NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This revision of the North Carolina Business Corporation Act is based upon the Revised Model Business Corporation Act (1984) (hereinafter "the Model Act"). To maintain uniformity, the numbering of the sections corresponds to that of the Model Act, except that the General Statutes Chapter 55 number has been added to each section and the Model Act chapters have been changed to articles.

Two types of comments appear. Under the designation "Official Comment" is the Official Comment of the Section of Corporation, Banking and Business Law of the American Bar Association for that section. Under the designation "North Carolina Comment" are the comments of the drafters who adapted the Model Act for enactment in North Carolina. The North Carolina comments are designed to note (1) deviations from the Model Act and (2) some significant changes from the former law. Some sections therefore do not have a North Carolina Comment.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 1989, ch. 265, s. 1, effective July 1, 1990, rewrote Chapter 55 and entitled it the North Carolina Business Corporation Act, to replace former Chapter 55, entitled the Business Corporation Act, which had been adopted by Session Laws 1955, c. 1371, s. 1.

Section 2 of Session Laws 1989, c. 265 provided: "The Revisor of Statutes shall cause to be printed along with this act all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the 1984 Revised Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor may deem appropriate."

The Official Comments appearing under individual sections in this Chapter have been printed by the publisher as received, without editorial change, and relate to the Chapter as originally enacted. However, not all sections in this Chapter may carry Official Comments. Furthermore, Official Comments may or may not have been received or updated in conjunction with subsequent amendments to this Chapter and, therefore, may not reflect all changes to the sections under which they appear.

Where they appear in this Chapter, "Amended Comment" usually means that an error in the original comment has been corrected by a subsequent amendment, and "Supplemental Comment" pertains to a later development, such as an amendment to the statute text. North Carolina Comments explain where the General Assembly has enacted variations to the text of the Uniform Act.

Where appropriate, the historical citations to sections of former Chapter 55 have been added to corresponding sections in current Chapter 55.

Some of the case notes appearing under the sections of this Chapter were decided under former Chapter 55 or under prior law.

For tables of corresponding sections of former and current Chapter 55, see the tables at the end of this Chapter.

Legal Periodicals. - For article, "The Corporate Identity Theory Dilemma: North Carolina and the Need for Constructionist Corporate Law Reform," see 94 N.C.L. Rev. 686 (2016).

ARTICLE 1. General Provisions.

Part 1. Short Title and Reservation of Power.

Sec.

Part 2. Filing Documents.

Part 3. Secretary of State.

Part 4. Definitions.

Part 5. Miscellaneous.

Part 6. Ratification of Defective Corporate Actions.

PART 1. SHORT TITLE AND RESERVATION OF POWER.

§ 55-1-01. Short title.

This Chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "North Carolina Business Corporation Act."

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

The short title provided by section 1.01 creates a convenient name for the state's business corporation act.

See the Introduction for a general description of the development of the Model Act, the purposes it is intended to serve, the principles under which the 1984 Revised Model Business Corporation Act was prepared, and the roles of the Cross-References and Official Comments.

Cross References. - For constitutional provisions regarding corporations, see N.C. Const., Art. VIII.

As to executions, see G.S. 1-324.1 et seq.

As to receivers of corporations, see G.S. 1-507.1 et seq.

As to jurisdiction of the superior court division over proceedings under this Chapter, see G.S. 7A-249.

As to provisions relating to nonprofit corporations, see G.S. 55A-1 to 55A-89.1.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2018-45, s. 33, provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

Legal Periodicals. - For article giving comments of draftsmen of the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955, see 33 N.C.L. Rev. 26 (1954).

For case law survey on business associations, see 41 N.C.L. Rev. 415 (1963).

For article reevaluating the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955, see 43 N.C.L. Rev. 768 (1965).

For article surveying case law as to corporations, see 44 N.C.L. Rev. 950 (1966).

For note on the liability of directors and officers for negligent management, see 45 N.C.L. Rev. 748 (1967).

For comment on tax and corporate aspects of professional incorporation in North Carolina, see 48 N.C.L. Rev. 573 (1970).

For note, "Glenn v. Wagner: Instrumentality Rule versus the Balancing Test in Piercing the Corporate Veil," see 64 N.C.L. Rev. 1265 (1986).

For article, "The Corporate Fox and the Shareholders' Hen House: Reflections on Alford v. Shaw," see 65 N.C.L. Rev. 569 (1987).

For article, "The Uncertain Case Against the Double Taxation of Corporate Income," see 68 N.C.L. Rev. (1990).

For business symposium, "Management Buyouts: Strategies, Ethics and Other Considerations," see 25 Wake Forest Law Rev. 1 (1990).

For article discussing changes in theories of the corporation over the last 150 years, see "Theories of the Corporation," 1990 Duke L.J. 201.

For article, "The Corporate Persona, Contract (and Market) Failure, and Moral Values," see 69 N.C.L. Rev. 273 (1991).

For article, "Discrimination, Managerial Discretion and the Corporate Contract," see 26 Wake Forest L. Rev. 541 (1991).

For article, "The Creation of North Carolina's Limited Liability Corporation Act," see 32 Wake Forest L. Rev. 179 (1997).

For a comment on the acquisition, abandonment, and preservation of rail corridors in North Carolina, see 75 N.C.L. Rev. 1989 (1997).

For article, "Silencing the Shareholder's Voice," see 80 N.C.L. Rev. 1897 (2002).

For article, "Corporate Governance and Climate Change: Empirical Study: The Doctrine of Defective Incorporation and its Tenuous Coexistence with the Model Business Corporation Act," see 44 Wake Forest L. Rev. 833 (2009).

For article, "Overcoming the Rippy Effect: Why the North Carolina Business Corporations Act Should Allow Permissive Officer Exculpation," see 94 N.C.L. Rev. 2155 (2016).

For article, "Shareholder Voting and the Symbolic Politics of Corporation as Contract,” see 53 Wake Forest L. Rev. 512 (2018).

§ 55-1-02. Reservation of power to amend or repeal.

The General Assembly has power to amend or repeal all or part of this Chapter at any time and all domestic and foreign corporations subject to this Chapter are governed by the amendment or repeal.

History

(1901, c. 2, s. 7; Rev., s. 1136; C.S., s. 1135; G.S., s. 55-36; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Provisions similar to section 1.02 have their genesis in Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat) 518 (1819), which held that the United States Constitution prohibited the application of newly enacted statutes to existing corporations while suggesting the efficacy of a reservation of power similar to section 1.02. The purpose of section 1.02 is to avoid any possible argument that a corporation has contractual or vested rights in any specific statutory provision and to ensure that the state may in the future modify its corporation statutes as it deems appropriate and require existing corporations to comply with the statutes as modified.

All articles of incorporation or certificates of authority granted under the Model Act are subject to the reservation of power set forth in section 1.02. Further, corporations "governed" by this Act - which includes all corporations formed or qualified under earlier, general incorporation statutes that contain a reservation of power - are also subject to the reservation of power of section 1.02 and bound by subsequent amendments to the Act.

Many states have constitutional provisions mandating the reservation of power to amend or modify corporate statutes and charters. In these states section 1.02 is also supported by specific constitutional authorization.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section is substantially the same, in effect, as former G.S. 55-174.

This reserved power also appears in the North Carolina Constitution. See N.C. Const. Art. VIII, § 1; The Yadkin River Power Co. v. Whitney Co. , 150 N.C. 31, 63 S.E. 820 (1906).

Legal Periodicals. - For article on the evolution of corporate combination law, see 76 N.C.L. Rev. 687 (1998).

§§ 55-1-03 through 55-1-19: Reserved for future codification purposes.

PART 2. FILING DOCUMENTS.

§ 55-1-20. Filing requirements.

  1. A document required or permitted by this Chapter to be filed by the Secretary of State must be filed under Chapter 55D of the General Statutes.
  2. A document submitted on behalf of a domestic or foreign corporation must be executed:
    1. By the chair of its board of directors, by its president, or by another of its officers;
    2. If directors have not been selected or the corporation has not been formed, by an incorporator; or
    3. If the corporation is in the hands of a receiver, trustee, or other court-appointed fiduciary, by that fiduciary.
  3. through (i). Reserved.
  4. Repealed by Session Laws 2002-159, s. 15 effective October 11, 2002.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1967, c. 13, s. 1; c. 823, s. 16; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1024, s. 12.1(a); 1991, c. 645, s. 15; 1999-369, s. 1.1; 2001-358, ss. 3(a), 6(a); 2001-387, ss. 1, 155, 173; 2001-413, s. 6; 2002-159, s. 15.)

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2001-358, s. 52, authorizes the Revisor of Statutes to transfer, as historical annotations, the Official Comments and the North Carolina Comments to those portions of Chapter 55 of the General Statutes that are recodified by that act to the corresponding locations in Chapter 55D of the General Statutes, as the Revisor deems appropriate. Pursuant to this authority, the Official Comments and the North Carolina Commentary formerly located at this section have been transferred to G.S. 55D-10.

This section was amended by Session Laws 2001-358, ss. 3(a) and 6(a) in the coded bill drafting format provided by G.S. 120-20.1. The act, in s. 3(a), recodified subsections (a) through (e) and (g) through (i) as new G.S. 55D-10. The act, in s. 6(a) rewrote the section, treating subsection (j) as also having been recodified by s. 3(a). Subsection (j) has been set out above and subsections (c) through (i) have been set out as "Reserved" at the direction of the Revisor of Statutes.

Session Laws 2001-358, s. 53, provided that the act, which amended this section, was effective October 1, 2001, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date. Section 173 of Session Laws 2001-387 changed the effective date of Session Laws 2001-358 from October 1, 2001, to January 1, 2002. Section 6 of Session Laws 2001-413, effective September 14, 2001, added a sentence to s. 175(a) of Session Laws 2001-387, making s. 173 of that act effective when it became law (August 26, 2001). As a result of these changes, the amendment by Session Laws 2001-358 is effective January 1, 2002, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date.

Session Laws 2001-387, s. 1, amended this section. However, s. 155 of c. 387 repealed s. 1, contingent upon the enactment of Session Laws 2001-358. Session Laws 2001-358 was enacted on August 10, 2001.

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2001-358, ss. 3(a) and 6(a), effective January 1, 2002, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date, recodified former subsections (a) to (e) and (g) to (i) as G.S. 55D-10, and rewrote former (f) of this section as new subsections (a) and (b).

Legal Periodicals. - For article, "Revolving Funds: In the Vanguard of the Preservation Movement," see 11 N.C. Cent. L.J. 256 (1980).

For "Legislative Survey: Business & Banking," see 22 Campbell L. Rev. 253 (2000).

§ 55-1-21. Forms.

  1. The Secretary of State may promulgate and furnish on request forms for the following:
    1. An application for a certificate of existence.
    2. A foreign corporation's application for a certificate of authority to transact business in this State.
    3. A foreign corporation's application for a certificate of withdrawal.
    4. Repealed by Session Laws 1997-475, s. 6.2, effective January 1, 1998.
  2. The Secretary of State may promulgate and furnish on request forms for other documents required or permitted to be filed by this Chapter but their use is not mandatory.

If the Secretary of State so requires, use of these forms is mandatory.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1997-475, s. 6.2.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

As described in the Official Comment to section 1.20, documents are entitled to filing under the Model Act if they meet the substantive and formal requirements of the Act; they may also contain additional information if the person submitting the document so elects. See the Official Comments to sections 1.20 and 1.25. In these circumstances it is not appropriate to vest the secretary of state with general authority to establish mandatory forms for use under the Model Act. Certain types of reports and requests for documents may be processed efficiently only if uniform forms are prescribed by the secretary of state. Certificates of existence, for example, should require specific information located at specific places on the form; similarly, processing of large-volume, largely routine filings is expedited if standardized forms are required. Also, the disclosure requirements of the annual report may be administered on a systematic basis if a standardized form is mandated. Section 1.21(a) recognizes that these considerations may exist in limited cases, and expressly enumerates those forms for which the secretary of state is authorized to establish mandatory forms.

Section 1.21(b) authorizes (but does not require) the secretary of state to prepare forms suitable for use for other documents required or permitted to be filed under the Act. However, the use of these forms is permissive and cannot be required by the secretary of state.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The Model Act was modified by changing "prescribe" to "promulgate," because "prescribe" is inconsistent with the idea of optional forms.

§ 55-1-22. Filing, service, and copying fees.

  1. The Secretary of State shall collect the following fees when the documents described in this subsection are delivered to the Secretary for filing:
  2. The Secretary of State shall collect a fee of ten dollars ($10.00) each time process is served on the Secretary under this Chapter. The party to a proceeding causing service of process is entitled to recover this fee as costs if the party prevails in the proceeding.
  3. The Secretary of State shall collect the following fees for copying, comparing, and certifying a copy of any filed document relating to a domestic or foreign corporation:
    1. One dollar ($1.00) a page for copying or comparing a copy to the original.
    2. Fifteen dollars ($15.00) for a paper certificate.
    3. Ten dollars ($10.00) for an electronic certificate.
  4. The fee for the annual report in subdivision (23) of this section is nonrefundable.

Document Fee (1) Articles of incorporation $125.00 (2) Application for reserved name 30.00 (3) Notice of transfer of reserved name 10.00 (4) Application for registered name 10.00 (5) Application for renewal of registered name 10.00 (6) Corporation's statement of change of registered agent or registered office or both 5.00 (7) Agent's statement of change of registered office for each affected corporation 5.00 (8) Agent's statement of resignation No fee (9) Designation of registered agent or registered office or both 5.00 (10) Amendment of articles of incorporation 50.00 (11) Restated articles of incorporation 10.00 with amendment of articles 50.00 (12) Articles of merger or share exchange 50.00 (12a)Articles of conversion (other than articles of conversion included as part of another document) 50.00 (13) Articles of dissolution 30.00 (14) Articles of revocation of dissolution 10.00 (15) Certificate of administrative dissolution No fee (16) Application for reinstatement following administrative dissolution 100.00 (17) Certificate of reinstatement No fee (18) Certificate of judicial dissolution No fee (19) Application for certificate of authority 250.00 (20) Application for amended certificate of authority 75.00 (21) Application for certificate of withdrawal 25.00 (22) Certificate of revocation of authority to transact business No fee (23) Annual report (paper) 25.00 (23a)Annual report (electronic) 18.00 (24) Articles of correction 10.00 (25) Application for certificate of existence or authorization (paper) 15.00 (25a)Application for certificate of existence or authorization (electronic) 10.00 (26) Any other document required or permitted to be filed by this Chapter 10.00 (27) Repealed by Session Laws 2001-358, s. 6(b), effective January 1, 2002. (28) Articles of validation 150.00

History

(1957, c. 1180; 1967, c. 823, s. 20; 1969, c. 751, ss. 42, 43, 45; c. 797, ss. 4, 5; 1975, 2nd Sess., c. 981, s. 1; 1983, c. 713, ss. 32-38; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; c. 714; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1057; 1991, c. 574, s. 1; 1997-456, s. 55.3; 1997-475, s. 5.1; 1997-485, s. 10; 2001-358, s. 6(b); 2001-387, ss. 2, 173; 2001-413, s. 6; 2002-126, ss. 29A.25, 29A.26; 2003-349, s. 7; 2007-323, s. 30.6(a); 2018-45, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 1.22 establishes in a single section the filing fees for all documents that may be filed under the Model Act. The dollar amounts for each document should be inserted by each state as it adopts the Act.

The list of documents in section 1.22 includes all documents that are authorized to be filed with the secretary of state under the Model Act. The catch-all in subdivision (26) will apply to any document for which a state does not establish a specific filing fee plus any document that later amendments to the statute may authorize or direct be filed with the secretary of state without establishing a specific filing fee.

Subdivision (9) states that no fee is applicable to filing the resignation of a registered agent. This provision permits a person who is named as a registered agent without his consent, or who agrees to serve as registered agent for a fee and the fee is not paid, to eliminate any reference to himself in the records of the secretary of state without expense.

Subdivision (8) contains a maximum fee for filing a change of address of a registered agent. Since corporation service companies serve as registered agents for thousands of corporations in many jurisdictions, their change of address may require a very large number of filings. Hence, the fee is broadly based on the number of corporations affected but a maximum fee is specified to reflect that as the number of changes increases the cost per change should decrease.

Sections 11.07, 15.20, and 15.31 require the secretary of state to serve process on foreign corporations under the circumstances there specified. The fee for this service is set forth in section 1.22(b).

Section 1.22(c) establishes standard fees for coping filed documents and certifying that copies are true copies under section 1.27.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section contains a new fee schedule covering documents required or permitted to be filed under this Act, and the fees shown here combine the fees and taxes that were separately covered in former G.S. 55-155 and former G.S. 55-156. In some cases the fees are higher than the fees and taxes under the prior law. The sliding scale that applied in some cases under the prior law is eliminated in favor of a flat fee in all cases. The format was adopted from the Model Act.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2001-358, s. 53, provided that the act, which amended this section, was effective October 1, 2001, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date. Section 173 of Session Laws 2001-387 changed the effective date of Session Laws 2001-358 from October 1, 2001, to January 1, 2002. Section 6 of Session Laws 2001-413, effective September 14, 2001, added a sentence to s. 175(a) of Session Laws 2001-387, making s. 173 of that act effective when it became law (August 26, 2001). As a result of these changes, the amendment by Session Laws 2001-358 is effective January 1, 2002, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date.

Session Laws 2001-387, s. 154(b), provides that "Nothing in the act shall supersede the provisions of Article 10 or 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes, and this act does not create an alternate means for an entity governed by Article 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes to convert to a different business form."

Session Laws 2008-194, s. 2(a)-(f), provides: "(a) The following definitions apply in this section:

"(1) Department. - The Department of the Secretary of State.

"(2) Filer. - An individual, entity, or corporation that files a single notice pursuant to this section for more than 20,000 entities on file with the Department.

"(3) Notice. - A bulk filing which includes the information required in G.S. 55D-31(a)(2) through (6) and a certification that the filer has complied with the entity notification requirements of G.S. 55D-31(b). For a notice intended to update information for unincorporated nonprofit associations, 'notice' shall also mean a filing which includes the information required by G.S. 59B-11(b)(4). Any notice filed must be in an electronic form acceptable to the Department and include a written statement that the notice is filed pursuant to this section.

"(b) Upon receipt and filing by the Department, a notice pursuant to this section shall be sufficient as a matter of law under G.S. 55D-31 and G.S. 59B-11 to update registered office and registered agent information for each entity on file with the Department for which the filer is listed on the records of the Department as the registered office, the registered agent, or both.

"(c) The requirements of G.S. 55D-13(a) and (b), 55D-10(b)(8), 55-1-22(a), 55A-1-22(a), 57C-1-22(a) (repealed by Session Laws 2013-157, s.1), 59-35.2(a), 59-1106(a), and 59B-11(f) shall not apply to notices filed pursuant to this section.

"(d) This section shall only apply to one notice for each filer.

"(e) Unless otherwise specified, the change of address shall become effective on the 45th day following the Department's receipt of a notice filed pursuant to this section. A filer may specify in the notice a later effective date for the change of address, but not an earlier effective date.

"(f) A notice filed pursuant to this section shall be delivered to the Department no later than one year after the effective date of this section."

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2007-323, s. 30.6(a), effective September 1, 2007, and applicable to annual reports filed on or after that date, in subsection (a), in subdivision (a)(23), inserted "(paper)" and substituted "25.00" for "20.00"; and added subdivision (a)(23a).

Session Laws 2018-45, s. 1, effective October 1, 2018, added subdivision (a)(28).

Legal Periodicals. - For 1997 legislative survey, see 20 Campbell L. Rev. 389.

CASE NOTES

Applied in Ben Johnson Homes, Inc. v. Watkins, 142 N.C. App. 162, 541 S.E.2d 769 (2001), aff'd, 354 N.C. 563, 555 S.E.2d 608 (2001).


§ 55-1-22.1: Transferred to §§ 55D-11 through 55D-17 by Session Laws 2001-358, s. 3(b).

§ 55-1-28. Certificate of existence.

  1. Anyone may apply to the Secretary of State to furnish a certificate of existence for a domestic corporation or a certificate of authorization for a foreign corporation.
  2. A certificate of existence or authorization sets forth:
    1. The domestic corporation's corporate name or the foreign corporation's corporate name used in this State;
    2. That (i) the domestic corporation is duly incorporated under the law of this State, the date of its incorporation, and the period of its duration if less than perpetual; or (ii) that the foreign corporation is authorized to transact business in this State;
    3. That the articles of incorporation of a domestic corporation or the certificate of authority of a foreign corporation has not been suspended for failure to comply with the Revenue Act of this State and that the corporation has not been administratively dissolved for failure to comply with the provisions of this Chapter;
    4. That its most recent annual report required by G.S. 55-16-22 either has been delivered to the Secretary of State or is not delinquent;
    5. That articles of dissolution have not been filed; and
    6. Other facts of record in the office of the Secretary of State that may be requested by the applicant.
  3. Subject to any qualification stated in the certificate, a certificate of existence or authorization issued by the Secretary of State may be relied upon as conclusive evidence that the domestic or foreign corporation is in existence or is authorized to transact business in this State.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1991, c. 645, s. 1; 1997-475, s. 6.3.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 1.28 establishes a procedure by which anyone may obtain a conclusive certificate from the secretary of state that a particular domestic or foreign corporation is in existence or is authorized to transact business in the state. The certificate will probably be a standardized form. The secretary of state is to make the judgment whether or not the corporation is in existence or is authorized to transact business from public records only and is not expected to make a more extensive investigation. In appropriate cases, the secretary of state may issue a certificate subject to specified qualifications.

Section 1.28(b)(5) refers only to taxes, fees, or penalties collected by the secretary of state or collected by other agencies and reported to the secretary of state. In some states the secretary of state may ascertain from other agencies that franchise or other taxes have been paid and include this information in the certificate. In states where this procedure does not unduly delay the issuance of certificates, section 1.28 may be revised appropriately. Section 1.28(b)(5) relates only to taxes, fees, or penalties to the extent their nonpayment affects the existence or authorization to transact business of the corporation.

A certificate of existence or authorization that may be relied on as binding and conclusive is of material assistance to attorneys who may be required to give formal legal opinions in connection with corporate transactions.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

Although it has no express counterpart in prior law, this section codifies the practice of the Secretary of State of issuing "certificates of good standing." Although subdivision (b)(3) refers only to taxes, fees and penalties collected by the Secretary of State, it is expected that the North Carolina Department of Revenue will continue the practice of giving letters confirming the payment of fees and taxes and penalties collectible by the Department.

§ 55-1-29: Transferred to § 55D-18 by Session Laws 2001-358, s. 3(b).

PART 3. SECRETARY OF STATE.

§ 55-1-30. Powers.

The Secretary of State has the power reasonably necessary to perform the duties required of him by this Chapter.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 1.30 is intended to grant the secretary of state the authority necessary for his efficient performance of the filing and other duties imposed on him by the Act but is not intended to give him general authority to establish public policy. The most important aspects of a modern corporation statute relate to the creation and maintenance of relationships among persons interested in or involved with a corporation; these relationships basically should be a matter of concern to the parties involved and not subject to regulation or interpretation by the secretary of state. Further, even in situations where it is claimed that the corporation has been formed or is being operated for purposes that may violate the public policies of the state, the secretary of state generally should not be the governmental official that determines the scope of public policy through administration of his filing responsibilities under the Act. Rather, the attorney general may seek to enjoin the illegal conduct or to dissolve involuntarily the offending corporation.

Section 1.30 is more narrowly drafted than earlier versions of the Model Act and the statutes of many states.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section is substantially the same as former G.S. 55-168.

§ 55-1-31. Interrogatories by Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State may propound to any corporation, domestic or foreign which he has reason to believe is subject to the provisions of this Chapter, and to any officer or director thereof, such written interrogatories as may be reasonably necessary and proper to enable him to ascertain whether such corporation is subject to the provisions of this Chapter or has complied with all the provisions of this Chapter applicable to it. Subject to applicable jurisdictional requirements, such interrogatories shall be answered within 30 days after the mailing therefor, or within such additional time as shall be fixed by the Secretary of State, and the answers thereto shall be full and complete and shall be made in writing and under oath. If such interrogatories be directed to an individual they shall be answered by him, and if directed to a corporation they shall be answered by the president, vice-president, secretary or assistant secretary thereof. The Secretary of State shall certify to the Attorney General, for such action as the Attorney General may deem appropriate, all interrogatories and answers thereto which disclose a violation of any of the provisions of this Chapter, requiring or permitting action by the Attorney General.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section brings forward former G.S. 55-165 with minor modifications to provide the Secretary of State a formal mechanism for obtaining information necessary for him to carry out his duties. It does not appear in the Model Act.

§ 55-1-32. Penalties imposed upon corporations, officers, and directors for failure to answer interrogatories.

  1. The knowing failure or refusal of a domestic or foreign corporation to answer truthfully and fully within the time prescribed in this Chapter interrogatories propounded by the Secretary of State in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter shall constitute grounds for administrative dissolution under G.S. 55-14-20 or for revocation under G.S. 55-15-30, as the case may be.
  2. Each officer and director of a domestic or foreign corporation who knowingly fails or refuses within the time prescribed by this Chapter to answer truthfully and fully interrogatories propounded to him by the Secretary of State in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1993, c. 539, s. 440; c. 552, s. 3; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c).)

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section brings forward former G.S. 55-166 with two exceptions. First, a violation of this section by a corporation is not a misdemeanor; instead, the Secretary of State is empowered to suspend the offending corporation's articles of incorporation or certificate of authority to do business. Natural persons who violate the section are guilty of a misdemeanor. Second, the provisions relating to signing false documents were omitted and are covered by G.S. 55-1-29.


§ 55-1-33. Information disclosed by interrogatories.

Interrogatories propounded by the Secretary of State and the answers thereto shall not be open to public inspection nor shall the Secretary of State disclose any facts or information obtained therefrom except insofar as his official duty may require the same to be made public or in the event such interrogatories or the answers thereto are required for evidence in any criminal proceedings or in any other action or proceedings by this State.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section brings forward former G.S. 55-167.

§§ 55-1-34 through 55-1-39: Reserved for future codification purposes.

PART 4. DEFINITIONS.

§ 55-1-40. Chapter definitions.

In this Chapter unless otherwise specifically provided:

  1. "Articles of incorporation" include amended and restated articles of incorporation and articles of merger.
  2. "Authorized shares" means the shares of all classes a domestic or foreign corporation is authorized to issue.
  3. "Business entity," as used in G.S. 55-11-10 and Article 11A of this Chapter, means a domestic corporation (including a professional corporation as defined in G.S. 55B-2), a foreign corporation, a domestic or foreign nonprofit corporation, a domestic or foreign limited liability company, a domestic or foreign limited partnership, a registered limited liability partnership or foreign limited liability partnership as defined in G.S. 59-32, or any other partnership as defined in G.S. 59-36 whether or not formed under the laws of this State.
  4. "Conspicuous" means so written that a reasonable person against whom the writing is to operate should have noticed it. For example, printing in italics or boldface or contrasting color, or typing in capitals or underlined, is conspicuous.
  5. "Corporation" or "domestic corporation" means a corporation for profit or a corporation having capital stock that is incorporated under or subject to the provisions of this Chapter and that is not a foreign corporation except that in G.S. 55-9-01 and G.S. 55-15-21 "corporation" includes domestic and foreign corporations.
  6. "Deliver" includes mail.
  7. "Distribution" means a direct or indirect transfer of money or other property (except its own shares) or incurrence of indebtedness by a corporation to or for the benefit of its shareholders in respect of any of its shares. A distribution may be in the form of a declaration or payment of a dividend; a purchase, redemption, or other acquisition of shares; a distribution of indebtedness; or otherwise.
  8. "Dividend credit" as used in G.S. 55-6-01(d)(5) means the aggregate of all yearly dividend credits. "Yearly dividend credit" means with respect to noncumulative preferred shares, the amount by which the full dividend preference of such a share, to the extent that such preference is earned by the corporation with respect to such a share in a particular fiscal year, exceeds the dividends paid on said share for that year; provided, that no dividend credit shall accrue unless, and only to the extent that, there exists an earned surplus at the end of such fiscal year. Computations of earnings allocable to classes of shares made in good faith by the board of directors in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles shall be conclusive. For the purpose of this definition, a dividend is deemed paid if it has been declared and funds for its payment have been set aside.
  9. "Domestic limited liability company" has the same meaning as the term "LLC" in G.S. 57D-1-03.
  10. "Domestic limited partnership" has the same meaning as in G.S. 59-102.
  11. "Domestic nonprofit corporation" means a corporation as defined in G.S. 55A-1-40.
  12. "Effective date of notice" is defined in G.S. 55-1-41.
  13. "Electronic" has the same meaning as in G.S. 66-312.
  14. "Electronic record" has the same meaning as in G.S. 66-312.
  15. "Electronic signature" has the same meaning as in G.S. 66-312.
  16. "Entity" includes (without limiting the meaning of such term in Article 9 of this Chapter):
    1. Any domestic or foreign:
      1. Corporation; nonprofit corporation; professional corporation;
      2. Limited liability company;
      3. Profit and nonprofit unincorporated association; and
      4. Business trust, estate, partnership, trust;
    2. Two or more persons having a joint or common economic interest; and
    3. The United States, and any state and foreign government.
  17. "Foreign corporation" means a corporation for profit incorporated under a law other than the law of this State.
  18. "Foreign limited liability company" has the same meaning as the term "foreign LLC" in G.S. 57D-1-03.
  19. "Foreign limited partnership" has the same meaning as in G.S. 59-102.
  20. "Foreign nonprofit corporation" means a foreign corporation as defined in G.S. 55A-1-40.
  21. "Governmental subdivision" includes authority, county, district, and municipality.
  22. "Includes" means a partial definition.
  23. "Individual" denotes a natural person legally competent to act and also includes the estate of an incompetent or deceased individual.
  24. "Mail," when used as a verb, means to deposit in the United States mail with postage thereon prepaid and correctly addressed. When a corporation mails an item to a shareholder, "correctly addressed" means addressed to the shareholder's address as shown in the corporation's current record of shareholders.
  25. "Means" denotes an exhaustive definition.
  26. "Merger" as used in Article 9 includes a "share exchange" as used in Article 11.
  27. "Notice" includes demand and is defined in G.S. 55-1-41.
  28. "Person" includes individual and entity.
  29. "Principal office" means the office (in or out of this State) where the principal executive offices of a domestic or foreign corporation are located, as designated in its most recent annual report filed with the Secretary of State or, in the case of a domestic or foreign corporation that has not yet filed an annual report, in its articles of incorporation or application for a certificate of authority, respectively.
  30. "Proceeding" includes civil suit and criminal, administrative, and investigatory action.
  31. "Public corporation" means any corporation that has a class of shares registered under Section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (15 U.S.C. § 78l ).
  32. "Record date" means the date established under Article 6 or 7 on which a corporation determines the identity of its shareholders for purposes of this Chapter.
  33. "Secretary" means the corporate officer to whom the board of directors has delegated responsibility under G.S. 55-8-40(c) for custody of the minutes of the meetings of the board of directors and of the shareholders and for authenticating records of the corporation.
  34. "Service-disabled veteran" means a veteran with a disability that was incurred or aggravated during the veteran's service in the Armed Forces of the United States.
  35. "Service-disabled veteran-owned small business" means a business that satisfies both of the following requirements:
    1. The business's net annual receipts do not exceed one million dollars ($1,000,000).
    2. One or more service-disabled veterans own more than fifty percent (50%) of the business.
  36. "Shares" means the units into which the proprietary interests in a corporation are divided.
  37. "Shareholder" means the person in whose name shares are registered in the records of a corporation or the beneficial owner of shares to the extent of the rights granted by a nominee certificate on file with a corporation.
  38. "State", when referring to a part of the United States, includes a state and commonwealth (and their agencies and governmental subdivisions) and a territory and insular possession (and their agencies and governmental subdivisions) of the United States.
  39. "Subscriber" means a person who subscribes for shares in a corporation, whether before or after incorporation.
  40. "Unincorporated entity" means a domestic or foreign limited liability company, a domestic or foreign limited partnership, a registered limited liability partnership or foreign limited liability partnership as defined in G.S. 59-32, or any other partnership as defined in G.S. 59-36, whether or not formed under the laws of this State.
  41. "United States" includes district, authority, bureau, commission, department, and any other agency of the United States.
  42. "Veteran" means an individual entitled to any benefits or rights under the laws of the United States by reason of service in the Armed Forces of the United States.
  43. "Veteran-owned small business" means a business that satisfies both of the following requirements:
    1. The business's net annual receipts do not exceed one million dollars ($1,000,000).
    2. One or more veterans own more than fifty percent (50%) of the business.
  44. "Voting group" means all shares of one or more classes or series that under the articles of incorporation or this Chapter are entitled to vote and be counted together collectively on a matter at a meeting of shareholders. All shares entitled by the articles of incorporation or this Chapter to vote generally on the matter are for that purpose a single voting group.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1024, s. 12.4; 1993, c. 552, s. 4; 1999-369, ss. 1.2, 1.3; 1999-456, s. 3; 2001-358, s. 5(a); 2001-387, ss. 3, 4, 5, 173, 175(a); 2001-413, s. 6; 2001-487, s. 62(a); 2013-157, s. 3; 2017-90, s. 1(a); 2017-102, s. 14.2(a); 2018-45, s. 33.1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 1.40 collects in a single section definitions of terms used throughout the Model Act. Subchapters and sections of the Act in a few instances contain specialized definitions applicable only to those subchapters or sections.

Most of the definitions of section 1.40 are drawn directly from earlier versions of the Model Act and are reasonably self-explanatory. A number of definitions, however, are new or deserve further explanation.

  1. Conspicuous
  2. Corporation, domestic corporation, and foreign corporation
  3. Distribution
  4. Entity
  5. Principal office
  6. Shareholder
  7. Secretary
  8. Person
  9. Voting group

"Conspicuous" is defined in section 1.40(3) basically as defined in section 1-201(10) of the UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE. Even though the definition indicates some of the methods by which a provision may be made attention-calling, the test is whether attention can reasonably be expected to be called to it.

"Corporation," "domestic corporation," and "foreign corporation" are defined in sections 1.40(4) and (10). The word "corporation," when used alone, refers only to domestic corporations. In a few instances, the phrase "domestic corporation" has been used in order to contrast it with a foreign corporation.

The term "distribution" defined in section 1.40(6) is a fundamental element of the financial provisions of the Model Act as amended in 1980. Section 6.40 sets forth a single, unitary test for the validity of any "distribution." Section 1.40(6) in turn defines "distribution" to include all transfers of money or other property made by a corporation to any shareholder in respect of the corporation's shares, except mere changes in the unit of interest such as share dividends and share splits. Thus, a "distribution" includes the declaration or payment of a dividend, a purchase by a corporation of its own shares, a distribution of evidences of indebtedness or promissory notes of the corporation, and a distribution in voluntary or involuntary liquidation. If a corporation incurs indebtedness in connection with a distribution (as in the case of a distribution of a debt instrument or an installment purchase of shares), the creation, incurrence, or distribution of the indebtedness is the event which constitutes the distribution rather than the subsequent payment of the debt by the corporation.

The term "indirect" in the definition of "distribution" is intended to include transactions like the repurchase of parent company shares by a subsidiary whose actions are controlled by the parent. It also is intended to include any other transaction in which the substance is clearly the same as a typical dividend or share repurchase, no matter how structured or labeled.

The term "entity," defined in section 1.40(9), appears in the definition of "person" in section 1.40(16) and is included to cover all types of artificial persons. See also the definitions of "governmental subdivision," in section 1.40(11), "state," in section 1.40(23), and "United States," in section 1.40(25).

Section 1.40(17) defines the principal office of a corporation to be the office, within or without the state, where the principal executive office of the corporation is located. Many corporations maintain numerous offices, but there if usually one office, sometimes colloquially referred to as the home office, headquarters, or executive suite, where the principal corporate officers are located. The corporation must designate its principal office address in the annual report required by section 16.22. In case of doubt as to which corporate office is the principal office, the designation by the corporation in its annual report should be accepted as establishing the principal office of the corporation.

The definition of "shareholder" in section 1.40(22) includes a beneficial owner of shares named in a nominee certificate under section 7.23, but only to the extent of the rights granted the beneficial owner in the certificate - for example, the right to receive notice of, and vote at, shareholders' meeting. Various substantive sections of the Model Act also permit holders of voting trust certificates or beneficial owners of shares (not subject to a nominee certificate under section 7.23) to exercise some of the rights of a "shareholder." See, for example, section 7.40 (derivative proceedings).

The term "secretary" is defined in section 1.40(20) since the Model Act does not require the corporation to maintain any specific or titled officers. See section 8.40. However, some corporate officer, however titled, must perform the functions described in this definition, and that officer is referred to as the "secretary" in various sections of the Act that impose a duty on him.

The term "person" is defined in section 1.40(16) to include an individual or an entity. In the case of an individual the Model Act assumes that the person is competent to act in the matter under general state law independent of the corporation statute.

