. 2003). If a landlord wants to prevail over a trustee in bankruptcy on the crop lien, the landlord needs a consensual security interest and a properly filed UCC financing statement. If a landlord fails to perfect by filing a financing statement, the statutory crop lien once avoided will relegate the landlord to the status of an unsecured creditor.

Thomas Howard

Thomas Howard

Secured Transaction Attorney

Whether this is your first land use issue or most recent, our office has helped people and businesses alike.

Thomas Howard was on the ball and got things done. Easy to work with, communicates very well, and I would recommend him anytime.
R. Martindale

Need A Business Lawyer?

Call our law offices with your legal questions for help on:

  1. real estate contracts
  2. business contract disputes
  3. Shareholder litigation
  4. cannabis business
  5. fraud actions
  6. mechanic's liens

 

How Do You Perfect a Security Interest in Agriculture?

How Do You Perfect a Security Interest in Agriculture?

agricultural security interests

A “security agreement” is defined by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) as “an agreement that creates or provides for a security interest.” 810 ILCS 5/9-102(a)(74). A security agreement is “effective according to its terms between the parties, against purchasers of the collateral, and against creditors.” 810 ILCS 5/9-201(a). Or, put simply, a security agreement gives a creditor some form of legal right over the property of a creditor. To have an enforceable security agreement, creditors need to meet a series of strict requirements.

Problem Ag Loan

How Do You Perfect A Security Interest in Agriculture?

A “security agreement” is defined by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) as “an agreement that creates or provides for a security interest.” 810 ILCS 5/9-102(a)(74). A security agreement is “effective according to its terms between the parties, against purchasers of the collateral, and against creditors.” 810 ILCS 5/9-201(a). Or, put simply, a security agreement gives a creditor some form of legal right over the property of a creditor. To have an enforceable security agreement, creditors need to meet a series of strict requirements.

The Basics

For a security interest against collateral to be enforceable against the debtor and third parties, 810 ILCS 5/9-203(b) requires that the following three conditions be met:

1. Value has been given.

2. The debtor has rights in the collateral or the power to transfer rights in the collateral to the secured party.

3. One of the following conditions has been met:

a. The debtor has authenticated (signed or otherwise executed) a security agreement that provides a description of the collateral and, if the security interest covers timber to be cut, a description of the land concerned.

b. The collateral is not a certificated security and is in the possession of the secured party under 810 ILCS 5/9-313 pursuant to the debtor’s security agreement.

c. The collateral is a certificated security in registered form, and the security’s certificate has been delivered to the secured party under 810 ILCS 5/8-301 pursuant to the debtor’s security agreement.

d. The collateral is deposit accounts, electronic chattel paper, investment paper, or letter-of-credit rights, and the secured party has control pursuant to the debtor’s security agreement.

These are the minimum requirements that must be satisfied to enforce a security interest. In re Duckworth, 776 F.3d 453, 462 (7th Cir. 2014).

Common Pitfalls: Mistaken Identification

Lenders must properly identify the debt to be secured, because §9-203 does not provide a mechanism for rescuing a lender from mistakenly identifying the debt to be secured. In Duckworth, the court held that the mistaken identification of the debt cannot be corrected against the bankruptcy trustee by using parol evidence to show the intent of the parties to the original loan. Id.

In Duckworth, the bank brought an action against the bankruptcy trustee and others asking the court to determine that the bank had a first priority security interest in proceeds from the sale of certain farm products, equipment, and crop insurance. After the farmer filed a Chapter 7 petition, the trustee was holding $22,284.27 in post-petition sales of farm equipment and $586,740.38 in crop proceeds.

The debtor obtained a loan from the bank by a promissory note dated December 15, 2008, in the amount of $1.1 million. On page 2 of the 2008 note, in a paragraph labeled “collateral,” it stated that the borrower acknowledged that the note was secured by a security agreement dated December 13, 2008. The debtor did sign an agriculture security agreement dated December 13, 2008, that described the collateral as all inventory, farm products, farm equipment, and crop insurance, among other property. However, in the definition of “note,” the principal amount was left blank and the note was referenced as being dated December 13, 2008; there was no cross-collateralization clause.

