The California business judgment rule statutes for corporations, nonprofits, and religious organizations, for your ease of reading and reference

For your ease of reading and reference, the following are the California business judgment rule statutes for:

Corporations – Cal. Corp. Code §309;

Nonprofit public benefit corporations – Cal. Corp. Code §5231;

Nonprofit mutual benefit corporations – Cal. Corp. Code §7231 (and see also §7231.5); and

Nonprofit religious corporations – Cal. Corp. Code §9241 (and see also §9240(c)).

The business judgment rule is state specific – see, for example, Del. Gen. Corp. Law §141 for Delaware corporations, in addition to relevant case law.

Also note that the statutory business judgment rule differs some for corporations, nonprofit public benefit corporations, nonprofit mutual benefit corporations, and nonprofit religious corporations.

Why am I posting this information? Because the business judgment rule is a good rule for people to follow, and to consider, in public company, private business, nonprofit organization, and governmental entity settings and situations. And in this context, when I refer to “people,” I am not referring only to directors, but also to officers, managers and all people throughout the organization. Note: I am not representing that all of these people are legally required to follow the business judgment rule – indeed, the rule is merely a possible defense to liability and possibly relevant to the burden of proof for the people to which it applies and who fact follow the rule – for other people, in the context of this post I am merely suggesting that all people should consider following the rule, or at least keep it in mind as possible guidance in a multitude of public company, private business, nonprofit organization, and governmental entity settings and situations.

Also note that I underlined the provisions below that are underlined (that is, the wording below that is underlined is not underlined in the actual statute).

California Corporations Code Section 309, for corporations:

(a) A director shall perform the duties of a director, including duties as a member of any committee of the board upon which the director may serve, in good faith, in a manner such director believes to be in the best interests of the corporation and its shareholders and with such care, including reasonable inquiry, as an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would use under similar circumstances.

(b) In performing the duties of a director, a director shall be entitled to rely on information, opinions, reports or statements, including financial statements and other financial data, in each case prepared or presented by any of the following:

(1) One or more officers or employees of the corporation whom the director believes to be reliable and competent in the matters presented.

(2) Counsel, independent accountants or other persons as to matters which the director believes to be within such person’s professional or expert competence.

(3) A committee of the board upon which the director does not serve, as to matters within its designated authority, which committee the director believes to merit confidence, so long as, in any such case, the director acts in good faith, after reasonable inquiry when the need therefor is indicated by the circumstances and without knowledge that would cause such reliance to be unwarranted.

(c) A person who performs the duties of a director in accordance with subdivisions (a) and (b) shall have no liability based upon any alleged failure to discharge the person’s obligations as a director. In addition, the liability of a director for monetary damages may be eliminated or limited in a corporation’s articles to the extent provided in paragraph (10) of subdivision (a) of Section 204.

(Amended by Stats. 1987, Ch. 1203, Sec. 2. Effective September 27, 1987.)

California Corporations Code Section 5231, for nonprofit public benefit corporations:

(a) A director shall perform the duties of a director, including duties as a member of any committee of the board upon which the director may serve, in good faith, in a manner that director believes to be in the best interests of the corporation and with such care, including reasonable inquiry, as an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would use under similar circumstances.

(b) In performing the duties of a director, a director shall be entitled to rely on information, opinions, reports or statements, including financial statements and other financial data, in each case prepared or presented by:

(1) One or more officers or employees of the corporation whom the director believes to be reliable and competent in the matters presented;

(2) Counsel, independent accountants or other persons as to matters which the director believes to be within that person’s professional or expert competence; or

(3) A committee upon which the director does not serve that is composed exclusively of any or any combination of directors, persons described in paragraph (1), or persons described in paragraph (2), as to matters within the committee’s designated authority, which committee the director believes to merit confidence, so long as, in any case, the director acts in good faith, after reasonable inquiry when the need therefor is indicated by the circumstances and without knowledge that would cause that reliance to be unwarranted.

(c) Except as provided in Section 5233, a person who performs the duties of a director in accordance with subdivisions (a) and (b) shall have no liability based upon any alleged failure to discharge the person’s obligations as a director, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, any actions or omissions which exceed or defeat a public or charitable purpose to which a corporation, or assets held by it, are dedicated.

(Amended by Stats. 2009, Ch. 631, Sec. 14. (AB 1233) Effective January 1, 2010.)

California Corporations Code Section 7231, for nonprofit mutual benefit corporations:

(a) A director shall perform the duties of a director, including duties as a member of any committee of the board upon which the director may serve, in good faith, in a manner such director believes to be in the best interests of the corporation and with such care, including reasonable inquiry, as an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would use under similar circumstances.