Section 1.40(26) defines "voting group" for purposes of the Act as a matter of convenient reference. A "voting group" consists of all shares of one or more classes or series that under the articles of incorporation or the revised Model Act are entitled to vote and be counted together collectively on a matter. Shares entitled to vote "generally" on a matter under the articles of incorporation or this Act are for that purpose a single voting group. The word "generally" signifies all shares entitled to vote on the matter by the articles of incorporation or this Act that do not expressly have the right to be counted or tabulated separately. "Voting groups" are thus the basic units of collective voting at a shareholders' meeting, and voting by voting groups may provide essential protection to one or more classes or series of shares against actions that are detrimental to the rights or interests of that class or series.

The determination of which shares form part of a single voting group must be made from the provisions of the articles of incorporation and of this Act. In a few instances under the Model Act, the board of directors may establish the right to vote by voting groups. On most matters coming before shareholders' meetings, only a single voting group, consisting of a class of voting or common shares, will be involved, and action on such a matter is effective when approved by that voting group pursuant to section 7.25. See section 7.26(a). If a second class of shares is also entitled to vote on the matter, then a further determination must be made as to whether that class is to vote as a separate voting group or whether it is to vote along with the other voting shares as part of a single voting group.

Members of the board of directors are usually elected by the single voting group of shares entitled to vote generally; in some circumstances, however, some members of the board may be selected by one voting group and other members by one or more different voting groups. See section 8.03.

The definition of a voting group permits the establishment by statute of quorum and voting requirements for a variety of matters considered at shareholders' meetings in corporations with multiple classes of shares. See sections 7.25 and 7.26. Depending on the circumstances, two classes or series of shares may vote together collectively on a matter as a single voting group, they may be entitled to vote on the matter separately as two voting groups, or one or both of them may not be entitled to vote on the matter at all.

AMENDED NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section defines more terms than were defined in former G.S. 55-2 and in some cases the definitions are different. The following differences should be noted:

(i) For the sake of uniformity with other states, this Act does not use the term "charter," but instead defines "articles of incorporation" to include all amendments.

(ii) This section does not contain general definitions of the terms "assets," "dominant shareholder," "liabilities," "net assets," or "preferred share," as did prior law, because such terms have no special significance in the Model Act.

This section differs from the Model Act in certain respects:

(i) The phrase "unless otherwise specifically provided" was added to the introduction to allow for different definitions in Article 9.

(ii) Except for the final clause thereof, the definition of "corporation" was brought forward with minor modifications from prior law. The final clause, relating to the use of the term "corporation" in G.S. 55-9-01, was considered necessary because that section, which was brought forward from prior law, uses the term "corporation" in certain cases to refer to any corporation, foreign or domestic. In the remainder of Article 9, the term "corporation" refers to domestic corporations only.

(iii) The definition of "dividend credit" was brought forward with minor modifications from prior law.

(iv) The Model Act's definition of "employee" was deleted as unnecessary and undesirable.

(v) The Model Act's definition of "entity" was expanded to include professional corporations.

(vi) "Means" was substituted for "denotes" in the definition of "includes."

(vii) The definition of "individual" was expanded.

(viii) Definitions were included for "mail" and "merger" to clarify possible confusion in the use of those terms.

(ix) "Notice" was defined to include "demand."

(x) A definition of "public corporation" was added for ease of reference in those provisions of the Act that are applicable only to corporations having a class of shares registered under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

The Model Act uses the term "not-for-profit corporation" rather than the term "nonprofit corporation," which is used in this Act. The terms "not-for-profit corporation" and "nonprofit corporation" are interchangeable in Chapter 55A. "Non-profit corporation" and "nonprofit association" were therefore used throughout this Act.

Cross References. - As to the North Carolina Limited Liability Company Act, see G.S. 57D-1-01.

Editor's Note. - The subdivision added by Session Laws 1999-369, s. 1.3, has been designated as (24a) pursuant to directions from the Revisor of Statutes.

Session Laws 2001-358, s. 53, provided that the act which amended this section, was effective October 1, 2001, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date. Section 173 of Session Laws 2001-387 changed the effective date of Session Laws 2001-358 from October 1, 2001, to January 1, 2002. Section 6 of Session Laws 2001-413, effective September 14, 2001, added a sentence to s. 175(a) of Session Laws 2001-387, making s. 173 of that act effective when it became law (August 26, 2001). As a result of these changes, the amendment by Session Laws 2001-358 is effective January 1, 2002, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date.

Session Laws 2001-387, s. 154(b), provides that "Nothing in the act shall supersede the provisions of Article 10 or 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes, and this act does not create an alternate means for an entity governed by Article 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes to convert to a different business form."

Section 57C-1-03, referred to in subdivisions (6b) and (10b), was repealed by Session Laws 2013-157, s. 1, effective January 1, 2014. For present comparable provisions, see G.S. 55D-1.

The preamble to Session Laws 2017-90, provides: "Whereas, over 770,000 veterans reside across all of North Carolina's one hundred counties; and

"Whereas, North Carolina proudly has one of the largest veteran populations in the country; and

"Whereas, the number of veterans across our State underscores the importance and impact of the State's current military base populations to our State and how veterans and their families continue to reside in the State after the conclusion of their military service to further contribute to the State's workforce and economy; Now, therefore,"

Session Laws 2017-90, s. 7, made the repeal of subdivision (1), and the addition of subdivisions (1a), (20a), (20b), (25a), and (25b) by Session Laws 2017-90, s. 1(a), effective January 1, 2018, and applicable to annual reports filed by business entities on or after that date.

Pursuant to the authority of the Revisor of Statutes, subdivision (1a) as added by Session Laws 2017-90, s. 1, was redesignated as subdivision (1), which was its original location.

Session Laws 2017-102, s. 14.2(b), would have repealed the amendment in s. 14.2(a), contingent upon SB 622 becoming law, but SB 622 has not yet become law.

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2001-358, s. 5(a), effective January 1, 2002, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date, rewrote subdivision (9).

Session Laws 2013-157, s. 3, effective January 1, 2014, substituted "the term 'LLC' in G.S. 57D-1-03" for "in G.S. 57C-1-03" in subdivision (6b) and substituted "the term 'foreign LLC' in G.S. 57D-1-03" for "in G.S. 57C-1-03" in subdivision (10a).

Session Laws 2017-90, s. 1(a), deleted former subdivision (1); and added subdivisions (1a), (20a), (20b), (25a), and (25b). For effective date and applicability, see editor's note.

Session Laws 2017-102, s. 14.2(a), effective July 12, 2017, substituted " 'Mail,' when used as a verb, means to deposit" for "An item is 'mailed' when it is deposited" in the first sentence of subdivision (13a).

Session Laws 2018-45, s. 33.1, effective October 1, 2018, substituted "'Mail,' when used as verb, means to deposit" for "An item is 'mailed' when it is deposited" in subdivision (13a).

Legal Periodicals. - For article on the evolution of corporate combination law, see 76 N.C.L. Rev. 687 (1998).

For article, "Legislative Survey: Business & Banking," see 22 Campbell L. Rev. 253 (2000).

For article, "Agency Theory: Still Viable? Proposals for Corporate Governance Reform: Six Decades of Ineptitude and Counting," see 48 Wake Forest L. Rev. 673 (2013).

For article, "Agency Theory: Still Viable? The Impact of National Culture on Corporate Financial Decisions," see 48 Wake Forest L. Rev. 697 (2013).

CASE NOTES

Applied in T-Wol Acquisition Co. v. ECDG South, LLC, 220 N.C. App. 189, 725 S.E.2d 605 (2012); TD Bank, N.A. v. Crown Leasing Partners, LLC, 224 N.C. App. 649, 737 S.E.2d 738 (2012).

Cited in Parsons v. Jefferson-Pilot Corp., 106 N.C. App. 307, 416 S.E.2d 914 (1992).


§ 55-1-41. Notice.

  1. Notice under this Chapter shall be in writing unless oral notice is authorized in the corporation's articles of incorporation or bylaws and written notice is not specifically required by this Chapter.
  2. Notice may be communicated in person; by electronic means; or by mail or private carrier. If these forms of personal notice are impracticable as to one or more persons, notice may be communicated to such persons by publishing notice in a newspaper in the county wherein the corporation has its principal place of business in the State, or if it has no principal place of business in the State, the county wherein it has its registered office; or by radio, television, or other form of public broadcast communication.
  3. Written notice by a domestic or foreign corporation to its shareholder is effective when deposited in the United States mail with postage thereon prepaid and correctly addressed to the shareholder's address shown in the corporation's current record of shareholders. To the extent the corporation pursuant to G.S. 55-1-50 and the shareholder have agreed, notice by a domestic corporation to its shareholder in the form of an electronic record sent by electronic means is effective when it is sent as provided in G.S. 66-325. A shareholder may terminate any such agreement at any time on a prospective basis effective upon written notice of termination to the corporation or upon such later date as may be specified in the notice.
  4. Written notice to a domestic or foreign corporation (authorized to transact business in this State) may be addressed to its registered agent at its registered office or to the corporation or its secretary at its principal office shown in its most recent annual report on file in the office of the Secretary of State or, in the case of a domestic or foreign corporation that has not yet filed an annual report, in its articles of incorporation or application for a certificate of authority, respectively.
  5. Except as provided in subsection (c), written notice is effective at the earliest of the following:
    1. When received;
    2. Five days after its deposit in the United States mail, as evidenced by the postmark or otherwise, if mailed with at least first-class postage thereon prepaid and correctly addressed;
    3. On the date shown on the return receipt, if sent by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, and the receipt is signed by or on behalf of the addressee.
  6. Oral notice is effective when actually communicated to the person entitled thereto.
  7. If this Chapter prescribes notice requirements for particular circumstances, those requirements govern. If articles of incorporation or bylaws prescribe notice requirements not inconsistent with this section or other provisions of this Chapter, those requirements govern.

In the case of notice in the form of an electronic record sent by electronic means, the time of receipt shall be determined as provided in G.S. 66-325.

History

(1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1993, c. 552, s. 5; 2001-387, s. 6.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 1.41 establishes rules for determining how notice may be given and when notice is effective for a variety of purposes under the Model Act.

  1. Notice by a corporation to its shareholders
  2. Notice to the corporation
  3. Miscellaneous provisions

Section 1.41(c) provides that notice by a corporation to its shareholders is effective when mailed if correctly addressed with sufficient postage. The correct address for this purpose is the address shown in the corporation's records. The effect of this section is to permit the corporation to compute the statutory time periods for notice of shareholders' meetings and other actions from the date the notice is mailed without regard to where its shareholders are located or the time it takes for the mail to reach them.

Written notice to shareholders by persons other than the corporation is effective as provided in section 1.41(e). Notice by the corporation to its shareholders that is not addressed to the record address of the shareholder is effective when received under section 1.41(e).

Section 1.41(d) provides that notice to a corporation may be addressed to the registered agent of the corporation at its registered office or to the corporation or its secretary at the principal office of the corporation as shown in its most recent public filing. An officer, director, or shareholder of a corporation will normally give written notice to the corporation by delivering or mailing a copy of that notice to the corporation or to the secretary of the corporation at its principal office. Such a notice is effective when it is received. Such notice may be given for a variety of purposes under this Act, e.g., giving notice of intent to dissent (section 13.21), notice of a demand to inspect books and records (section 16.02), and notices of resignation (sections 8.07 and 8.43). This method of giving notice to the corporation, however, is not exclusive, and an officer, director, or shareholder may give notice in other ways as well.

Persons who have no prior relationship with the corporation may give notice either to the registered agent of the corporation, or if they wish, to the corporation or its secretary at its principal office.

Section 1.41 also contains a variety of general provisions dealing with notice. It recognizes, for example, that notice on some occasions may be given orally if that is reasonable under the circumstances. It also deals with situations where notice may be sought to be given to persons for whom no current address is available, or where personal notice is impractical. Notice delivered to the person's last known address is effective as described in section 1.41(e) even though never actually received by the person. Section 1.41(b) also authorizes notice by publication in some circumstances, including radio, television, or other form of public wire or wireless communication.

Section 1.41(g) recognizes that other sections of the Act prescribe specific notice requirements for particular situations - e.g., service of process on a corporation's registered agent under section 5.04 - and that these specific requirements, rather than the general requirements of section 1.41, control. Finally, the second sentence of subsection 1.41(g) permits a corporation's articles of incorporation or bylaws to prescribe the corporation's own notice requirements, if they are not inconsistent with the general requirements of this section or specific requirements of other sections of the Act.

The rules set forth in section 1.41 permit many other sections of the Model Act to be phrased simply in terms of giving or delivering notice without repeating details with respect to how notice should be given and when it is effective in various circumstances.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The prior law contained no general definition of "notice."

The present section differs from the Model Act in the following respects:

(i) Subsection (a) requires that notice be in writing unless oral notice is authorized by the corporation's articles of incorporation or bylaws; the Model Act permits oral notice if it is "reasonable under the circumstances."

(ii) Subsection (b) specifically allows notice to be given by facsimile transmission. When the specified modes of communication of notice are impracticable as to one or more persons, subsection (b) is more limited than the Model Act in that it permits dispensing with the specified mode only as to those persons with respect to whom it is impracticable.

(iii) Subsections (c) and (f) do not contain the Model Act's reference to notices being "comprehensible" because this language was deemed unnecessary. Subsection (f) was rewritten to provide that oral notice is effective when actually communicated to the person entitled to it.

(iv) Subsections (c) and (e) use "with postage thereon prepaid" instead of "postpaid."

(v) Subsection (d) permits notice to be mailed to a principal office listed in an annual report only after the report is on file in the Secretary of State's office; the Model Act apparently permits otherwise.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2001-387, s. 154(b) provides that nothing in this act shall supersede the provisions of Article 10 or 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes, and this act does not create an alternate means for an entity governed by Article 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes to convert to a different business form.

CASE NOTES

Cited in Nissan Div. of Nissan Motor Corp. in United States v. Nissan, 111 N.C. App. 748, 434 S.E.2d 224 (1993).


§ 55-1-42. Number of shareholders.

  1. For purposes of this Chapter, the following identified as a shareholder in a corporation's current record of shareholders constitutes one shareholder:
    1. All co-owners of the same shares;
    2. A corporation, partnership, trust, estate, or other entity;
    3. The trustees, guardians, custodians, or other fiduciaries of a single trust, estate, or account.
  2. For purposes of this Chapter, shareholdings registered in substantially similar names constitute one shareholder if it is reasonable to believe that the names represent the same person.

History

(1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 1.42 provides rules for determining the number of shareholders in a corporation. The Model Act generally avoids provisions that are based on the number of shareholders of a corporation, since these provisions may encourage individual shareholders to divide or combine their holdings for private strategic advantage. But in two instances the number of shareholders is critical: to permit a corporation to dispense with a board of directors as its principal form of corporate governance under section 8.01 and to elect close corporation status under the Model Statutory Close Corporation Supplement. The determination of the precise number of shareholders may also become important in other contexts in the future.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section has no counterpart in prior law.

The section is different from the Model Act in that it counts all co-owners as a single shareholder, whereas the Model Act counts as a single shareholder only "three or fewer co-owners."

§§ 55-1-43 through 55-1-49: Reserved for future codification purposes.

PART 5. MISCELLANEOUS.

§ 55-1-50. Electronic transactions.

For purposes of applying Article 40 of Chapter 66 of the General Statutes to transactions under this Chapter, a corporation may agree to conduct a transaction by electronic means through provision in its articles of incorporation or bylaws or by action of its board of directors.

History

(2001-387, s. 7.)

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2001-387, s. 154(b), provides that "Nothing in this act shall supersede the provisions of Article 10 or 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes, and this act does not create an alternate means for an entity governed by Article 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes to convert to a different business form."


§§ 55-1-51 through 55-1-59: Reserved for future codification purposes.

PART 6. RATIFICATION OF DEFECTIVE CORPORATE ACTIONS.

§ 55-1-60. Definitions.

In this Part, the following definitions apply:

  1. Corporate action. - Any action taken by or on behalf of the corporation, including any action taken by the incorporator, the board of directors, a committee, a subcommittee, an officer or agent of the corporation, or the shareholders.
  2. Date of the defective corporate action. - The date the defective corporate action was purported to have been taken or, if the exact date is unknown, the approximate date thereof.
  3. Defective corporate action. - Any corporate action purportedly taken that is, and at the time the corporate action was purportedly taken would have been, within the power of the corporation, but is void or voidable due to a failure of authorization. This term includes an overissue. This term does not include a business combination subject to G.S. 55-9-02, unless the business combination was approved by shareholders in accordance with G.S. 55-9-02.
  4. Failure of authorization. - The (i) failure to authorize, approve, or otherwise effect a corporate action in compliance with the provisions of this Chapter, the articles of incorporation or bylaws of the corporation, a corporate resolution, or any plan or agreement to which the corporation is a party, if and to the extent the failure would render the corporate action void or voidable, or (ii) failure of the board of directors or any officer of the corporation to authorize or approve any act or transaction taken by or on behalf of the corporation that would have required for its due authorization the approval of the board of directors or the officer.
  5. Overissue. - The purported issuance of either of the following:
    1. Shares of a class or series in excess of the number of shares of a class or series the corporation has the power to issue under G.S. 55-6-01 at the time of the issuance.
    2. Shares of any class or series that is not then authorized for issuance by the articles of incorporation.
  6. Putative shares. - The shares of any class or series of the corporation, including shares issued upon exercise of rights, options, warrants, or other securities convertible into shares of the corporation, or interests with respect thereto, that were created or issued as a result of a defective corporate action, and that satisfy either of the following conditions:
    1. Would constitute valid shares but for any failure of authorization.
    2. Cannot be determined by the board of directors to be valid shares.
  7. Valid shares. - The shares of any class or series of the corporation that have been duly authorized and validly issued in accordance with this Chapter, including as a result of ratification or validation under this Part.
  8. Validation effective time. - With respect to any defective corporate action ratified under this Part, means the later of (i) the time at which the ratification of the defective corporate action is approved by the shareholders, or if approval of shareholders is not required, the time at which the notice required by G.S. 55-1-64 becomes effective in accordance with G.S. 55-1-41 or (ii) the time at which any articles of validation filed in accordance with G.S. 55-1-66 become effective. The validation effective time shall not be affected by the filing or pendency of a judicial proceeding in accordance with this Chapter or otherwise, unless otherwise ordered by the court.

History

(2018-45, s. 3.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT TO THE MODEL BUSINESS CORPORATION ACT, =nl 2016 REVISION

The definitions of "corporate action," "defective corporate action" and "failure of authorization" are intentionally broad so as to permit ratification of any corporate action purportedly taken that would have been within the power granted to a corporation under the Act.

The term "defective corporate action" includes an "overissue" of shares and other defects in share issuances that could cause shares to be treated as void. For purposes of determining which shares are overissued, only those shares issued in excess of the number of shares permitted to be issued under section 6.01 of the Act would be deemed overissued shares. If it cannot be determined from the records of the corporation which shares were issued before others, all shares included in an issuance that is or results in an overissue would be overissued shares.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2018-45, s. 33, provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

Session Laws 2018-45, s. 34, made this Part effective October 1, 2018.

§ 55-1-61. Defective corporate actions.

  1. A defective corporate action is not void or voidable if ratified in accordance with G.S. 55-1-62 or validated in accordance with G.S. 55-1-67.
  2. Ratification under G.S. 55-1-62 or validation under G.S. 55-1-67 is not the exclusive means of ratifying or validating any defective corporate action, and the absence or failure of ratification in accordance with this Part does not, of itself, affect the validity or effectiveness of any corporate action properly ratified under common law or otherwise, nor does it create a presumption that the corporate action is or was a defective corporate action or void or voidable.
  3. In the case of an overissue, putative shares shall be valid shares effective as of the date originally issued or purportedly issued upon either of the following:
    1. The effectiveness under this Part and under Article 10 of this Chapter of an amendment to the articles of incorporation authorizing, designating, or creating the shares.
    2. The effectiveness of any other corporate action under this Part ratifying the authorization, designation, or creation of the shares.

History

(2018-45, s. 3.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT TO THE MODEL BUSINESS CORPORATION ACT, =nl 2016 REVISION

Subchapter E provides a statutory ratification procedure for corporate actions that may not have been properly authorized and shares that may have been improperly issued. The statutory ratification procedure is designed to supplement common law ratification. Corporate actions ratified under this subchapter remain subject to equitable review.

Examples of defective corporate actions subject to ratification include the failure of the incorporator to validly appoint an initial board of directors, corporate action taken in the absence of board resolutions authorizing the action, the failure to obtain the requisite shareholder approval of a corporate action, issuance of shares in the absence of evidence that consideration payable to the corporation for shares was received, the failure to comply with appraisal requirements and the issuance of shares without complying with preemptive rights. The ratification procedure is intended to be available only where there is objective evidence that a corporate action was defectively implemented. For example, subchapter E would permit ratification of shares previously issued but subsequently determined to have been issued improperly. It would not permit the corporation to issue shares retroactively as of an earlier date, however, where there is no objective evidence that those shares had previously been issued. Objective evidence may include resolutions, issuance of share certificates, subscription or share purchase agreements, entries in a share ledger or other correspondence indicating that shares were issued or intended to have been issued.

Section 1.46(a) does not distinguish between void and voidable actions. Instead it provides that any defective corporate action that is ratified in accordance with section 1.47 or validated under section 1.52 shall not be void or voidable. Section 1.47 is not the exclusive means by which a defective corporate action may be ratified. Thus, the general common law doctrine of ratification, as applied to a board of directors' adoption of actions taken by officers who may not have had the actual authority to take such actions, continues to be an effective mode of ratification. Section 1.46(b) makes clear that the corporation's ratification of a defective corporate action that is voidable but not void using common law methods of ratification rather than under section 1.47 will not, standing alone, affect the validity of the action or create a presumption that the action is not valid. In addition, ratification under subchapter E is distinct from correction of an already filed document under section 1.24.

Section 1.46(c) provides that an overissue can be remedied by the adoption of articles of amendment or other corporate action that has the effect of authorizing, designating or creating shares of a series or class, such that the putative shares that resulted in the overissue are deemed to be validly issued from the date of original issuance. This provision enables a corporation to cure an overissue occurring when shares have been duly authorized but are issued before articles of amendment are filed. It also permits a corporation to remedy an overissue even if it cannot specifically identify the putative shares.

§ 55-1-62. Ratification of defective corporate actions.

  1. Except as otherwise provided in subsection (b) of this section, the board of directors shall ratify a defective corporate action by taking action in accordance with G.S. 55-1-63 that states all of the following:
    1. The defective corporate action to be ratified and, if the defective corporate action involved the issuance of putative shares, the number and type of putative shares purportedly issued.
    2. The date of the defective corporate action.
    3. The nature of the failure of authorization with respect to the defective corporate action to be ratified.
    4. That the board of directors approves the ratification of the defective corporate action.
  2. In the event that a defective corporate action to be ratified relates to the election of the initial board of directors of the corporation under G.S. 55-2-05(a)(2), a majority of the persons who, at the time of the ratification, are exercising the powers of directors may take an action that states all of the following:
    1. The name of the person or persons who first took action in the name of the corporation as the initial board of directors of the corporation.
    2. The earlier of the date on which the person or persons identified under subdivision (1) of this subsection first took the action or were purported to have been elected as the initial board of directors.
    3. That the ratification of the election of the person or persons identified under subdivision (1) of this subsection as the initial board of directors is approved.
  3. If any provision of this Chapter, the articles of incorporation or bylaws, any corporate resolution, or any plan or agreement to which the corporation is a party in effect at the time action under subsection (a) of this section is taken, requires shareholder approval or would have required shareholder approval at the date of the occurrence of the defective corporate action, the ratification of the defective corporate action approved in the action taken by the directors under subsection (a) of this section shall be submitted to the shareholders for approval in accordance with G.S. 55-1-63.
  4. Unless otherwise provided in the action taken by the board of directors under subsection (a) of this section, after the action by the board of directors has been taken and, if required, approved by the shareholders, the board of directors may abandon the ratification at any time prior to the validation effective time without further action of the shareholders.

History

(2018-45, s. 3.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT TO THE MODEL BUSINESS CORPORATION ACT, =nl 2016 REVISION

The information required by section 1.47(a)(1)(a)(1) regarding the listing of putative shares may be satisfied by attaching a table, including a capitalization table, listing the putative shares. Section 1.47(b) permits the ratification of the initial election of the board of directors by the persons who are acting as the current board of directors, recognizing that if the corporation's initial board of directors was defectively appointed, there may be no effective method of ratification because a duly elected board of directors does not exist.

§ 55-1-63. Action on ratification.

  1. The quorum and voting requirements applicable to a ratifying action by the board of directors under G.S. 55-1-62(a) are the quorum and voting requirements applicable to the corporate action proposed to be ratified at the time the ratifying action is taken.
  2. If the ratification of the defective corporate action requires approval by the shareholders under G.S. 55-1-62(c), and, if the approval is to be given at a meeting, the corporation shall notify each holder of valid and putative shares, whether or not entitled to vote, as of the record date for notice of the meeting and as of the date of the occurrence of the defective corporate action, provided that notice shall not be required to be given to holders of valid or putative shares whose identities or addresses for notice cannot be determined from the records of the corporation. The notice shall state that the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the meeting is to consider ratification of a defective corporate action and shall be accompanied by (i) a copy of the action taken by the board of directors in accordance with G.S. 55-1-62(a) or (ii) the information required by subdivisions (1) through (4) of subsection (a) of G.S. 55-1-62. The notice shall also include a statement that any claim that the ratification of the defective corporate action and any putative shares issued as a result of the defective corporate action should not be effective, or should be effective only on certain conditions, shall be brought within 120 days from the applicable validation effective time.
  3. Except as provided in subsection (d) of this section with respect to the voting requirements to ratify the election of a director, the quorum and voting requirements applicable to the approval by the shareholders required by G.S. 55-1-62(c) are the quorum and voting requirements applicable to the corporate action proposed to be ratified at the time of the shareholder approval.
  4. The approval by shareholders to ratify the election of a director requires that the votes cast within the voting group favoring the ratification of the election exceed the votes cast opposing the ratification of the election at a meeting at which a quorum is present.
  5. Putative shares on the record date for determining the shareholders entitled to vote on any matter submitted to shareholders under G.S. 55-1-62(c), and without giving effect to any ratification of putative shares that becomes effective as a result of the vote, shall neither be entitled to vote nor counted for quorum purposes in any vote to approve the ratification of any defective corporate action.
  6. If the approval under this section of putative shares would result in an overissue, in addition to the approval required by G.S. 55-1-62, approval of an amendment to the articles of incorporation under Article 10 of this Chapter to increase the number of shares of an authorized class or series, or to authorize the creation of a class or series of shares so there would be no overissue, shall also be required.

History

(2018-45, s. 3.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT TO THE MODEL BUSINESS CORPORATION ACT, =nl 2016 REVISION

Notwithstanding the shareholder notice required by section 1.48(b), only valid shares are entitled to vote on the ratification action or counted for quorum purposes. The retroactive effect of a ratification of putative shares does not invalidate the quorum or voting result of the ratification.

For matters other than the election of directors, the quorum and voting requirements applicable to shareholder approval of ratification are the quorum and voting requirements applicable to the corporate action being ratified at the time of such approval. For example, if the defective corporate action being ratified is an amendment to the articles of incorporation, whether in connection with an overissue or otherwise, the vote required would be governed by section 10.03. If the defective corporate action involves a merger, the vote required would be the vote required by section 11.04.

§ 55-1-64. Notice requirements.

  1. Unless shareholder approval is required under G.S. 55-1-62(c), prompt notice of an action taken under G.S. 55-1-62 shall be given to each holder of valid and putative shares, whether or not entitled to vote, as of (i) the date of the action by the board of directors and (ii) the date of the defective corporate action ratified, provided that notice shall not be required to be given to holders of valid and putative shares whose identities or addresses for notice cannot be determined from the records of the corporation.
  2. The notice required under subsection (a) of this section shall contain (i) a copy of the action taken by the board of directors in accordance with subsection (a) or (b) of G.S. 55-1-62 or (ii) the information required by subdivisions (1) through (4) of subsection (a) of G.S. 55-1-62 or subdivisions (1) through (3) of subsection (b) of G.S. 55-1-62, as applicable. The notice shall also include a statement that any claim that the ratification of the defective corporate action and any putative shares issued as a result of the defective corporate action should not be effective, or should be effective only on certain conditions, shall be brought within 120 days from the applicable validation effective time.
  3. No notice under this section is required with respect to any action required to be submitted to shareholders for approval under G.S. 55-1-62(c) if notice is given in accordance with G.S. 55-1-63(b).
  4. A notice required by this section may be given in any manner permitted by G.S. 55-1-41 and, for any public corporation, may be given by means of a filing or furnishing of the notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission which becomes publicly accessible on the Web site of the Securities and Exchange Commission approximately contemporaneously with the filing or furnishing.

History

(2018-45, s. 3.)

§ 55-1-65. Effect of ratification.

Ratification in accordance with this Part shall have the following effects from and after the validation effective time, and without regard to the 120-day period during which a claim may be brought under G.S. 55-1-67:

  1. Each defective corporate action ratified in accordance with G.S. 55-1-62 is not void or voidable as a result of the failure of authorization identified in the action taken under subsection (a) or (b) of G.S. 55-1-62 and is a valid corporate action effective as of the date of the defective corporate action.
  2. The issuance of each putative share or fraction of a putative share purportedly issued pursuant to a defective corporate action identified in the action taken under G.S. 55-1-62 is not void or voidable, and the putative share or fraction of the putative share is an identical share or fraction of a valid share as of the time it was purportedly issued.
  3. Any corporate action taken subsequent to the defective corporate action ratified in accordance with this Part in reliance on the defective corporate action having been validly effected and any subsequent defective corporate action resulting directly or indirectly from the original defective corporate action shall be valid as of the time taken.

History

(2018-45, s. 3.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT TO THE MODEL BUSINESS CORPORATION ACT, =nl 2016 REVISION

Ratification is effective as of the validation effective time and is not dependent on the expiration of the 120-day time period in which an action challenging the ratification must be brought. The ratification of a defective corporate action has the additional effect of ratifying corporate actions that are defective as a result of the original defective corporate action. For example, an overissue which results in subsequent director elections being invalid calls into question all actions by the invalidly elected board members. The ratification of the overissue, however, would cure any such additional defects.

§ 55-1-66. Filings.

  1. If the defective corporate action ratified under this Part would have required under any other section of this Chapter a filing in accordance with this Chapter, then, whether or not a filing was previously made in respect of the defective corporate action and in lieu of a filing otherwise required by this Chapter, the corporation shall file articles of validation in accordance with this section, and the articles of validation shall serve to amend or substitute for any other filing with respect to the defective corporate action required by this Chapter.
  2. The articles of validation shall set forth all of the following:
    1. The defective corporate action that is the subject of the articles of validation, including, in the case of any defective corporate action involving the issuance of putative shares, the number and type of putative shares issued and the date or dates upon which the putative shares were purported to have been issued.
    2. The date of the defective corporate action.
    3. The nature of the failure of authorization in respect of the defective corporate action.
    4. A statement that the defective corporate action was ratified in accordance with G.S. 55-1-62, including the date on which the board of directors ratified the defective corporate action and the date, if any, on which the shareholders approved the ratification of the defective corporate action.
    5. The information required by subsection (c) of this section.
  3. The articles of validation shall also contain all of the following information that is applicable:
    1. If a filing was previously made in respect of the defective corporate action and no changes to the filing are required to give effect to the ratification of the defective corporate action in accordance with G.S. 55-1-62, the articles of validation shall set forth (i) the name, title, and filing date of the filing previously made and any articles of correction thereto and (ii) a statement that a copy of the filing previously made, together with any articles of correction thereto, is attached as an exhibit to the articles of validation.
    2. If a filing was previously made in respect of the defective corporate action and the filing requires any change to give effect to the ratification of the defective corporate action in accordance with G.S. 55-1-62, the articles of validation shall set forth (i) the name, title, and filing date of the filing previously made and any articles of correction thereto, (ii) a statement that a filing containing all of the information required to be included under the applicable section or sections of this Chapter to give effect to the defective corporate action is attached as an exhibit to the articles of validation, and (iii) the date and time that the filing is deemed to have become effective.
    3. If a filing was not previously made in respect of the defective corporate action and the defective corporate action ratified under G.S. 55-1-62 would have required a filing under any other section of this Chapter, the articles of validation shall set forth (i) a statement that a filing containing all of the information required to be included under the applicable section or sections of this Chapter to give effect to the defective corporate action is attached as an exhibit to the articles of validation and (ii) the date and time that the filing is deemed to have become effective.

History

(2018-45, s. 3.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT TO THE MODEL BUSINESS CORPORATION ACT, =nl 2016 REVISION

Section 1.51 requires that in the event any filing is or would have been required under the Act to effect the defective corporate action, such filing (if no filing was previously made), such corrected filing (if correction to a previous filing is required), or such original filing (if no correction to a previous filing is required) be attached as an exhibit to the articles of validation. This is intended to provide a clear public record of the actions relating to the ratification.

§ 55-1-67. Judicial proceedings regarding validity of corporate actions.

  1. Upon application to the Superior Court Division of the General Court of Justice by the corporation, any successor entity to the corporation, a director of the corporation, any shareholder, beneficial shareholder, or unrestricted voting trust beneficial owner of the corporation, including any shareholder, beneficial shareholder, or unrestricted voting trust beneficial owner as of the date of the defective corporate action ratified under G.S. 55-1-62, or any other person claiming to be substantially and adversely affected by a ratification under G.S. 55-1-62, the appropriate court of the county where the corporation's principal office, or, if none, its registered office, in this State is located, or, if the legal action is designated a mandatory complex business case pursuant to G.S. 7A-45.4, the Business Court, may do all of the following:
    1. Determine the validity and effectiveness of any corporate action or defective corporate action.
    2. Determine the validity and effectiveness of any ratification under G.S. 55-1-62.
    3. Determine the validity of any putative shares.
  2. In connection with an action under this section, the court may make findings or orders and take into account any factors or considerations that it deems proper under the circumstances.
  3. Service of process of the application under subsection (a) of this section on the corporation may be made in any manner provided by State law or by rule of the applicable court for service on the corporation, and no other party need be joined in order for the court to adjudicate the matter. In an action filed by the corporation, the court may require that notice of the action be provided to other persons specified by the court and permit the other persons to intervene in the action.
  4. Notwithstanding any other provision of this section or otherwise under applicable law, any action asserting that the ratification of any defective corporate action and any putative shares issued as a result of the defective corporate action should not be effective, or should be effective only on certain conditions, shall be brought within 120 days of the validation effective time.

History

(2018-45, s. 3.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT TO THE MODEL BUSINESS CORPORATION ACT, =nl 2016 REVISION

Section 1.52 confers plenary jurisdiction on a designated court to hear and determine claims regarding the validity of any corporate action or any shares, rights, options or warrants. The court's jurisdiction is not limited to reviewing corporate actions ratified or purportedly ratified under section 1.47, and includes the ability of a corporation or other permitted person to obtain a declaration regarding the validity of any corporate actions or shares that are potentially defective. In determining the validity of a corporate action or reviewing a corporate action ratified under section 1.47, the court may consider any factors or considerations it deems proper under the circumstances. These might include whether the person originally taking the defective corporate action believed that the action complied with corporate requirements, whether the corporation and board of directors has treated the defective corporate action as a valid action, whether any person has acted in reliance on the public record that such defective corporate action was valid and whether any person will be or was harmed by the ratification of the defective corporate action or will be harmed by the failure to ratify or validate the defective corporate action.

ARTICLE 2. Incorporation.

Sec.

§ 55-2-01. Incorporators.

One or more persons may act as the incorporator or incorporators of a corporation by delivering articles of incorporation to the Secretary of State for filing.

History

(Code, ss. 677, 678, 679, 682; 1885, cc. 19, 190; 1893, c. 318; 1897, c. 204; 1901, c. 2, ss. 8, 9; cc. 6, 41; 1903, c. 453; Rev., ss. 1137, 1139; C.S., s. 1114; 1945, c. 635; G.S., ss. 55-2, 55-3; 1951, c. 265, s. 1; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1969, c. 751, s. 1; 1971, c. 1231, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

The only functions of incorporators under the Model Act are (1) to sign the articles of incorporation, (2) to deliver them for filing with the secretary of state, and (3) to complete the formation of the corporation to the extent set forth in section 2.05. One or more "persons" may serve as incorporator; "person" is defined in section 1.40 to include both individuals and entities; "entity" is also defined in that section to include corporations, unincorporated associations, partnerships, trusts, estates, and governments.

The Model Act also simplifies the formalities of execution and filing. The requirement in earlier versions of the Model Act and in many state statutes that articles be acknowledged or verified has been eliminated. Also, the requirement that "duplicate originals" (each being executed as an original document) be submitted has been replaced with the requirement that a signed original and an "exact or conformed" copy be submitted. See the Official Comment to section 1.20.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

Under former G.S. 55-6, only natural persons could act as incorporators.

Legal Periodicals. - For article, "The Creation of North Carolina's Limited Liability Corporation Act," see 32 Wake Forest L. Rev. 179 (1997).

For article, "Start-Ups: Why Investors Prefer the Corporate Form to the L.L.C. for Tax Purposes," see 9 Elon L. Rev. 311 (2017).

For article, "Corporate Disobedience,” see 68 Duke L.J. 710 (2019).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - The case below was decided under prior law.