The trustee and another creditor argued that the security interest was invalid because the security agreement provided that its security debt was evidenced by a note dated December 13, 2008, even though that note did not exist. The bank provided the declaration of the loan officer who prepared the loan documents and personally closed the loan. The loan officer explained that the discrepancy was a “clerical error.” The bank further maintained that the error was correctible by means of parol evidence, because Illinois adheres to the principle that documents executed as part of a single transaction are interpreted as one contractual agreement. The bankruptcy court agreed. So did the district court on appeal. However, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, declaring that bankruptcy trustees “are entitled to treat an unambiguously security agreement as meaning what it says, even if the original parties have made a mistake in expressing their intentions.” 776 F.3d at 463.

The lesson from Duckworth is that special care must be taken to ensure that the security agreement contain a provision for securing future debts. Future advances or dragnet clauses are expressly permitted by the UCC. 810 ILCS 5/9-204(c). A future advances clause must be set forth in writing as part of the security agreement for the security interest to cover debts not expressly identified therein.

See the sample form of an agricultural security agreement in §7.20 below. In the sample form of security agreement, the term “obligations” broadly encompasses all debts existing at the time of execution of the agreement and arising thereafter.

Defining the Collateral

Most security agreements define the “collateral,” but a mistake in the definition can be costly.  Creditors should always use language covering after-acquired property for collateral. There is no protection for creditors who mistakenly assume some kind of “common sense” inclusion applying to things like inventory.

It is important to understand the meaning of terms defined in the Uniform Commercial Code. Some secured lenders define “accounts,” “inventory,” etc. The UCC defines many of these terms, so there isn’t necessarily a need to define them separately in the security agreement. However, it’s important to keep up-to-date on the UUC definitions. For example, some UCC terms changed dramatically when Article 9 was amended in 2001.  Therefore, a provision that incorporates UCC terms can affect the entire agreement.

810 ILCS 5/9-102(a)(34) defines “farm products” to mean “goods, other than standing timber, with respect to which the debtor is engaged in a farming operation” and that are

(A) crops grown, growing, or to be grown, including:

(i) crops produced on trees, vines, and bushes; and

(ii) aquatic goods produced in aquacultural operations;

(B) livestock, born or unborn, including aquatic goods produced in aquacultural operations;

(C) supplies used or produced in a farming operation; or

(D) products of crops or livestock in their unmanufactured states.

“Farming operation” is defined to mean “raising, cultivating, propagating, fattening, grazing, or any other farming, livestock, or aquacultural operation.” 810 ILCS 5/9-102(a)(35).

The term “proceeds” is broadly defined to include whatever property or goods are received upon the sale, exchange, collection, or disposition of the collateral. 810 ILCS 5/9-102(a)(64). A security interest attaches to any identifiable proceeds of collateral. 810 ILCS 5/9-315(a)(2). Determining readily identifiable cash proceeds is a difficult endeavor. See C.O. Funk & Sons, Inc. v. Sullivan Equipment, Inc., 89 Ill.2d 27, 431 N.E.2d 370, 59 Ill.Dec. 85 (1982). The secured party has the burden of identifying its proceeds. Assumptions and speculation are insufficient to meet this burden. See Van Diest Supply Co. v. Shelby County State Bank, 425 F.3d 437 (7th Cir. 2005).

The Grant

According to Article 9 of the UCC, the grant must describe the property and what it secures. 810 ILCS 5/9-203(b)(3). This is a mandatory requirement; the failure to have a document explicitly granting a security interest is fatal. Covey v. Morton Community Bank (In re Sabol), 337 B.R. 195 (Bankr. C.D.Ill. 2006). There are no specific “magic words” required to be included in the security agreement to create a security interest, however no security interest will be recognized without a description of the collateral in a signed or authenticated document or in a separate document incorporated by reference into a signed or authenticated document. 377 B.R. at 202.

