California LLC Member and Manager Duties to the LLC and to Each Other
David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only
In a member-managed LLC, each member owes a duty of loyalty and a duty of care to the LLC and to the other members.
In a manager-managed LLC, each manager owes a duty of loyalty and a duty of care to the LLC and to the members. Members who are not managers do not owe the duty of loyalty or the duty of care.
Note however that you also must read (and understand) the operating agreement to determine if any of these duties are expanded; to determine if any of these duties are reduced or purportedly eliminated (they cannot be eliminated); and, in a member-managed LLC, to determine if any of these duties are shifted from one member to one or more other members.
Issues, questions and disputes about legal responsibilities/duties and rights pursuant to these duties usually don’t arise or usually are relatively uncomplicated while the LLC members and managers are dealing with each other honestly, openly, and fully, as in most businesses and situations. In my practice I handle situations and represent clients where legal responsibilities and rights and the actions and inactions of the people who are involved are seriously at issue. And you can see from the wording and definitions in these materials that there can be significant uncertainty and vagueness about exactly what the responsibilities and rights are and can be in different situations.
Duty of Loyalty. The duty of loyalty is limited to the following unless the operating agreement provides otherwise (again, you must read and understand the operating agreement):
Account and Accounting. An LLC member in a member-managed LLC, or a manager in a manger-managed LLC must account to the LLC and hold as a trustee any property, profit, or benefit, that the member or manager, respectively, derives in the conduct of the LLC or in the winding up of the LLC’s activities, or from the use of the LLC’s property including but not limited to the appropriation of an LLC opportunity. Also take note whether a specific member or a specific manager is tasked with the function of accounting for the LLC.
Adverse Interest. Each member (in a member-managed LLC) and each manager (in a manager-managed LLC) must not deal with the LLC, or on behalf of a person with respect to the LLC, as an interest adverse to the LLC.
Competing with the LLC. Each member (in a member-managed LLC) and each manager (in a manager-managed LLC) must not compete with the LLC in the conduct of the LLC or in the winding up of the LLC’s activities.
Duty of Care. The duty of care in the conduct of the LLC or in the winding up of the LLC’s activities is limited to not committing gross negligence or reckless conduct, intentional misconduct, or a knowing violation of law. However, you must read and understand the operating agreement as it is permissible for the agreement to expand the standard of culpability to ordinary or simple negligence.
Duty of Good Faith and Fair Dealing. In both a member-managed and in a manager-managed LLC, members and managers have a duty of good faith and fair dealing to the LLC and to the other members – for example, to not obtain an advantage or benefit by any misrepresentation or concealment or other means. And this is true whether the duties arise under the California Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act (CRULLCA) or the LLC’s operating agreement. A duty of good faith and fair dealing is a duty of care; however, you can also see that it is a duty of care that is separate from the culpability standards.
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Every case and situation is different. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.
Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.
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