Duties and Obligations of Promoters. - The promoters of a corporation are held to the duties of trustees and the obligation of directors. They may not take a secret or undisclosed profit in the organization by way of shares therein or otherwise. Goodman v. White, 174 N.C. 399, 93 S.E. 906 (1917).


§ 55-2-02. Articles of incorporation.

  1. The articles of incorporation must set forth:
    1. A corporate name for the corporation that satisfies the requirements of G.S. 55D-20 and G.S. 55D-21;
    2. The number of shares the corporation is authorized to issue and any other information required by G.S. 55-6-01;
    3. The street address, and the mailing address if different from the street address, of the corporation's initial registered office, the county in which the initial registered office is located, and the name of the corporation's initial registered agent at that address;
    4. The street address, and the mailing address if different from the street address, of the corporation's principal office, if any, and the county in which the principal office, if any, is located; and
    5. The name and address of each incorporator.
  2. The articles of incorporation may set forth any provision that under this Chapter is required or permitted to be set forth in the bylaws, and may also set forth any or all of the following:
    1. The names and addresses of the individuals who are to serve as the initial directors.
    2. Provisions not inconsistent with law regarding (i) the purpose or purposes for which the corporation is organized; (ii) managing the business and regulating the affairs of the corporation; (iii) defining, limiting, and regulating the powers of the corporation, its board of directors, and shareholders; (iv) a par value for authorized shares or classes of shares; (v) the imposition of personal liability on shareholders for the debts of the corporation to a specified extent and upon specified conditions; (vi) any limitation on the duration of the corporation.
    3. A provision limiting or eliminating the personal liability of any director arising out of an action whether by or in the right of the corporation or otherwise for monetary damages for breach of any duty as a director. No such provision shall be effective with respect to (i) acts or omissions that the director at the time of such breach knew or believed were clearly in conflict with the best interests of the corporation, (ii) any liability under G.S. 55-8-33, (iii) any transaction from which the director derived an improper personal benefit, or (iv) acts or omissions occurring prior to the date the provisions became effective. As used herein, the term "improper personal benefit" does not include a director's reasonable compensation or other reasonable incidental benefit for or on account of his service as a director, officer, employee, independent contractor, attorney, or consultant of the corporation. A provision permitted by this Chapter in the articles of incorporation, bylaws, or a contract or resolution indemnifying or agreeing to indemnify a director against personal liability shall be fully effective whether or not there is a provision in the articles of incorporation limiting or eliminating personal liability.
    4. A provision limiting or eliminating any duty of a director, an officer, or any other person, to offer the corporation the right to have or participate in one or more specific classes or categories of business opportunities, prior to the pursuit or taking of the opportunity by the director, officer, or other person.
  3. The articles of incorporation need not set forth any of the corporate powers enumerated in this Chapter.
  4. Articles of incorporation filed to effect the conversion of another business entity pursuant to Article 11A of this Chapter shall also include the statements required by G.S. 55-11A-03(a).

History

(Code, s. 677; 1885, c. 19; 1889, c. 170; 1891, c. 257; 1893, c. 244; 1901, c. 2, s. 8; c. 47; 1903, c. 453; Rev., s. 1137; 1911, c. 213, s. 1; 1913, c. 5, s. 1; C.S., s. 1114; Ex. Sess. 1920, c. 55; 1924, c. 98; 1935, cc. 166, 320; 1939, c. 222; G.S., s. 55-2; 1951, c. 265, s. 1; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1957, c. 979, s. 5; 1959, c. 1316, s. 11/2; 1969, c. 751, s. 2; 1973, c. 469, s. 2; 1987, c. 626, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1993, c. 552, s. 6; 2001-358, s. 16; 2001-387, ss. 8, 9, 173, 175(a); 2001-413, s. 6; 2018-45, s. 2.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT TO THE MODEL BUSINESS CORPORATION ACT, =nl 2016 REVISION

  1. Introduction
  2. Required Provisions
  3. Optional Provisions
  4. List of Options in the Act That May Be Elected Only in the Articles of Incorporation
  5. List of Options in the Act That May Be Elected Either in the Articles of Incorporation or in the Bylaws

A corporation will have perpetual duration unless a special provision is included in its articles of incorporation providing for a shorter period. See section 3.02. Similarly, a corporation with articles of incorporation which do not contain a purpose clause will have the purpose of engaging in any lawful business under section 3.01(a). The option of providing a narrower purpose clause is also preserved in sections 2.02(b)(2)(i) and 3.01, with the effect described in the Official Comment to section 3.01.

If a single class of shares is authorized, only the number of shares authorized need be stated; if more than one class of shares is authorized, however, both the number of authorized shares of each class and a description of the rights of each class must be included. See the Official Comment to sections 6.01 and 6.02. It is unnecessary to specify par value, expected minimum capitalization, or contemplated issue price.

The corporation's initial registered office and agent must be included, and a mailing address alone, such as a post office box, is not sufficient since the registered office is the designated location for service of process. See chapter 5.

No reference need be made to a variety of other matters such as preemptive rights. See section 6.30 and its Official Comment. Generally, no substantive effect should be given tot he absence of a specific reference to such matters in section 2.02. They are referred to in other sections of the Act that usually provide an "opt in" privilege. See particularly the list of optional provisions set forth in parts 4 and 5 of this Official Comment.

Section 2.02(b) allows the articles of incorporation to contain optional provisions deemed sufficiently important to be of public record or subject to amendment only by the processes applicable to amendments of articles of incorporation.

A. BUSINESS OR AFFAIRS

Provisions relating to the business or affairs of the corporation that may be included in the articles may be subdivided into four general classes:

ì provisions that under the Act may be elected only by specific inclusion in the articles of incorporation (a list of these provisions is set forth in part 4 of this Official Comment);

ì provisions that under the Act may be elected by specific inclusion in either the articles of incorporation or the bylaws, as listed in part 5 of this Official Comment;

ì other provisions not referred to in the Act, including any provision that the Act requires or permits to be set forth in the bylaws (see section 2.02(b)(b)(3)); and

ì other provisions that are inconsistent with one or more provisions of the Act but are nonetheless permitted by section 7.32 for inclusion in a shareholders' agreement, if the requirements of that section are met.

B. CORPORATE POWERS

Section 2.02(c) makes in unnecessary to set forth any corporate powers in the articles of incorporation in view of the broad grant of power in section 3.02. This grant of power, however, may be overbroad for particular corporations; if so, it may be qualified or narrowed by appropriate provisions in the articles of incorporation.

C. PAR VALUE

Although par value is no longer a mandatory statutory concept under the Act, section 2.02(b)(b)(2)(iv) permits optional "par value" provisions with regard to shares. Other than being permitted by section 2.02(b)(b)(2)(iv), however, "par value" is not mentioned in the Act. Special provisions may be included to give effect or meaning to "par value" essentially as a matter of contract between the parties. These provisions, whether appearing in the articles of incorporation or in other documents, have only the effect any permissible contractual provision has in the absence of a prohibition by statute. Provision in the articles of incorporation establishing an optional par value may also be of use to corporations which are to be qualified or registered in foreign jurisdictions that compute franchise or other taxes upon the basis of par value.

For general discussion of capitalization, see the Official Comment to section 6.21.

D. SHAREHOLDER LIABILITY

The basic tenet of corporation law is that shareholders are not liable for the corporation's liabilities by reason of their status as shareholders. Section 2.02(b)(b)(2)(iv) nevertheless permits a corporation to impose that liability under specified circumstances if that is desirable. If no provision of this type is included, shareholders have no liability for corporate liabilities except to the extent they become liable by reason of their own conduct or acts. See section 6.22(b).

E. LIMITATIONS OF DIRECTOR LIABILITY

Section 2.02(b)(4) authorizes the inclusion of a provision in the articles of incorporation eliminating or limiting, with certain exceptions, the liability of the directors to the corporation or its shareholders for money damages. This section is optional rather than self-executing and does not apply to equitable relief. Likewise, nothing in section 2.02(b)(4) in any way affects the right of the shareholders to remove directors, under section 8.08(a), with or without cause. The phrase "as a director" emphasizes that section 2.02(b)(4) applies to a director's actions or failures to take action in the director's capacity as a director and not in any other capacity, such as officer, employee or controlling shareholder. However, it is not intended to exclude coverage of conduct by individuals, even though they are also officers, employees or controlling shareholders, to the extent they are acting in their capacity as directors.

Shareholders are given considerable latitude in limiting directors' liability for money damages. The statutory exceptions to permitted limitations of director liability are few and narrow and are discussed below.

Financial Benefit

Corporate law subjects transactions from which a director could benefit personally to special scrutiny. The financial benefits exception is limited to the amount of the benefit actually received. Thus, liability for punitive damages could be eliminated, except in cases of intentional infliction of harm or for violation of criminal law (as described below) where, in a particular case (for example, theft), punitive damages may be available. The benefit must be financial rather than in less easily measured and more conjectural forms, such as business goodwill, personal reputation, or social ingratiation. The phrase "received by a director" is not intended to be a "bright line." As a director's conduct moves toward the edge of what may be exculpated, the director should bear the risk of miscalculation. Depending upon the circumstances, a director may be deemed to have received a benefit that the director caused to be directed to another person, for example, a relative, friend, or affiliate.

What constitutes a financial benefit "to which the director is not entitled" is left to judicial development. For example, a director is entitled to reasonable compensation for the performance of services or to an increase in the value of stock or stock options held by the director; on the other hand, a director is not entitled to a bribe, a kick-back, or the profits from a corporate opportunity improperly taken by the director. See section 8.70 as to procedures for disclaiming the corporation's interest in a business opportunity by action of qualified directors or shareholders. See section 2.02(b)(6) for optional provisions permitted in the articles of incorporation to limit or eliminate, in advance, any duty of directors and others to bring business opportunities to the corporation. If the corporation declines the opportunity after it has been presented to the corporation by the director in accordance with the provisions of section 8.70(a)(1)(i) or (ii), or if a provision under section 2.02(b)(6) limits or eliminates the duty to bring the particular opportunity to the corporation, the corporation will have no right to participate in any financial benefit arising from the opportunity if the director pursues or takes the opportunity.

Intentional Infliction of Harm

There may be situations in which a director intentionally causes harm to the corporation even though the director does not receive any improper benefit. The use of the word "intentional," rather than a less precise term such as "knowing," is meant to refer to the specific intent to perform, or fail to perform, the acts with actual knowledge that the director's action, or failure to act, will cause harm, rather than a general intent to perform the acts which cause the harm.

Unlawful Distributions

Section 8.32(a) indicates a strong policy in favor of liability for unlawful distributions approved by directors who have not complied with the standards of conduct of section 8.30. Accordingly, the exception in section 2.02(b)(4)(iii) prohibits the shareholders from eliminating or limiting the liability of directors for a violation of section 8.32.

Intentional Violation of Criminal Law

Even though a director committing a crime may intend to benefit the corporation, the shareholders should not be permitted to exculpate the director for any harm caused by an intentional violation of criminal law, including, for example, fines and legal expenses of the corporation in defending a criminal prosecution. The use of the word "intentional," rather than a less precise term such as "knowing," is meant to refer to the specific intent to perform, or fail to perform, the acts with actual knowledge that the director's action, or failure to act, constitutes a violation of criminal law.

F. DIRECTOR IDEMNIFICATION

Section 2.02(b)(5) specifically prohibits provisions for indemnification of director liability arising out of improper financial benefit received by a director, an intentional infliction of harm on the corporation or the shareholders, an unlawful distribution or an intentional violation of criminal law. These excepted liabilities parallel those a corporation is not permitted to limit or eliminate under section 2.02(b)(4). See "E. Limitations of Director Liability" above. Officers are not included in the language of section 2.02(b)(5) because the expansion of indemnification for directors that section permits must be set forth in the articles of incorporation as required by section 8.51(a)(2); section 8.56 allows a similar expansion of indemnification for officers to be set forth also in the bylaws, resolutions or contracts.

G. BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

Section 2.02(b)(6) authorizes the inclusion of a provision in the articles of incorporation to limit or eliminate, in advance, the duty of a director or other person to bring a business opportunity to the corporation. The limitation or elimination may be blanket in nature and apply to any business opportunities, or it may extend only to one or more specified classes or categories of business opportunities. The adoption of such a provision constitutes a curtailment of the duty of loyalty which includes the doctrine of corporate opportunity. If such a provision is included in the articles, taking advantage of a business opportunity covered by the provision of the articles without offering it to the corporation will not expose the director or other person to whom it is made applicable either to monetary damages or to equitable or any other relief in favor of the corporation upon compliance with the requirements of section 2.02(b)(6).

This provision may be useful, for example, in the context of a private equity investor that wishes to have a nominee on the board but conditions its investment on an advance limitation or elimination of the corporate opportunity doctrine because of the uncertainty over the application of the corporate opportunity doctrine inherent when investments are made in multiple enterprises in specific industries. Another example is a joint venture in corporate form where the participants in the joint venture want to be sure that the corporate opportunity doctrine would not apply to their activities outside the joint venture.

The focus of the advance limitation or elimination is on the duty of the director which extends indirectly to the investor through the application of the related party definition in section 8.60. This provision also permits extension of the limitation or elimination of the duty to any other persons who might be deemed to have a duty to offer business opportunities to the corporation. For example, courts have held that the corporate opportunity doctrine extends to officers of the corporation. Although officers may be included in a provision under this subsection, the limitation or elimination of corporate opportunity obligations of officers must be addressed by the board of directors in specific cases or by the directors' authorizing provisions in employment agreements or other contractual arrangements with such officers. Accordingly, section 2.02(b)(6) requires that the application of an advance limitation or elimination of the duty to offer a business opportunity to the corporation to any person who is an officer of the corporation or a related person of an officer also requires action by the board of directors acting through qualified directors. This action must be taken subsequent to the inclusion of the provision in the articles of incorporation and may limit the application. This means that if the advance limitation or elimination of the duty of an officer to offer business opportunities to the corporation is included in the articles by an amendment recommended by the directors and approved by the shareholders, that recommendation of the directors does not serve as the required authorization by qualified directors; rather, separate authorization by qualified directors after the amendment is included in the articles is necessary to apply the provision to a particular officer or any related person of that officer. See sections 1.43(a)(1) and 8.60 for the definition of "qualified directors" and "related persons," respectively.

Whether a provision for advance limitation or elimination of duty in the articles of incorporation should be a broad "blanket" provision or one more tailored to specific categories or classes of transactions deserves careful consideration given the particular circumstances of the corporation.

Limitation or elimination of the duty of a director or officer to present a business opportunity to the corporation does not limit or eliminate the director's or officer's duty not to make unauthorized use of corporate property or information or to compete unfairly with the corporation.

A. OPTIONS WITH RESPECT TO DIRECTORS

ì Board of directors may be dispensed with entirely, § 7.32, or its functions may be restricted, § 8.01.

ì Power to compensate directors may be restricted or eliminated, § 8.11.

ì Election of directors by cumulative voting may be authorized, § 7.28.

ì Election of directors by greater than plurality vote may be authorized, § 7.28.

ì Directors may be elected by classes or series of shares, § 8.04.

ì Director's term may be limited by failure to receive specified vote for election, § 8.05.

ì Power to remove directors without cause may be restricted or eliminated, § 8.08.

ì Terms of directors may be staggered so that all directors are not elected in the same year, § 8.06.

ì Power to fill vacancies may be limited to the shareholders, § 8.10.

ì Power to indemnify directors, officers, and employees may be limited, §§ 8.50 through 8.59.

ì Prohibition on adoption of bylaw provision under § 10.22.

B. OPTIONS WITH RESPECT TO SHAREHOLDERS

ì Action by shareholders may be taken without a meeting, § 7.04.

ì Special voting groups of shareholders may be authorized, § 7.25.

ì Elimination or restriction of separate voting groups for mergers and share exchanges, § 11.04, and for domestications, § 9.21.

ì Quorum for voting groups of shareholders may be increased or reduced, §§ 7.25, 7.26, and 7.27.

ì Quorum for voting by voting groups of shareholders may be prescribed, see § 7.26.

ì Greater than majority vote may be required for action by voting groups of shareholders, § 7.27.

C. OPTIONS WITH RESPECT TO SHARES

ì Shares may be divided into classes and classes into series, §§ 6.01 and 6.02.

ì Cumulative voting for directors may be permitted, § 7.28.

ì Distributions may be restricted, § 6.40.

ì Share dividends may be restricted, § 6.23.

ì Voting rights of classes or series of shares may be limited or denied, § 6.01.

ì Classes or series of shares may be given more or less than one vote per share, § 7.21.

ì Terms of a class or series of shares may vary among holders of the same class or series, so long as such variations are expressly set forth in the articles, § 6.01.

ì The board of directors may allocate authorized but unissued shares of a class or series of shares to another class or series without shareholder approval, § 6.02.

ì Shares may be redeemed at the option of the corporation or the shareholder, § 6.01.

ì Reissue of acquired or redeemed shares may be prohibited, § 6.31.

ì Shareholders may be given preemptive rights to acquire unissued shares, § 6.30.

ì Redemption preferences may be ignored in determining lawfulness of distributions, § 6.40.

A. OPTIONS WITH RESPECT TO DIRECTORS

ì Number of directors may be fixed or changed within limits, § 8.03.

ì Qualifications for directors may be prescribed, § 8.02.

ì Notice of regular or special meetings of board of directors may be prescribed, § 8.22.

ì Power of board of directors to act without meeting may be restricted, § 8.21.

ì Quorum for meeting of board of directors may be increased or decreased (down to onethird) from majority, § 8.24.

ì Action at meeting of board of directors may require a greater than majority vote, § 8.24.

ì Power of directors to participate in meeting without being physically present may be prohibited, § 8.20.

ì Board of directors may create board committees and specify their powers, § 8.25.

ì Board of directors may create safe harbor for consideration of corporate opportunities, § 8.70.

ì Power of board of directors to amend bylaws may be restricted, §§ 10.20 and 10.21.

ì Election of directors may be governed by the optional rules under section 10.22.

B. OPTIONS WITH RESPECT TO SHARES

ì Shares may be issued without certificates, § 6.26.

ì Procedure for treating beneficial owner of street name shares as record owner may be prescribed, § 7.23.

ì Transfer of shares may be restricted, § 6.27.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The Model Act was modified by inserting a cross-reference in subdivision (a)(2) for clarity and by revising subdivision (a)(3) to require more specific information regarding the corporation's address and registered office.

In addition, the Model Act was modified to add more optional provisions available for articles of incorporation, including a limitation on duration (subdivision (b)(2)(vi)) and a provision limiting or eliminating the personal liability of directors in certain circumstances (subsection (b)(3)), which existed under former G.S. 55-7(2) and (11). The phrase "not made in good faith" in former G.S. 55-7(11)(i) was deleted solely because it was thought to be redundant.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2001-358, s. 53, provided that the act, which amended this section, was effective October 1, 2001, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date. Section 173 of Session Laws 2001-387 changed the effective date of Session Laws 2001-358 from October 1, 2001, to January 1, 2002. Section 6 of Session Laws 2001-413, effective September 14, 2001, added a sentence to s. 175(a) of Session Laws 2001-387, making s. 173 of that act effective when it became law (August 26, 2001). As a result of these changes, the amendment by Session Laws 2001-358 is effective January 1, 2002, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date.

Session Laws 2001-387, s. 154(b) provides that nothing in this act shall supersede the provisions of Article 10 or 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes, and this act does not create an alternate means for an entity governed by Article 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes to convert to a different business form.

Session Laws 2018-45, s. 33, provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2001-358, s. 16, effective January 1, 2002, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date, substituted "G.S. 55D-20 and G.S. 55D-21" for "G.S. 55-4-01" in subdivision (a)(1).

Session Laws 2018-45, s. 2, effective October 1, 2018, in subsection (b), added "any or all of the following" at the end of the lead-in language, added subdivision (b)(4), and made minor stylistic changes.

Legal Periodicals. - For article on corporate directors' accountability, see 66 N.C.L. Rev. 171 (1987).

For article, "Should Corporate Statutes Providing Special Protection for Directors Be Limited to Publicly Traded Corporations?," see 24 Wake Forest L. Rev. 79 (1989).

For comment, "North Carolina's Statutory Limitation on Directors' Liability," see 24 Wake Forest L. Rev. 117 (1989).

For article, "The Corporate Persona, Contract (and Market) Failure, and Moral Values," see 69 N.C.L. Rev. 273 (1991).

For article on the evolution of corporate combination law, see 76 N.C.L. Rev. 687 (1998).

For article, "Good Faith, State of Mind, and the Outer Boundaries of Director Liability in Corporate Law," see 41 Wake Forest L. Rev. 1131 (2006).

For article, "Duties of the Modern Corporate Executive: Article & Essay: Fiduciary Constraints: Correlating Obligation with Liability," see 42 Wake Forest L. Rev. 697 (2007).

For article, "Agency Theory: Still Viable? Proposals for Corporate Governance Reform: Six Decades of Ineptitude and Counting," see 48 Wake Forest L. Rev. 673 (2013).

For article, "Overcoming the Rippy Effect: Why the North Carolina Business Corporations Act Should Allow Permissive Officer Exculpation," see 94 N.C.L. Rev. 2155 (2016).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - Most of the cases below were decided under prior law.

Corporation Held Limited to Objects Stated. - A charter of incorporation creating a company for the purpose of effecting a communication by a plank-road between designated points, with the privilege of taking tolls, did not authorize the company to establish a stage line upon their road, nor to contract for carrying the United States mail. Wiswell v. Greenville Plank-Road Co., 56 N.C. 183 (1857).

Use of All Powers Not Required. - The fact that a corporation avails itself of only one of several privileges granted by its charter does not invalidate the act of incorporation. Wadesboro Cotton Mills Co. v. Burns, 114 N.C. 353, 19 S.E. 238 (1894).

Limit of Corporate Existence. - A corporation whose term of existence is fixed and limited in the act which creates it cannot endure beyond the prescribed time, unless its existence is prolonged by the same authority or continued for the purpose of adjusting and closing its business, and no judicial proceedings are required to terminate it. Asheville Div. No. 15 v. Aston, 92 N.C. 578 (1885).

De Jure and De Facto Existence. - A corporation de jure is said to exist when persons holding a charter have made substantial compliance with the provisions of the same, looking to its proper organization, while a corporation de facto is one where the parties having a charter or law authorizing it have in good faith made a colorable compliance with such requirements, and have proceeded in the exercise of the corporate powers or a part of them. Wood v. Staton, 174 N.C. 245, 93 S.E. 794 (1917).

Existence of a corporation may be proved by reputation. Existence or nonexistence is a fact and may be proved as other facts. Gulf States Steel Co. v. Ford, 173 N.C. 195, 91 S.E. 844 (1917).

Proof of Existence by Written Contract. - Where a written contract entered into between the parties furnishes evidence that the defendant was dealing with the plaintiff as a corporation, and the plaintiff's existence as a corporation is denied, the contract may properly be introduced upon this disputed fact. Otis Elevator Co. v. Cape Fear Hotel Co., 172 N.C. 319, 90 S.E. 253 (1916).

Copies of Letters of Incorporation as Proof of Existence. - Copies of letters of incorporation are admissible to show prima facie the existence of a corporation, and the corporation cannot avoid its liability for debts because in fact it had but an inchoate existence. Marshall v. Macon County Bank, 108 N.C. 639, 13 S.E. 182 (1891).

Exculpatory Clause. - Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-Receiver (FDIC-R) argued only that the evidence suggested that the Director Appellees took actions harmful to the bank, in part by making decisions without adequate information; this was insufficient. The exculpatory clause protected directors from monetary liability unless the directors "knew or believed that their acts or omissions were clearly in conflict" with the bank's best interests; actions that might have been harmful or decisions that could have been better made did not rise to the level of bad faith in this context, especially in light of the fact that the bank received "CAMELS" scores of "2" from both of its regulators despite the Director Appellees' actions. FDIC v. Rippy, 799 F.3d 301 (4th Cir. 2015).

§ 55-2-03. Incorporation.

  1. Corporate existence begins when the articles of incorporation become effective.
  2. The Secretary of State's filing of the articles of incorporation is conclusive proof that the incorporators satisfied all conditions precedent to incorporation except in a proceeding by the State to cancel or revoke the incorporation or involuntarily dissolve the corporation.
  3. No provision in this Chapter or any prior act shall be construed to require that a corporation have more than one shareholder.

History

(1901, c. 2, s. 10; Rev., s. 1140; C.S., s. 1116; G.S., s. 55-4; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1957, c. 550, ss. 2, 3; 1967, c. 13, s. 3; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2001-387, s. 10.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 2.03(a) provides that the existence of a corporation begins when the articles of incorporation are filed, unless a delayed effective date is specified under section 1.23. Chapter 1 contains detailed rules for the filing and effective dates of documents, all of which are applicable to articles of incorporation and other documents. These filing rules simplify the process of creating a corporation in several respects.

  1. What to file
  2. Nature of filing
  3. Certificate of incorporation eliminated
  4. Precise time of incorporation
  5. Conclusiveness of secretary of state's action on question of individual liability for corporate actions

Section 1.20 requires that only one executed original and an exact or conformed copy of the articles need be delivered to the secretary of state for filing. This delivery must be accompanied by the applicable filing fee.

Section 1.25 provides that the secretary of state files the articles by stamping them "filed" and recording the date and time of receipt; he then retains the signed original articles of incorporation for his records and returns the exact or conformed copy to the incorporators along with a receipt for the fee. The return of this copy and the fee receipt establishes that the articles have been filed in the form of the copy.

Section 1.25 provides that approval by the secretary of state is in the form of return of the copy of the articles with a fee receipt rather than a certificate of incorporation, as was the older practice still followed in many states. See the Official Comment to section 1.25.

Section 2.03(a) ties the precise time of incorporation to the date and time stamped on the articles. Section 1.23 provides in turn that this is the date and time the articles are received by the secretary of state; in other words, consistent with the practice of many secretaries of state, processing time is ignored and the date and time of receipt of the articles are the date and time of incorporation. The creators of the corporation may, however, specify that the corporation's existence will begin on a later date than the date of filing, and at a precise time on such a date, to the extent permitted by section 1.23.

Under section 2.03(b) the filing of the articles of incorporation as evidenced by return of the stamped copy of the articles with the fee receipt is conclusive proof that all conditions precedent to incorporation have been met, except in proceedings brought by the state. Thus the filing of the articles of incorporation is conclusive as to the existence of limited liability for persons who enter into transactions on behalf of the corporation. If articles of incorporation have not been filed, section 2.04 generally imposes personal liability on all persons who prematurely act as or on behalf of a "corporation" knowing that articles have not been filed. Section 2.04 may protect some of these persons to a limited extent, however; see the Official Comment to that section.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

Subsection (c) was added to the Model Act's provisions to bring forward the provisions of former G.S. 55-3.1.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2001-387, s. 154(b) provides that nothing in this act shall supersede the provisions of Article 10 or 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes, and this act does not create an alternate means for an entity governed by Article 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes to convert to a different business form.

Legal Periodicals. - For article, "Branch Office of the Prosecutor: The New Role of the Corporation in Business Crime Prosecutions," 89 N.C.L. Rev. 23 (2010).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - Most of the cases below were decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955 or under prior law.

Corporation as Alter Ego of Dominant Shareholder. - The mere fact that one person owns all of the stock of a corporation does not make its acts the acts of the stockholder so as to impose liability therefor upon him. However, when the corporation is so operated that it is a mere instrumentality or alter ego of the sole or dominant shareholder and a shield for his activities in violation of the declared public policy or statute of the State, the corporate entity will be disregarded and the corporation and the shareholder treated as one and the same person, it being immaterial whether the sole or dominant shareholder is an individual or another corporation. Henderson v. Security Mtg. & Fin. Co., 273 N.C. 253, 160 S.E.2d 39 (1968).

When Corporation Regarded as an Association of Persons. - When the notion of legal entity is used to defeat public convenience, justify wrong, protect fraud, or defend crime, the law will regard the corporation as an association of persons. Henderson v. Security Mtg. & Fin. Co., 273 N.C. 253, 160 S.E.2d 39 (1968).

Personal liability of stockholder created before the effective date of former G.S. 55-3.1 because corporation did not have three shareholders would not be defeated by virtue of former G.S. 55-3.1. Lester Bros. v. Pope Realty & Ins. Co., 250 N.C. 565, 109 S.E.2d 263 (1959).

For case decided before the passage of former G.S. 55-3.1 and dealing with the effect of the acquisition of all stock in a corporation by one person, see Park Terrace, Inc. v. Phoenix Indem. Co., 243 N.C. 595, 91 S.E.2d 584 (1956), commented on in 34 N.C.L. Rev. 471, 531 (1956).

Chattel Mortgage Executed in Name of Corporation by Person Acquiring All Stock as Corporate Act. - Acquisition of the entire capital stock of a corporation by one person does not affect the corporate entity, and the execution in the name of the corporation by such person of a chattel mortgage is a corporate act and binding, provided the rights of its then existing creditors are not affected. Wall v. Colvard, Inc., 268 N.C. 43, 149 S.E.2d 559 (1966).

Cited in Statesville Stained Glass, Inc. v. T.E. Lane Constr. & Supply Co., 110 N.C. App. 592, 430 S.E.2d 437 (1993).


§ 55-2-04: Reserved for future codification purposes.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

Section 2.04 of the Model Act, which relates to liability for preincorporation transactions, was omitted because it was thought to be too simplistic to apply to every preincorporation situation. General case law will apply. See generally Smith v. Morgan, 50 N.C. App. 208, 209, 272 S.E.2d 602 (1980) (statement in dictum).


§ 55-2-05. Organization of corporation.

  1. After incorporation:
    1. If initial directors are named in the articles of incorporation, the initial directors shall hold an organizational meeting at the call of a majority of the directors to complete the organization of the corporation by appointing officers, adopting bylaws, and carrying on any other business brought before the meeting;
    2. If initial directors are not named in the articles, the incorporator or incorporators shall hold an organizational meeting at the call of a majority of the incorporators: (i) to elect directors and complete the organization of the corporation; or (ii) to elect a board of directors who shall complete the organization of the corporation.
  2. Action required or permitted by this Chapter to be taken by incorporators at an organizational meeting may be taken without a meeting if the action taken is evidenced by one or more written consents describing the action taken and signed by each incorporator. If the incorporators act at a meeting, the notice and procedural provisions of G.S. 55-8-22, 55-8-23, and 55-8-24 shall apply.
  3. An organizational meeting may be held in or out of this State.

History

(Code, s. 665; 1901, c. 2, s. 18; Rev., s. 1142; C.S., s. 1118; G.S., s. 55-6; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1969, c. 751, s. 3; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Following incorporation, the organization of new corporation must be completed so that it may engage in business. This usually requires adoption of bylaws, the appointment of officers and agents, the raising of equity capital by the issuance of shares to the participants in the venture, and the election of directors.

Earlier versions of the Model Act required initial directors to be named in the articles and provided that they complete the organization of the corporation. Many states followed this pattern, but others provided that the incorporators organize the corporation or meet to elect a board of directors to organize the corporation. The goal of all these provisions was usually to permit the completion of the organization of the corporation with minimum expense and formality, though in many cases it was felt necessary for business decisions to be made at an early stage by the persons with responsibility for business operation.

Experience in states followed the Model Act pattern revealed that multiple organizational meetings were often necessary, particularly where for reasons of convenience or secrecy both the incorporators and initial directors were "dummies" without any financial interest in the enterprise who were not expected to make any significant business decisions. In this situation, the initial directors formally organized the corporation, including issuing of at least some shares; immediately following this organizational meeting, the new shareholders met to elect a permanent board of directors who were to manage the business. In many instances, the permanent board of directors also had to meet immediately after its selection by the shareholders to consider business questions that must be resolved promptly, such as authorization of employment contracts or the valuation of property or services to be accepted as consideration for shares.

Section 2.05 simplifies the formation process by allowing alternative methods of completing the formation of the corporation.

First, section 2.05(a)(1) contemplates that if the draftsman elects to set forth the names of the initial directors in the articles of incorporation, the persons so named will organize the corporation. It is expected that initial directors will be named only if they will be the permanent board of directors and there is no objection to the disclosure of their identity in the articles of incorporation.

Second, section 2.05(a)(2) provides alternative methods for completing the organization of the corporation if initial directors are not named in the articles of incorporation. The incorporators may themselves complete the organization, or they may simply meet to elect a board of directors who are then to complete the organization. It is contemplated that in routine incorporations, the first alternative will be elected, while in more complex situations when prompt business decisions must be made, the second alternative will be chosen and the completion of the organization will be turned over to the board of directors representing the investment interests in the corporation.

Sections 2.05(b) and (c) are limited to meetings of incorporators since sections 8.21 and 8.22 permit the same actions by the board of directors. If a meeting of shareholders is necessary, sections 7.01 and 7.04 give them the same flexibility that is given incorporators under sections 2.05(b) and (c).

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section, unlike prior law, permits the incorporator or incorporators to hold the organizational meeting of the corporation under certain circumstances. The last sentence of subsection (b) was added to the Model Act's provisions for clarification.

Legal Periodicals. - For article, "Agency Theory: Still Viable? The Impact of National Culture on Corporate Financial Decisions," see 48 Wake Forest L. Rev. 697 (2013).

§ 55-2-06. Bylaws.

  1. The incorporators or board of directors of a corporation shall adopt initial bylaws for the corporation.
  2. The bylaws of a corporation may contain any provision for managing the business and regulating the affairs of the corporation that is not inconsistent with law or the articles of incorporation.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, ss. 2, 3; 1973, c. 469, s. 4; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

The responsibility for adopting the original bylaws is placed on the person or persons completing the organization of the corporation.

Section 2.06(b) restates the accepted scope of bylaw provisions. For a list of Model Act provisions that become effective only if specific reference is made to them in the bylaws, see the Official Comment to section 2.02. Provisions set forth in bylaws may additionally be contained in shareholder or board resolutions unless this Act requires them to be set forth in the bylaws.

The power to amend or repeal bylaws, or adopt new bylaws after the formation of the corporation is completed, is addressed in sections 10.20 through 10.22 of the Model Act.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The Model Act's use of the word "shall" in subsection (a) requires that a corporation have bylaws, whereas, under prior law, the adoption of bylaws was at least theoretically optional. Use of the word "shall," however, is not intended to imply that a North Carolina corporation not adopting bylaws is not a valid corporation.

Legal Periodicals. - For note on unanimous approval of corporate bylaws and creation of shareholder agreements, see 1 Campbell L. Rev. 153 (1979).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - The cases below were decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955 or under prior law.

Statutory Norms Control Amendments Where Bylaws Fail to Control. - In the absence of a valid provision in the charter or bylaws controlling amendment, statutory or common-law norms governing amendment apply. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

Shareholders' agreement which is part of the charter or bylaws is subject to amendment as provided therein or, in the absence of an internal provision governing amendments, as provided by statutory norms. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

When parties to a shareholders' agreement choose to embody it in the charter or bylaws, it must be concluded that they intended for statutory or common-law norms governing amendment to apply absent an expressed intention to deviate from them. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

Principle by which a shareholder is bound by a corporate resolution, regularly passed pursuant to charter and bylaws, prevails only in reference to his status and rights as a shareholder, and not where he deals independently with corporation as one of its customers in the line of its business. Cardwell v. Garrison, 179 N.C. 476, 103 S.E. 3 (1920).

Bylaws as Evidence Against Strangers. - The bylaws of a corporation are usually not evidence for it against strangers who deal with it, unless they are brought home to their knowledge and assented to by them. Smith & Melton v. N.C.R.R., 68 N.C. 107 (1873).


§ 55-2-07. Emergency bylaws.

  1. Unless the articles of incorporation provide otherwise, the board of directors of a corporation may adopt bylaws to be effective only in an emergency defined in subsection (d). The emergency bylaws, which are subject to amendment or repeal by the shareholders, may make all provisions necessary for managing the corporation during the emergency, including:
    1. Procedures for calling a meeting of the board of directors;
    2. Quorum requirements for the meeting; and
    3. Designation of additional or substitute directors.
  2. All provisions of the regular bylaws consistent with the emergency bylaws remain effective during the emergency. The emergency bylaws are not effective after the emergency ends.
  3. Corporate action taken in good faith in accordance with the emergency bylaws binds the corporation and the fact that the action was taken by special procedures may not be used to impose liability on a corporate director, officer, employee, or agent.
  4. An emergency exists for purposes of this section if a quorum of the corporation's directors cannot readily be assembled because of some catastrophic event.

History

(1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 2.07 is no longer an optional provision (as was the case with its predecessor in earlier versions of the Model Act) but is unqualifiedly recommended for adoption. The problem it addresses is potentially present in every state and in every corporation, and the widespread acceptance of the earlier provision to date by a number of states argues that it be uniformly adopted.

The adoption of emergency bylaws in advance of an emergency not only clarifies lines of command and responsibility but also tends to ensure continuity of responsibility. The board of directors may be authorized by the emergency bylaws, for example, to designate the officers or other persons, in order of seniority and subject to various conditions, who may be deemed to be directors during the emergency.