(b) In performing the duties of a director, a director shall be entitled to rely on information, opinions, reports or statements, including financial statements and other financial data, in each case prepared or presented by:

(1) One or more officers or employees of the corporation whom the director believes to be reliable and competent in the matters presented;

(2) Counsel, independent accountants or other persons as to matters which the director believes to be within such person’s professional or expert competence; or

(3) A committee upon which the director does not serve that is composed exclusively of any or any combination of directors, persons described in paragraph (1), or persons described in paragraph (2), as to matters within the committee’s designated authority, which committee the director believes to merit confidence, so long as, in any case, the director acts in good faith, after reasonable inquiry when the need therefor is indicated by the circumstances and without knowledge that would cause such reliance to be unwarranted.

(c) A person who performs the duties of a director in accordance with subdivisions (a) and (b) shall have no liability based upon any alleged failure to discharge the person’s obligations as a director, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, any actions or omissions which exceed or defeat a public or charitable purpose to which assets held by a corporation are dedicated.

(Amended by Stats. 2009, Ch. 631, Sec. 24. (AB 1233) Effective January 1, 2010.)

See also Cal. Corp. Code §7231.5:

(a) Except as provided in Section 7233 or 7236, there is no monetary liability on the part of, and no cause of action for damages shall arise against, any volunteer director or volunteer executive officer of a nonprofit corporation subject to this part based upon any alleged failure to discharge the person’s duties as a director or officer if the duties are performed in a manner that meets all of the following criteria:

(1) The duties are performed in good faith.

(2) The duties are performed in a manner such director or officer believes to be in the best interests of the corporation.

(3) The duties are performed with such care, including reasonable inquiry, as an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would use under similar circumstances.

(b) “Volunteer” means the rendering of services without compensation. “Compensation” means remuneration whether by way of salary, fee, or other consideration for services rendered. However, the payment of per diem, mileage, or other reimbursement expenses to a director or executive officer does not affect that person’s status as a volunteer within the meaning of this section.

(c) “Executive officer” means the president, vice president, secretary, or treasurer of a corporation or other individual serving in like capacity who assists in establishing the policy of the corporation.

(d) This section shall apply only to trade, professional, and labor organizations incorporated pursuant to this part which operate exclusively for fraternal, educational, and other nonprofit purposes, and under the provisions of Section 501(c) of the United States Internal Revenue Code.

(e) This section shall not be construed to limit the provisions of Section 7231.

(Amended by Stats. 1990, Ch. 107, Sec. 5.)

California Corporations Code Section 9241, for nonprofit religious corporations:

(a) A director shall perform the duties of a director, including duties as a member of any committee of the board upon which the director may serve, in good faith, in a manner such director believes to be in the best interests of the corporation and with such care, including reasonable inquiry, as is appropriate under the circumstances.

(b) In performing the duties of a director, a director shall be entitled to rely on information, opinions, reports, or statements, including financial statements and other financial data, in each case prepared or presented by:

(1) One or more officers or employees of the corporation whom the director believes to be reliable and competent in the matters presented;

(2) Counsel, independent accountants, or other persons as to matters which the director believes to be within that person’s professional or expert competence;

(3) A committee upon which the director does not serve that is composed exclusively of any or any combination of directors, persons described in paragraph (1), or persons described in paragraph (2), as to matters within the committee’s designated authority, which committee the director believes to merit confidence; or

(4) Religious authorities and ministers, priests, rabbis, or other persons whose position or duties in the religious organization the director believes justify reliance and confidence and whom the director believes to be reliable and competent in the matters presented, so long as, in any case, the director acts in good faith, after reasonable inquiry when the need therefor is indicated by the circumstances, and without knowledge that would cause that reliance to be unwarranted.

(c) The provisions of this section, and not Section 9243, shall govern any action or omission of a director in regard to the compensation of directors, as directors or officers, or any loan of money or property to or guaranty of the obligation of any director or officer. No obligation, otherwise valid, shall be voidable merely because directors who benefited by a board resolution to pay such compensation or to make such loan or guaranty participated in making such board resolution.

(d) Except as provided in Section 9243, a person who performs the duties of a director in accordance with subdivisions (a) and (b) shall have no liability based upon any alleged failure to discharge his or her obligations as a director, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, any actions or omissions which exceed or defeat any purpose to which the corporation, or assets held by it, may be dedicated.

(Amended by Stats. 2009, Ch. 631, Sec. 33. (AB 1233) Effective January 1, 2010.)

See also Cal. Corp. Code §9240(c):

(c) A director, in making a good faith determination, may consider what the director believes to be:

(1) The religious purposes of the corporation; and

(2) Applicable religious tenets, canons, laws, policies, and authority.