Due Diligence and Proper Searches

Before making a loan, a lender must make the following searches to determine whether it has priority:

1. the debtor’s form of organization;

2. the debtor’s principal place of business;

3. the debtor’s predecessors;

4. all names utilized by the debtor; and

5. all locations used for goods.

After the lender relies representations regarding these issues, it still must perform its own due diligence to verify the representations. This includes reviewing an entity’s articles of incorporation, articles of organization, or other organizational agreement and any other reports available to the lender to verify the locations of the collateral.

The lender can confirm whether the borrower is a corporation or a limited liability company and in good standing at the website of the Illinois Secretary of State’s Department of Business Services at www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/business_services.

The lender also must conduct a UCC lien search using the precise name of the entity or person. Failure to use the correct name can be fatal. See, e.g., Corona Fruits & Veggies, Inc. v. Frozsun Foods, Inc., 143 Cal.App.4th 319, 48 Cal.Rptr.3d 868, 870 (2006) (financing statement that listed debtor’s name as “Armando Munoz” instead of his correct name of “Armando Munoz Juarez” was seriously misleading and thus invalid). For perfection by filing a financial statement for an individual, the use of a name on a driver’s license and social security card is sufficient. In re Miller, No. 12-CV-02052, 2012 WL 3589426 (C.D.Ill. Aug. 17, 2012); see also 810 ILCS 5/9-503(a)(4).

 

Thomas Howard

Thomas Howard

Real Estate Lawyer

Whether this is your first land use issue or most recent, our office has helped people and businesses alike.

Thomas Howard was on the ball and got things done. Easy to work with, communicates very well, and I would recommend him anytime.
R. Martindale

Need A Business Lawyer?

Call our law offices with your legal questions for help on:

  1. real estate contracts
  2. business contract disputes
  3. Shareholder litigation
  4. cannabis business
  5. fraud actions
  6. mechanic's liens

 

Banking For Cannabis Companies in Illinois

Banking For Cannabis Companies in Illinois

Banking For Cannabis Companies in Illinois

Cannabis companies are notoriously tricky clients for banks and credit unions. An innovative program in Illinois hopes to fix that.

cannabis banking consulting

Cannabis is a classic example of an “underbanked” industry. The tangled and contradictory web of state and federal laws have convinced many banks that cannabis simply isn’t worth the trouble. Illinois hopes to fix that.

We’ve written many times before about the problems facing cannabis businesses as they try to get access to basic banking and payment processing services. Over the past couple of years, there has been a surge of legislative effort to try and help the chronically underbanked cannabis industry. Unfortunately, many of these efforts are being stymied by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis as states and Congress effectively grind to a halt.

Nevertheless, many states are still undertaking innovative programs to help their burgeoning cannabis companies get access to financial services. In this particular article, we’re going to look at the current state of cannabis banking, and look at one particularly promising initiative out of Illinois.

Cannabis and Banking: A Brief History

The first major crack in federal marijuana prohibition came in 2013 from the Obama Administration. Deputy Attorney General James Cole put out a memorandum entitled “Guidance Regarding Marijuana Enforcement”, known more commonly as the Cole Memorandum. Essentially, the Cole Memo set a policy at the Department of Justice to deprioritize enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in states which had legalized marijuana. The Cole Memo was rescinded in 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. However, the one-page memo from Attorney General Sessions effectively left CSA enforcement to the discretion of local prosecutors. As we’ve seen in Illinois, local federal prosecutors don’t seem to have any particular interest in enforcing the CSA in the face of a booming cannabis industry.