The definition of "emergency" adopted by subsection (d) is broader than a nuclear disaster or attack on the United States. It includes any catastrophic event, such as an airplane crash or fire, that makes it difficult or impossible for a quorum of the corporation's board of directors to be assembled. While there apparently has been no recent illustration of a public corporation facing such a catastrophic event, its possibility should not be ignored. In order to encourage corporations to adopt emergency bylaws, section 2.07(c) broadly validates all corporate actions taken "in good faith" pursuant to them and immunizes all corporate directors, officers, employees, and agents from liability as a result of these actions. The phrase "action taken in good faith in accordance with the emergency bylaws" has been substituted for "willful misconduct," the language of the earlier Model Act provision. This change is designed to conform the standard for immunity here and elsewhere in the Model Act and represents no substantive change.

A corporation that does not adopt emergency bylaws under this section may nevertheless exercise the powers described in section 3.03 in the event of an emergency as defined in section 2.07(d).

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section has no equivalent under prior law. The Model Act was rewritten in subsection (c) to clarify that the limitation on liability contained in that subsection is limited to liability arising by reason of action taken by special procedures under emergency bylaws.

ARTICLE 3. Purposes and Powers.

Sec.

§ 55-3-01. Purposes.

  1. Every corporation incorporated under this Chapter has the purpose of engaging in any lawful business unless a more limited purpose is set forth in its articles of incorporation.
  2. A corporation engaging in a business that is subject to regulation under another statute of this State may incorporate under this Chapter only if permitted by, and subject to all limitations of, the other statute.
    1. Special incorporation statutes
    2. Miscellaneous regulatory statutes
    3. Professional corporations
    4. Miscellaneous organizations

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 3.01(a) provides that every corporation automatically has the purpose of engaging in any lawful business unless a narrower purpose is described in the articles of incorporation. The specification of an "any lawful business" clause has become so nearly universal in states that permit the clause that no reason exists for treating it otherwise than as the norm for the "standard" corporation.

The option of a narrower purpose clause is most likely to be elected only in situations where one or more participants in the corporation desire to limit or retain a check on the business operations of the corporation. The articles of incorporation may limit lines of business in which the corporation may engage. It should be recognized, however, that the limited scope of the ultra vires concept in litigation between the corporation and outsiders means that a third person entering into a transaction that violates the restrictions in the purpose clause may be able to enforce the transaction in accordance with its terms if he was unaware of the narrow purpose clause when he entered the transaction. See the Official Comment to section 3.04.

Many corporations may also find it desirable to supplement a general purpose clause with an additional statement of business purposes. This may be necessary for licensing or for qualification purposes in some states.

Section 3.01(b) is designed to tie in the limitless lawful purpose corporation permitted by section 3.01(a) with the numerous state statutes that impose regulations or limitations on corporations formed to, or actually engaging in, certain lines of business. These state statutes are of various types.

Some of these statutes, particularly those relating to banking and insurance, establish a separate incorporation process and incorporating agency. These special incorporating states may refer back to or incorporate by reference portions of the general business corporation statute.

Other regulatory statutes may permit incorporation under the general business corporation act if the corporation imposes restrictions or limitations in its articles of incorporation; these restrictions may relate to the business in which the corporation may engage, its manner of internal governance, or the persons who may or may not be shareholders and participate in the venture. The language of section 3.01(b) is designed to cover all these multiple variations and is a substitute for the narrower language "except for the purpose of banking or insurance" that appeared in earlier versions of the Model Act and the statutes of many states.

Traditionally, incorporation was not permitted at all for the purpose of practicing the learned professions - e.g., law, medicine, and dentistry - primarily because of the personal skills and confidential relationships between lawyer and client or physician and patient. In the early 1960s, however, a significant movement toward incorporation of professionals surfaced as part of an effort by professionals to obtain employee federal tax benefits. Professionals hoped to form corporations to conduct their practice as employees of the corporation rather than as independent entrepreneurs. Early efforts by professionals to form entities to conduct their practice (despite the lack of state statutory authority to incorporate) met with opposition from the Internal Revenue Service. In 1960 the I.R.S. issued the "Kintner" regulations, which in effect provided that federal tax status would be determined on the basis of the organization's characterization under state law. TREAS. REGS. § 301.7701-2 (1960). In response, a number of states passed legislation specifically authorizing professionals to incorporate. Recognition of the corporate tax status of professional corporations was eventually conceded. REV. RUL. 70-101, 1970-1 C.B. 278. All jurisdictions now have statutes providing for incorporation for the purpose of practicing a profession, and in 1977 a Professional Corporation Supplement to the Model Act was approved. For further consideration of professional corporation acts, see the Annotations to the Model Professional Corporation Supplement.

Other types of corporations, such as nonprofit corporations, cooperatives, and unions, usually may not incorporate under the business corporation act. Many states have enacted special statutes for these classes entities: a Model Nonprofit Corporation Act was approved in 1952 and has been periodically revised since then.

Section 3.01(b) is designed to preserve all statutory requirements applicable to all of these various classes of specialized and nonbusiness corporations.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section is substantially the same as former G.S. 55-5.

Legal Periodicals. - For article, "The Creation of North Carolina's Limited Liability Corporation Act," see 32 Wake Forest L. Rev. 179 (1997).

For article, "Duties of Nonprofit Corporate Directors - Emphasizing Oversight Responsibilities," see 90 N.C. L. Rev. 1845 (2012).

§ 55-3-02. General powers.

  1. Unless its articles of incorporation or this Chapter provide otherwise, every corporation has perpetual duration and succession in its corporate name and has the same powers as an individual to do all things necessary or convenient to carry out its business and affairs, including without limitation power:
    1. To sue and be sued, complain and defend in its corporate name;
    2. To have a corporate seal, which may be altered at will, and to use it, or a facsimile of it, by impressing or affixing it or in any other manner reproducing it;
    3. To make and amend bylaws, not inconsistent with its articles of incorporation or with the laws of this State, for managing the business and regulating the affairs of the corporation;
    4. To purchase, receive, lease, or otherwise acquire, and own, hold, improve, use, and otherwise deal with, real or personal property, or any legal or equitable interest in property, wherever located;
    5. To sell, convey, mortgage, pledge, lease, exchange, and otherwise dispose of all or any part of its property;
    6. To purchase, receive, subscribe for, or otherwise acquire; own, hold, vote, use, sell, mortgage, lend, pledge, or otherwise dispose of; and deal in and with shares or other interests in, or obligations of, any other entity;
    7. To make contracts and guarantees, incur liabilities, borrow money, issue its notes, bonds, and other obligations (which may be convertible into or include the option to purchase other securities of the corporation), and secure any of its obligations by mortgage or pledge of any of its property, franchises, or income;
    8. To lend money, invest and reinvest its funds, and receive and hold real and personal property as security for repayment;
    9. To be a promoter, partner, member, associate, or manager of any partnership, joint venture, trust, or other entity;
    10. To conduct its business, locate offices, and exercise the powers granted by this act within or without this State;
    11. To elect or appoint directors, officers, employees, and agents of the corporation, define their duties, fix their compensation, and lend them money and credit;
    12. To pay pensions and establish pension plans, pension trusts, profit sharing plans, stock bonus plans, stock option plans, and other benefit or incentive plans for any or all of its current or former directors, officers, employees, and agents;
    13. To make donations for the public welfare or for charitable, religious, cultural, scientific, or educational purposes;
    14. To transact any lawful business that will aid governmental policy;
    15. To make payments or donations, or do any other act, not inconsistent with law, that furthers the business and affairs of the corporation; and
    16. To provide insurance for its benefit on the life or physical or mental ability of any of its directors, officers or employees or on the life or physical or mental ability of any security holder for the purpose of acquiring at his death or disability its securities owned by such security holder, and for these purposes the corporation is deemed to have an insurable interest in its directors, officers, employees, or security holders; and to provide insurance for its benefit on the life or physical or mental ability of any other person in whom it has an insurable interest.
  2. It shall not be necessary to set forth in the articles of incorporation any of the powers enumerated in this section.

History

(Code, ss. 663, 666, 691, 692, 693; 1893, c. 159; 1901, c. 2, s. 1; Rev., s. 1128; 1909, c. 507, s. 1; C.S., s. 1126; 1925, cc. 235, 298; 1929, c. 269; 1939, c. 279; 1945, c. 775; G.S., s. 55-26; 1951, c. 1240, s. 1; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, ss. 4, 5; 1969, c. 751, ss. 7, 8; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

The law of corporations has always proceeded on the fundamental assumption that corporations are creations with limited power; such an assumption was articulated by the United States Supreme Court as early as 1804, Head & Armory v. Providence Insurance Co., 6 U.S. (2 Cranch) 127, 169 (1804), and appears never to have been seriously questioned as a judicial matter.

It is clear that narrow and limited powers clauses are undesirable: they encourage litigation by bringing into question reasonable transactions that further the business and interests of the corporation and to the extent transactions are unauthorized, may defeat valid and reasonable expectations. The history of the Model Act and of many state statutes in this area is largely one ensuring that corporate powers are broad enough to cover all reasonable business transactions.

In developing section 3.02, serious consideration was given to whether there was a continued need for a long list of corporate powers or whether a general provision granting every corporation power to act to the same extent as an individual might be substituted. Because of the long history of these powers, however, it was feared that no matter how broadly phrased a general provision might be, a court might conclude that some power might not exist because no specific reference to it was made in the statute. It was also feared that cautious attorneys might begin to restore power clauses to articles of incorporation out of concern that a general clause of the type in question might not be interpreted literally. Hence, the present language, which is similar to that included in the statutes of California and other states, was adopted. The general clause granting the corporation essentially the same powers as an individual is coupled with a nonexclusive listing of powers, including the traditional power clauses that appear in many state statutes.

The general philosophy of section 3.02 is thus that corporations formed under the Model Act provisions should be automatically authorized to engage in all acts and have all powers that an individual may have. Because broad grants of power of this nature may not be desired in some corporations, section 3.02 generally authorizes articles of incorporation to deny or limit specific powers to a specific corporation if that is felt desirable. This power to exclude specific powers does not reflect a substantive change from earlier versions of the Model Act (which did not contain an express provision to this effect) but simply makes explicit what was always implicit. Illustrative of the powers that may be appropriate for limitation in specific corporations are the powers (discussed below) to make political contributions to the extent permitted by law or to make expenditures to influence elections affecting the corporate business to the extent permitted by law.

The powers listed in section 3.02 were broadened in several significant respects:

  1. All limitations on loans to directors have been eliminated. The wisdom and propriety of these loans should be evaluated on the basis of general fiduciary standards and the benefits to the corporation. See sections 8.30, 8.31, and 8.32. Section 3.02(11) thus rejects the conceptual argument that because certain transactions are subject to abuse, all such transactions should be prohibited.
  2. It is made clear in section 3.02(12) that former as well as present directors, officers, employees, and agents may participate in pension, option, and similar benefit plans.
  3. Section 3.02(15) permits payments or donations or other acts "that further the business and affairs of the corporation." This clause, which is in addition to and independent of the power to make charitable and similar donations under section 3.02(13), permits contributions for purposes that may not be charitable, such as for political purposes or to influence elections. This power exists only to the extent consistent with law other than the Model Act. It is the purpose of this section to authorize all corporate actions that are lawful or not against public policy.

The powers of a corporation under the Model Act exist independently of whether a corporation has a broad or narrow purpose clause. A corporation with a narrow purpose clause nevertheless has the same powers as an individual to do all things necessary or convenient to carry out its business. Many actions are therefore intra vires even though they do not directly affect the limited purpose for which the corporation is formed. For example, a corporation may generally make charitable contributions without regard to the purpose for which the charity will use the funds or may invest money in shares of other corporations without regard to whether the corporate purpose of the other corporation is broader or narrower than the limited purpose clause of the investing corporation. In some instances, however, a limited or narrow purpose clause may be considered to be a restriction on corporate powers as well as a restriction on purposes. Since the same ultra vires rule is applicable to corporations that exceed their purposes or powers (see the Official Comment to section 3.04), it is not necessary to determine whether a narrow purpose clause also limits the powers of the corporation but simply whether the purpose of the transaction in question is consistent with the purpose clause. Of course, these issues cannot arise in corporations with an "any lawful business" purpose clause.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section contains essentially all of the powers enumerated in former G.S. 55-17, but it avoids the distinction that the prior law made between unconditional powers and those exercisable by a corporation "only in connection with the purposes stated in its charter," and lists all powers in a single sequence. The words "or this act" were added to the Model Act's introductory language in subsection (a) to emphasize that there may be limiting provisions elsewhere in Chapter 55. Subdivision (a)(11) was modified to incorporate language from former G.S. 55-17(a)(4) that was believed to be less restrictive than the Model Act's language, and subdivision (12) was modified by changing the Model Act's reference to "share" bonus and "share" option plans to the more commonly used terms, "stock" bonus and "stock" option plans. Subdivision (13) was modified to add donations for religious and cultural purposes, which were permitted under former G.S. 55-17(a)(6). Subdivision (16) brings forward former G.S. 55-17(b) (4), and is more specific than the Model Act in authorizing insurance on the corporation's directors, officers, employees and security holders.

In addition, former G.S. 55-17(c) was added to this section as subsection (b) to avoid any negative inference by its omission. It does not appear in the Model Act.

Legal Periodicals. - For note, "Glenn v. Wagner: Instrumentality Rule versus the Balancing Test in Piercing the Corporate Veil," see 64 N.C.L. Rev. 1265 (1986).

CASE NOTES

I. IN GENERAL.

Editor's Note. - Many of the cases below were decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955 or under prior law.

Implied Powers Necessary to Exercise of Express Powers. - Corporations possess by legal implication such powers as are essential to the exercise of the powers expressly conferred and necessary to attain the main objects for which they were formed. Barcello v. Hapgood, 118 N.C. 712, 24 S.E. 124 (1896).

Corporation may transact business anywhere, unless prohibited by its charter or excluded by local laws. Garrett v. Bear, 144 N.C. 23, 56 S.E. 479 (1907).

Ratification of and Liability for Pre-Incorporation Contract. - Although a corporation may not technically ratify a contract made on its behalf prior to its incorporation, since it could not at that time have authorized such action on its behalf, it may, after it comes into existence, adopt such contract by its corporate action, which adoption may be express or implied, and thereby become liable for its performance. Smith v. Ford Motor Co., 289 N.C. 71, 221 S.E.2d 282 (1976).

Cited in T-Wol Acquisition Co. v. ECDG South, LLC, 220 N.C. App. 189, 725 S.E.2d 605 (2012).

II. SUITS BY AND AGAINST CORPORATIONS.

Same Liability as Natural Person. - A corporation is now held liable to civil and criminal actions under the same conditions and circumstances as natural persons are. Reddit v. Singer Mfg. Co., 124 N.C. 100, 32 S.E. 392 (1899).

Liability for Slander. - A corporation may be held liable for slander when the defamatory words are uttered by express authority of the company or by one of its officers or agents in the course of his employment, and authority for such utterances may be fairly and reasonably inferred under relevant and sufficient circumstances. Cotton v. Fisheries Prods. Co., 177 N.C. 56, 97 S.E. 712 (1919).

Ejectment and Trespass Will Lie Against Corporation. - Corporations, in contemplation of the law, are capable of having actual possession of the land, and whatever may have been supposed to the contrary in the distant past, the actions of ejectment and trespass lie against them. Young v. Barden, 90 N.C. 424 (1884).

Personal Liability of Corporate Officer for Pre-Incorporation Note Executed in Another State. - In an action to recover on a promissory note executed in Georgia and payable in Georgia, Georgia law applied, so that defendant could be held personally liable on the note which he executed as president of a corporation which had not yet been formed, but which was subsequently incorporated and which made payments on the note until default. Smith v. Morgan, 50 N.C. App. 208, 272 S.E.2d 602 (1980).

Suits Must Be in Corporate Name. - A suit against a corporation must be brought against it in its corporate name, and not against its officers or agents. Britain v. Newland, 19 N.C. 363 (1837); Young v. Barden, 90 N.C. 424 (1884).

Unless Corporation Is Insolvent. - In case of insolvency, where a receiver has been appointed, he may sue either in his own name or in that of the corporation. Davis v. Industrial Mfg. Co., 114 N.C. 321, 19 S.E. 371 (1894); Smathers v. Western Carolina Bank, 135 N.C. 410, 47 S.E. 893 (1904).

Misnomer Immaterial. - A misnomer does not vitiate, provided the identity of the corporation with that intended by the parties is apparent, whether it is in a deed, or in a judgment, or in a criminal proceeding. McCrea v. Starr, 5 N.C. 252 (1809); Asheville Div. No. 15 v. Aston, 92 N.C. 579 (1885); Gordon v. Pintsch Gas Co., 178 N.C. 435, 100 S.E. 878 (1919).

III. RIGHTS AS TO PROPERTY.

.

Property of a corporation belongs to it, not to the stockholders. They only have an interest in such property through their relation to the company, and in this respect the State is like any other stockholder. Marshall v. Western N.C.R.R., 92 N.C. 322 (1885).

Where the State is a stockholder in a railroad company, it is bound by the provisions of the charter in the same manner as an individual. It has no advantage as a stockholder on account of its sovereignty, for, by becoming such, it lays aside its character as a sovereign and places itself on a footing of equality with the individual stockholders. Marshall v. Western N.C.R.R., 92 N.C. 322 (1885).

Corporation May Hold Estates in Fee. - Although the existence of a corporation be limited to a certain number of years, yet the corporation is capable of holding estates in fee. Asheville Div. No. 15 v. Aston, 92 N.C. 578 (1885).

Effect of Conveyance for Use Beyond Corporate Powers. - Where a corporation takes a conveyance of lands for use beyond its charter powers, the deed is not void, but only voidable upon the objection of the State. Cross v. Seaboard Air Line Ry., 172 N.C. 119, 90 S.E. 14 (1916).

Private corporation may dispose of its property without express authority of the legislature. Benbow v. Cook, 115 N.C. 324, 20 S.E. 453 (1894).

A strictly private corporation can lawfully sell any of its property, real or personal, just as an individual can. Barcello v. Hapgood, 118 N.C. 712, 24 S.E. 124 (1896).

A corporation chartered for the purpose of mining and milling ores has the right, by implication of law, to buy and sell real estate essential to the successful prosecution of its business. Barcello v. Hapgood, 118 N.C. 712, 24 S.E. 124 (1896).

Necessity for Authorization by Directors to Sell Corporate Property. - Corporate directors are trustees of the corporation's property, and usually a corporation may sell, transfer, and convey its corporate real estate only when authorized to do so by its board of directors. And statutory provisions may be supplemented by stipulation in the corporation's bylaws. Tuttle v. Junior Bldg. Corp., 228 N.C. 507, 46 S.E.2d 313 (1948).

In the absence of charter provisions or bylaws to the contrary, the president of a corporation is the general manager of its corporate affairs, and his contracts made in the name of the corporation in the general course of business and within the apparent scope of his authority are ordinarily enforceable, but ordinarily he has no power to sell or contract to sell the real or personal property of the corporation without authority from its board of directors. Tuttle v. Junior Bldg. Corp., 228 N.C. 507, 46 S.E.2d 313 (1948).

Right to Mortgage Property. - Corporations other than railroad companies have a general power to mortgage their property, unless prohibited by some provision in the charter, the right to mortgage being a natural result of the right to incur an indebtedness. Antietam Paper Co. v. Chronical Publishing Co., 115 N.C. 143, 20 S.E. 366 (1894).

Corporation may acquire land by showing sufficient adverse possession for the statutory period. Cross v. Seaboard Air Line Ry., 172 N.C. 119, 90 S.E. 14 (1916).

IV. CORPORATE SEAL.

.

Power to have a common seal and to alter or renew the same at will is frequently conferred on corporations by statute, but such power is one of the incidental and implied powers of every corporation when not expressly conferred. Bailey v. Hassell, 184 N.C. 450, 115 S.E. 166 (1922).

As a general rule, a corporation may use or adopt any seal. Security Nat'l Bank v. Educators Mut. Life Ins. Co., 265 N.C. 86, 143 S.E.2d 270 (1965).

Corporation May Adopt Seal for Special Occasion. - If a corporation adopts a seal different from its corporate seal for a special occasion, or if it has no corporate seal, the seal adopted is the corporate seal for the time and the occasion. Security Nat'l Bank v. Educators Mut. Life Ins. Co., 265 N.C. 86, 143 S.E.2d 270 (1965).

Any Device May Be Used for Seal. - Any device used for the corporate seal will be sufficient, provided it was intended for and used as the seal of the corporation, and had been adopted by proper action of the corporation for that purpose. Bailey v. Hassell, 184 N.C. 450, 115 S.E. 166 (1922).

A corporate seal may consist of anything found upon a paper and which appears to have been put there by due authority or to have been adopted and used by such authority as and for the seal of the corporation. Security Nat'l Bank v. Educators Mut. Life Ins. Co., 265 N.C. 86, 143 S.E.2d 270 (1965).

The simple word "seal" with a scroll adopted as the seal of a corporation and used by it on a deed to its lands according to resolutions of the stockholders and directors thereof at separate meetings held for the purpose, when all were present, is sufficient. Bailey v. Hassell, 184 N.C. 450, 115 S.E. 166 (1922).

Burden of Proof as to Seal on Contract and Statute of Limitations. - The burden was upon plaintiffs to prove that the action accrued within the time limited by G.S. 1-47, by showing that the company adopted the seal appearing on the contract for the special occasion or for all similar occasions, or that such seal became the seal of the corporation by reason of some other rule of law, or that the regular corporate seal was impressed or attached to the original of the contract, or that there were facts and circumstances which excluded the operation of the 3-year statute, G.S. 1-52, other than the matter of a seal. Security Nat'l Bank v. Educators Mut. Life Ins. Co., 265 N.C. 86, 143 S.E.2d 270 (1965).


§ 55-3-03. Emergency powers.

  1. In anticipation of or during an emergency defined in subsection (d), the board of directors of a corporation may:
    1. Modify lines of succession to accommodate the incapacity of any director, officer, employee, or agent; and
    2. Relocate the principal office, designate alternative principal offices or regional offices, or authorize the officers to do so.
  2. During an emergency defined in subsection (d), unless emergency bylaws provide otherwise:
    1. Notice of a meeting of the board of directors need be given only to those directors whom it is practicable to reach and may be given in any practicable manner, including by publication and radio; and
    2. One or more officers of the corporation present at a meeting of the board of directors may be deemed to be directors for the meeting, in order of rank and within the same rank in order of seniority, as necessary to achieve a quorum.
  3. Corporate action taken in good faith during an emergency under this section to further the ordinary business affairs of the corporation binds the corporation and the fact that said action is taken by special procedures may not be used to impose liability on a corporate director, officer, employee, or agent.
  4. An emergency exists for purposes of this section if a quorum of the corporation's directors cannot readily be assembled because of some catastrophic event.

History

(1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 3.03 should be read in conjunction with section 2.07, which authorizes a corporation to adopt emergency or standby bylaws. Section 3.03 grants every corporation limited powers to act in an emergency even though it has failed to enact emergency bylaws under section 2.07.

An "emergency" for purposes of section 3.03 is defined in subsection (d) as any catastrophic event that makes it difficult or impossible to assemble a quorum of directors. In this situation, section 3.03(b) dispenses with or relaxes notice requirements and permits corporate officers to serve as directors in order to achieve a quorum. The section also authorizes the board of directors, either before or during an emergency, to modify lines of succession and relocate the principal business office of the corporation. These actions may be taken only by the board of directors at a meeting at which a quorum is present after giving effect, if necessary, to section 3.03(b).

These minimal provisions, it is believed, should permit a corporation to continue to function in the face of an emergency even if no emergency bylaws have been adopted under section 2.07.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section has no counterpart in prior law. The Model Act was rewritten in subsection (c) to conform to changes made to G.S. 55-2-07(c)(2).


§ 55-3-04. Ultra vires.

  1. Except as provided in subsection (b), the validity of corporate action may not be challenged on the ground that the corporation lacks or lacked power to act.
  2. A corporation's power to act may be challenged:
    1. In a proceeding by a shareholder against the corporation to enjoin the act;
    2. In a proceeding by the corporation, directly, derivatively, or through a receiver, trustee, or other legal representative, against an incumbent or former director, officer, employee, or agent of the corporation; or
    3. In a proceeding by the Attorney General under G.S. 55-14-30.
  3. In a shareholder's proceeding under subsection (b)(1) to enjoin an unauthorized corporate act, the court may enjoin or set aside the act, if equitable and if all affected persons are parties to the proceeding, and may award damages for loss (other than anticipated profits) suffered by the corporation or another party because of enjoining the unauthorized act.

History

(Code, ss. 607, 686; 1901, c. 2, s. 107; Rev., s. 1197; C.S., s. 1143; G.S., 55-47; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

The basic purpose of section 3.04 - as has been the purpose of all similar statutes during the 20th century - is to eliminate all vestiges of the doctrine of inherent incapacity of corporations. See Campbell, "The Model Business Corporation Act," 11-4 BUS. LAW. 98, 102 (1956). Under this section it is unnecessary for persons dealing with a corporation to inquire into limitations on its purposes or powers that may appear in its articles of incorporation. A person who is unaware of these limitations when dealing with the corporation is not bound by them. The phrase in section 3.04(a) that the "validity of corporate action may not be challenged on the ground that the corporation lacks or lacked power to act" applies equally to the use of the doctrine as a sword or as a shield: a third person may no more avoid an undesired contract with a corporation on the ground the corporation was without authority to make the contract than a corporation may defend a suit on a contract on the ground that the contract is ultra vires.

The language of section 3.04 extends beyond contracts and conveyances of property; "corporate action" of any kind cannot be challenged on the ground of ultra vires. For this reason it makes no difference whether a limitation in articles of incorporation is considered to be a limitation on a purpose or a limitation on a power; both are equally subject to section 3.04. Corporate action also includes inaction or refusal to act. The common law of ultra vires distinguished between executory contracts, partially executed contracts, and fully executed ones; section 3.04 treats all corporate action the same - except to the extent described in section 3.04(b) - and the same rules apply to all contracts no matter at what stage of performance.

Section 3.04, however, does not validate corporate conduct that is made illegal or unlawful by statute or common law decision. This conduct is subject to whatever sanction, criminal or civil, that is provided by the statute or decision. Whether or not illegal corporate conduct is voidable or rescindable depends on the applicable statute or substantive law and is not affected by section 3.04.

Section 3.04 also does not address the validity of essentially intra vires conduct that is not approved by appropriate corporate action. It does not deal, for example, with the enforceability of an executory contract to sell substantially all the assets of a corporation not in the ordinary course of business that was not approved by the shareholders as required by section 12.02. This type of transaction is not beyond the purposes or powers of the corporation; it simply has not been approved by the corporate authorities as required by law. Similarly, section 3.04 does not deal with whether a corporation is bound by the action of a corporate agent if the action requires, but has not received, approval by the board of directors. Whether or not the corporation is bound by this action depends on the law of agency, particularly the scope of apparent authority and whether the third person knew or should have known of the defect in the corporate approval process. These actions may be ultra vires with respect to the agent's authority but they are not ultra vires with respect to the corporation and are not controlled by section 3.04.

Similarly, corporate action is not ultra vires under section 3.04 merely because it constitutes a breach of fiduciary duty. For example, a misuse of corporate assets for personal purposes by an officer or director is a breach of fiduciary duty and may be enjoined. Similarly, in some circumstances a lien on corporate assets and a contract entered into by the corporation may be cancelled or enjoined if they constitute breaches of fiduciary duty and the third person is charged with knowledge that they were improper. These transactions, however, are not ultra vires with respect to the corporation, and cannot be attacked under section 3.04. They may be enjoined because of breach of the fiduciary duty, not because the transaction exceeds the powers or purposes of the corporation.

Section 3.04(b), like the prior Model Act provisions, permits challenges to the corporation's lack of power in three limited classes of cases:

  1. In suits by the attorney general under section 14.30. This provision does not answer the question whether or not a corporation may be dissolved or enjoined by the attorney general for committing an ultra vires act; it simply preserves the power of the state to assert that certain corporate action was ultra vires.
  2. In a suit by the corporation, either directly or through a legal representative, against incumbent or former officers or directors for authorizing or causing the corporation to engage in an ultra vires act. Again, this section does not address whether or not there is liability for causing the corporation to enter into an ultra vires act; it simply preserves the power of the corporation to assert that certain corporate action was ultra vires.
  3. In a suit by a shareholder against the corporation to enjoin an ultra vires act. This suit, however, is subject to the requirements of section 3.04(c). Under this subsection an ultra vires act may be enjoyed only if all "affected parties" are parties to the suit. The requirement that the action be "equitable" generally means that only third persons dealing with a corporation while specifically aware that the corporation's action was ultra vires will be enjoined. The general phrase "if equitable" was retained because of the possibility that other circumstances may exist in which it may be equitable to refuse to enforce an ultra vires contract. Further, if enforcement of the contract is enjoined, either the third person or the corporation may in the discretion of the court be awarded damages from the other for loss (excluding anticipated profits).

Section 3.04(c) thus authorizes a court to enjoin or set aside an ultra vires act or grant other relief that may be necessary to protect the interests of all affected persons, including the interests of third persons who deal with the corporation.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section contains no change of substance from former G.S. 55-18 except that the new section applies only to North Carolina corporations whereas the prior statute purported to apply to foreign corporations as well.

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - The cases below were decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955 or under prior law.

Doctrine of ultra vires has been very much modified, and many contracts made in the course of business, especially when executed and benefits are received or liabilities are incurred, will be upheld and enforced which were once declared absolutely void. Hutchins v. Bank, 128 N.C. 72, 38 S.E. 252 (1901).

The doctrine of ultra vires has been curtailed to a considerable degree. Piedmont Aviation, Inc. v. S & W Motor Lines, 262 N.C. 135, 136 S.E.2d 658 (1964).

Question whether acts are ultra vires is a conclusion of law to be drawn from the facts stated. Spencer v. Seaboard Air Line Ry., 137 N.C. 107, 49 S.E. 96 (1904).

State May Enjoin Threatened Ultra Vires Act. - Modification of the doctrine does not involve the right in an appropriate case of the State to enjoin a threatened ultra vires act. Victor v. Louise Cotton Mills, 148 N.C. 107, 61 S.E. 648 (1908).

Stockholder May Bring Action. - If an act of a corporation is ultra vires, any one or more stockholders may by some appropriate method call it in question, and, unless barred by having consented to or acquiesced in it, have relief. Victor v. Louise Cotton Mills, 148 N.C. 107, 61 S.E. 648 (1908); Lutterloh v. City of Fayetteville, 149 N.C. 65, 62 S.E. 758 (1908).


§ 55-3-05. Exercise of corporate franchises not granted.

The Attorney General may upon his own information or upon complaint of a private party bring an action in the name of the State to restrain any person from exercising corporate franchises not granted.

History

(Code, ss. 607, 686; 1901, c. 2, s. 107; Rev., s. 1197; C.S., s. 1143; G.S., s. 55-47(2); 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section brings forward former G.S. 55-10.

ARTICLE 4. Name.

§ 55-4-01: Transferred to G.S. 55D-20 through 55D-27 by Session Laws 2001-358, ss. 14(a) and 14(b).



ARTICLE 5. Office and Agent.

Sec.

§ 55-5-01. Registered office and registered agent.

Each corporation must maintain a registered office and registered agent as required by Article 4 of Chapter 55D of the General Statutes and is subject to service on the Secretary of State under that Article.

History

(1901, c. 5; Rev., s. 1243; C.S., s. 1137; 1937, c. 133, ss. 1-3; G.S., ss. 55-38, 55-39; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1957, c. 979, s. 17; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2000-140, s. 101(a); 2001-358, ss. 44, 47(a); 2001-387, ss. 173, 175(a); 2001-413, s. 6.)

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2001-358, s. 52, authorizes the Revisor of Statutes to transfer, as historical annotations, the Official Comments and the North Carolina Comments to those portions of Chapter 55 of the General Statutes that are recodified by this act to the corresponding locations in Chapter 55D of the General Statutes, as the Revisor deems appropriate. Pursuant to this authority, the Official Comments and the North Carolina Commentary formerly located at this section have been transferred to G.S. 55D-30.

Session Laws 2001-358, s. 53, provided that the act, which amended this section, was effective October 1, 2001, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date. Section 173 of Session Laws 2001-387 changed the effective date of Session Laws 2001-358 from October 1, 2001, to January 1, 2002. Section 6 of Session Laws 2001-413, effective September 14, 2001, added a sentence to s. 175(a) of Session Laws 2001-387, making s. 173 of that act effective when it became law (August 26, 2001). As a result of these changes, the amendment by Session Laws 2001-358 is effective January 1, 2002, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date.

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2001-358, s. 47(a), effective January 1, 2002, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date, rewrote the section.

Legal Periodicals. - For article, "The Creation of North Carolina's Limited Liability Corporation Act," see 32 Wake Forest L. Rev. 179 (1997).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - The case below was decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955.

The listing of an agent for corporate service of process is not a voluntary action, subject to the discretion of the corporation. This listing is legislatively mandated. South Carolina Ins. Co. v. Hallmark Enters., Inc., 88 N.C. App. 642, 364 S.E.2d 678, cert. denied, 322 N.C. 482, 370 S.E.2d 228 (1988), (decided under prior law).

Failure to Notify Insurer of Suit Where Corporation Without Agent Received No Notice Thereof. - Corporation could not rely on its violation of former G.S. 55-13 to justify its failure to receive notice of suit. Consequently, it did not give notice of suit to its insurer at the time it was reasonably expected to receive actual notice thereof, thus failing to notify insurer as soon as practicable. South Carolina Ins. Co. v. Hallmark Enters., Inc., 88 N.C. App. 642, 364 S.E.2d 678, cert. denied, 322 N.C. 482, 370 S.E.2d 228 (1988), (decided under prior law).


§ 55-5-02: Transferred to G.S. 55D-31 through 55D-33 by Session Laws 2001-358, s. 44.



ARTICLE 6. Shares and Distribution.

Part 1. Shares.

Sec.

Part 2. Issuance of Shares.

Part 3. Subsequent Acquisition of Shares by Shareholders and Corporation.

Part 4. Distributions.

PART 1. SHARES.

§ 55-6-01. Authorized shares.

  1. The articles of incorporation must prescribe the classes of shares and the number of shares of each class that the corporation is authorized to issue. If more than one class of shares is authorized, the articles of incorporation must prescribe a distinguishing designation for each class, and, prior to the issuance of shares of a class, the preferences, limitations, and relative rights of that class must be described in the articles of incorporation. All shares of a class must have preferences, limitations, and relative rights identical with those of other shares of the same class unless the articles of incorporation divide a class into series. If a class is divided into series, all the shares of any one series must have preferences, limitations, and relative rights identical with those of other shares of the same series. The requirement of identical rights within a class shall not be construed to conflict with any special voting rights specified elsewhere in this Chapter.
  2. Each series of a class must be given a distinguishing designation.
  3. The articles of incorporation must authorize
    1. One or more classes of shares that together have unlimited voting rights, and
    2. One or more classes of shares (which may be the same class or classes as those with voting rights) that together are entitled to receive the net assets of the corporation upon dissolution.
  4. The articles of incorporation may authorize one or more classes or series within a class of shares that:
    1. Have special, conditional, or limited voting rights, or no right to vote, except to the extent prohibited by this Chapter;
    2. Are redeemable or convertible as specified in the articles of incorporation (i) at the option of the corporation, the shareholder, or another person or upon the occurrence of a designated event; (ii) for cash, indebtedness, securities, or other property; (iii) in a designated amount or in an amount determined in accordance with a designated formula or by reference to extrinsic data or events;
    3. Entitle the holders to distributions calculated in any manner, including dividends that may be cumulative, noncumulative, or partially cumulative;
    4. Have preference over any other class or series within a class of shares with respect to distributions, including dividends and distributions upon the dissolution of the corporation.
    5. Notwithstanding the provisions of (d)(3) and (4) of this section, noncumulative preferred shares of a class or series within a class out of which shares were initially issued after June 30, 1957, and before October 1, 1969, shall be entitled to a dividend credit, as defined in this Chapter, and until such dividend credit is fully discharged no dividend shall be paid to any shares that are subordinate to such preferred shares as to dividends.
  5. The description of the designations, preferences, limitations, and relative rights in subsection (d) is not exhaustive.

History

(1901, c. 2, s. 19; 1903, c. 660, ss. 2, 3; Rev., s. 1159; C.S., s. 1156; 1921, c. 116, s. 1; 1923, c. 155; C.S., s. 1167(a); 1925, c. 118, ss. 2, 2a; c. 262, s. 1; 1939, c. 199; 1949, c. 929; G.S., ss. 55-61, 55-73; 1953, c. 822, ss. 1, 3; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1969, c. 751, ss. 15-17; 1985, c. 117, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 6.01 adopts a new terminology from that traditionally used in corporation statutes to describe classes of shares that may be created, but makes only limited substantive changes from earlier versions of the Model Act. Traditional corporation statutes work from a perceived inheritance of concepts of "common shares" and "preferred shares" that at one time may have had considerable meaning but that today often do not involve significant distinctions. It is possible under modern corporation statutes to create classes of "common" shares that have important preferential rights and classes of "preferred" shares that are subordinate in all important economic aspects or that are indistinguishable from common shares in either voting rights or entitlement to participate in the assets of the corporation upon dissolution. The revised Model Act breaks away from the inherited concepts of "common" and "preferred" shares and develops more general language to reflect the actual flexibility in the creation of classes of shares that exists in modern corporate practice. The words "common shares" or "preferred shares" are no longer used in the revised Model Act, though the words appear in a few instances in examples appearing in the Official Comment.