(Amended by Stats. 1987, Ch. 923, Sec. 1.4. Operative January 1, 1988, by Sec. 103 of Ch. 923.)

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Remember, every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. 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.

Thank you for reading this website. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.

I am also the Chair of the Business Law Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com; Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

The following are copies of the tables of contents of three of the more formal materials that I have written over the years about accounting/auditing, audit committees, and related legal topics – Accounting and Its Legal Implications was my first formal effort, which resulted in a published book that had more of an accounting and auditing focus; Chapter 5A, Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, for the California Continuing Education of the Bar has a more legal focus; and the most recent Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide (February 2017) also has a more legal focus:

Accounting and Its Legal Implications

Chapter 5A, Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, CEB Advising and Defending Corporate Directors and Officers

Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide

The following are other summary materials that you might find useful:

OVERVIEW OF A RISK MANAGEMENT PROCESS THAT YOU CAN USE 03162018

Audit Committee 5 Lines of Success, Diligence, and Defense - David Tate, Esq, 05052018

COSO Enterprise Risk Management Framework ERM Components and Principles

From a prior blog post which you can find at https://wp.me/p75iWX-dk if the below scan is too difficult to read:

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Tate – Business Judgment Rule Slides

The business judgment rule provides a director with a defense to personal liability, holding that as a general principle of law, a director, including a director who serves as a member of a board committee, who satisfies the business judgment rule has satisfied his or her duties, standard of care, or responsibilities. Thus, the business judgment rule provides one standard of care, although other standards may very well also apply to specific tasks and responsibilities, or in different circumstances. The business judgment rule provides a standard, and a good overall approach, for directors and audit committee members to follow, although the rule is somewhat lacking in specific detail. In some states the business judgment rule is codified by statute while in other states the rule is established by case law (see, i.e., Cal. Corp. Code §309 for California corporations, Del. Gen. Corp. Law §141 for Delaware corporations, in addition to relevant case law). The rule also applies to directors as board committee members. The business judgment rule also simply makes sense.

Also note that in California the business judgment rule is separately codified at Cal. Corp. Code §5231 for nonprofit public benefit corporations, and at Cal. Corp. Code §7231 for nonprofit mutual benefit corporations, and although those sections are in many respects similar to Cal. Corp. Code §309, the differences can be important.

Click on the following link for my Business Judgment Rule Slides (presented in pdf format): The Business Judgment Rule Slides. The slides are presented in two parts – the first part is focused on the business judgment rule from a mostly legal perspective (slides 1-14), whereas the second part is focused on a non-legal less formal perspective (slides 15-23).

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.

Thank you for reading this website. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com; Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

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New California Case Discussing Whether The Business Judgment Rule Defense Exists Where There Might Have Been A Breach Of A Duty That Was Required By Governance Document Provisions

I have linked below a pdf of a new California Appellate Court case (Palm Springs Villas II Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Erna Parth), discussing, under California law, whether the business judgment rule defense exists, at least for the purpose of a motion for summary judgment, when there is or might be evidence that the defendant director or officer did not satisfy duties required of her under the California statutory business judgment rule and entity governance document provisions. The decision is important for several reasons, at least including, that the decision, whether or not you agree with it, is well-written and contains good discussions about the requirements on a motion for summary judgment and other cases discussing the applicability of the California statutory business judgment rule and the related defense, and the decision should apply to both California corporate and nonprofit entities, and possibly also to California partnerships, unincorporated association entities, and religious entities.

In other words, if you are a California entity director or officer, you should read this decision, which will help to explain some of your duties and responsibilities, and that limitations might apply to your business judgment rule defense. And I should also say that it really should not come as a surprise that a California Appellate Court could hold that the business judgment rule defense might not apply in an appropriate factual situation where there might be evidence for example that a director or officer might not have sufficiently satisfied due diligence, investigation or authorization requirements prior to taking actions, even if there is no evidence of intentional wrongdoing or neglect.

Click on the following link for a pdf of the appellate decision in Palm Springs Villas II Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Parth, Palm Springs Villas v. Parth – discussing the business judgment rule defense in light of possible violations of governance documents – California law

You can also see similar discussions and issues in various cases out of Delaware and under the federal securities laws. Directors and officers really need to understand and satisfy the business judgment rule in addition to other duties, and understand and satisfy the applicable provisions that are in governance documents such as by-laws, charters and CC&Rs. You will find a further discussion about the business judgment rule in my detailed Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide, updated January 2016, which you can view and print if you wish from the following blog post, at no cost and without having to provide any information about yourself – click on the following link for the post containing the link to the guide CLICK HERE

Best to you, Dave Tate, Esq., San Francisco Bay Area and throughout California

DTatePicture_SquareAudit Committee 5 Lines of Defense 02132016 David W. Tate, Esq.