 

Shortly after the Cole Memo, the Federal Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued guidance to financial institutions regarding their obligations under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). The FinCEN guidance notes that, due to the CSA, financial institutions are still required to file suspicious activity reports (SARs) when dealing with cannabis businesses. FinCEN creates three categories of SARs for financial institutions dealing with cannabis businesses: (1) “marijuana limited” SARs with limited information for otherwise legitimate banking clients; (2) “marijuana priority” SARs, for banking clients which implicate the Cole Memo concerns like non-cannabis crime, and; (3) “marijuana termination” SARs, where there’s clear criminal activity like money laundering. Cannabis clients operating legitimate businesses in legal markets, such as dispensaries and growers in Illinois, are likely to fall into the “marijuana limited” category. This is essentially a way for banks to comply with the BSA, while telling FinCEN that the client isn’t a priority.

Recent Developments in Cannabis Banking

cannabis banking consultingDespite the support provided by the Cole Memo and FinCEN, many banks are understandably extremely reluctant to enter into the cannabis market. After all, these documents are merely guidance memos, subject to the political winds of the day. As a result, there have been several major legislative efforts on behalf of the underbanked cannabis industry.

At the federal level, there is the “SAFE Banking Act”, which we’ve covered here in much greater detail. Essentially, the bill provides a safe harbor for credit unions and private banks to get a limited-purpose state charter to allow them to provide services to state-legal cannabis businesses. The SAFE Banking Act was introduced by Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of Congressmen. The bill passed the House of Representatives last September by a bipartisan 321-103 vote. It still has to make it through the Senate, where it has 33 co-sponsors including five Republican Senators. Of course, between the upcoming Presidential election and the COVID-19 near-shutdown of Congress, the SAFE Banking Act is unlikely to become law this year.

At the state level, there are some encouraging developments. In Colorado, Governor Polis unveiled his administration’s “Roadmap to Cannabis Banking & Financial Services.” Unfortunately, the Roadmap is little more than a series of goals and vague plans, with concrete policies to follow at some later date. California has provided some more robust guidance to help financial institutions develop the appropriate compliance protocols. Illinois has had some legislative proposals, which we have discussed elsewhere.

SUPPORT FOR CANNABIS IN ILLINOIS

The one major bright spot in Illinois is the “Community Invest Cannabis Banking Services” initiative put out by the Illinois State Treasurer. The idea behind Community Invest is fairly straightforward. The program provides investment capital at a reduced rate to qualified financial institutions so they can expand services to cannabis-related businesses. The capital comes in the form of two-year term deposits, with a variable monthly rate based on Federal Overnight Excess Funds. The application process is also fairly simple:

  1. Step 1:  Become an Approved Program Depository: depending on the total deposits and collateral pledged by the bank, there are different application forms. The applications focus on financial disclosures by the applicant so that they can get on the list of approved institutions to participate in the Treasurer’s Community Development Link Deposit and Access to Capital Programs. To get a better idea of the institutions involved, a full list of approved depositories is available here.

 

  1. Step 2: Review Eligibility and Submit Application: applicants need to fill out the form and provide a host of detailed information, including a business plan with information like risk assessment and mitigation strategies.

Unfortunately, the Illinois State Treasurer seemingly has not done much to promote this program. The State of Illinois has a robust opportunities for institutions looking to invest in historically underserved communities. Indeed, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act places special emphasis on “social equity” and Disproportionately Impacted Communities, or DIAs. The state will be announcing the winners of the most recent round of dispensary applications next month, so the need for cannabis banking services is about to increase tremendously in Illinois. Banks and other financial institutions would be wise to take a look options for serving cannabis businesses sooner rather than later.

David Silvers

David Silvers

Regulatory Lawyer

Whether this is your first land use issue or most recent, our office has helped people and businesses alike.

Thomas Howard was on the ball and got things done. Easy to work with, communicates very well, and I would recommend him anytime.
R. Martindale

Need A Business Lawyer?