  1. Section 6.01(a)
  2. Section 6.01(b)
  3. Section 6.01(c)
    1. In general
    2. Voting of shares
    3. Redemption of shares
    4. Convertibility of shares

Section 6.01(a) requires that the articles of incorporation prescribe the classes of shares and the number of shares of each class that the corporation is authorized to issue. If the articles authorize the issue of only one class of shares, no designation or description of the shares is required, it being understood that these shares have both the power to vote and the power to receive the net assets of the corporation upon dissolution. See section 6.01(b). Shares with both of these characteristics are usually referred to as "common shares" or "common stock," but no specific designation is required by the Model Act.

If more than one class of shares is authorized, the preferences, limitations, and relative rights of each class of shares must be described in the articles of incorporation before any shares of that class are issued, or the board of directors may be given authority to establish them under section 6.02. These descriptions constitute the "contract" of the holders of those classes of shares with respect to their interest in the corporation and must be set forth in sufficient detail reasonably to define their interest. The designations, preferences, limitations, and relative rights of shares with one or more special or preferential rights which may be authorized are further described in section 6.01(c).

If more than one class is authorized (or if only one class is originally authorized but at some future time one or more other classes of shares are added by amendment), the preferences, limitations, and relative rights of each class or classes of shares, including the class or classes that possess the fundamental characteristics of voting and residual equity financial interests, must be described before shares of those classes are issued. If both fundamental characteristics are placed exclusively in a single class of shares, that class may be described simply as "common shares" or by statements such as the "shares have general distribution and voting rights," the "shares have all the rights of common shares," or the "shares have all rights not granted to the class A shares."

If the articles of incorporation create classes of shares that divide these fundamental rights among two or more classes of shares, it is necessary that the rights be clearly allocated among the classes. Specificity is required only to the extent necessary to differentiate the relative rights of the respective classes. For example, where one class has a liquidation preference over another, it is necessary to specify only the preferential liquidation right of that class; in the absence of a contrary provision in the articles, the remaining class would be entitled to receive the net assets remaining after the liquidation preference has been satisfied.

More than one class of shares may be designated as "common shares;" however, each must have a "distinguishing designation" under section 6.01(a), e.g., "nonvoting common shares" or "class A common shares," and the rights of the classes must be described. For example, if a corporation authorizes two classes of shares with equal rights to share in all distributions and with identical voting rights except that one class is entitled exclusively to elect one director and the second class is entitled exclusively to elect a second director, the two classes may be designated, e.g., as "Class A common" and "Class B common," and described, e.g., as "a class of common shares with the right to elect one director." What is required is language that makes the location of these rights clear.

Rather than describing the terms of each class of shares in the articles of incorporation, the corporation may delegate to the board of directors under section 6.02 the power to establish the terms of a class of shares (or of a series within a class of shares (if no shares of that class (or series) have previously been issued. Those terms, however, must be set forth in an amendment to the articles of incorporation before the shares are issued.

Section 6.01(b) requires that every corporation authorize one or more classes of shares that have the two fundamental characteristics of having unlimited voting rights and the right to receive the net assets of the corporation upon its dissolution. These two fundamental characteristics need not be placed in a single class of shares but may be divided as desired. It is nevertheless essential that the corporation always have authorized shares with these two characteristics, and section 6.03 requires that shares having in the aggregate these characteristics always be outstanding.

Section 6.01(b) ensures that there is always in existence one or more classes of shareholders who share in the ultimate residual interest in the corporation and who are entitled to elect a board of directors and make other fundamental decisions with respect to the corporation.

Section 6.01(c) lists the principal features that are customarily incorporated into classes of shares. Section 6.01(d) makes clear that this listing is not exhaustive.

Section 6.01(c) authorizes creation of classes of shares with limited or residual rights without significant limitation. In earlier versions of the Model Act and in the statutes of many states, certain types of rights or privileges are not permitted. Many such statutes, for example, prohibit the creation of a class of voting shares without preferential financial rights that is callable at the discretion of the corporation ("callable common shares"). Another common prohibition is against shares that have the power to be converted at the option of the shareholder into other classes of shares that have preferential financial rights, or into debt securities of the corporation ("upstream" conversion privileges). For the reasons set forth below, these restrictions are not preserved in the revised Model Act.

Any class of shares may be granted multiple or fractional votes per share without limitation. See section 7.21. Shares of any class may also be made nonvoting "except to the extent prohibited by this Act." This "except" clause refers to the provisions in the Model Act that permit shares that are designated to be nonvoting to vote as separate voting groups on amendments to articles of incorporation and other organic changes in the corporation that directly affect that class (sections 7.26 and 10.04). In addition, shares may be given voting rights that are limited or conditional (e.g., on the passing of a specified number of dividends). Section 6.01(b), however, requires that there always be one or more classes of shares that together have unlimited voting rights.

Section 6.01(c)(2) permits classes of shares to be made redeemable on the terms set forth in the articles of incorporation. Under this section, shares may be made "redeemable" at the option of the holder, the corporation, or another person; shares redeemable at the option of the corporation are sometimes called "callable shares," while shares redeemable at the option of the shareholder are sometimes described as involving a "put." The Model Act permits either type of redemption for any class of shares and thereby permits the creation of redeemable or callable shares without limitation (subject only to the provisos that the class or classes of shares described in section 6.01(b) must always exist and that at least one share of each class with those rights or powers must be outstanding under section 6.03).

Earlier versions of the Model Act and the statutes of many states contain a direct or indirect prohibition against callable voting shares or callable common shares. Even where such a prohibition exists, however, the same effect can be obtained by the use of consensual share transfer restrictions (see section 6.27). If it is possible to create what is essentially a callable voting share by agreement, there is no reason why such provisions should not be built directly and publicly into the capital structure of the corporation if that is desired.

The recognition of a redemption that is a "put" exercisable by the holders of the shares (or a third person such as holders of other classes of shares) is also new to the Model Act and is not permitted in many states. However, consensual share transfer restrictions may create a right that is indistinguishable from such a right of redemption, and a right of redemption is expressly recognized by many states in connection with certain specialized classes of corporations such as open-end investment companies. As described below, if a right of redemption is recognized, prohibitions in earlier versions of the Model Act and many state statutes against "upstream" conversions serve no purpose.

The amount to be paid upon the redemption of shares under section 6.01(c)(2) may be fixed in the articles of incorporation or "determined in accordance with a designated formula or by reference to extrinsic data or events." The reference to "extrinsic data or events" is intended to permit the redemption price to be established on the basis of matters external to the corporation, such as the purchase price of other shares, the level of the prime rate, the effective interest rate at which the corporation may obtain short- or long-term financing, the consumer price index or a designated currency ratio. While a designated price formula or references must be set out in the articles of incorporation, the board of directors may be given limited authority to implement the provisions.

All redemptions of shares are subject to the restrictions on distributions set forth in section 6.40. See section 6.03(b).

Section 6.01(c)(2) also permits shares of any class to be made convertible into shares of any other class or into cash, indebtedness, securities, or other property of the corporation or another person.

As described above, earlier versions of the Model Act and the statutes of many states prohibit so-called "upstream" conversions, that is, shares convertible into debt securities or into a class of shares having prior or superior preference rights. See, e.g., N.Y. BUS. CORP. LAW ANN. § 519(a)(1) (McKinney 1963). This restriction was eliminated from the Model Act since it was recognized that the power to make shares redeemable at the option of the shareholder for cash (see section 6.01(c)(2)(ii)) should logically permit the shares to be redeemable or convertible at the option of the shareholder into other shares with senior preferential rights. Creditors of the corporation and holders of shares with preferential rights are less seriously affected by a conversion of shares into debt or into shares with preferential rights than they would be by the redemption of the shares for money, which is permitted by the revised Model Act, subject to the limitations of section 6.40. Shares made "redeemable" for debt under section 6.01(c)(2)(ii), achieve the same effect as a right to "convert" shares into debt securities.

4. Examples of classes of shares permitted by section 6.01

Section 6.01 authorizes the creation of new or innovative classes of shares without limitation or restriction. The section is basically enabling rather than restrictive since corporations often find it necessary to create new and innovative classes of shares for a variety of reasons, and with the disclosure of the terms of the new classes in the articles of incorporation that are a matter of public record there is no reason to restrict the power to create these classes. Innovative classes of shares may be created in connection with raising debt or equity capital. Securities with novel provisions are often created to meet perceived corporate needs in specific circumstances or because of financial problems generated by market conditions for capital. Novel classes of shares may also be created in order to effectuate desired control relationships among the participants in a venture. Classes of shares are likely to be used for this purpose in closely held corporations, whether or not statutory close corporation status is elected, but may also be used for this purpose by publicly held corporations.

Examples of innovative classes of shares are the following:

  1. Shares of one class may be authorized to elect a specified number of directors while shares of a second class may be authorized to elect the same or a different number of directors.
  2. Shares of one class may be entitled to vote as a separate voting group on certain transactions, but shares of two or more classes may be only entitled to vote together as a single voting group on the election of directors and other matters.
  3. Shares of one class may be nonvoting or may be given multiple or fractional votes per share.
  4. Shares of one class may be entitled to different dividend rights or rights on dissolution than shares of another class.

These examples are intended to be illustrative only and not to exhaust the variations permissible under the Model Act.

A corporation has power to issue debt securities under section 3.02(7). Although section 6.01 authorizes the creation of interests that usually will be classed as "equity" rather than "debt," it is permissible to create classes of securities under section 6.01 that have some of the characteristics of debt securities. These securities are often referred to as "hybrid securities." Section 6.01 of the Model Act does not limit the development of hybrid securities, and equity securities may be created under the Model Act that embody any characteristics of debt that may be desired. Unlike some state statutes, however, the Model Act restricts the power to vote to securities classed as "shares" in the articles of incorporation.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The Model Act was modified in this section to deal only with the kind of shares that are authorized and, in G.S. 55-6-02, to deal only with blank shares where the board of directors fixes or determines the terms of a series within a class of shares. The Model Act blends these provisions by providing the authority to issue a series within a class in section 6.02 instead of section 6.01. Subsection (a) of this section incorporates subsection (b) of section 6.02 of the Model Act, slightly modified for clarity, while subsection (c) of section 6.02 was incorporated as subsection (b) of this section.

The last sentence of subsection (a) was added to dispel any possible conflict between this section and Article 9.

Former G.S. 55-40(c), relating to dividend credits, was brought forward as subdivision (d)(5), to continue providing for the permanent grandfathering of dividend credits.

Other minor modifications to the Model Act's language were made for clarification.

Cross References. - As to rights of holders of debt securities, see G.S. 55-7-21.1.

Legal Periodicals. - For article, "The Creation of North Carolina's Limited Liability Corporation Act," see 32 Wake Forest L. Rev. 179 (1997).

For article on the evolution of corporate combination law, see 76 N.C.L. Rev. 687 (1998).

For article, "The Power to Issue Stock," see 46 Wake Forest L. Rev. 701 (2011).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - Some of the cases below were decided under prior law.

Preferred stock forms a part of the capital stock of the corporation, entitling the holders to all rights of the stockholder subject to the terms and conditions on which their stock was issued. Kistler v. Caldwell Cotton Mills Co., 205 N.C. 809, 172 S.E. 373 (1934).

Preferred stockholder is not a creditor of the corporation, and must be confined to his rights as a stockholder. Weaver Power Co. v. Elk Mt. Mill Co., 154 N.C. 76, 69 S.E. 747 (1910).

Priorities of preferred stock are always subject to the rights of creditors. So an attempt of the corporation to give the preferred stockholders a lien upon its realty in the nature of a mortgage or deed of trust under the provisions of its charter is ineffectual as to the prior rights of creditors. Ellington v. Raleigh Bldg. Supply Co., 196 N.C. 784, 147 S.E. 307 (1929).

Voting Rights Not to Be Restricted. - When a corporation through its articles has authorized only one class of stock, any provision in the articles of incorporation that serves to restrict the voting rights of its shareholders is void as violative of subsection (c). Byrd v. Raleigh Golf Ass'n, 123 N.C. App. 272, 472 S.E.2d 395 (1996).

Provisions in defendant's articles of incorporation were void to the extent that they purported to condition each shareholder's right to vote upon the payment of annual dues. Byrd v. Raleigh Golf Ass'n, 123 N.C. App. 272, 472 S.E.2d 395 (1996).

Applied in Ehrenhaus v. Baker, 216 N.C. App. 59, 717 S.E.2d 9 (2011).

Cited in Green v. Freeman, 367 N.C. 136, 749 S.E.2d 262 (2013).


§ 55-6-02. Terms of class or series determined by board of directors.

  1. If the articles of incorporation so provide, the board of directors may determine, in whole or part, the preferences, limitations, and relative rights (within the limits set forth in G.S. 55-6-01) of (1) any class of shares before the issuance of any shares of that class or (2) one or more series within a class before the issuance of any shares of that series.
  2. Before issuing any shares of a class or series created under this section, the corporation must deliver to the Secretary of State for filing articles of amendment, which are effective without shareholder action, that set forth:
    1. The name of the corporation;
    2. The text of the amendment determining the terms of the class or series of shares;
    3. The date it was adopted; and
    4. A statement that the amendment was duly adopted by the board of directors.

History

(1901, c. 2, s. 19; 1903, c. 660, ss. 2, 3; Rev., s. 1159; C.S., s. 1156; 1923, c. 155; 1925, c. 118, ss. 2, 2a; 1939, c. 199; G.S., s. 55-61; 1953, c. 822, s. 1; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 6.02 permits the board of directors, if authority to do so is contained in the articles, to fix the terms of a class of shares to meet corporate needs, including current requirements of the securities market or the exigencies of negotiations for acquisition of other corporations or properties, without the necessity of holding a shareholders' meeting to amend the articles. This section therefore permits prompt action and gives desirable flexibility. The articles of incorporation may also create "series" of shares within a class (rather than designating that "series" as a separate class) if that is deemed desirable.

The board of directors may create new series within a class or set the terms of a class or series only if there are no outstanding shares of that class or series. This section recognizes that in some contexts there is no substantive difference between a "class" and a "series within a class," and that the labels are often a matter of convenience. In appropriate circumstances, a series may be treated as a class of shares that has one or both of the fundamental characteristics described in section 6.01(b).

Shares of stock to be issued in different classes or series that vary in terms to be set by the board of directors are sometimes referred to as "blank stock." The granting of the power to vary the terms gives the board of directors broad power to affect the capital structure of the corporation. Exercise of this power may in some circumstances dilute the interest of existing shareholders. But on balance it is desirable to permit this flexibility.

The power to vary the terms of "blank stock" for series of the same class extends to all the permitted variables set forth in section 6.01(c).

Subsection (e) requires a simple official filing to amend the articles so there will be a public record of the class or series the corporation intends to issue. The amendment may be made without shareholder action. See section 10.02.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

Subsection (a) is identical to the Model Act's subsection 6.02(a), and subsection (b) is the same as the Model Act's subsection 6.02(d). As explained in the North Carolina Comment to G.S. 55-6-01, subsections (b) and (c) of the Model Act's section 6.02 were incorporated into G.S. 55-6-01 rather than this section.


§ 55-6-03. Issued and outstanding shares.

  1. A corporation may issue the number of shares of each class or series authorized by the articles of incorporation. Shares that are issued are outstanding shares until they are reacquired, redeemed, converted, or cancelled.
  2. The reacquisition, redemption, or conversion of outstanding shares is subject to the limitations of subsection (c) of this section and to G.S. 55-6-40.
  3. At all times that shares of the corporation are outstanding, there must be outstanding one or more shares that together have unlimited voting rights and one or more shares that together are entitled to receive the net assets of the corporation upon dissolution.

History

(1901, c. 2, s. 19; 1903, c. 660, ss. 2, 3; Rev., s. 1159; C.S., s. 1156; 1921, c. 116, s. 1; 1923, c. 155; C.S., s. 1167(a); 1925, c. 118, ss. 2, 2a; c. 262, s. 1; 1939, c. 199; 1949, c. 929; G.S., ss. 55-61, 55-73; 1953, c. 822, ss. 1, 3; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1969, c. 751, ss. 15-17; 1985, c. 117, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 6.03 permits the corporation to issue shares up to the number of shares authorized in the articles of incorporation and provides that shares that are issued are outstanding shares for purposes of this Act until they are reacquired, redeemed, converted, or cancelled. The determination of the number of shares to be issued is usually made by the board of directors but may be reserved by the articles of incorporation to the shareholders. The only requirements are that no class of shares be overissued and that one or more shares of a class or classes that together have unlimited voting power and one or more shares of a class or classes that together are entitled to the net assets of the corporation upon dissolution at all times must be outstanding.

Shares of any class that are outstanding may be made subject to share transfer restrictions that may result in contractual obligations by the corporation to reacquire shares. The validity of such share transfer restriction is today not open to serious question. See section 6.27. The corporation may also acquire outstanding shares of any class pursuant to a voluntary transaction between the shareholder and the corporation. All contractual or voluntary reacquisitions are subject to the restrictions set forth in subsection (c) of this section and to section 6.40. The corporation may also reacquire shares pursuant to a right of redemption (or an obligation to redeem) established in the articles of incorporation. See section 6.01(c)(2). All such redemptions of shares are also subject to the restrictions of subsection (c) of this section and to section 6.40. Shares of the class or classes described in section 6.01(b) may be reacquired or redeemed by the corporation in any of the foregoing ways to the same extent as shares of any other class, subject, however, to the overriding requirement of section 6.03(c) that at all times at least shares that meet the requirements of section 6.01(b) be outstanding.

The provisions of the revised Model Act are consistent with the specialized class of corporation known as the open-end investment company, which permits unlimited redemptions of shares at net asset value at the request of shareholders. Sections 6.01 and 6.03 permit the classes of shares with voting and dissolution rights to be made redeemable without limitation. The requirement of section 6.03(c) that at least one share be outstanding is also consistent with an unlimited right of redemption since that section only applies while there are shares of stock outstanding. If an open-end investment company or any other corporation should redeem all of its outstanding shares, it should file articles of dissolution under chapter 14 at or before the time the last share is redeemed.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

A minor stylistic change from the Model Act was made in subsection (c).

CASE NOTES

Cited in Green v. Freeman, 367 N.C. 136, 749 S.E.2d 262 (2013).


§ 55-6-04. Fractional shares.

  1. A corporation may:
    1. Issue fractions of a share or pay in money the value of fractions of a share;
    2. Arrange for disposition of fractional shares by the shareholders;
    3. Issue scrip in registered or bearer form entitling the holder to receive a full share upon surrendering enough scrip to equal a full share.
  2. Each certificate representing scrip must be conspicuously labeled "scrip" and must contain the information required by G.S. 55-6-25(b).
  3. The holder of a fractional share is entitled to exercise the rights of a shareholder, including the right to vote, to receive dividends, and to participate in the assets of the corporation upon liquidation. The holder of scrip is not entitled to any of these rights unless the scrip provides for them.
  4. The board of directors may authorize the issuance of scrip subject to any condition considered desirable, including:
    1. That the scrip will become void if not exchanged for full shares before a specified date; and
    2. That the shares for which the scrip is exchangeable may be sold and the proceeds paid to the scripholders.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, s. 20; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Fractional shares may arise from a share dividend that, as applied to a particular holder, does not produce an even multiple of shares; they may also result from fractional stock splits, from reverse splits, and from reclassifications and mergers. Although corporations are authorized to issue fractional shares, which are vested proportionately with the same rights as full shares, the creation of fractional shares often creates administrative difficulties, particularly for voting and dividend purposes.

Section 6.04 authorizes handling fractional shares in various ways, including:

  1. The corporation may issue scrip instead of fractional shares. Scrip confers none of the substantive rights of shareholders, but only authorizes holders to combine scrip certificates in amounts aggregating a full share and then to exchange them for a full share. This aggregation must occur within the time and subject to the conditions set initially by the board of directors and stated in the scrip certificate. Scrip that is not combined and exchanged becomes void. To protect shareholders against forfeiture of their interest, however, it is usually provided that the shares represented by scrip certificates not exchanged by the expiration date are to be sold and the proceeds held, either indefinitely or for a stated period, for the benefit of the scripholders and paid to them on surrender of their scrip certificate.
  2. The corporation may authorize the immediate sale of all fractional share interests, thereby avoiding the expense and delay of scrip and the inconvenience of recognizing fractional shares. While this procedure denies shareholders the benefit of any subsequent rise in the market, it protects them against any subsequent decline and ensures them of recognition based on market values contemporaneous with the transaction. Since these transactions necessarily involve less than one full share for each shareholder, the amount involved in subsequent price changes is usually modest.

Scrip has been widely used in lieu of fractional shares. The New York Stock Exchange, while not requiring the use of any particular method for the settlement of fractional share interests, has established a policy relating to the minimum rights and privileges that scrip issued by registered companies must provide. N.Y.S.E. LISTED COMPANY MANUAL § 703.02(B).

One variation of "going private" transactions to eliminate public shareholders in a corporation largely owned by management interests involves a reverse share split at a ratio that reduces all public shareholders' interest to a fractional share, followed by the reduction of the fractional interests to cash under this section. See "Guidelines on Going Private," 37 BUS. LAW. 313 (1981).

Under this section fractional shares may be certificated or uncertificated. There is no difference in treatment of certificated or uncertificated shares for this purpose. See sections 6.25 and 6.26.

§§ 55-6-05 through 55-6-19: Reserved for future codification purposes.

PART 2. ISSUANCE OF SHARES.

§ 55-6-20. Subscription for shares before incorporation.

  1. A subscription for shares entered into before incorporation is irrevocable for six months unless the subscription agreement provides a longer or shorter period or all the subscribers agree to revocation.
  2. The board of directors may determine the payment terms of subscriptions for shares that were entered into before incorporation, unless the subscription agreement specifies them. A call for payment by the board of directors must be uniform so far as practicable as to all shares of the same class or series, unless the subscription agreement specifies otherwise.
  3. Shares issued pursuant to subscriptions entered into before incorporation are fully paid and nonassessable when the corporation receives the consideration specified in the subscription agreement.
  4. If a subscriber defaults in payment of money or property under a subscription agreement entered into before incorporation, the corporation may collect the amount owed as any other debt. Alternatively, unless the subscription agreement provides otherwise, the corporation may rescind the agreement and may sell the shares if the debt remains unpaid more than 20 days after the corporation sends written demand for payment to the subscriber.
  5. A subscription agreement entered into after incorporation is a contract between the subscriber and the corporation subject to G.S. 55-6-21.

History

(1901, c. 2, ss. 23, 24, 25; Rev., ss. 1169, 1170, 1171; C.S., s. 1165; G.S., s. 55-70; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1969, c. 751, s. 18; 1985, c. 117, s. 2; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Agreements for the purchase of shares to be issued by a corporation are typically referred to as "subscriptions" or "subscription agreements." Section 6.20 deals exclusively with preincorporation subscriptions, that is, subscriptions entered into before the corporation was formed. Preincorporation subscriptions have often been considered to be revocable offers rather than binding contracts. Since the corporation is not in existence, it cannot be a party to the agreement and the consideration established for the shares is not determined by the board of directors. While preincorporation subscriptions entered into simultaneously by several subscribers may be considered a binding contract between or among the subscribers, not all factual situations lend themselves to contractual analysis. Because of the uncertainty of the legal enforceability of these transactions, section 6.20 provides a simple set of legal rules applicable to the enforcement of preincorporation subscriptions by the corporation after its formation. It does not address the extent to which preincorporation subscriptions may constitute a contract between or among subscribers, and other subscribers may enforce whatever contract rights they have without regard to section 6.20.

Section 6.20(a) provides that preincorporation subscriptions are irrevocable for six months unless the subscription agreement provides that they are revocable or that they are irrevocable for some other period. Nevertheless, all the subscribers to shares may agree at any time that a subscriber may withdraw in part from his commitment to subscribe for shares, that a subscriber may revoke his subscription entirely, or that the period of irrevocability may continue for an additional stated period. If the corporation accepts the subscription during the period of irrevocability, the subscription becomes a contract binding on both the subscribers and the corporation. The terms of this contract are set forth in sections 6.20(b) and (d).

Section 6.20(b) provides that after incorporation the board of directors may determine the payment terms of subscriptions but these calls must be uniform so far as practicable as to all shares of the same class or series unless the subscriptions provide otherwise. Section 6.20(d) provides alternative methods of enforcement of preincorporation subscriptions by the corporation. If the consideration for the subscription involves the payment of money or conveyance of property, the corporation may, in the event of nonpayment, collect the amount due as any other debt. Alternatively, unless the subscription agreement provides otherwise, the corporation may rescind the agreement and may resell the shares after 20 days' notice to the subscriber.

Section 6.20(c) provides that shares issued pursuant to preincorporation subscriptions are fully paid and nonassessable when the corporation receives the subscription price. The liability of the subscriber to pay the purchase price is addressed in section 6.22. Section 6.20 does not address the liability of transferees of shares which may be issued before the subscription price is paid for the power of the corporation to cancel for nonpayment shares that have been issued before payment for the full subscription price. Issued shares represented by unpaid subscriptions are subject to cancellation for nonpayment to the same extent as shares issued for promissory notes or shares issued before the consideration therefor is paid. See the Official Comment to sections 6.21 and 6.22.

Post-incorporation subscriptions are contracts between the corporation and the investor by which the corporation agrees to issue shares for a stated consideration and the investor agrees to purchase the shares for that consideration. Post-incorporation subscriptions are simple contracts subject to the power of the board of directors and they may contain any mutually acceptable provisions subject to section 6.21. Section 6.20(e) states, for completeness, that post-incorporation subscriptions are contracts between the corporation and the subscriber subject to section 6.21.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The liquidated damages provision of former G.S. 55-43(i) was not brought forward. Under that provision, it was more disadvantageous for a subscriber to pay some money than to pay no money for shares under a subscription agreement, and the drafters concluded that this result was undesirable.

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - The cases below were decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955 or under prior law.

Purpose. - The purpose of any statute of frauds type of provision, such as former G.S. 55-43, is to prevent fraud by requiring certain important transactions to be evidenced by a writing. Penley v. Penley, 65 N.C. App. 711, 310 S.E.2d 360 (1984), rev'd on other grounds, 314 N.C. 1, 332 S.E.2d 51 (1985).

Physician Held Not an Equitable Stockholder in Professional Association. - Assuming, arguendo, that professional association and physician entered into a binding post-incorporation subscription agreement, under the facts, where physician neither tendered payment within a reasonable time nor demonstrated circumstances excusing such tender, he was not an equitable stockholder in the professional association. Buchele v. Pinehurst Surgical Clinic, 80 N.C. App. 256, 341 S.E.2d 772, aff'd, 318 N.C. 503, 349 S.E.2d 579 (1986).

Former Section Held Inapplicable. - Former G.S. 55-43 did not apply in an action by a former husband against his former wife and her incorporated fast food restaurant franchise for a declaration that he was entitled to an ownership interest. This was not an action in which a defendant was trying to enforce a plaintiff 's promise to take shares in a corporation, but an action in which the plaintiff attempted to enforce the defendant's promise or contract to issue shares to the plaintiff, the number of shares to represent a certain percentage of ownership within the corporation being formed. Penley v. Penley, 314 N.C. 1, 332 S.E.2d 51 (1985).

Conditional Subscription. - A subscription to stock of a corporation may be made on condition that there shall be no liability until the corporation has received actual subscriptions to its capital stock to a specified amount. Alexander v. North Carolina Sav. Bank & Trust Co., 155 N.C. 124, 71 S.E. 69 (1911). See Penniman v. Alexander, 111 N.C. 427, 16 S.E. 408 (1892); Kelly v. Oliver, 113 N.C. 442, 18 S.E. 698 (1893); Queen City Printing & Paper Co. v. McAden, 131 N.C. 178, 42 S.E. 575 (1902).


§ 55-6-21. Issuance of shares.

  1. The powers granted in this section to the board of directors may be reserved to the shareholders by the articles of incorporation. Unless the articles of incorporation or bylaws provide otherwise, the powers granted in this section to the board of directors may be delegated, within limits prescribed by the board of directors, to one or more officers of the corporation who are designated by the board of directors.
  2. The board of directors may authorize shares to be issued for consideration consisting of any tangible or intangible property or benefit to the corporation, including cash, promissory notes, services performed, contracts for services to be performed, or other securities of the corporation.
  3. Before the corporation issues shares, the board of directors must determine that the consideration received or to be received for shares to be issued is adequate. The determination by the board of directors as to the adequacy of consideration is conclusive as to whether the shares are validly issued, fully paid, and nonassessable.
  4. When the corporation receives the consideration for which the board of directors authorized the issuance of shares, the shares issued therefor are fully paid and nonassessable.
  5. The corporation may place in escrow shares issued for a contract for future services or benefits or for a promissory note, or make other arrangements to restrict the transfer of the shares, and may credit distributions in respect of the shares against their purchase price, until the services are performed, the note is paid, or the benefit received. If the services are not performed, the note is not paid, or the benefits are not received, the shares escrowed or restricted and the distributions credited may be cancelled in whole or part.

History

(1901, c. 2, ss. 19, 53, 54; 1903, c. 660, ss. 2, 3; Rev. ss. 1159, 1160, 1161; C.S., ss. 1157, 1158; G.S., ss. 55-62, 55-63; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1957, s. 1039; 1959, c. 1316, ss. 10, 13, 14; 1969, c. 751, s. 20; 1973, c. 469, ss. 15, 45.2; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1024, s. 12.7; 2013-153, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

The financial provisions of the Model Act reflect a modernization of the concepts underlying the capital structure and limitations on distributions of corporations. This process of modernization began with amendments in 1980 to the 1969 Model Act that eliminated the concepts of "par value" and "stated capital," and further modernization occurred in connection with the development of the revised Act in 1984. Practitioners and legal scholars have long recognized that the statutory structure embodying "par value" and "legal capital" concepts is not only complex and confusing but also fails to serve the original purpose of protecting creditors and senior security holders from payments to junior security holders. Indeed, to the extent security holders are led to believe that it provides this protection, these provisions may be affirmatively misleading. The Model Act has therefore eliminated these concepts entirely and substituted a simpler and more flexible structure that provides more realistic protection to these interests. Major aspects of this new structure are:

  1. the provisions relating to the issuance of shares set forth in this and the following sections;
  2. the provisions limiting distributions by corporations set forth in section 6.40 and discussed in the Official Comment to that section; and
  3. the elimination of the concept of treasury shares described in the Official Comment to section 6.31.

Section 6.21 incorporates not only the elimination of the concepts of par value and stated capital from the Model Act in 1980 but also eliminates the earlier rule declaring certain kinds of property ineligible as consideration for shares. The caption of the section, "Issuance of Shares by the Board of Directors," reflects the change in emphasis from imposing restrictions on the issuance of shares to establishing general principles for their issuance. The section replaces two sections captioned, respectively, "Consideration for Shares" (section 18) and "Payment for Shares" (section 19) in the 1969 Model Act.

Since shares need not have a par value, under section 6.21 there is no minimum price at which specific shares must be issued and therefore there can be no "watered stock" liability for issuing shares below an arbitrarily fixed price. The price at which shares are issued is primarily a matter of concern to other shareholders whose interests may be diluted if shares are issued at unreasonably low prices or for overvalued property. This problem of equality of treatment essentially involves honest and fair judgments by directors and cannot be effectively addressed by an arbitrary doctrine establishing a minimum price for shares such as "par value" provided under older statutes.

Section 6.21(b) specifically validates contracts for future services (including promoters' services), promissory notes, or "any tangible or intangible property or benefit to the corporation," as consideration for the present issue of shares. The term "benefit" should be broadly construed to include, for example, a reduction of a liability, a release of a claim, or benefits obtained by a corporation by contribution of its shares to a charitable organization or as a prize in a promotion. In the realities of commercial life, there is sometimes a need for the issuance of shares for contract rights or such intangible property or benefits. And, as a matter of business economics, contracts for future services, promissory notes, and intangible property or benefits often have value that is as real as the value of tangible property or past services, the only types of property that many older statutes permit as consideration for shares. Thus, only business judgment should determine what kind of property should be obtained for shares, and a determination by the directors meeting the requirements of section 8.30 to accept a specific kind of valuable property for shares should be accepted and not circumscribed by artificial or arbitrary rules.

The issuance of some shares for cash and other shares for promissory notes, contracts for past or future services, or for tangible or intangible property or benefits, like the issuance of shares for an inadequate consideration, opens the possibility of dilution of the interests of other shareholders. For example, persons acquiring shares for cash may be unfairly treated if optimistic values are placed on past or future services or intangible benefits being provided by other persons. The problem is particularly acute if the persons providing services, promissory notes, or property or benefits of debatable value are themselves connected with the promoters of the corporation or with its directors. Protection of shareholders against abuse of the power granted to the board of directors to determine that shares should be issued for intangible property or benefits is provided in part by the requirement that the board must act in accordance with the requirements of section 8.30, and, if applicable, section 8.31, in determining that the consideration received for shares is adequate, and in part by the requirement of section 16.21 that the corporation must inform all shareholders annually of all shares issued during the previous year for promissory notes or promises of future services.

Accounting principles are not specified in the Model Act, and the board of directors is not required by the statute to determine the "value" of noncash consideration received by the corporation (as was the case in earlier versions of the Model Act). In many instances, property or benefit received by the corporation will be of uncertain value; if the board of directors determines that the issuance of shares for the property or benefit is an appropriate transaction that protects the shareholders from dilution, that is sufficient under section 6.21. The board of directors does not have to make an explicit "adequacy" determination by formal resolution; that determination may be inferred from a determination to authorize the issuance of shares for a specified consideration.

Section 6.21 also does not require that the board of directors determine the value of the consideration to be entered on the books of the corporation, though the board of directors may do so if it wishes. Of course, a specific value must be placed on the consideration received for the shares for bookkeeping purposes, but bookkeeping details are not the statutory responsibility of the board of directors. The statute also does not require the board of directors to determine the corresponding entry on the right-hand side of the balance sheet under owner's equity to be designated as "stated capital" or be allocated among "stated capital" and other surplus accounts. The corporation, however, may determine that the shareholders' equity accounts should be divided into these traditional categories if it wishes.

The second sentence of section 6.21(c) describes the effect of the determination by the board of directors that consideration is adequacy for the issuance of shares. That determination, without more, is conclusive to the extent that adequacy is relevant to the question whether the shares are validly issued, fully paid, and nonassessable. Section 6.21(c) provides that shares are fully paid and nonassessable when the corporation receives the consideration for which the board of directors authorized their issuance. Whether shares are validly issued may depend on compliance with corporate procedural requirements, such as issuance within the amount authorized in the articles of incorporation or holding a directors' meeting upon proper notice and with a quorum present. The Model Act does not address the remedies that may be available for issuances that are subject to challenge. This somewhat more elaborate clause replaces the provision in earlier versions of the Model Act and many state statutes that the determination by the board of directors of consideration for the issuance of shares was "conclusive in the absence of fraud in the transaction."

Shares issued pursuant to preincorporation subscriptions are governed by section 6.20 and not this section.

The revised Model Act does not address the question whether validly issued shares may thereafter be cancelled on the grounds of fraud or bad faith if the shares are in the hands of the original shareholder or other persons who were aware of the circumstances under which they were issued when they acquired the shares. It also leaves to the Uniform Commercial Code other questions relating to the rights of persons other than the person acquiring the shares from the corporation. See the Official Commercial to section 6.22.

Section 6.21(e) permits the board of directors to determine that shares issued for promissory notes or for contracts for future services or benefits be placed in escrow or their transfer otherwise restricted until the services are performed, the benefits received, or the notes are paid. The section also defines the rights of the corporation with respect to these shares. If the shares are issued without being restricted as provided in this subsection, they are validly issued insofar as the adequacy of consideration is concerned. See section 6.22 and its Official Comment.

Section 6.21(a) provides that the powers granted to the board of directors by this section may be reserved to the shareholders by the articles of incorporation. No negative inference should be drawn from section 6.21(a) with respect to the efficacy of similar provisions under other sections of the Model Act.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

Except for a minor stylistic change, this section is identical to section 6.21 of the Model Act. It differs in three main respects from former G.S. 55-46. First, the provisions of this section do not tie the minimum amount of consideration that must be received upon the issuance of the shares to their par or stated value. Second, the form that such consideration may take has been expanded to include future services and promissory notes, which were prohibited by former G.S. 55-46(b). Third, the board of directors is no longer required to state its determination of the fair value to the corporation of noncash consideration paid for shares; it is required only to determine that the noncash consideration is adequate.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2013-153, s. 15 provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2013-153, s. 1, effective January 1, 2014, added the second sentence in subsection (a).

Legal Periodicals. - For article, "The Power to Issue Stock," see 46 Wake Forest L. Rev. 701 (2011).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - The cases below were decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955 or under prior law.

Purpose Is to Prevent Fraud. - Former G.S. 55-62 was passed in order that stock subscriptions should be protected in their integrity and not become a means of deceiving those who dealt with the corporation. Goodman v. White, 174 N.C. 399, 93 S.E. 906 (1917).

