Entrepreneurs launching new companies today take on a significant gamble, because statistics show that roughly 30% of all new start-ups fail within two years, and only half survive for a full five years. Many businesses fail due to the owners’ inability to meet the challenges of the marketplace, but some start-ups shut down when conflicts arise within the ownership group. Companies can go under over these ownership disputes even when their governance documents include dispute resolution provisions—if these terms fall short of keeping the business intact.
Given the many business risks that business entrepreneurs face, they should not also have to accept the gamble that a future serious conflict with their co-owners will torpedo the business. This post therefore focuses on dispute resolution terms that are designed to resolve ownership disputes, but which will preserve the continued operation of the business. While not fool-proof, the best mechanism for resolving ownership conflicts in our experience on a prompt, confidential and cost-effective basis is through a set of well-crafted fast track arbitration provisions. These arbitration terms are included in the company agreement (LLC’s), in the bylaws (corporations) or in the limited partnership agreement (limited partnerships), and they are discussed below.
Faster – Prompt Date for Final, Evidentiary Hearing
Litigation will often drag on for months and, in some cases, years, and at great cost. By contrast, arbitration is a dispute resolution procedure that is created by agreement of the parties, and as a result, the parties can choose to adopt a specific timetable in their arbitration provision that requires the final arbitration hearing to take place on a prompt schedule. The manner in which a fast-track schedule for the arbitration hearing plays out is described below.
After one of the parties files a demand for arbitration, the arbitration company, which is typically either AAA or JAMS, will assist the parties in selecting the arbitrator, or if the parties opted for a panel, a panel of three arbitrators, to preside over the dispute. Once the arbitrator or the arbitration panel is appointed, a scheduling conference will be held promptly, and the date for the arbitration hearing will be set at that time. If the parties require the hearing date to take place within a specified period in the arbitration provision, e.g., 60 or 90 days, the arbitrator or panel will enforce the parties’ agreement and adopt the schedule to which they agreed. In short, the parties will get what they bargained for, a prompt hearing with no delays/continuances.