Call our law offices with your legal questions for help on:

  1. real estate contracts
  2. business contract disputes
  3. Shareholder litigation
  4. cannabis business
  5. fraud actions
  6. mechanic's liens

 

LLC Operating Agreements

LLC Operating Agreements

LLC Operating Agreements

LLC Operating Agreements in Illinois

What to Put Your Illinois Company’s Operating Agreement

LLC Operating AgreementAn Operating Agreement is the contract of your Illinois company’s life – which it really does not have. However, your company is a legal fiction of a person that has a beginning, called articles of organization for LLCs, and even an end, called a dissolution. The Operating Agreement is a long contract that explains how your company is managed, how new owners come into the business, how existing owners leave the business, and more.  Here’s an article all about operating agreements for your cannabis company.

Illinois Company Operating Agreements are Flexible

We have done scores of operating agreements, many for Illinois companies.  Illinois companies often require additional care in drafting their operating agreements because of the amount of money and free cash flows that they kick out during their operations. Therefore, it is very important to review and understand your cannabis company’s operating agreement.  Please read yours with a lawyer or advisor that is experienced in them and ask questions until you understand everything about how your cannabis company operates – hence the term Operating Agreement.

What are the elements of an Illinois LLC Operating Agreement

Operating agreements, for any company – not just Illinois businesses – have different sections, or articles. Like chapters in a book, articles in an operating agreement break down the contract into logical subgroups where specific things are discussed.  The common sections, or articles, in operating agreements that we use include:

  1. Recitals
  2. Formation of Company
  3. Members & Units
  4. Management of the Company
  5. Rights & Obligations of Members
  6. Actions of Members
  7. Contributions to the Company and Capital Accounts
  8. Allocations, tax and distributions
  9. transferability
  10. Issuance of Membership Interests
  11. Dissolution and Termination
  12. Books and Records
  13. Miscellaneous Provisions

 

Want a Custom Operating Agreement

Illinois Company Operating Agreements Basics

You may not know it, but your business is just a ball of contracts with all the rights of a person, from owning property, to entering into contracts, and even suing in court, but does not include the right to vote in public elections, but you can spend money on supporting the people running for office.  Don’t be so upset, America itself is basically a large corporation – most municipalities are actually corporations. See these useful informational tidbits? – everything you’ve come to expect from…

RELATED: Subscribe to Illinois Legalization News

learn all the differences between corporations and LLCs that may have huge impacts on your business if it raíces money, or just its day-to-day operations. 

This is another of our Fundraising.  If you are getting into the Illinois industry and you are under a million dollars for your dispensary team, or under 4 million for your craft or micro grower team – then this is the content for you,

You may not know it, but if you are in an LLC for your Illinois company, or on its application, then this is how your company as a legally fictional person literally operates.  It is the owners’ manual for your company – which basically means it is like the one for your car – in the glove box and probably not really read too closely. 

That is a mistake – corporate entities – whether LLCs or corps – can only do what their contracts say they can do. So it is not only quite crucial – but expletive deleted important to know how your company runs its operations and distribution’s of profits – to raising capital – to diluting your shares. 

 

Want a Custom Operating Agreement

Why are LLCs so popular now instead of corporations?

Because LLCs are flexible – you can have an operating agreement between the owners, called members of the LLC, that literally governs the whole life trajectory of the business.  We are going to discuss several different permutations of operating agreements depending on the goals of your business venture. 

Remember that LLCs are flexible? What does that mean? 

 from reading you Illinois company’s operating agreement I can tell:

  1. If it was set up to be sold to the highest bidder
  2. If it was to be a family business for generations
  3. If it was to operate a real estate business
  4. If it was to operate a big one time deal and then have parties part ways
  5. If the parties did not care what the other owners did
  6. If the the parties wanted specific duties to the business
  7. If it was to hold control in very specific ways – this could be a social equity operating agreement.
  8. If it was to be taxed as the business owner, an s-corp or a c-corp. 
  9. If the profits interest went to different things despite the ownership percentages
  10. How it would die – dissolution
  11. How the owners get in or out
  12. And that’s more than enough points to tell you about how flexible this contract is.