Effect of Charter Provision That Stock Be Issued as Fully Paid. - A provision in the charter of an incorporated company that the capital stock "shall be issued as full-paid stock" does not permit shares of stock to be issued to stockholders without payment in money or its equivalent in property at an honest valuation. Clayton v. Ore Knob Co., 109 N.C. 385, 14 S.E. 36 (1891).

Cash Payment Unnecessary. - It is not essential to a bona fide subscription to stock in a corporation that there be a present payment in cash by the subscriber, or that he be solvent; a subscription is considered bona fide whenever made by one who subscribes in good faith, with reasonable expectation and apparent prospect of being able to pay assessments on his stock as they may thereafter be called for. Boushall v. Myatt, 167 N.C. 328, 83 S.E. 352 (1914).

Burden of Proof as to Value of Property. - The burden of proving that property was taken in payment at its true value, and, further, that such value was approved by a board of directors acting independently in the interest of the corporation, is upon the person who alleges payment. Goodman v. White, 174 N.C. 399, 93 S.E. 906 (1917).

Proceedings Where Property Fraudulently Overvalued. - Although a margin may be allowed for an honest difference of opinion as to value, a valuation grossly excessive, knowingly made, while its acceptance may bind the corporation, is a fraud on creditors, and they may proceed against the stockholders who sell the property individually, as for an unpaid subscription. Hobgood v. Ehlen, 141 N.C. 344, 53 S.E. 857 (1906); Goodman v. White, 174 N.C. 399, 93 S.E. 906 (1917).

Evidence of Fraud. - In an action by the receivers of an insolvent corporation to compel the payment of a subscription to stock issued for property acquired by the corporation for the conduct of the business, evidence tending to show a grossly excessive valuation of the property by the directors, knowingly made, is strong evidence of fraud, and may be conclusive thereof. Whitlock v. Alexander, 160 N.C. 465, 76 S.E. 538 (1912).

Nonsuit Properly Granted Absent Fraud. - The judgment of the board of directors, in fixing the value of property to be accepted in lieu of money, is conclusive in the absence of fraud; and in a suit to recover on a stock subscription, where there is no evidence of fraud, a judgment as of nonsuit is properly granted. Gover v. Malever, 187 N.C. 774, 122 S.E. 841 (1924).

Illegal Transaction by Promoter. - A transaction whereby a promoter borrowed a certain sum and bought a half interest in a company, and let the company that he was promoting take it over as soon as it was incorporated, and pay his note, and also issue to him stock as the consideration, was illegal. Goodman v. White, 174 N.C. 399, 93 S.E. 906 (1917).

The word "rendered" in former statute indicated that the services had to be performed prior to the issuance of the shares; so the requirement that the shares be taken for an agreed price has been satisfied by previous years of work in the business. Penley v. Penley, 65 N.C. App. 711, 310 S.E.2d 360 (1984), rev'd on other grounds, 314 N.C. 1, 332 S.E.2d 51 (1985).

Cancellation of Officer's Shares for Nonpayment of Consideration. - Where the trial court specifically found as fact that officer and director paid no consideration for stock and caused a dilution of the shares of the other shareholders, the trial court properly cancelled his shares. Stone v. Martin, 85 N.C. App. 410, 355 S.E.2d 255, appeal dismissed and cert. denied, 320 N.C. 638, 360 S.E.2d 105 (1987).

Cited in Green v. Freeman, 367 N.C. 136, 749 S.E.2d 262 (2013).


§ 55-6-22. Liability of shareholders.

  1. A purchaser from a corporation of its own shares is not liable to the corporation or its creditors with respect to the shares except to pay the consideration for which the shares were authorized to be issued (G.S. 55-6-21) or specified in the subscription agreement (G.S. 55-6-20).
  2. Unless otherwise provided in the articles of incorporation, a shareholder of a corporation is not personally liable for the acts or debts of the corporation except that he may become personally liable by reason of his own acts or conduct.

History

(1893, c. 471; 1901, c. 2, s. 22; Rev., s. 1162; C.S., s. 1160; G.S., s. 55-65; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1969, c. 751, s. 28; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

With the elimination of the concepts of par value and watered stock in 1980, the sole obligation of a purchaser of shares from the corporation, as set forth in section 6.22(a), is to pay the consideration established by the board of directors (or the consideration specified in the subscription, in the case of pre-incorporation subscriptions). The consideration for the shares may consist of promissory notes, contracts for future services, or tangible or intangible property or benefits, and, if the board of directors so decide, the delivery of the notes, contracts, or accrual of the benefits constitutes full payment for the shares. See the Official Comment to section 6.21. Upon the transfer to the corporation of the consideration so determined or specified, the shareholder has no further responsibility to the corporation or its creditors "with respect to the shares," though the shareholder may have continuing obligations under a contract or promissory note entered into in connection with the acquisition of shares.

Section 6.22(a) deals only with the responsibility for payment by the purchaser of shares from the corporation. The revised Model Act leaves to the Uniform Commercial Code questions with respect to the rights of subsequent purchasers of shares and the power of the corporation to cancel shares if the consideration is not paid when due. See sections 8-202 and 8-301 of the UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE.

Section 6.22(b) sets forth the basic rule of nonliability of shareholders for corporate acts or debts that underlies modern corporation law. Unless such liability is provided for in the articles of incorporation, see section 2.02(b)(v), shareholders are not liable for corporate obligations, though the last clause recognizes that such liability may be assumed voluntarily or by other conduct.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

Former G.S. 55-53, a unique North Carolina provision dealing with "watered shares," has not been brought forward. Its provisions were deemed unnecessary in light of the provisions of G.S. 55-6-21. Former G.S. 55-53 basically codified fundamental legal principles of fiduciary duty that have not been changed by this Act.

Legal Periodicals. - For note on close corporations and personal liability from execution of shareholder agreements, see 16 Wake Forest L. Rev. 975 (1980).

For note discussing the liability of members of a professional corporation, in light of Nelson v. Patrick, 73 N.C. App. 1, 326 S.E.2d 45 (1985), see 64 N.C.L. Rev. 1216 (1986).

For article, "Defining the Scope of Controlling Shareholders' Fiduciary Responsibilities," see 22 Wake Forest L. Rev. 9 (1987).

For article, "Close Corporation Shareholder Reasonable Expectations: The Larger Context," see 22 Wake Forest L. Rev. 41 (1987).

For article, "The Statutory Protection Of Minority Shareholders In The United Kingdom," see 22 Wake Forest L. Rev. 81 (1987).

For article, "Using Alternative Dispute Resolution Techniques To Settle Conflicts Among Shareholders Of Closely Held Corporations," see 22 Wake Forest L. Rev. 105 (1987).

For comment, "North Carolina's Limited Liability Company Act: A Legislative Mandate for Professional Limited Liability," see 29 Wake Forest L. Rev. 857 (1994).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - Some of the cases below were decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955 or under prior law.

Stockholders of an insolvent corporation are liable pro rata for their unpaid subscriptions to an amount necessary to liquidate the corporate debts. McIver v. Young Hdwe. Co., 144 N.C. 478, 57 S.E. 169 (1907); Whitlock v. Alexander, 160 N.C. 465, 76 S.E. 538 (1912); Claypoole v. McIntosh, 182 N.C. 109, 108 S.E. 433 (1921).

Unpaid Balances to Be Collected. - As the capital stock, paid or unpaid, of a corporation is a trust fund for the benefit of creditors, it is the duty of the courts, at the suit of creditors, to require unpaid subscriptions to be collected at least to the extent necessary to pay the unpaid debts of the corporation. Wilson Cotton Mills v. Randleman Cotton Mills, 115 N.C. 475, 20 S.E. 770 (1894).

And Used to Settle Outstanding Claims. - In case of insolvency any unpaid balance may, by proper proceedings, be made available to the extent required for the settlement of outstanding claims. Whitlock v. Alexander, 160 N.C. 465, 76 S.E. 538 (1912).

As to action by corporation to recover amount spent to purchase stock from shareholders, see Park Terrace, Inc. v. Burge, 249 N.C. 308, 106 S.E.2d 478 (1959), discussing right of creditors to require payment of purchase price.

Agreement for Release Ineffective Against Creditors. - No agreement or arrangement between a corporation and its stockholders, whereby the latter are to be released from indebtedness on their subscriptions, will be valid or of any force as against creditors. Marshall Foundry Co. v. Killian, 99 N.C. 501, 6 S.E. 680 (1888); Heggie v. People's Bldg. & Loan Ass'n, 107 N.C. 581, 12 S.E. 275 (1890). See also Gilmore v. Smathers, 167 N.C. 440, 83 S.E. 823 (1914).

Suspension of Corporate Enterprise Does Not Excuse Subscriber. - The mere fact that a proposed corporate enterprise has been suspended affords a subscriber to the capital stock no excuse for not paying his subscription according to his agreement. Raleigh Imp. Co. v. Andrews, 176 N.C. 280, 96 S.E. 1032 (1918), aff'd, 178 N.C. 328, 100 S.E. 514 (1919).

No Defense That Corporation Not Legally Organized. - Where a person has agreed to become a stockholder in a corporation and has enjoyed the benefits and privileges of membership, he cannot, in a suit by the corporation to recover his unpaid subscription, set up as a defense that the corporation was not legally organized. Tar River Nav. Co. v. Neal, 10 N.C. 520 (1825); Elizabeth City Academy v. Lindsey, 28 N.C. 476 (1846); Wilmington, C.R.R.R. v. Thompson, 52 N.C. 387 (1860); Marshall Foundry Co. v. Killian, 99 N.C. 501, 6 S.E. 680 (1888); Wadesboro Cotton Mills Co. v. Burns, 114 N.C. 353, 19 S.E. 238 (1894).

Setoffs Against Unpaid Subscriptions. - In a receiver's action to collect unpaid stock subscriptions, a subscriber cannot set off a debt due him by the corporation, nor can he credit himself with amounts he paid on another subscription. Vaughan-Robertson Drug Co. v. Grimes-Mills Drug Co., 173 N.C. 502, 92 S.E. 376 (1917).

Personal Liability. - Corporation's appeal of the denial of its motion for summary judgment, which argued that the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act precluded an administratrix's negligence claims against it, was dismissed because it could not be determined whether the corporation's liability was inseparable from that of the owner of the asphalt plant where a decedent's died; the administratrix did not allege that the corporation controlled and directed the actions of the owner or the limited liability company (LLC) that was the sole member-manager of the owner and did not make the same claims against the owner or the LLC as she did against the corporation but alleged that the corporation acted negligently out of its own interests, not in its management or conduct of the owner's business, and as sole shareholder in the LLC, the corporation was shielded from liability for the acts of the LLC but not from liability for its own negligent acts or conduct under G.S. 55-6-22(b). Van Dyke v. CMI Terex Corp., 201 N.C. App. 437, 689 S.E.2d 459 (2009).

Shareholders Not Personally Liable for Corporation's Acts. - Third-party plaintiff developer's indemnity complaint against third-party defendant shareholders concerning actions taken by their corporation in arranging for the excavation of a certain ditch failed because, pursuant to G.S. 55-6-22(b), and absent the application of certain exceptions that did not apply to the facts, the shareholders could not be personally liable for the corporation's acts. BNT Co. v. Baker Precythe Dev. Co., 151 N.C. App. 52, 564 S.E.2d 891 (2002), cert. denied, 356 N.C. 159, 569 S.E.2d 283 (2002).

Shareholders in a corporation are insulated from personal liability for acts of the corporation pursuant to G.S. 55-6-22(b). Ron Medlin Constr. v. Harris, 364 N.C. 577, 704 S.E.2d 486 (2010).


§ 55-6-23. Share dividends.

  1. Unless the articles of incorporation provide otherwise, shares may be issued pro rata and without consideration to the corporation's shareholders or to the shareholders of one or more classes or series. An issuance of shares under this subsection is a share dividend.
  2. Shares of one class or series may not be issued as a share dividend in respect of shares of another class or series unless:
    1. The articles of incorporation so authorize,
    2. There are no outstanding shares of the class or series to be issued, or
    3. A majority of the votes entitled to be cast by the class or series to be issued approve the issuance of not more than a stated number of shares within a period of not more than one year after such approval.
  3. If the board of directors does not fix the record date for determining shareholders entitled to a share dividend, it is the date the board of directors authorizes the share dividend.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, ss. 17, 18; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1024, s. 12.8.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

A share dividend is solely a paper transaction: No assets are received by the corporation for the shares and any "dividend" paid in shares does not involve the distribution of property by the corporation to its shareholders. Section 6.23 therefore recognizes that such a transaction involves the issuance of shares "without consideration," and section 1.40(6) excludes it from the definition of a "distribution." Such transactions were treated in a fictional way under the old "par value" and "stated capital" statutes, which treated a share dividend as involving transfers from a surplus account to stated capital and assumed that par value shares could be issued without receiving any consideration by reason of that transfer of surplus.

The par value statutory treatment of share dividend transactions distinguished a share "split" from a dividend. In a share "split" the par value of the former shares was divided among the new shares and there was no transfer of surplus into the stated capital account as in the case of a share "dividend." Since the Model Act has eliminated the concept of par value, the distinction between a "split" and a "dividend" has not been retained and both types of transactions are referred to simply as "share dividends." A distinction between "share dividends" and "share splits," however, continues to exist in other contexts - for example, in connection with transactions by publicly held corporations, see N.Y.S.E. LISTED COMPANY MANUAL § 703.02(a), or corporations that have optionally retained par value for their shares. The change made in the Model Act is not intended to affect the manner in which transactions by these corporations are handled or described but simply reflects the elimination of artificial legal distinctions based on the par value statutes.

A "reversed stock split" is not a share dividend under this section of the Model Act. A reverse split involves an amendment to the articles of incorporation reducing the number of authorized shares, not the issuance of additional shares.

Share dividends may create problems when a corporation has more than a single class of shares. The requirement that a share dividend be "pro rata" only applies to shares of the same class or series; if there are two or more classes entitled to receive a share dividend in different proportions, the dividend will have to be allocated appropriately.

The distribution of shares of one class to holders of another class may dilute the equity of the holders of the first class. Therefore, subsection (b) permits the distribution of shares of one class to the holders of another class only if one or more of the following conditions are met: (1) the articles of incorporation expressly authorize the transaction, (2) the holders of the class being distributed consent to the distribution, or (3) there are no holders of the class being distributed.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section was clarified by rewriting subsection (b) to provide for a more specific authorization and to limit the effectiveness of the authorization to one year, whenever shares of one class or series are to be distributed to the holder of another class or series. This modification to the Model Act carries forward the limitations of former G.S. 55-51(b)(2).

As used in this section and throughout this Act, share dividends and share splits are equivalent.

§ 55-6-24. Rights, options, and warrants.

  1. A corporation may issue rights, options, or warrants for the purchase of shares of the corporation. The board of directors, or officers of the corporation who are designated by the board of directors pursuant to G.S. 55-6-21(a), shall determine the terms upon which the rights, options, or warrants are issued, their form and content, and the consideration for which the shares are to be issued.
  2. In the case of a public corporation, the terms and conditions of such rights, options or warrants may include, without limitation, restrictions or conditions that preclude or limit the exercise, transfer or receipt of such rights, options or warrants by the holder or holders or beneficial owner or owners of a specified number or percentage of the outstanding voting shares of such public corporation or by any transferee of any such holder or owner, or that invalidate or void such rights, options or warrants held by any such holder or owner or by such transferee. Determinations by the board of directors whether to impose, enforce, waive or otherwise render ineffective any such restrictions or conditions may be judicially reviewed in an appropriate proceeding.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, s. 11; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2013-153, s. 2.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

A specific provision authorizing the creation of share options and share rights appears in many states statutes. Even though corporations doubtless have the inherent power to issue share options and share rights, specific authorization is desirable because of the economic importance of options and rights, and because of the need to establish the primacy of the board of directors in determining the consideration received by the corporation for rights and options. The creation of incentive compensation plans for directors, officers, agents, and employees is basically a matter of business judgment and the good faith determination by the board of directors should therefore be conclusive. This is as true for incentive plans that involve the issuance of share options or rights as for those that involve the payment of cash. In appropriate cases incentive plans may involve the granting of options at prices below the current market prices of the shares.

Section 6.24 does not require shareholder approval of share options or rights as incentive plans. Of course, prior shareholder approval may be required as a discretionary matter, in order to comply with the requirements of national security exchanges for the listing of securities, see N.Y.S.E. LISTED COMPANY MANUAL § 309.00, or to acquire the benefits of federal law conditioned upon shareholder approval of such plans, see S.E.C. Rule 16b-3(a), 17 C.F.R. § 240.16b-3(a).

The reference to the "form" of a right, option, or warrant in section 6.24 permits the board of directors to designate the interest issued under section 6.24 as options, warrants, rights, or by some other name, and to evidence these interests by certificates, contracts, letter agreements, or in other forms that are appropriate under the circumstances. Rights, options, or warrants may be issued together with or independently of the corporation's issue and sale of its shares or other securities.

Some publicly held corporations have delegated administration of programs involving incentive compensation in the form of share rights or options to compensation committees composed of nonmanagement directors, subject to the general authority of the board of directors.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

Subsection (a) is identical to section 6.24 of the Model Act and is intended to be very broad in authorizing the creation and issuance of options, convertible securities and rights to acquire shares and other kinds of securities and property. The Model Act's catchline for the section was changed to reflect this broad scope. Unlike former G.S. 55-45(a), the statute itself does not require shareholder approval of any options granted thereunder; but, as noted in the Official Comment, such approval may be required by other rules or regulations.

Subsection (b) contains special provisions that do not appear in either the prior law or the Model Act and are designed to eliminate uncertainty as to the validity of certain rights plans created by companies with a class of securities registered under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Such plans usually contain features that might otherwise be held to violate the letter or intent of the corporate statute as a whole. Specifically, the rights plans typically used as defenses to hostile takeovers (called "poison pills") create purchase or conversion rights that are not exercisable in the hands of a hostile bidder. Without explicit statutory language to the contrary, for example, such a discriminatory feature might be held to violate the requirement of G.S. 55-6-01 that all shares of the same class have the same rights, or the requirement of G.S. 55-6-23(a) that share dividends be issued pro rata. The drafters were of that view that rights plans should not be generally prohibited. Several states, including New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Hawaii, have adopted explicit validating language similar to that included in this section.

The last sentence of subsection (b) was included to make it clear that the broad enabling language of the subsection was not intended to eliminate or limit the directors' duty, under G.S. 55-8-30(a) and otherwise, to act in good faith, with due care and in the best interests of the corporation. Thus, their action in creating and using a "poison pill" as a defensive device would be subject to judicial review in an appropriate proceeding in which the court may formulate or apply appropriate standards to insure that the directors' actions are in the best long-term interests and short-term interests of the corporation and its shareholders considering, without limitation, the prospects for potential growth, development, productivity and profitability of the corporation.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2013-153, s. 15 provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2013-153, s. 2, effective January 1, 2014, added ", or officers of the corporation who are designated by the board of directors pursuant to G.S. 55-6-21(a)," in the second sentence of subsection (a).

Legal Periodicals. - For article, "Competing Interests in the Corporate Opportunity Doctrine," see 67 N.C.L. Rev. 435 (1989).

§ 55-6-25. Form and content of certificates.

  1. Shares may but need not be represented by certificates. Unless this act or another statute expressly provides otherwise, the rights and obligations of shareholders are identical whether or not their shares are represented by certificates.
  2. At a minimum each share certificate must state on its face:
    1. The name of the issuing corporation and that it is organized under the law of North Carolina;
    2. The name of the person to whom issued; and
    3. The number and class of shares and the designation of the series, if any, the certificate represents.
  3. If the issuing corporation is authorized to issue different classes of shares or different series within a class, the designations, relative rights, preferences, and limitations applicable to each class and the variations in rights, preferences, and limitations determined for each series (and the authority of the board of directors to determine variations for future series) must be summarized on the front or back of each certificate. Alternatively, each certificate may state conspicuously on its front or back that the corporation will furnish the shareholder this information in writing and without charge.
  4. Each share certificate (1) must be signed (either manually or in facsimile) by two officers designated in the bylaws or by the board of directors and (2) may bear the corporate seal or its facsimile.
  5. If the person who signed in any capacity (either manually or in facsimile) a share certificate no longer holds office when the certificate is issued, the certificate is nevertheless valid.

History

(1885, c. 265; 1901, c. 2, s. 94; Rev., ss. 1165, 1166; C.S., s. 1162; 1927, c. 173; 1949, c. 809; G.S., s. 55-67; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1979, c. 91; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

This section sets forth the minimum requirements for share certificates. A corporation whose shares are not publicly traded will normally issue certificates that meet these minimum requirements and little more. Securities that are publicly traded, on the other hand, must contain reasonable safeguards against fraudulent duplication; for this reason, regulations by exchanges contain technical requirements relating to design, workmanship, engraving, and printing. Also, exchange requirements may require signatures of a transfer agent and registrar as well as designated corporate officers. All these requirements are in addition to the minimum requirements of the Model Act.

Certificateless shares are permitted under section 6.25(a) upon compliance with section 6.26. Section 6.25(a) makes it clear that there are no differences in the rights and obligations of shareholders, whether or not their shares are represented by certificates, other than mechanical differences, such as the means by which instructions for transfer are communicated to the issuer, necessitated by the use or nonuse of certificates. If share transfer restrictions are imposed, conspicuous references must appear on the certificate if they are to be binding on third persons without knowledge of the restrictions. See section 6.27.

Under section 6.25 all signatures on a share certificate may be facsimiles. This change, which has been adopted recently in several states, gives recognition to the fact that a purchaser of publicly traded shares will hardly ever be in a position to determine whether a manual signature on a stock certificate is in fact the authorized signature of an officer or the transfer agent or registrar. From the standpoint of the issuing corporation of publicly traded securities, if a share certificate requiring a manual signature is stolen and the signature thereafter forged, the corporation may defend on lack of genuineness under section 8-202(3) of the UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE. But this defense is not effective against a bona fide purchaser when the forged signature has been placed on the certificate by an employee of the issuer or registrar or transfer agent entrusted with handling the certificates (UCC § 8-205). It is likely that a corporation would therefore follow the same security precautions for blank certificates requiring manual signatures as for those not requiring them. At the same time, the time and expense required for manual signatures has been eliminated.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section and G.S. 55-6-26 authorize the issuance of uncertificated shares, which is a major change from the former law. Except for the addition of the words "in any capacity" to subsection (e) to make it clear that transfer agents and registrars are covered by the section, the section is identical to section 6.25 of the Model Act. Article 8 of the North Carolina UCC has been amended to add provisions dealing with uncertificated shares.

Cross References. - As to replacement certificates, see G.S. 25-8-405.

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - Some of the cases below were decided under prior law.

Nature of Stock Certificate. - A certificate of stock is simply a written acknowledgment by a corporation of the interest of the holder in its property and franchises. It has no value except that derived from the company issuing it, and its legal status is in the nature of a chose in action. Person v. Board of State Tax Comm'rs, 184 N.C. 499, 115 S.E. 336 (1922).

Evidence of Ownership of Stock. - A certificate for shares is not the stock itself, but constitutes only prima facie evidence of the ownership of that number of shares. Misenheimer v. Alexander, 162 N.C. 226, 78 S.E. 161 (1913).

Issuance of stock certificates is unnecessary to existence of the corporation. Powell Bros. v. McMullan Lumber Co., 153 N.C. 52, 68 S.E. 926 (1910).

Or to confer title to the stockholder. Powell Bros. v. McMullan Lumber Co., 153 N.C. 52, 68 S.E. 926 (1910).

Whether Stock Actually Issued in Consideration for Covenant-Not-To-Compete and Other Agreements. - In a business dispute involving asserted allegations of breach of a covenant-not-to-compete and other claims, a trial court erred by granting defendants summary judgment on the issue of whether there was consideration offered to defendants in exchange for signing the covenant-not-to-compete, confidentiality and non-solicitation agreement, and shareholders' agreement, as a genuine issue of material fact remained as to whether plaintiff actually issued stock shares promised to defendants, such that they constituted valuable consideration to make the covenant-not-to-compete and confidentiality and non-solicitation agreement valid and enforceable. Kinesis Adver., Inc. v. Hill, 187 N.C. App. 1, 652 S.E.2d 284 (2007), review denied, appeal dismissed, 362 N.C. 177, 658 S.E.2d 485 (2008).

Shareholders Without Certificates Could Not Prevail in Action Against Corporation. - Alleged shareholders' claims against a corporation and their stepmother for the sale of corporate property were properly subject to summary judgment. The shareholders could not prevail because they were unable to provide any evidence that certificates were issued to them in compliance with G.S. 55-6-25. Collier v. Collier, 204 N.C. App. 160, 693 S.E.2d 250 (2010).


§ 55-6-26. Shares without certificate.

  1. Unless the articles of incorporation or bylaws provide otherwise, the board of directors of a corporation may authorize the issue of some or all of the shares of any or all of its classes or series without certificates. The authorization does not affect shares already represented by certificates until they are surrendered to the corporation.
  2. Within a reasonable time after the issue or transfer of shares without certificates, the corporation shall send the shareholder a written statement of the information required on certificates by G.S. 55-6-25(b) and (c), and if applicable, G.S. 55-6-27.

History

(1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 6.26(a) authorizes the creation of uncertificated shares either by original issue or in substitution for shares previously represented by certificates. This subsection gives the board of directors the widest discretion so that a particular class and series of shares might be entirely represented by certificates, entirely uncertificated, or represented partly by each. The second sentence ensures that a corporation may not treat as uncertificated, and accordingly transferable on its books without due presentation of a certificate, any shares for which a certificate is outstanding.

The statement required by section 6.26(b) ensures that holders of uncertificated shares will receive from the corporation the same information that the holders of certificates receive when certificates are issued. There is no requirement that this information be delivered to purchasers of uncertificated shares before purchase.

Detailed rules with respect to the issuance, transfer, and registration of both certificated and uncertificated shares appear in article 8 of the UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE. In general terms there are no differences between certificated and uncertificated securities except in matters such as their manner of transfer. See the Official Comment to section 6.25.

CASE NOTES

Whether Stock Actually Issued in Consideration for Covenant-Not-To-Compete and Other Agreements. - In a business dispute involving asserted allegations of breach of a covenant-not-to-compete and other claims, a trial court erred by granting defendants summary judgment on the issue of whether there was consideration offered to defendants in exchange for signing the covenant-not-to-compete, confidentiality and non-solicitation agreement, and shareholders' agreement, as a genuine issue of material fact remained as to whether plaintiff actually issued stock shares promised to defendants, such that they constituted valuable consideration to make the covenant-not-to-compete and confidentiality and non-solicitation agreement valid and enforceable. Kinesis Adver., Inc. v. Hill, 187 N.C. App. 1, 652 S.E.2d 284 (2007), review denied, appeal dismissed, 362 N.C. 177, 658 S.E.2d 485 (2008).

Cited in Collier v. Collier, 204 N.C. App. 160, 693 S.E.2d 250 (2010).


§ 55-6-27. Restriction on transfer of shares and other securities.

  1. The articles of incorporation, bylaws, an agreement among shareholders, or an agreement between shareholders and the corporation may impose restrictions on the transfer or registration of transfer of shares of the corporation. A restriction does not affect shares issued before the restriction was adopted unless the holders of the shares are parties to the restriction agreement or voted in favor of the restriction.
  2. A restriction on the transfer or registration of transfer of shares is valid and enforceable against the holder or a transferee of the holder if the restriction is authorized by this section, it is not unconscionable under the circumstances, and its existence is noted conspicuously on the front or back of the certificate or is contained in the information statement required by G.S. 55-6-26(b). Unless so noted, a restriction is not enforceable except against a person who receives actual written notice of the restrictions.
  3. A restriction on the transfer or registration of transfer of shares is authorized:
    1. To maintain the corporation's status when it is dependent on the number or identity of its shareholders;
    2. To preserve exemptions under federal or state securities law;
    3. For any other reasonable purpose.
  4. A restriction authorized by G.S. 55-6-27(c) may:
    1. Obligate the shareholder first to offer the corporation or other persons (separately, consecutively, or simultaneously) an opportunity to acquire the restricted shares;
    2. Obligate the corporation or other persons (separately, consecutively, or simultaneously) to acquire the restricted shares;
    3. Require the corporation, the holders of any class of its shares, or another person to approve the transfer of the restricted shares, if the requirement is not manifestly unreasonable;
    4. Prohibit the transfer of the restricted shares to designated persons or classes of persons, if the prohibition is not manifestly unreasonable;
    5. Contain any other provision reasonably related to an authorized purpose.
  5. For purposes of this section, "shares" includes a security convertible into or carrying a right to subscribe for or acquire shares.

History

(1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Share transfer restrictions are widely used by both publicly held and closely held corporations for a variety of appropriate purposes. Although most courts have upheld reasonable share transfer restrictions, a few have rigidly followed the common law rule that they constituted restraints on alienation and should be strictly construed. As a result, some cases have invalidated restrictions outright or construed them narrowly so as not to cover specific transfers. By prescribing reasonable rules to govern the use of transfer restrictions, section 6.27 should guide practitioners in their use and encourage a more uniform and favorable judicial reception.

Examples of the uses of share transfer restrictions include:

  1. a close corporation may impose share transfer restrictions to qualify for the close corporation election under the Model Statutory Close Corporation Supplement;
  2. a corporation with relatively few shareholders may impose share transfer restrictions to ensure that current shareholders will be able to control who may participate in the corporation's business;
  3. a corporation with relatively few shareholders may impose share transfer restrictions to ensure that shareholders who wish to retire will be able to liquidate their investment without disrupting corporate affairs;
  4. a corporation with few shareholders may impose share transfer restrictions in an effort to ensure that estates of deceased shareholders will be able to liquidate the closely held shares and that the Internal Revenue Service will accept the liquidated value of the shares as their value for estate tax purposes;
  5. a professional corporation may impose share transfer restrictions to ensure that its treatment of retiring or deceased shareholders is consistent with the canons of ethics applicable to the profession in question;
  6. a corporation may impose share transfer restrictions to ensure that its election of subchapter S treatment under the Internal Revenue Code will not be unexpectedly terminated; and
  7. a publicly held or closely held corporation issuing securities pursuant to an exemption from federal or state securities act registration may impose share transfer restrictions to ensure that subsequent transfers of shares will not result in the loss of the exemption being relied upon.

This listing, while not exhaustive, illustrates the flexibility of share transfer restrictions, their widespread use, and the importance of having a statute dealing with them.

Section 6.27(a) generally authorizes the imposition of transfer restrictions on "shares," although the caption of the section refers to "shares and other securities." Section 6.27(e) defines "shares" for purposes of section 6.27 to include securities "convertible into or carrying a right to subscribe for or acquire shares;" the phrase "other securities" in the title thus describes the broader scope of this section resulting from the definition in section 6.27(e).

Share transfer restrictions are usually created by provisions in the bylaws or articles of incorporation but may also be created by contract between the corporation and some or all the shareholders or between or among the shareholders themselves. However, if shares are originally issued free of restriction, they may not thereafter be subjected to a transfer restriction without the consent of the holder, evidenced by a vote in favor of the amendment to the articles or bylaws creating the restriction, or by being a party to the contract creating the restriction.

The terms of a restriction on transfer do not need to be set forth in full or summarized in detail on a certificate or information statement required by section 6.26(b) for uncertificated securities. Rather, section 6.27(b) provides that in the case of a certificated security, the existence of the restriction must be conspicuously set forth on the front or back of the certificate; in the case of an uncertificated security, the existence of the restriction must be noted in the information statement. There is no requirement that the notation on an information statement be conspicuous.

If a transferee knows of the restriction he is bound by it even though the restriction is not noted on the certificate or information statement.

Section 6.27(c) describes the purposes for which restrictions may be imposed while section 6.27(d) describes the types of restrictions that may be imposed.

Section 6.27(c) enumerates certain purposes for which share transfer restrictions may be imposed, but does not limit the purposes since section 6.27(c)(3) permits restrictions "for any other reasonable purpose." Examples of the "status" referred to in section 6.27(c)(1) are the election of close corporation status under the Model Statutory Close Corporation Supplement, the subchapter S election under the Internal Revenue Code, and entitlement to a program or eligibility for a privilege administered by governmental agencies or national securities exchanges. Specific references in section 6.27 to subchapter S and other statutes were not made because of the possibility that the Internal Revenue Code or other statute may be amended or recodified after the adoption of the Model Act.

Section 6.27(c)(2) permits restrictions on transfers of shares to ensure availability of exemptions under state or federal securities acts. Share transfer restrictions for other purposes are permitted by section 6.23(c)(3) so long as the purpose is reasonable. It is unnecessary to inquire into the reasonableness of the purposes specifically enumerated in section 6.27(c)(1) and (2).

The types of restrictions referred to in section 6.27(d)(1) (buy-sell agreements) and (2) (option agreements) are imposed as a matter of contractual negotiation and do not prohibit the outright transfer of shares. Rather, they designate to whom shares or other securities must be offered at a price established in the agreement or by a formula or method agreed to in advance. By contrast, the restrictions described in sections 6.27(d)(3) and (4) may permanently limit the market for shares by disqualifying all or some potential purchasers. As a result the restrictions imposed by these two provisions must not be "manifestly unreasonable."

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The Model Act was modified in subsection (b) by inserting the language "it is not unconscionable under the circumstances." This modification addressed a concern that the Model Act's section 6.27 may allow the enforcement of unconscionable restrictions. The drafters noted that the Model Act's language in section 6.27 may not allow judicial discretion in a situation where there was initially a reasonable purpose in imposing a restriction but over time the effect of the restriction had become unreasonable because of a change in circumstances. Judicial discretion would allow a court in such a situation to judge the restriction at the time its validity and enforceability are questioned. The amendment does not represent an attempt to change the prior law in North Carolina with respect to unconscionable agreements, but rather to preserve expressly the equitable power of the courts to deny enforcement of agreements that are unconscionable under the circumstances.

Subsection (b) was also modified so that a restriction on transfer not noted on the certificate or in the information statement is enforceable only against a person who received actual written notice of the restriction.

The introductory language of subsection (d) was modified for clarity. Subdivision (d)(5) was added to clarify that subdivisions (1) through (4) are not exclusive. The use of the word "reasonably" in this subsection was not thought to conflict with the "unconscionable" language in subsection (b), because the two subsections have different purposes.

CASE NOTES

Stock Restriction Upheld. - When considering the enforcement of a stock restriction agreement pursuant to this section, a trial court may decline to specifically enforce the agreement if there has been a change of circumstances since its execution, such that its enforcement would be unconscionable; and found that where defendant, an employee at will, was terminated prior to the full vesting of his stock but for a justifiable business purpose, where the parties had discussed but rejected a "buy-out" formula based on fair market value, and where defendant entered freely into an agreement based on adjusted book value, no change of circumstances existed rendering the arm's length agreement unconscionable and unenforceable. Crowder Constr. Co. v. Kiser, 134 N.C. App. 190, 517 S.E.2d 178 (1999), cert. denied, 351 N.C. 101, 541 S.E.2d 142 (1999).

Applied in Whitacre P'ship v. BioSignia, Inc., 153 N.C. App. 608, 574 S.E.2d 475 (2002), cert. granted, 356 N.C. 695, 579 S.E.2d 103 (2003).


§ 55-6-28. Expense of issue.

A corporation may pay the expenses of selling or underwriting its shares, and of organizing or reorganizing the corporation, from the consideration received for shares.

History

(1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

The original purpose of this section was to deal with the problems created by the concepts of "par value" and "stated capital;" it permitted the corporation to expend its capital for "the reasonable charges and expenses of " organization without fear of making the shares not fully paid or assessable because the assets were reduced below the aggregate par value of the issued shares.

Under the modern capitalization principles set forth in the Model Act (see the Official Comment to section 6.21), there is no basis for the fear that shares issued properly under section 6.21 can be made assessable because of the subsequent use of the proceeds. While section 6.28 thus may be technically unnecessary, it was believed to be desirable to retain in the Model Act a general authorization to the corporation to pay its expenses of formation and raising capital out of its original capitalization. The reference to "reasonable" charges and expenses was deleted on the theory that the test for these expenses should be no different from the test for expenses of any other type.

The concluding language in the original Model Act, "without rendering the shares not fully paid or assessable," was also deleted as unnecessary and confusing in the context of the revisions to the financial provisions of the Model Act.

This section has been rarely cited or referred to in court decisions even though it appears in a large number of state statutes.

§ 55-6-29: Reserved for future codification purposes.

PART 3. SUBSEQUENT ACQUISITION OF SHARES BY SHAREHOLDERS AND CORPORATION.

§ 55-6-30. Shareholders' preemptive rights.

  1. The shareholders of a corporation do not have a preemptive right to acquire the corporation's unissued shares except to the extent the articles of incorporation or subsection (d) of this section so provide.
  2. A statement included in the articles of incorporation that "the corporation elects to have preemptive rights" (or words of similar import) means that the following principles apply except to the extent the articles of incorporation expressly provide otherwise:
    1. The shareholders of the corporation have a preemptive right, granted on uniform terms and conditions prescribed by the board of directors, to provide a fair and reasonable opportunity to exercise the right, to acquire proportional amounts of the corporation's unissued shares upon the decision of the board of directors to issue them.
    2. A shareholder may waive his preemptive right. A waiver evidenced by a writing is irrevocable even though it is not supported by consideration.
    3. There is no preemptive right with respect to (i) shares issued as compensation to directors, officers, agents, or employees of the corporation, its subsidiaries or affiliates; (ii) shares issued to satisfy conversion or option rights created to provide compensation to directors, officers, agents, or employees of the corporation, its subsidiaries or affiliates; (iii) shares authorized in articles of incorporation that are issued within six months from the effective date of incorporation; (iv) shares issued for considerations, other than money, deemed by the board of directors in good faith to be advantageous to the corporation's business.
    4. Holders of a share of any class have no preemptive rights with respect to shares of any other class.
    5. Reserved for future codification purposes.
    6. Shares subject to preemptive rights that are not acquired by shareholders may be issued to any person during a period of one year after being offered to shareholders at a consideration set by the board of directors that is not lower than the consideration set for the exercise of preemptive rights. An offer at a lower consideration or after the expiration of one year is subject to the shareholders' preemptive rights.
  3. For purposes of this section, "shares" includes a security convertible into or carrying a right to subscribe for or acquire shares.
  4. Notwithstanding the foregoing provision of this section, shareholders of a corporation incorporated before July 1, 1990, other than a public corporation, shall have a preemptive right to acquire the unissued shares of the corporation, to the extent provided in (and subject to the limitations of) subdivisions (b)(1)-(6) and subsection (c) of this section, except to the extent the articles of incorporation expressly provide otherwise.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1969, c. 751, ss. 29-32; 1979, c. 508, s. 2; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1993, c. 552, s. 8.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 6.30(a) adopts an "opt in" provision for preemptive rights: Unless an affirmative reference to these rights appears in the articles of incorporation, no preemptive rights exist. Whether or not preemptive rights are elected, however, the directors' fiduciary duties extend to the issuance of shares. Issuance of shares at favorable prices to directors (but excluding other shareholders) or the issuance of shares on a nonproportional basis for the purpose of affecting control rather than raising capital may violate that duty. These duties, it is believed, form a more rational structure of regulation than the technical principles of traditional preemptive rights.

Section 6.30(b) provides a standard model for preemptive rights if the corporation desires to exercise the "opt in" alternative of section 6.30(a). The simple phrase, "the corporation elects to have preemptive rights," or words of similar import, results in the rest of subsection (b) becoming applicable to the corporation. But a corporation may qualify or limit any of the rules set forth in subsection (b) by express provisions in the articles of incorporation if the rules are felt to be undesirable or inappropriate for the specific corporation. The purposes of this standard model for preemptive rights are (1) to simplify drafting articles of incorporation and (2) to provide a simple checklist of business considerations for the benefit of attorneys who are considering the inclusion of preemptive rights in articles of incorporation.

The provisions of sections 6.30(b) establish rules for most of the problems involving preemptive rights. Thus subsection (b)(1) defines the general scope of the preemptive right giving appropriate recognition to the discretion of the board of directors in establishing the terms and conditions for exercise of that right. Subsection (b)(2) creates rules with respect to the waiver of these rights. Subsection (b)(3) lists the principal exceptions to preemptive rights, including a six-month period during which initial capital can be raised by a newly formed corporation without regard to the preemptive rights of persons who have previously acquired shares. Subsections (b)(4) and (b)(5) provide rules for the often-difficult problems created when preemptive rights are recognized in corporations with more than a single class of shares. These problems are discussed further below. Subsection (b)(6) defines the status of preemptive rights after a shareholder has elected not to exercise a proffered preemptive right: for a period of one year thereafter the corporation may dispose of the shares at the same or a higher price. A corporation deciding to offer shares at a lower price must reoffer the shares preemptively to the shareholders before selling them to third persons.

As indicated above, any portion of section 6.30(b) that is felt not to be appropriate for a specific corporation may be amended or deleted by appropriate provision in the articles of incorporation.

The model provision dealing with preemptive rights in section 6.30(b) is primarily designed to protect voting power within the corporation from dilution. For this reason, section 6.30(c) contains a special definition of "shares" to ensure that the preemptive rights of shareholders, if these rights are granted, apply to all securities that are convertible into or carry a right to acquire voting shares.

On the other hand, preemptive rights also may serve in part the function of protecting the equity participation of shareholders. This combination of functions creates no problem in a corporation that has authorized only a single class of shares but may occasionally create problems in corporations with more complex capital structures. In many multiple-class corporate financial structures, the issuance of additional shares of one class does not adversely affect other classes. For example, the issuance of additional general voting shares without preferential rights normally does not affect either the limited voting power or equity participation of holders of shares with preferential rights; holders of shares with preferential equity participation rights but without general voting rights should therefore have no preemptive rights with respect to general voting shares without preferential rights. See subsections (b)(4) and (b)(5). Classes of shares that may give rise to possible conflict between the protection of voting interests and equity participation when the board of directors desires to issue additional shares include classes of nonvoting shares without preferential rights and classes of shares with both preferential rights to distributions and general voting rights. Attorneys who draft articles of incorporation with classes of shares that may give rise to these conflicts should consider the precise application of section 6.30(b) with respect to preemptive rights for these classes and define more carefully the scope of the preemptive rights desired.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

For corporations incorporated on or after July 1, 1990, this section adopts an "opt in" election for preemptive rights. In contrast to the prior law, unless an affirmative reference to these rights appears in the articles of incorporation, no preemptive rights exist. Former G.S. 55-56 provided for preemptive rights unless limited or denied by the articles of incorporation. Subsection (d) grants preemptive rights under this section to shareholders of corporations incorporated before July 1, 1990, except to the extent the articles of incorporation expressly provide otherwise.

The Model Act was modified in subdivision (b)(3)(iv) to require that the issuance of shares for consideration other than money be advantageous to the corporation's business.

The drafters concluded that subdivisions 6.30(b)(4) and (5) of the Model Act are unclear. They omitted subdivision (b)(5) and rewrote subdivision (b)(4) to make it clear that holders of one class of shares do not have any preemptive rights with respect to shares of another class.

§ 55-6-31. Corporation's acquisition of its own shares.

  1. A corporation may acquire its own shares and shares so acquired constitute authorized but unissued shares.
  2. If the articles of incorporation prohibit the reissue of the acquired shares, the number of authorized shares is reduced by the number of shares acquired, effective upon amendment of the articles of incorporation.
  3. Repealed by Session Laws 2005-268, s. 1, effective October 1, 2005.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1957, c. 1039; 1959, c. 1316, s. 19; 1963, c. 666; 1967, c. 1163; 1969, c. 751, ss. 23-27, 45; 1973, c. 1067; 1985, c. 117, s. 3; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2005-268, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

The elimination of the concepts of "par value" and "stated capital" in the 1980 amendments to the Model Act (see the Official Comment to section 6.21) permitted the simplification of a number of other sections of the Act and the elimination of several historical concepts that primarily served the purpose of ameliorating problems created by retention of the concepts of "par value" and "stated capital."

One concept eliminated by the 1980 amendments was that of treasury shares. The status of once-issued but reacquired shares was an uneasy one under the traditional statutes. It was universally recognized that a corporation's shares in its own hands are not an asset any more than authorized but unissued shares. As an economic matter payments made by a corporation to repurchase its own shares must be viewed as a distribution of corporate assets by the corporation rather than as an acquisition of an asset. Further, conventional statutes gave treasury shares an intermediate status between issued and unissued: they were treated as outstanding shares for some purposes, and they could be resold or disposed of by the corporation (presumably) without regard to restrictions that might be imposed on the original issuance of shares by the corporation. Finally, the accounting treatment for treasury shares was complex, confusing, and to some extent unrealistic since the capital accounts often did not reflect transactions in treasury shares.

Under the 1980 revisions of the financial provisions in the Model Act the concept of treasury shares is unnecessary. Authorized but unissued shares of the corporation may be issued on the same basis and with the same freedom as treasury shares under earlier statutes. Attorneys' opinions on the legality of the issuance of shares under the revised Model Act will therefore be unaffected by the elimination of the technical distinction between original shares and treasury shares. A possible exception to these statements is that the concept of treasury shares may have permitted listed companies to save modestly on stock exchange listing fees in some cases that may not be available under the revised Model Act provisions.

Section 6.31(a) restates the fundamental power of a corporation to reacquire its own shares. Such a transaction constitutes a "distribution" by the corporation (see the definition of that term in section 1.40) and is subject to the limitations of section 6.40.

Shares that are reacquired by the corporation become authorized but unissued shares under section 6.31(b) unless the articles prohibit reissue, in which event they are cancelled. Section 6.31(c) requires a simplified official filing to reflect the reduction of authorized shares. This provision is included in order that there be a public record of the number of authorized shares that a corporation may issue. The amendment may be made without shareholder action. See section 10.02.

Until the amendment referred to in section 6.31(c) is effective, the corporation has power to reissue the reacquired shares despite a prohibition in the articles of incorporation. In such a case, the action of the directors in issuing the shares may be challengeable but the shares so issued would be fully paid and nonassessable if issued in conformity with section 6.21.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The concept of treasury shares is eliminated in this section.

The Model Act was modified in subsection (c) to provide that, when a corporation is prohibited from reissuing acquired shares, it must amend its articles of incorporation to reduce the number of authorized shares by the number of acquired shares. Such reduction is effective upon the filing of articles of amendment with the Secretary of State.

SUPPLEMENTAL NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY (2005)

The provision for amending articles of incorporation to reflect a reduction in authorized shares when the corporation is prohibited from reissuing acquired shares referred to in the Official Comment is relocated to G.S. 55-10-02 effective October 1, 2005.

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2005-268, s. 1, effective October 1, 2005, repealed subsection (c), regarding adoption of the Articles of Amendment required by subsection (b) by the board of directors without shareholder action.

Legal Periodicals. - For article on the evolution of corporate combination law, see 76 N.C.L. Rev. 687 (1998).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - The cases below were decided under prior law.

Former Law. - Under former law, a corporation, unless restrained by some provision of its organic law, could purchase its own stock from holders thereof, and the latter were entitled to all rights of other creditors of the corporation for the protection and enforcement of their demand for payment. Blalock v. Kernersville Mfg. Co., 110 N.C. 99, 14 S.E. 501 (1892).

Purpose of 1985 Amendment to Former G.S. 55-52. - The 1985 amendment to former G.S. 55-52 was established to enable corporations to enter into written agreements with shareholders at the outset of the relationship for the issuance of stock redeemable at the shareholder's option. The statute was not designed to simply allow the corporation to enter into a written agreement with a shareholder to redeem stock out of and as an impairment to stated capital, which stock was already being held by the shareholder as common stock; rather, the purpose was to provide a new method for North Carolina corporations to raise needed capital by readily available cash infusions from shareholders in exchange for stock redeemable at their request. In re N.W. Oxygen, Inc., 99 Bankr. 703 (Bankr. M.D.N.C. 1989).

Agreement Entered into Prior to Amendment. - Where former shareholder had a note in exchange for the redemption of his shares in corporation, the note was unenforceable under former G.S. 55-52, as subdivision (c)(3), rather than subdivision (b)(4) thereof, applied. First, subdivision (b)(4) was an amendment to the original provision and was effective in 1985, while the agreement between former shareholder and debtor corporation was executed before the amendment was in effect; second, subdivision (b)(4) was established to enable corporations to enter agreements with shareholders for the issuance of stocks. In the instant case former shareholder and debtor entered into a written agreement some ten years after the issuance of the shares for the sale of the common stock which former shareholder owned. In re N.W. Oxygen, Inc., 99 Bankr. 703 (Bankr. M.D.N.C. 1989).

Solvency Test for Each Payment Under Former G.S. 55-52(c). - Since former G.S. 55-52 specifically included the words "and pay for" in subsection (c), a solvency test for surplus had to occur each time a corporation made a payment on the indebtedness out of the assets of the corporation. In re N.W. Oxygen, Inc., 99 Bankr. 703 (Bankr. M.D.N.C. 1989).

Redemption Agreement Held Unenforceable. - Promissory note to a former shareholder in exchange for the redemption of his shares in corporation and underlying security interest were rendered unenforceable due to the corporation's subsequent insolvency and inability to make payment on the obligation out of sufficient surplus of corporate assets. In re N.W. Oxygen, Inc., 99 Bankr. 703 (Bankr. M.D.N.C. 1989).

§§ 55-6-32 through 55-6-39: Reserved for future codification purposes.

PART 4. DISTRIBUTIONS.

§ 55-6-40. Distributions to shareholders.

  1. A board of directors may authorize and the corporation may make distributions to its shareholders subject to restriction by the articles of incorporation and the limitation in subsection (c).
  2. If the board of directors does not fix the record date for determining shareholders entitled to a distribution (other than one involving a purchase, redemption, or other acquisition of the corporation's shares), it is the date the board of directors authorizes the distribution.
  3. No distribution may be made if, after giving it effect:
    1. The corporation would not be able to pay its debts as they become due in the usual course of business; or
    2. The corporation's total assets would be less than the sum of its total liabilities plus (unless the articles of incorporation permit otherwise) the amount that would be needed, if the corporation were to be dissolved at the time of the distribution, to satisfy the preferential rights upon dissolution of shareholders whose preferential rights are superior to those receiving the distribution.
  4. The board of directors may base a determination that a distribution is not prohibited under subsection (c) on financial statements prepared on the basis of accounting practices and principles that are reasonable in the circumstances, and may determine asset values either on book values or on a fair valuation or other method that is reasonable in the circumstances.
  5. Except as provided in subsection (g), the effect of a distribution under subsection (c) is measured:
    1. In the case of distribution by purchase, redemption, or other acquisition of the corporation's shares, as of the earlier of (i) the date money or other property is transferred or debt incurred by the corporation or (ii) the date the shareholder ceases to be a shareholder with respect to the acquired shares;
    2. In the case of any other distribution of indebtedness, as of the date the indebtedness is distributed;
    3. In all other cases, as of (i) the date the distribution is authorized if the payment occurs within 120 days after the date of authorization or (ii) the date the payment is made if it occurs more than 120 days after the date of authorization.
  6. A corporation's indebtedness to a shareholder incurred by reason of a distribution made in accordance with this section is at parity with the corporation's indebtedness to its general, unsecured creditors except to the extent otherwise provided by agreement.
  7. Indebtedness of a corporation, including indebtedness issued as a distribution, is not considered a liability for purposes of determinations under subsection (c) if its terms provide that payment of principal and interest are made only if and to the extent that payment of a distribution to shareholders could then be made under this section. If an indebtedness with such terms is issued as a distribution, each payment of principal or interest is treated as a distribution the effect of which is measured on the date the payment is actually made.
  8. Any action by a shareholder to compel the payment of dividends may be brought against the directors, or against the corporation with or without joining the directors as parties. The shareholder bringing such action shall be entitled, in the event that the court orders the payment of a dividend, to recover from the corporation all reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, incurred in maintaining such action. If a court orders the payment of a dividend, the amount ordered to be paid shall be a debt of the corporation.
  9. As used in this subsection, net profits shall mean such net profits as can lawfully be paid in dividends to a particular class of shares after making allowance for the prior claims of shares, if any, entitled to preference in the payment of dividends. If during its immediately preceding fiscal period a corporation having less than 25 shareholders on the final day of said period has not paid to any class of shares dividends in cash or property amounting to at least one-third of the net profits of said period allocable to that class, the holder or holders of twenty percent (20%) or more of the shares of that class may, within four months after the close of said period, make written demand upon the corporation for the payment of additional dividends for that period. After a corporation has received such a demand, the directors shall, during the then current fiscal period or within three months after the close thereof, either (i) cause dividends in cash or property to be paid to the shareholders of that class in an amount equal to the difference between the dividends paid in said preceding fiscal period to shareholders of that class and one-third of the net profits of said period allocable to that class, or in such lesser amount as may be demanded, or (ii) give notice pursuant to subsection ( j) of this section to all shareholders making such demand. Such corporation shall not, however, be required to pay dividends pursuant to such demand insofar as (i) such payment would exceed fifty percent (50%) of the net profits of the current fiscal period in which such demand is made, or (ii) the net profits are being retained to eliminate a deficit, or (iii) the payment of dividends would be a breach of a bona fide agreement between the corporation and its creditors restricting the payment of dividends, or (iv) the directors of the corporation can show that its earnings are being retained to meet the reasonably anticipated needs of the business and that such retention of earnings is not inequitable in light of all the circumstances. Upon receipt of such a demand a corporation may elect to treat any dividend previously paid in the current fiscal period as having been paid in the preceding fiscal period, in which event the corporation shall so notify all shareholders. If a dividend is paid in satisfaction of a demand made in accordance with this subsection it shall be deemed to have been paid in the period for which it was demanded, and all shareholders shall be so informed concurrently with such payment.
  10. Upon receipt of a demand from the holders of twenty percent (20%) or more of the shares of any class of shares pursuant to subsection (i) of this section, the corporation receiving such demand may, during the then fiscal period or within three months after the close thereof, give written notice to each shareholder making such written demand that the corporation elects to redeem all shares held by such shareholder in lieu of the payment of dividends as provided in subsection (i) of this section and shall pay to such shareholder the fair value of his shares as of the day preceding the mailing or otherwise reasonably dispatching of the notice. A shareholder receiving such notice shall thereafter be entitled to withdraw his dividend demand by giving written notice of such withdrawal to the corporation within 10 days after receipt of the redemption notice of the corporation or, if no such withdrawal is made, to receive the fair value of his shares, subject only to the surrender by him of the certificate or certificates representing his shares and to the provisions of G.S. 55-6-31, which value shall be determined and paid as follows:
    1. If within 30 days after the date upon which a shareholder becomes entitled to payment for his shares under this subsection, the value of the shares is agreed upon between the shareholder and the corporation, payment therefor shall be made within 60 days after the agreement, upon surrender of the certificate representing the shares, whereupon the shareholder shall cease to have any interest in such shares or in the corporation.
    2. If within the such 30-day period the shareholder and the corporation do not agree as to the value of the shares, the shareholder may, within 60 days after the expiration of the 30-day period, file a petition in the superior court of the county of the registered office of the corporation asking for the appointment by the clerk of three qualified and disinterested appraisers to appraise the fair value of the shares. A summons as in other cases of special proceedings, together with a copy of the petition, shall be served on the corporation at least 10 days prior to the hearing of the petition by the court. The award of appraisers, or a majority of them, if no exceptions be filed thereto within 10 days after the award shall have been filed in court, shall be confirmed by the court, and when confirmed shall be final and conclusive, and the shareholder upon depositing the proper share certificates in court, shall be entitled to judgment against the corporation for the appraised value thereof as of the date prescribed in this section, together with interest thereon to the date of such confirmation. If either party files exceptions to such award within 10 days after the award shall have been filed in court, the case shall be transferred to the civil issue docket of the superior court for trial during term and shall be there tried in the same manner, as near as may be practicable, as is provided in Chapter 40A for the trial of cases under the eminent domain law of this State, and with the same right of appeal as is permitted in said Chapter. The court shall assess the cost of said proceedings as it shall deem equitable. Upon payment of the judgment, the shareholder shall cease to have any interest in the shares or in the corporation and the corporation shall be entitled to have said share certificates surrendered to it by the clerk of court for cancellation. Unless the shareholder shall file such petition within the time herein prescribed, he and all persons claiming under him shall have no right of payment hereunder but in that event nothing herein shall impair his status as shareholder.
  11. Nothing in this section shall impair any rights which a shareholder may have on general principles of equity to compel the payment of dividends.

History

(Code, s. 681; 1901, c. 2, ss. 33, 52; Rev., ss. 1191, 1192; C.S., ss. 1178, 1179; 1927, c. 121; 1933, c. 354, s. 1; G.S., ss. 55-115, 55-116; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1957, c. 1039; 1959, c. 1316, ss. 16, 19, 35; 1963, c. 666; 1965, c. 726; 1967, c. 1163; 1969, c. 751, ss. 21-27, 45; 1973, c. 469, ss. 17-20; c. 683; c. 1067; c. 1087, ss. 3-5; 1975, c. 19, s. 17; c. 304; 1985, c. 117, s. 3; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1024, s. 12.9; 1991, c. 645, s. 4.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

The reformulation of the statutory standards governing distributions is another important change made by the 1980 revisions to the financial provisions of the Model Act. It has long been recognized that the traditional "par value" and "stated capital" statutes do not provide significant protection against distributions of capital to shareholders. While most of these statutes contained elaborate provisions establishing "stated capital," "capital surplus," and "earned surplus" (and often other types of surplus as well), the net effect of most statutes was to permit the distribution to shareholders of most or all of the corporation's net assets - its capital along with its earnings - if the shareholders wished this to be done. However, statutes also generally imposed an equity insolvency test on distributions that prohibited distributions of assets if the corporation was insolvent or if the distribution had the effect of making the corporation insolvent or unable to meet its obligations as they were projected to arise.

The financial provisions of the revised Model Act, which are based on the 1980 amendments, sweep away all the distinctions among the various types of surplus but retain restrictions on distributions built around both the traditional equity insolvency and balance sheet tests of earlier statutes.

  1. The scope of section 6.40
  2. Equity insolvency test
  3. Relationship to the federal bankruptcy act and other fraudulent conveyance statutes
  4. Balance sheet test
    1. Generally accepted accounting principles
    2. Other principles
    3. Priority of debt distributed directly or incurred in connection with a redemption

Section 1.40 defines "distribution" to include virtually all transfers of money, indebtedness of the corporation or other property to a shareholder in respect of the corporation's shares. It thus includes cash or property dividends, payments by a corporation to purchase its own shares, distributions of promissory notes or indebtedness, and distributions in partial or complete liquidation or voluntary or involuntary dissolution. Section 1.40 excludes from the definition of "distribution" transactions by the corporation in which only its own shares are distributed to its shareholders. These transactions are called "share dividends" in the revised Model Business Corporation Act. See section 6.23.

Section 6.40 imposes a single, uniform test on all distributions. Many of the old "par value" and "stated capital" statutes provided tests that varied with the type of distribution under consideration or did not cover certain types of distributions at all.

As noted above, older statutes prohibited payment of dividends if the corporation was, or as a result of the payment would be, insolvent in the equity sense. This test is retained, appearing in section 6.40(c)(1).

For an on-going business enterprise the equity insolvency test requires that decisions be based on a cash flow analysis that is itself based on a business forecast and budget for a sufficient period of time to permit a conclusion that known obligations of the corporation can reasonably be expected to be satisfied over the period of time that they will mature. It is not sufficient simply to measure current assets against current liabilities, or determine that the present estimated "liquidation" value of the corporation's assets would produce sufficient funds to satisfy the corporation's existing liabilities.

In determining whether a corporation is, or as a result of a proposed distribution would be rendered, insolvent, the board of directors may rely on information supplied by the officers of the corporation. It is not necessary for them to know of the details of the cash flow analysis if the proposed distribution involves no significant risk of equity insolvency. Judgments, further, must of necessity be made on the basis of information in the hands of the board of directors when a distribution is authorized. See section 8.30.

The revised Model Business Corporation Act establishes the validity of distributions from the corporate law standpoint under section 6.40 and determines the potential liability of directors for improper distributions under sections 8.30 and 8.33. The federal Bankruptcy Act and state fraudulent conveyance statutes, on the other hand, are designed to enable the trustee or other representative to recapture for the benefit of creditors funds distributed to others in some circumstances. In light of these diverse purposes, it was not thought necessary to make the tests of section 6.40 identical with the tests for insolvency under these various statutes.

Section 6.40(c)(2) requires that, after giving effect to any distribution, the corporation's assets equal or exceed its liabilities plus (with some exceptions) the dissolution preferences of senior equity securities. Section 6.40(d) authorizes asset and liability determinations to be made for this purpose on the basis of either (1) financial statements prepared on the basis of accounting practices and principles that are reasonable in the circumstances or (2) a fair valuation or other method that is reasonable in the circumstances. The determination of a corporation's assets and liabilities and the choice of the permissible basis on which to do so are left to the judgment of its board of directors. In making a judgment under section 6.40(d), the board may rely under section 8.30 upon opinions, reports, or statements, including financial statements and other financial data prepared or presented by public accountants or others.

Section 6.40 does not incorporate technical accounting terminology and specific accounting concepts. Accounting terminology and concepts are constantly under review and subject to revision by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and others. In making determinations under this section, the board of directors may make judgments about accounting matters, taking into account its right to rely upon professional or expert opinion and its obligation to be reasonably informed as to pertinent standards of importance that bear upon the subject at issue.

In a corporation with subsidiaries, the board of directors may rely on unconsolidated statements prepared on the basis of the equity method of accounting (see American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, APB Opinion No. 18 (1971)) as to the corporation's investee corporations, including corporate joint ventures and subsidiaries, although other evidence would be relevant in the total determination.

The directors will normally be entitled to use generally accepted accounting principles and to give presumptive weight to the advice of professional accountants with respect to their application. But section 6.40 only requires the use of accounting practices and principles that are reasonable in the circumstances, and does not constitute a statutory enactment of generally accepted accounting principles. The widespread controversy concerning various accounting principles, and their continuous reevaluation, suggest that a statutory standard of reasonableness, rather than of generally accepted accounting principles, is appropriate. The Model Act does not reject generally accepted accounting principles; on the contrary, it is expected that their use will be the basic rule in most cases. The statutory language does, however, require informed business judgment applying particular accounting principles to the entire circumstances that exist at the time.

If a corporation's financial statements are not presented in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, a board of directors should normally consider the extent to which the assets may not be fairly stated or the liabilities may be understated in determining the aggregate amount of assets and liabilities.

Section 6.40(d) specifically permits determinations to be made under section 6.40(c)(2) on the basis of a fair valuation or other method that is reasonable in the circumstances. Thus the statute authorizes departures from historical cost accounting and sanctions the use of appraisal methods to determine the funds available for distributions. No particular method of valuation is prescribed in the statute, since different methods may have validity depending upon the circumstances, including the type of enterprise and the purpose for which the determination is made. For example, it is inappropriate to apply a "quick-sale liquidation" value to an enterprise in most cases, particularly with respect to the payment of normal dividends. On the other hand, a "quick-sale valuation" might be appropriate in certain circumstances for an enterprise in the course of liquidation or of reducing its asset or business base by a material degree. In most cases, a fair valuation method or a going-concern basis would be appropriate if it is believed that the enterprise will continue as a going concern.

In determining the value of assets, all of the assets of a corporation, whether or not reflected in the financial statements (e.g., a valuable executory contract), should be considered. Ordinarily a corporation should not selectively revalue assets. Likewise, all of a corporation's obligations and commitments should be considered and quantified to the extent appropriate and possible. In any event, section 6.40(d) imposes upon the board of directors the responsibility of applying under section 6.40(c)(2) a method of determining the aggregate amounts of assets and liabilities that is reasonable in the circumstances.

Section 6.40(d) also refers to some "other method that is reasonable in the circumstances." This phrase is inserted to comprehend within section 6.40(c)(2) the wide variety of possibilities that might not be considered to fall under a "fair valuation" but might be reasonable in the circumstances of a particular case.

5. Preferential dissolution rights and the balance sheet test

Section 6.40(c)(2) provides that a distribution may not be made unless the total assets of the corporation exceed its liabilities plus the amount that would be needed to satisfy any shareholders' superior preferential rights upon dissolution if the corporation were to be dissolved at the time of the distribution. This requirement in effect treats preferential dissolution rights of classes or series of shares for distribution purposes as equivalent to liabilities rather than as equity interests, and carries forward analogous treatment of shares having preferential dissolution rights from earlier versions of the Model Act. In making the calculation of the amount that must be added to the liabilities of the corporation to reflect the preferential dissolution rights, the assumption should be made that the preferential dissolution rights are to be established pursuant to the articles of incorporation (or resolution creating a series having preferential dissolution rights) as of the date of the distribution or proposed distribution. The amount so determined must include arrearages in preferential dividends if the articles of incorporation or resolution require that they be paid upon the dissolution of the corporation. In the case of shares having both a preferential right upon dissolution and additional nonpreferential rights, only the preferential portion of the rights should be taken into account. The treatment of preferential dissolution rights of classes of shares set forth in section 6.40(c)(2) is applicable only to the balance sheet test and is not applicable to the equity insolvency test of section 6.40(c)(1). The treatment of preferential rights mandated by this section may always be eliminated by an appropriate provision in the articles of incorporation.

6. Time of measurement

Section 6.40(e)(3) provides that the time for measuring the effect of a distribution for compliance with the insolvency and balance sheet tests for all distributions not involving the reacquisition of shares of the distribution of indebtedness is the date of authorization, if the payment occurs within 120 days following the authorization; if the payment occurs more than 120 days after the authorization, however, the date of payment must be used. If the corporation elects to make a distribution in the form of its own indebtedness under section 6.40(e)(2), the validity of that distribution must be measured as of the time of distribution.

Section 6.40(e)(1) provides a different rule for the time of measurement when the distribution involves a reacquisition of shares. See part 8a. below.

7. Record date

Section 6.40(b) fixes the record date (if the board of directors does not otherwise fix it) for distributions other than those involving a repurchase or reacquisition of shares as the date the board of directors authorizes the distribution. No record date is necessary for a repurchase or reacquisition of shares from one or more specific shareholders. The board of directors has discretion to set a record date for a repurchase or reacquisition if it is to be pro rata and to be offered to all shareholders as of a specified date.

8. Application to repurchases or redemption of shares

The application of the equity insolvency and balance sheet tests to distributions that involve the purchase or redemption of shares creates unique problems; section 6.40 provides specific rules for the resolution of these problems as described below.

a. Time of measurement

Section 6.40(e)(1) provides that the time for measuring the effect of a distribution under section 6.40(c), if shares of the corporation are reacquired, is the earlier of (i) the payment date, or (ii) the date the shareholder ceased to be a shareholder with respect to the shares.

b. When tests are applied to redemption-related debt

In an acquisition of its shares, a corporation may transfer property or incur debt to the former holder of the shares. The case law on the status of this debt is conflicting. However, share repurchase agreements involving payment for shares over a period of time are of special importance in closely held corporate enterprises. Section 6.40(e) provides a clear rule for this situation: the legality of the distribution must be measured at the time of the issuance or incurrence of the debt, not at a later date when the debt is actually paid. Of course, this does not preclude a later challenge of a payment on account of redemption-related debt by a bankruptcy trustee on the ground that it constitutes a preferential payment to a creditor.

Section 6.40(f) provides that indebtedness created to purchase shares or issued as a distribution is on a parity with the indebtedness of the corporation to its general, unsecured creditors, except to the extent subordinated by agreement. General creditors are better off in these situations than they would have been if cash or other property had been paid out for the shares or distributed (which is proper under the statute), and no worse off than if cash had been paid out to the shareholders, which was then lent back to the corporation, making the shareholders creditors. The parity created by section 6.40(f) therefore is logically consistent with the rule established by section 6.40(e) that these transactions should be judged at the time of the issuance of the debt.

AMENDED NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section introduces significant changes from prior law in the criteria used to determine a corporation's legal capacity to pay dividends and reacquire its shares. The former surplus tests no longer apply. In addition, the provisions of former G.S. 55-52, which limited the circumstances under which a corporation could reacquire its shares, were not brought forward. All distributions to shareholders, whether by dividends or repurchases of shares, are determined by that distribution's impact on the corporation's solvency and the relationship between its assets and liabilities.

The Model Act was modified in subsection (d) to make it clear that for purposes of determining asset values under the equity insolvency and balance sheet tests of subsection (c), the board of directors may use either book values or a current valuation if it is reasonable under the circumstances. For purposes of determining liabilities and assets that are not revalued, the board of directors may rely on financial statements prepared in accordance with reasonable accounting practices and principles.

The Model Act was modified in subsection (f) to clarify that a corporation may agree to secure its indebtedness to a shareholder by granting a deed of trust or other security interest. The shareholder may also agree to subordinate the indebtedness, in whole or in part, to the corporation's indebtedness to its general, unsecured creditors. Absent an agreement either to secure or to subordinate a corporation's indebtedness to a shareholder, such indebtedness will be at parity with the corporation's indebtedness to its general, unsecured creditors.

Subsection (g) was added to the Model Act's provisions to address the question of how to treat a liability that by its own terms cannot be paid if its payment would violate this section. This change required the cross-reference added to subsection (e).

"Nimble dividends" (dividends paid out of current earnings) were expressly authorized under former G.S. 55-50(a)(2). That provision was not brought forward.

Subsections (h), (i), and (j) bring forward the provisions of former G.S. 55-50(k) through (m).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - Most of the cases below were decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955 or under prior law.

Former G.S. 55-50 allowed suit for improper withholding of dividend payments against corporation, directors, majority shareholders and officers of the corporation. Wilson v. Wilson-Cook Medical, Inc., 720 F. Supp. 533 (M.D.N.C. 1989).

Joinder of Suit for Failure to Declare Dividends with Cause of Action for Liquidation. - A stockholder in a corporation may sue the corporation, and join its directors as defendants, for failure to declare adequate dividends from the corporation's earnings; and may join therewith a second cause of action for liquidation and involuntary dissolution of the corporation based upon bad faith management in suppressing dividends and in deflating the value of the corporation's assets, thus precluding the plaintiff stockholder from obtaining either a fair dividend or a fair market value for his stock. Dowd v. Charlotte Pipe & Foundry Co., 263 N.C. 101, 139 S.E.2d 10 (1964).

Failure to State a Cause of Action. - Claim against director of dissolved corporation did not state a cause of action where plaintiff only alleged that director was officer when corporation dissolved and where there was no allegation that corporation's assets were distributed by officers without providing for known or reasonably ascertainable liabilities. Heather Hills Home Owners Ass'n v. Carolina Custom Dev. Co., 100 N.C. App. 263, 395 S.E.2d 154 (1990), decided under former G.S. 55-32.

Shareholder Held Entitled to Attorneys' Fees. - Plaintiff who brought action as the record owner of 42,748 shares of Preferred A stock of defendant corporation to recover a dividend was entitled to recover attorneys' fees under subsection (h) of former G.S. 55-50. McGladrey, Hendrickson & Pullen v. Syntek Fin. Corp., 98 N.C. App. 151, 389 S.E.2d 636 (1990), aff'd, 330 N.C. 602, 411 S.E.2d 585 (1992).

Disregard of Corporate Entity Upheld. - Trial court was justified in disregarding the corporate entity and holding defendant personally liable to the extent of plaintiff 's damages under the contract where defendant, who was president and sole shareholder of company, received substantial compensation from the sale of the corporation's assets without informing plaintiff of the sale or making provision for contractual debt to plaintiff. Hudson v. Jim Simmons Pontiac-Buick, Inc., 94 N.C. App. 563, 380 S.E.2d 612 (1989), decided under the former Business Corporation Act.

As to suits in equity to compel declaration and payment of dividends, see Gaines v. Long Mfg. Co., 234 N.C. 331, 67 S.E.2d 355 (1951).

Creditors Lacked Standing. - Plaintiffs lacked standing to assert claims (1) that the joinder agreements executed by two defendants were fraudulent transfers in violation of G.S. 39-23.1 and unlawful distributions in violation of G.S. 55-8-33 and G.S. 55-6-40, for which all defendants were liable, or alternatively, (2) for unauthorized execution, because such claims could have been brought by any of the corporation's creditors who, like plaintiffs, were denied timely payment of the corporation's debts when execution of the joinder agreements led to its insolvency. Angell v. Kelly, 336 F. Supp. 2d 540 (M.D.N.C. 2004).

Bankruptcy Trustee Had Standing. - There is no case law in North Carolina delineating who has standing to sue a shareholder under G.S. 55-6-40; however, dividends are transfers of corporate property. Since the statute declares such distributions to be "invalid," it would appear that the bankruptcy trustee would have standing to sue, under two alternate grounds: (1) as an effort to recover property under 11 U.S.C.S. § 541, if the transfer is legally void, or (2) if it had legal effect, as a transfer avoidance under 11 U.S.C.S. § 544. Mitchell v. Greenberg (In re Creative Entm't, Inc.), - Bankr. - (Bankr. W.D.N.C. May 27, 2003).

Cited in McGladrey, Hendrickson & Pullen v. Syntek Fin. Corp., 330 N.C. 602, 411 S.E.2d 585 (1992).

Applied in Applied Sci. Int'l, LLC v. Torres (In re Steel Network, Inc.), - Bankr. - (Bankr. M.D.N.C. July 30, 2010).

ARTICLE 7. Shareholders.

Part 1. Meetings.

Sec.

Part 2. Voting.

Part 3. Voting Trusts and Agreements.

Part 4. Derivative Proceedings.

PART 1. MEETINGS.

§ 55-7-01. Annual meeting.

  1. A corporation shall hold a meeting of shareholders annually at a time stated in or fixed in accordance with the bylaws.
  2. Annual shareholders' meetings may be held in or out of this State at the place stated in or fixed in accordance with the bylaws. If no place is stated in or fixed in accordance with the bylaws, annual meetings shall be held at the corporation's principal office.
  3. The failure to hold an annual meeting at the time stated in or fixed in accordance with a corporation's bylaws does not affect the validity of any corporate action. Upon such failure, whether from lack of quorum or otherwise, a substitute annual meeting may be called in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 55-7-02 and any meeting so called may be designated as the annual meeting.
  4. Any matter relating to the affairs of a corporation that is appropriate for shareholder action is a proper subject for action at an annual meeting of shareholders, and unless required by some provision of this Chapter, the matter need not be specifically stated in the notice of meeting.