Isn’t that amazing one contract can be set up in almost any number of ways for your unique business situation – so please get your tax guy involved immediately and your corporate consultant and lawyer and discuss it to suit your company’s needs.  We can talk about your company’s needs to see what your objectives are – what your exit is – a big check list of things that if you want to get. LLCs are great because not only do they have the flexibility to do whatever your business really needs, they also have relaxed formalities and greater restrictions on transferability of ownership interests. 

You probably know that corporation’s ownership is referred to as “shares” in the company while LLCs have “units” of membership in the company. 

So why are these LLCs so popular – because about 50 years ago some business people in Wyoming asked, “Wouldn’t it be great if you can get all the protections of the corporate shield but not have to follow all the rules?”  Heck Yeah – it would. Only in America.

In an LLC you can set it up so that owners, shareholders in corporate speak, or members in LLC jargon, have no duty to one another.  Just be like – I did this – deal with it. That could be a part of the business. We have an operating agreement that we like to call the fugghetaboutit – because not only does it allow you to have the least amount of duties to your partners as a matter of law, but the freedom to leave the business on a moment’s notice, dissolve the business and leave it in the past. It’s the LLC for the deal when you got just one little thing to do.

Then you got the protect yah neck, son – that’s just a single member LLC – The operating agreement basically gives the liability shield and very little else.  I have seen these be just a few pages, but you get more people involved and watch the operating agreement grow into the dozens of pages, maybe over 100 depending on the exhibits attached. 

Then we have another operating agreement that I like to call the flip – this company is basically on a mission to be sold – the LLC comes with an exit so you are almost for sale from the day you go into business on the terms set by the operating agreement. In this format, we use the tag-along-drag-along clause as a term of the operating agreement to provide protections to the minority owner of the company the “tag along” to be “dragged along” in the full sale of the company, or substantially all of its assets. So you can see, both the minority owner and the majority owner are in agreement as to what will happen when the offer to buy comes along.

Then I have one called the generational wealth – where you have the business being able to have rights of first refusal to retain ownership – often inside a family owned business. It is a sticky wicket to get into or out of – and that’s the point.

There are so many variants that we can make up a new type of operating agreement that we could make, like a ‘give it to the people’ where the company agrees to an ESOP to become an employee owned company at a certain point in time in the future.  I guess we could set that one up for you. We’d have to research it though.

Remember that your company is just a ball of contracts related to a statute – a legally fictional person that gets to generate you money – but you’re responsible for bearing the risk as the entrepreneur. 

The reason you need an operating agreement when raising capital is because it tells your prospective investors exactly what your company is legally obligated to do.

That  is the plan – the operating agreement spells out how it will all go down.  From management, to new owners, to getting out of your ownership, dissolution of the company, everything. 

can you run your LLC like a corporation?

In corporation terms, an operating agreement blends shareholder agreements and bylaws all together – but in theory, an LLC could do bylaws separately – in theory.  And as we get to the intersection of these two different type of corporate entities businesses have at their disposal, we can finally answer of the question, can an LLC be run like a corporation?

So you can see that – yes, you can structure a LLC like it is a corporation – but it will be much more expensive than the couple page single member LLC operating agreement.  The operating agreement has to blend agreements about new owners, types of owners, officers and directors, voting rights, tax consequences – so many things.  

Conclusion on LLC Operating Agreements

So why not just start with a corporation?  You can, but they have greater formality, less flexibility, and easier exchange of your shares. An LLC can become a corporation – so if your first 5 years are expected to be you and your core team operating the business before it is geared up and sold, or who knows.  Then you can start to set up the corporation as best you can, but borrower the flexibility and lack of formality that the LLC has, plus get more restrictive ownership, to keep your team together until you are ready to become a full on corporation that ends up getting sold for stock – a corporation can still buy an LLC. 

Thomas Howard

Thomas Howard

Real Estate Lawyer

Whether this is your first land use issue or most recent, our office has helped people and businesses alike.

LLC Operating Agreements

LLC Operating Agreements

What to Put Your Illinois Company's Operating Agreement An Operating Agreement is the contract of your Illinois company’s life – which it really does not have. However, your company is a legal fiction of a person that has a beginning, called articles of organization...

Right of First Refusal

Right of First Refusal

The explanation of the right of first refusal (ROFR) can be complicated sometimes, but we will discuss the term further to explain what the right of the first refusal means in the real estate business and how it applies to the holders of the right and the real estate...

How to Use Options and Convertible Notes to Raise Money

How to Use Options and Convertible Notes to Raise Money

If you want to know how to use options to raise money for your business, you've come to the right place. In this article, you'll find out how to use options and convertible notes to raise funds for your business. You have multiple solutions and one of them is trading...

Need A Business Lawyer?

Call our law offices with your legal questions for help on:

  1. real estate contracts
  2. business contract disputes
  3. Shareholder litigation
  4. cannabis business
  5. fraud actions
  6. mechanic's liens

 

How To Raise Money Through A Private Placement Memorandum

How To Raise Money Through A Private Placement Memorandum

Private Placement Memorandum

Raising Money PPM

A PRivate Placement Memorandum (PPM) is a complex legal document that provides great detail into a company and offers a portion of its ownership for sale to an investor, often an Accredited Investor as defined under Regulation D for the SEC. 

Private Placement memorandums could be used to raise capital when a company cannot otherwise access the capital markets.  Perhaps a bank would not loan the company money, but an investor may for a stake in the game.  The PPM would provide detailed information of the equity state being offered in the business.

Private Placement Memorandums in the Cannabis Industry

PPMs are popular in the cannabis industry because of the lack of financing options resulting from its federal prohibition.

Why You Should NOT Use Templates for your PPM

using templates to do your private placement offering is okay – when you are in good hands and they have used such templates to craft and customize private placement offerings for the unique conditions of the specific business deal being offered. 

Unfortunately, some entrepreneurs want to keep legal and consulting costs to an absolute minimum and take a form they got on the internet and try to stick their names in the right places.  This could cause headaches and huge problems if anything goes wrong, which is more likely to happen when you are cutting corners instead of doing the due diligence required.

Here’s a link to Private Placement Memorandum Template Library

FINANCING YOUR BUSINESS THROUGH A PRIVATE PLACEMENT MEMORANDUM

As this article is written, small businesses are being ravaged by the effects of COVID-19. The Small Business Administration is stepping up with all kinds of offerings to help small businesses weather the storm. Still, times are very difficult and uncertain for business owners, and there’s a good chance that credit will be tight over the coming months. For prospective small business owners, the hardest part might be simply finding a bank that is even open and available to meet during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortunately, budding entrepreneurs don’t have to rely on taking on big, high interest loans from a bank. Instead, there is an alternative: the private placement memorandum, or PPM. The federal Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) provides this helpful guide on the legal basics of a PPMs. In this article, we’re going to go over some of the highlights of the PPM route, which will help you determine if a PPM is the right course for your business.

  1. What Is A PPM?

Generally, when someone wants to sell securities in a company, they have to go through the registration process with the SEC. This applies not only to the Googles and Facebooks of the world, but also to much smaller companies as well. After all, small businesses have shareholders too. 

A PPM is, in simple terms, a way to raise funds without going through the SEC’s burdensome registration process. Instead, you go directly to potential investors. This is a very common route for small businesses, even ones with pretty big budgets. For our Chicago-area readers, some of the city’s most famous and lucrative restaurants, such as Chicago Cut, are actually owned by a small group of shareholders. 

To raise money through a PPM, entrepreneurs can make use of Regulation D, Sections 504, 505, and 506, depending on certain conditions such as the amount of money being raised. Section 504 is limited to fundraises of under $1,000,000, and so is unlikely to be useful for people hoping to open a typical cannabis business, especially a craft grow cultivation facility. For most entrepreneurs, they’re going to be raising money from Accredited Investors.

  1. Accredited Investors & PPMs

Regulation D sets out the definition of an accredited investor. Different kinds of institutions (banks, LLCs, trusts) can be accredited investors, but in general you’re talking about wealthy individuals. These are individuals or couples who meet the following criteria:

  • earned income that exceeded $200,000 (or $300,000 together with a spouse) in each of the prior two years, and reasonably expects the same for the current year, OR
  • has a net worth over $1 million, either alone or together with a spouse (excluding the value of the person’s primary residence and any loans secured by the residence (up to the value of the residence)).

Private placements are risky by their nature- these are brand new companies fundraising with relatively little government oversight. Investors could very easily lose everything. That’s why it’s so important that accredited investors be sophisticated and financially capable of absorbing the full loss. A typical PPM doesn’t require much information from an accredited investor. They simply have to certify that they meet the criteria. Some entrepreneurs may want to get independent verification, such as bank statements or CPA letters, but that’s not necessary to meet the requirements of Regulation D.

 

  • Why Should I Try A PPM?

 

Starting a business is hard. We just finished submitting all of our clients for the State of Illinois’s competitive cannabis cultivation and transporter application process, and boy did we learn a lot. Your average craft grow facility can cost upwards of $4,000,000 to fully build out. Worse yet, many traditional banks are still reluctant to work with cannabis clients.

The PPM bypasses regulatory hurdles and allows you to go directly to individuals who want to get involved in the industry. These can be people in your community who you know, who have the money but don’t know how to get involved. Accredited investors can be wealthy lawyers, bankers, restauranteurs, real estate brokers, or any number of people who are simply your friends and neighbors.

We’ve put together a PPM package for our clients to help them get started in their entrepreneurial pursuits. The best part about a PPM is that it is highly customizable. You can sell ten shares at $300,000 each, a hundred shares at $10,000 each, or nearly any combination that best suits your needs. Moreover, you can raise money in multiple rounds. We’ve designed our package so that investors can contribute a small, initial sum to help cannabis entrepreneurs finance their application, with the second, larger round contingent on the company actually being awarded the license.

There are countless other ways to customize a PPM to suit your needs and the desires of the investors your hoping to recruit. If you’ve got a plan and a vision, but you don’t quite have the capital, a PPM could be just the solution you need.

Private Placement Memorandums Are Not General Solicitation 

A private placement, unless it is using 506(c), you do not solicit in general to people to raise the money. It is a private placement memorandum – it is a private offering of an ownership stake in your company. So it means that you have a few investors. Your first meeting is a general meeting to get to know if your investor is right for you.  Then you can follow up with them if they are interested in learning more. Often times your PPM includes investment from friends, family, close network connections that you and your business may have.  

David Silvers

David Silvers

Regulatory Lawyer

Whether this is your first land use issue or most recent, our office has helped people and businesses alike.

Thomas Howard was on the ball and got things done. Easy to work with, communicates very well, and I would recommend him anytime.
R. Martindale

Need A Business Lawyer?

Call our law offices with your legal questions for help on:

  1. real estate contracts
  2. business contract disputes
  3. Shareholder litigation
  4. cannabis business
  5. fraud actions
  6. mechanic's liens

 


316 SW Washington Street, Suite 1A
Peoria, Illinois 61602

Phone: (309) 740-4033 || Email:  tom@collateralbase.com


150 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 2400,
Chicago IL, 60606 USA

Phone: 312-741-1009 || Email:  tom@collateralbase.com


316 SW Washington Street, Suite 1A
Peoria, Illinois 61602

Phone: (309) 740-4033 || Email:  tom@collateralbase.com


150 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 2400,
Chicago IL, 60606 USA

Phone: 312-741-1009 || Email:  tom@collateralbase.com