History

(1901, c. 2, ss. 46, 49, 51; Rev., ss. 1179, 1188, 1190; C.S., ss. 1168, 1169, 1176; G.S., ss. 55-105, 55-106, 55-113; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, ss. 21, 22; 1985 (Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 801, s. 44; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 7.01(a) requires every corporation to hold an annual meeting each year of shareholders entitled to participate in the election of directors and to consider other matters coming before the meeting of shareholders. In most instances, the meeting will involve only the holders of a single class of voting shares. The principal action to be taken at the annual meeting is the election of directors pursuant to section 8.03, but the purposes of an annual meeting are not limited and all matters appropriate for shareholder action may also be considered at that meeting. An annual meeting is also the appropriate forum for a shareholder to raise any relevant question about the corporation's operations.

The requirement of section 7.01(a) that an annual meeting be held is phrased in mandatory terms to ensure that every shareholder entitled to participate in the meeting has the unqualified rights (1) to demand that the annual meeting be held and (2) to compel the holding of the meeting under section 7.03 if the corporation does not promptly hold the meeting. Many corporations, such as non-public subsidiaries and closely held corporations, do not regularly hold annual meetings, and if no shareholder objects, that practice creates no problem under section 7.01, since section 7.01(c) provides that failure to hold an annual meeting does not affect the validity of any corporate action. Rather than holding an annual meeting, the shareholders may elect directors and take other appropriate action by unanimous written consent under section 7.04. And, even if the shareholders fail to elect directors, the directors currently in office continue in office under section 8.05 beyond the expiration of their terms.

The time and place of the annual meeting may be "stated in or fixed in accordance with the bylaws." If the bylaws do not themselves fix a time and place for the annual meeting, authority to fix them may be delegated to the board of directors or to a specified corporate officer. This section thus gives corporations the flexibility to hold annual meetings in varying places at varying times as convenience may dictate.

The annual meeting may be held either inside or outside the state or in a foreign country, but if the bylaws do not fix, or state the method of fixing, the place of the meeting, the meeting must be held at the "principal office" of the corporation. The principal office is defined in section 1.40 as the location of the principal executive office of the corporation and may or may not be its registered or official office under section 5.01. Section 16.22 requires that the address of the principal office be specified in the corporation's annual report.

If the annual meeting is not held either within 6 months of the close of the corporation's fiscal year or within 15 months of the last annual meeting, a shareholder may compel an annual meeting to be held under section 7.03. In the absence of a demand for a meeting, a corporation can operate indefinitely without actually holding an annual meeting. The shareholders may act by unanimous consent under section 7.04, and in any event directors, once duly elected, remain in office until their successors are qualified. See section 8.05.

Authority granted to the board of directors or some individual to fix the time and place of the annual meeting must be exercised in good faith. See Schnell v. Chris-Craft Industries, Inc., 285 A.2d 437 (Del. 1971).

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The second sentence of subsection (c) was added to the Model Act's provisions to bring forward the provisions of former G.S. 55-61(b) regarding the holding of a substitute annual meeting. Subsection (d), which brings forward former G.S. 55-61(d), was added to make it clear that any matter appropriate for shareholder action is a proper subject for action at an annual meeting of shareholders.

Legal Periodicals. - For article, "The Creation of North Carolina's Limited Liability Corporation Act," see 32 Wake Forest L. Rev. 179 (1997).

§ 55-7-02. Special meeting.

  1. A corporation shall hold a special meeting of shareholders:
    1. On call of its board of directors or the person or persons authorized to do so by the articles of incorporation or the bylaws; or
    2. In the case of a corporation that is not a public corporation, within 30 days after the holders of at least ten percent (10%) of all the votes entitled to be cast on any issue proposed to be considered at the proposed special meeting sign, date, and deliver to the corporation's secretary one or more written demands for the meeting describing the purpose or purposes for which it is to be held. The written demand shall cease to be effective on the sixty-first day after the date of signature appearing on the demand unless prior to the sixty-first day the corporation has received effective written demands from holders sufficient to call the special meeting.
  2. If not otherwise fixed under G.S. 55-7-03 or G.S. 55-7-07, the record date for determining shareholders entitled to demand a special meeting is the date the first shareholder signs the demand.
  3. Special shareholders' meetings may be held in or out of this State at the place stated in or fixed in accordance with the bylaws. If no place is stated or fixed in accordance with the bylaws, special meetings shall be held at the corporation's principal office.
  4. Only business within the purpose or purposes described in the meeting notice required by G.S. 55-7-05(c) may be conducted at a special shareholders' meeting.

History

(1901, c. 2, ss. 46, 49, 51; Rev., ss. 1179, 1188, 1190; C.S., ss. 1168, 1169, 1176; G.S., ss. 55-105, 55-106, 55-113; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, ss. 21, 22; 1985 (Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 801, s. 44; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1991, c. 645, s. 17(a); 2001-201, s. 15; 2002-58, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

  1. Any meeting other than an annual meeting is a special meeting under section 7.02. The principal formal differences between an annual and a special meeting are that at an annual meeting directors are elected and, subject to the special notice requirements of section 7.05(b), any relevant issue pertaining to the corporation may be considered, while a special meeting must be called for specific purposes and may only consider matters within those purposes.
  2. Discretion as to calls of special meeting
  3. The business that may be conducted at a special meeting

A special meeting may be called under section 7.02(a) by the board of directors or the person or persons authorized to do so by the articles of incorporation or bylaws. Typically, the person or persons holding certain designated offices within the corporation, e.g., the president, chairman of the board of directors, or chief executive officer, are given authority to call special meetings of the shareholders. In addition, the holders of at least 10 percent of the votes entitled to be cast on a proposed issue at the special meeting may require the corporation to hold a special meeting by signing, dating, and delivering one or more writings that demand a special meeting and set forth the purpose or purposes of the desired meeting. Shareholders demanding a special meeting do not have to sign a single piece of paper, but the writings signed must all describe essentially the same purpose or purposes. Upon receipt of writings evidencing a demand by holders of 10 percent of the votes, the corporation (through an appropriate officer) must call the special meeting at a reasonable time and place. The shareholders' demand may suggest a time and place but the final decision on such matters is the corporation's. If no meeting is held within the time periods specified in section 7.03, the shareholders may obtain a summary court order under that section requiring that the meeting be held.

Section 7.02(b) fixes a record date for determining the shareholders entitled to sign a demand for a special shareholders' meeting. Unless a record date is otherwise fixed for this purpose, the record date is the date the first shareholder signs the demand. If a shareholder initially signs a demand but later seeks to withdraw his demand, the corporation may permit the shareholder to do so.

Under section 7.02(a)(2) it is possible that more than one faction of shareholders may demand meetings at roughly the same time or that a single (or changing) faction of shareholders may request consecutive, overlapping, or repetitive meetings. The responsible corporate officers have some discretion as to the call and purposes of a meeting, and where demands are repetitious or overlapping, they may refuse to call a meeting for a purpose identical or similar to a purpose for which a previous special meeting was held in the recent past. Similarly, they may decline to call a special meeting when an annual meeting will be held in the near future. This limited discretion of the corporation to deny repetitive or overlapping demands may ultimately be tested under section 7.03, which itself gives the court discretion whether or not to compel the holding of a special meeting under these circumstances. See the Official Comment to section 7.03.

Section 7.05(c) provides that a notice of a special meeting must include a "description of the purpose or purposes for which the meeting is called." Section 7.02(d) states that only business that is within that purpose or those purposes may be conducted at the special meeting. The word "within" was chosen, rather than a broader phrase like "reasonably related to," to describe the relationship between the notice and the authorized business to assure a shareholder who does not attend a special meeting that new or unexpected matters will not be considered in his absence.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The provision following the semicolon in subdivision (a)(2) was added to the Model Act's provisions to bring forward former G.S. 55-61(c), modified to change the threshold test from companies listed on a national securities exchange or held of record by more than 2000 shareholders to all public corporations (as defined in G.S. 55-1-40(18a)). This modification was designed to provide a clearer, "bright line" test, which has been employed throughout this Act.

Legal Periodicals. - For article, "Silencing the Shareholder's Voice," see 80 N.C.L. Rev. 1897 (2002).

§ 55-7-03. Court-ordered meeting.

  1. The superior court of the county where a corporation's principal office (or, if none in this State, its registered office) is located may, after notice is given to the corporation, summarily order a meeting to be held:
    1. On application of any shareholder if an annual meeting of the shareholders was not held within 15 months after the corporation's last annual meeting; or
    2. On application of a shareholder who signed a demand for a special meeting valid under G.S. 55-7-02, if the corporation does not proceed to hold the meeting as required by that section.
  2. The court may fix the time and place of the meeting, determine the shares entitled to participate in the meeting, specify a record date for determining shareholders entitled to notice of and to vote at the meeting, prescribe the form and content of the meeting notice, fix the quorum required for specific matters to be considered at the meeting (or direct that the votes represented at the meeting constitute a quorum for action on those matters), enter other orders necessary to accomplish the purpose or purposes of the meeting, and award such reasonable expenses, including attorneys' fees, as it deems appropriate.

History

(1901, c. 2, ss. 46, 49, 51; Rev., ss. 1179, 1188, 1190; C.S., ss. 1168, 1169, 1176; G.S., ss. 55-105, 55-106, 55-113; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, ss. 21, 22; 1985 (Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 801, s. 44; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1991, c. 645, s. 17(b).)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 7.03 provides the remedy for shareholders if the corporation refuses or fails to hold a shareholders' meeting as required by section 7.01 or 7.02. A shareholder entitled to participate in a meeting may apply for a summary court order to command the holding of a meeting if (1) an annual meeting is not held within 6 months after the end of the corporation's fiscal year or 15 months after its last annual meeting, or (2) a special meeting is not properly noticed within 30 days after a valid demand is delivered to the secretary of the corporation or, if properly noticed, is not held in accordance with the notice. Since a meeting must be held within 60 days of the notice date under section 7.05, the maximum delay between the demand for a special meeting and the right to petition a court for a summary order is 90 days.

  1. The court with jurisdiction to administer section 7.03
  2. The discretion of the court
  3. Burden of proof
  4. Notice, time, place, and quorum requirements
  5. Status as annual meeting

The identity of the specific court with jurisdiction to order a shareholder's meeting under section 7.03(a) must be supplied by each state when enacting this section. It is intended that this should be a court of general civil jurisdiction. Generally, all matters relating to a corporation should be addressed to the court in the county where the corporation's principal office is located in the state or, if the corporation does not have a principal office in the state, to the court in the county in which its registered office is located.

The court has discretion under section 7.03 since the language of the statute is that the court "may summarily order" that a meeting be held. A court, for example, may refuse to order a special meeting if the specified purpose is repetitive of the purpose of a special meeting held in the recent past. See the Official Comment to section 7.02. Alternatively, the court may view the demand as a good faith request for reconsideration of an action taken in the recent past and may order a meeting to be held. Similarly, even though a demand for an annual meeting is not a formal prerequisite for an application for a summary order under this section, the court may withhold setting a time and date for the annual meeting for a reasonably short period in order to permit the corporation to do so.

In any event, a shareholder applying for a summary order to hold a meeting has the burden of showing that he is entitled to the order. In the case of a special meeting, he has the burden of showing that the demand was executed by the holders of at least 10 percent of the votes entitled to be cast on the record date and that the demand was duly delivered to the corporation's secretary.

If the court orders that a meeting be held, it may fix the time and place of the meeting, determine the voting groups entitled to participate in the meeting, set the record date, order notice to be given as required by section 7.05, and enter such other orders as may be appropriate for the holding of the meeting. The court may also establish the quorum requirements for specific matters to be considered at the meeting or direct that the votes represented at the meeting automatically constitute a quorum for the taking of any action without regard to section 7.25 or any provision to the contrary in the corporation's articles of incorporation or bylaws. The latter alternative prevents a holder of the majority of the votes (who may not desire that a meeting be held) from frustrating the court-ordered meeting by not attending to prevent the existence of a quorum. In order to prevent misunderstanding about a special quorum requirement, if one is imposed, it is appropriate for the court to order that the notice of the meeting state specifically and conspicuously that a special quorum requirement is applicable to the court-ordered meeting.

The court may provide that a meeting it has ordered is to be the annual meeting. If so provided, the meeting should be viewed as compliance with section 7.01, precluding all other shareholder requests for an annual meeting for that year.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The language of the Model Act in the introductory clause of subsection (a) was modified to clarify that notice must be given to a corporation before a shareholders' meeting can be summarily ordered.

The Model Act was modified in subdivision (a)(1) to allow any shareholder, not just those entitled to participate in the meeting, to apply for a court-ordered annual meeting of shareholders if the meeting is not held within 15 months after the corporation's last annual meeting. The change reflects the principle that all shareholders have an interest in the corporation's holding shareholders' meetings. In addition, the Model Act permits a shareholder to petition for a court-ordered meeting if no annual meeting is held within the earlier of six months after the close of the corporation's fiscal year or 15 months after the last annual meeting. The drafters concluded that the six months' limitation was undesirably restrictive and effectively mandated meetings during a particular part of the year. This provision was therefore omitted.

The Model Act was modified in subdivision (a)(2) to clarify that a demand must actually be received by the corporation's secretary.

The Model Act was modified in subsection (b) to allow reasonable expenses, including attorneys' fees, to be awarded to an applying shareholder in the discretion of the court.

§ 55-7-04. Action without meeting.

  1. Action required or permitted by this Chapter to be taken at a shareholders' meeting may be taken without a meeting and without prior notice except as required by subsection (d) of this section, if the action is taken by all the shareholders entitled to vote on the action or, subject to subsection (a1) of this section, if so provided in the articles of incorporation of a corporation that is not a public corporation at the time the action is taken, by shareholders having not less than the minimum number of votes that would be necessary to take the action at a meeting at which all shareholders entitled to vote were present and voted. The action must be evidenced by one or more unrevoked written consents bearing the date of signature and signed by shareholders sufficient to take the action without a meeting, before or after such action, describing the action taken and delivered to the corporation for inclusion in the minutes or filing with the corporate records. To the extent the corporation has agreed pursuant to G.S. 55-1-50, a shareholder's consent to action taken without meeting or revocation thereof may be in electronic form and delivered by electronic means.
  2. Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, the following actions may be taken without a meeting only by all the shareholders entitled to vote on the action:
    1. If cumulative voting is not authorized, the election of directors at the annual meeting; or
    2. If cumulative voting is authorized, the election of directors and the removal of a director unless the entire board of directors is to be removed, and if G.S. 55-7-28(e) applies to the corporation, an amendment to the articles of incorporation to deny or limit the right of shareholders to vote cumulatively and an amendment to the articles of incorporation or bylaws to decrease the number of directors.
  3. A shareholder's written consent to action to be taken without a meeting shall cease to be effective on the sixty-first day after the date of signature appearing on the consent unless prior to the sixty-first day the corporation has received unrevoked written consents sufficient under subsection (a) of this section to take the action without meeting. If not otherwise fixed under G.S. 55-7-03 or G.S. 55-7-07, the record date for determining shareholders entitled to take action without a meeting is the earliest date of signature appearing on any consent that is to be counted in satisfying the requirements of subsection (a) of this section. A shareholder may only revoke a written consent if such shareholder delivers to the corporation a written revocation prior to the corporation's receipt of unrevoked written consents sufficient under subsection (a) of this section to take the action.
  4. A consent signed under this section has the effect of a meeting vote and may be described as such in any document.
  5. Unless the articles of incorporation otherwise provide, if shareholder approval is required by this Chapter for (i) an amendment to the articles of incorporation pursuant to Article 10 of this Chapter, (ii) a plan of merger or share exchange pursuant to Article 11 of this Chapter, (iii) a plan of conversion pursuant to Part 2 of Article 11A of this Chapter, (iv) the sale, lease, exchange, or other disposition of all, or substantially all, of the corporation's property pursuant to Article 12 of this Chapter, or (v) a proposal for dissolution pursuant to Article 14 of this Chapter, and the approval is to be obtained through action without meeting, the corporation must give its shareholders, other than shareholders who consent to the action, written notice of the proposed action at least 10 days before the action is taken. The notice shall contain or be accompanied by the same material that, under this Chapter, would have been required to be sent to shareholders not entitled to vote on the action in a notice of meeting at which the proposed action would have been submitted to shareholders for action.
  6. If action is taken without a meeting by fewer than all shareholders entitled to vote on the action, the corporation shall give written notice to all shareholders who have not consented to the action and who, if the action had been taken at a meeting, would have been entitled to notice of the meeting with the same record date as the action taken without a meeting, within 10 days after the action is taken. The notice shall describe the action and indicate that the action has been taken without a meeting of shareholders. Failure to comply with the requirements of this subsection shall not invalidate any action taken that otherwise complies with this section.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1969, c. 751, s. 33; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2001-387, s. 11; 2001-487, ss. 62(b), 62(c); 2005-268, ss. 2, 3.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 7.04 provides that all the shareholders entitled to vote on an issue may validly act by unanimous written consent without a meeting. Unanimous written consent is obtainable, as a practical matter, only on matters on which there are only a relatively few shareholders entitled to vote.

Section 7.04 is based on the fundamental premise that if all the voting shareholders desire some action to be taken, no purpose is served by requiring the formality of holding a meeting of shareholders. Action by unanimous written consent has the same effect as a meeting vote and may be described as such in any document, including documents delivered to the secretary of state for filing. Section 7.04 is applicable to any shareholder action, including, without limitation, election of directors, approval of mergers or sales of substantially all the corporate property not in the ordinary course of business, amendments of articles of incorporation, and dissolution.

  1. Form of written consent
  2. Revocation of consent
  3. Consent to fundamental corporate changes

To be effective, consents must be in writing, signed by all the shareholders entitled to vote, and delivered to the secretary of the corporation. The phrase "one or more written consents" is included in section 7.04(a) to make it clear that all shareholders do not need to sign the same piece of paper. The record date for determining who is entitled to vote, if not otherwise fixed by or in accordance with the bylaws, is the date the first shareholder signs the consent.

Action by unanimous written consent is effective only when the last shareholder has signed the appropriate written consent and all consents have been delivered to the secretary of the corporation. Before that time, any shareholder may withdraw his consent simply by advising the secretary of that fact. Cf. Calumet Industries, Inc. v. McClure, 464 F. Supp. 19 (N.D. Ill. 1978). The withdrawal of a single consent, of course, destroys the unanimous written consent required by this section. If a shareholder seeks to withdraw his consent after all shareholders have signed written consents and filed them with the secretary of the corporation, the corporation may treat the attempted withdrawal as too late or give it effect, thereby requiring the matter to be presented at a shareholders' meeting.

Section 7.04 is applicable to all shareholder actions, including the approval of fundamental corporate changes described in chapters 10, 11, 12, and 14. If these actions were taken at an annual or special meeting, shareholders who were not entitled to vote on the matter would nevertheless be entitled to receive notice of the meeting, including a description of the transaction proposed to be considered at the meeting. See, e.g., sections 10.03 (notice of proposed amendment), 11.03 (notice of proposed merger). In order to ensure that nonvoting shareholders have essentially the same right if action is taken by consent rather than at a meeting, section 7.04(d) provides that all nonvoting shareholders must be given at least 10 days' written notice of the fundamental corporate changes that are proposed for approval by consent.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The Model Act was modified in subsection (a) to incorporate the provisions of former G.S. 55-63, which provided that unanimous written consent to action without a meeting can be given either before or after the date of the action.

SUPPLEMENTAL NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY (2001)

Effective January 1, 2002, this section was amended to permit less than unanimous shareholder action without meeting for corporations other than public corporations. Subsection (b) was amended to add a requirement that written consents to an action must be obtained from shareholders within a period of 60 days. Subsection (d) was amended to require advance notice of proposed shareholder action on certain fundamental corporate changes to all shareholders (other than shareholders who consent to the action) rather than only to holders of nonvoting shares. Advance notice is not required if the articles of incorporation so provided. Subsection (e) was added to provide that if action is taken by less than unanimous written consent, notice of the action must be given within 10 days after the action is taken to all shareholders who have not consented to the action and who would have been entitled to notice of the proposed action if the action had been taken at a meeting.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2001-387, s. 154(a) authorizes the Revisor of Statutes to cause to be printed all explanatory comments of the drafters of the act as the Revisor deems appropriate.

Session Laws 2001-387, s. 154(b) provides that nothing in this act shall supersede the provisions of Article 10 or 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes, and this act does not create an alternate means for an entity governed by Article 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes to convert to a different business form.

Effective October 1, 2005, this section is amended to add a provision recognizing that a shareholder may revoke in writing the shareholder's written consent to action before the corporation has received consents sufficient to take the action. The Official Comment indicates that this was the case even before this amendment. However, the Official Comment also indicates that a corporation may elect to give effect to a revocation received after the corporation has received consents sufficient to take the action. In keeping with changes in the Model Business Corporation Act made since the Official Comment was written, this section as amended provides that the revocation must be received by the corporation before the corporation has received consents sufficient to take the action.

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2005-268, ss. 2 and 3, effective October 1, 2005, in subsection (a), deleted "the number" following "signature and signed by" and inserted "unrevoked" preceding "written consents" in the second sentence, and inserted "or revocation thereof" following "taken without meeting" in the last sentence; and in subsection (b), inserted "unrevoked" following "corporation has received" in the first sentence, added the last sentence and made a minor stylistic change.

Legal Periodicals. - For article, "Silencing the Shareholder's Voice," see 80 N.C.L. Rev. 1897 (2002).

§ 55-7-05. Notice of meeting.

  1. A corporation shall notify shareholders of the date, time, and place of each annual and special shareholders' meeting no fewer than 10 nor more than 60 days before the meeting date. If the board of directors has authorized participation by means of remote communication pursuant to G.S. 55-7-09 for any class or series of shareholders, the notice to such class or series of shareholders shall describe the means of remote communication to be used. Unless this Chapter or the articles of incorporation require otherwise, the corporation is required to give notice only to shareholders entitled to vote at the meeting.
  2. Unless this Chapter or the articles of incorporation require otherwise, notice of an annual meeting need not include a description of the purpose or purposes for which the meeting is called.
  3. Notice of a special meeting must include a description of the purpose or purposes for which the meeting is called.
  4. If not otherwise fixed under G.S. 55-7-03 or G.S. 55-7-07, the record date for determining shareholders entitled to notice of and to vote at an annual or special shareholders' meeting is the close of business on the day before the first notice is delivered to shareholders.
  5. Unless the bylaws require otherwise, if an annual or special shareholders' meeting is adjourned to a different date, time, or place, notice need not be given of the new date, time, or place if the new date, time, or place is announced at the meeting before adjournment. If a new record date for the adjourned meeting is or must be fixed under G.S. 55-7-07, however, notice of the adjourned meeting must be given under this section to persons who are shareholders as of the new record date.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2013-153, s. 3.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Shareholders entitled to notice must be given notice of annual and special meetings pursuant to section 7.05 unless the notice is waived pursuant to section 7.06. Notice must be given at least 10 but not more than 60 days before the meeting date.

  1. Shareholders entitled to notice
  2. Statement of matters to be considered at an annual meeting
  3. Record date
  4. Notice of adjourned meetings

Generally, only shareholders who are entitled to vote at a meeting are entitled to notice. Thus, notice usually needs to be sent only to holders of shares entitled to vote for an election of directors or generally on other matters (in the case of an annual meeting), and on matters within the specified purposes set forth in the notice (in the case of a special meeting), and only to holders of shares of those classes or series of shares on the record date. The last sentence of section 7.05(a), however, recognizes that other sections of the Act require that notice of meetings at which certain types of fundamental corporate changes are to be considered must be sent to all shareholders, including holders of shares who are not entitled to vote on any matter at the meeting. See sections 10.03, 11.03, 12.02, and 14.02. In addition, the articles of incorporation may require that notice of meetings be given to all or specified voting groups of shareholders who are not entitled to vote on the matters considered at those meetings.

Notice of all special meetings must include a description of the purpose or purposes for which the meeting is called and the matters acted upon at the meeting are limited to those within the notice of meeting. By contrast, the notice of an annual meeting usually need not refer to any specific purpose or purposes, and any matter appropriate for shareholder action may be considered. As recognized in subsection (b), however, other provisions of the revised Model Act provide that certain types of fundamental corporate changes may be considered at an annual meeting only if specific reference to the proposed action appears in the notice of meeting. See sections 10.03, 11.03, 12.02, and 14.02. In addition, if the board of directors chooses, a notice of an annual meeting may contain references to purposes or proposals not required by statute. In either event, if a notice of an annual meeting refers specifically to one or more purposes, the meeting is not limited to those purposes.

Section 7.05(d) is a catch-all record date provision for both annual and special meetings. If the record date for notice and for voting entitlement is not otherwise fixed pursuant to sections 7.03 or 7.07, the record date for purposes of determining who is entitled to notice and to vote at the meeting is the close of business on the day before the notice is mailed to the voting groups of shareholders. If notice is mailed to shareholders over a period of more than one day, the day before the notice is delivered to the first shareholders is the record date.

The selection of the close of business on the day before the notice is mailed as the catch-all record date is intended to permit the corporation to mail notices to shareholders on a given day without regard to any requests for transfer that may have been received during that day. For this reason, this section is not inconsistent with the general principle set forth in the last sentence of section 7.07(a) that the board of directors may not fix a retroactive record date.

Section 7.05(e) provides rules for adjourned meetings and determines whether new notice must be given to shareholders. Under this subsection a meeting may be adjourned to a different date, time, or place without additional notice to the shareholders (unless the bylaws require otherwise) if the new date, time, or place is announced before adjournment. But new notice is required if a new record date is or must be fixed under section 7.07(c). If a new record date is or must be fixed, the 10-to-60-day notice requirement and all other requirements of section 7.05 must be complied with as notice is given to the persons who are shareholders as of the new record date. A new quorum for the adjourned meeting must also be established. See section 7.25.

Section 7.25 provides that if a quorum exists for a meeting, it is deemed to continue to exist automatically for an adjourned meeting unless a new record date is or must be set for the adjourned meeting.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2013-153, s. 15 provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2013-153, s. 3, effective January 1, 2014, added the second sentence in subsection (a).

§ 55-7-06. Waiver of notice.

  1. A shareholder may waive any notice required by this Chapter, the articles of incorporation, or bylaws before or after the date and time stated in the notice. The waiver must be in writing, be signed by the shareholder entitled to the notice, and be delivered to the corporation for inclusion in the minutes or filing with the corporate records.
  2. A shareholder's attendance at a meeting:
    1. Waives objection to lack of notice or defective notice of the meeting, unless the shareholder at the beginning of the meeting objects to holding the meeting or transacting business at the meeting;
    2. Waives objection to consideration of a particular matter at the meeting that is not within the purpose or purposes described in the meeting notice, unless the shareholder objects to considering the matter before it is voted upon.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 7.06(a) permits any shareholder to waive any notice required by section 7.05 by a written waiver, signed by the shareholder and delivered to the corporation. A waiver is effective even though it is signed at or after the time set for the meeting.

  1. Informal waiver of notice
  2. Waiver of notice where fundamental corporate actions are considered

A notice of shareholder meetings serves two principal purposes: (1) it advises shareholders of the date, time, and place of the annual or special meeting, and (2) in the case of a special meeting (or an annual meeting at which fundamental changes may be made), it advises shareholders of the purposes of the meeting. If a shareholder attends a meeting, he has probably received some form of notice of the date, time, and place of the meeting whether from the corporation or from another source. As a result, section 7.06(b)(1) provides that attendance at a meeting constitutes waiver of any failure to receive the notice or defects in the statement of the date, time, and place of any meeting. Defects waived by attendance for this purpose include a failure to send the notice altogether, delivery to the wrong address, a misstatement of the date, time, or place of the meeting, and a failure to notice the meeting within the time periods specified in section 7.05(a). If a shareholder believes that the defect in or failure of notice was in some way prejudicial, he may preserve his objection by stating at the beginning of the meeting that he objects to holding the meeting or transacting any business. If this objection is made, the corporation may correct the defect by sending proper notice to the shareholders for a subsequent meeting or by obtaining written waivers of notice from all shareholders who did not receive the notice required by section 7.05.

For purposes of this section, "attendance" at a meeting involves the presence of the shareholder in person or by proxy. A shareholder who attends a meeting solely for the purpose of objecting to the notice may be counted as present for purposes of determining whether a quorum is present. See the Official Comment to section 7.25.

In the case of special meetings, or annual meetings at which fundamental corporate changes are considered, a second purpose of the notice is to tell shareholders what is to be considered at the meeting. An objection that a particular matter is not within the stated purposes of the meeting obviously cannot be raised until the matter is presented. Thus section 7.06(b)(2) provides that a shareholder waives this kind of objection if he fails to object promptly after the matter is first presented. If this objection is made, the corporation may correct the defect by sending proper notice to the shareholders for a subsequent meeting or obtaining written waivers of notice from all shareholders. Of course, whether or not a specific matter is within a stated purpose of a meeting is ultimately a matter for judicial determination, typically in a suit to invalidate action taken at the meeting brought by a shareholder who was not present at the meeting or who was present at the meeting and preserved his objection under section 7.06(b).

The purpose of both waiver rules in section 7.06(b) is to require shareholders with technical objections to holding the meeting or considering a specific matter to raise them at the outset and not reserve them to be raised only if they are unhappy with the outcome of the meeting. The rules set forth in this section differ in some respects from the waiver rules for directors set forth in section 8.23 where a waiver is inferred if the director acquiesces in the action taken at a meeting even if he raised a technical objection to the notice of a meeting at the outset.

Other sections of the Model Act require that shareholders who are not entitled to vote are entitled to notice of meetings at which certain fundamental corporate changes are to be considered. See sections 10.03, 11.03, 12.02, and 14.02. In order to obtain an effective waiver of notice for these meetings under this section, waivers must be obtained from the nonvoting shareholders who are entitled to notice as well as from the voting shareholders.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

At the end of subdivision (b)(2), the more specific words "before it is voted upon" were substituted for the Model Act's language "when it is presented."

§ 55-7-07. Record date.

  1. The bylaws may fix or provide the manner of fixing the record date for one or more voting groups in order to determine the shareholders entitled to notice of a shareholders' meeting, to demand a special meeting, to vote, or to take any other action. If the bylaws do not fix or provide for fixing a record date, the board of directors of the corporation may fix a future date as the record date.
  2. A record date fixed under this section may not be more than 70 days before the meeting or action requiring a determination of shareholders.
  3. A determination of shareholders entitled to notice of or to vote at a shareholders' meeting is effective for any adjournment of the meeting unless the board of directors fixes a new record date, which it must do if the meeting is adjourned to a date more than 120 days after the date fixed for the original meeting.
  4. If a court orders a meeting adjourned to a date more than 120 days after the date fixed for the original meeting, it may provide that the original record date continues in effect or it may fix a new record date.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1973, c. 469, s. 45.1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 7.07 authorizes the board of directors to fix record dates for any action unless the bylaws themselves fix or provide for the fixing of a record date. A separate record date may be established for each voting group entitled to vote separately on a matter at a meeting, or a single record date may be established for all voting groups entitled to participate in the meeting. If neither the bylaws nor the board of directors fix a record date for a specific action, the section of this Act that deals with that action itself fixes the record date. For example, section 7.05(d), relating to giving notice of a meeting, provides that the record date for determining who is entitled to notice of a meeting (if not fixed by the directors or the bylaws) is the close of business on the day before the date the corporation first gives notice to shareholders of the meeting.

A record date may not be fixed more than 70 days before the meeting or action in question and may not be fixed retroactively. Once set, the same record date may be utilized for an adjournment of the meeting that reconvenes within 120 days after the date fixed for the original meeting or the board of directors may fix a new record date. If the adjourned meeting takes place more than 120 days after the date fixed for the original meeting, section 7.07(c) requires that a new record date be fixed. But if an adjournment is ordered by a court, section 7.07(d) allows the court to provide that the original record date continues to be applicable or to fix a different date. In any event, if a different record date is or must be fixed under this section, section 7.05 requires that new notice be given to the persons who are shareholders as of the new record date, and section 7.25 requires that a quorum be reestablished for that meeting.

§ 55-7-08: Repealed by Session Laws 2013-153, s. 4, effective January 1, 2014.

History

(2001-387, s. 12; repealed by 2013-513, s. 4, effective January 1, 2014.)

Editor's Note. - Former G.S. 55-7-08 pertained to electronic or other means of remote attendance at meeting of shareholders. For present provisions pertaining to remote participation in shareholder meetings, see G.S. 55-7-09.


§ 55-7-09. Remote participation in meetings.

  1. To the extent authorized by a corporation's board of directors, shareholders of any class or series designated by the board of directors may participate in any meeting of shareholders by means of remote communication. Participation by means of remote communication shall be subject to such guidelines and procedures as the board of directors adopts and shall be in conformity with subsection (b) of this section.
  2. Shareholders participating in a shareholders' meeting by means of remote communication shall be deemed present and may vote at such a meeting if the corporation has implemented reasonable measures to do all of the following:
    1. Verify that each person participating remotely is a shareholder.
    2. Provide each shareholder participating remotely a reasonable opportunity to participate in the meeting and to vote on matters submitted to the shareholders, including an opportunity to communicate and read or hear the proceedings of the meeting, substantially concurrently with such proceedings.

History

(2013-153, s. 5.)

OFFICIAL COMMENTS (2013)

Section 7.09 permits shareholders to participate in annual and special shareholder meetings by means of remote communication, such as over the Internet or through telephone conference calls, subject to the conditions set forth in section 7.09(b) and any other guidelines and procedures that the board of directors adopts. This would include the use of electronic ballots to the extent authorized by the board of directors. This authorization extends as well to anyone to whom such shareholder has granted a proxy. Section 7.09 does not eliminate the requirement that corporations hold meetings at a physical location. See sections 7.01 and 7.02. Section 7.09 expressly provides that participation by remote means is permitted only if it is authorized by the board of directors. This limitation is meant to ensure that the board of directors has the sole discretion to determine whether to allow shareholders to participate by means of remote communication. Thus, a corporation may not be compelled to allow such participation either through amendments to the bylaws, shareholder resolutions, or otherwise.

Section 7.09 allows the board of director s to limit participation by means of remote communication to all share holders of a particular class or series, but does not permit the board of directors to limit such participation to particular shareholders within a class or series.

Section 7.09 requires the board of directors to implement certain procedures when allowing shareholder participation by means of remote communication. First, the board of directors must create reasonable measures for verifying those entitled to vote. Second, the board of directors must institute reasonable measures to ensure that all shareholders and their proxies within the authorized class or series have the opportunity to participate in the meeting, including measures that provide them with an opportunity to communicate with management and other shareholders present at the meeting, and to read or hear the proceedings. While this provision is aimed at approximating as much as possible shareholder participation in person or by proxy, including interacting with management during the meeting, it does not require that all can so participate and interact. In addition, Section 7.09 is not intended to expand the rights to participate in meetings or otherwise alter the ability of the board of directors or the chair to conduct meetings pursuant to section 7.08 in a manner that is fair and orderly. For example, many corporations limit or cut-off shareholder comments and, if such practice is fair to shareholders consistent with section 7.08, such practice is not changed by section 7.09. The two requirements under section 7.09(b) reflect the minimum deemed necessary to safeguard the integrity of the shareholders' meeting. Section 7.09 specifically gives the board of directors the flexibility and discretion to adopt additional guidelines and procedures for allowing shareholders to participate in a meeting by means of remote communication.

In order to give corporations the flexibility to choose the most efficient means of remote communication, the board may require that shareholders communicate their desire to participate by a certain date and condition the provision of remote communication or the form of communication to be used on the affirmative response of a certain number or proportion of shareholders eligible to participate. If the board of directors authorizes shareholder participation by means of remote communication pursuant to this section, such authorization and the process for participating by remote means of communication, must be included in the meeting notice required by section 7.05.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2013-153, s. 15 provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

§§ 55-7-10 through 55-7-19: Reserved for future codification purposes.

PART 2. VOTING.

§ 55-7-20. Shareholders' list for meeting.

  1. After fixing a record date for a meeting, a corporation shall prepare an alphabetical list of the names of all its shareholders who are entitled to notice of a shareholders' meeting. The list must be arranged by voting group (and within each voting group by class or series of shares) and show the address of and number of shares held by each shareholder.
  2. The shareholders' list must be available for inspection by any shareholder, beginning two business days after notice of the meeting is given for which the list was prepared and continuing through the meeting, at the corporation's principal office or at a place identified in the meeting notice in the city where the meeting will be held. A shareholder, personally or by or with his representative, is entitled on written demand to inspect and, subject to the requirements of G.S. 55-16-02(c), to copy the list, during regular business hours and at his expense, during the period it is available for inspection.
  3. The corporation shall make the shareholders' list available at the meeting, and any shareholder, personally or by or with his representative, is entitled to inspect the list at any time during the meeting or any adjournment. The corporation is not required to make the list available through electronic or other means of remote communication to a shareholder or proxy attending the meeting by remote communication pursuant to G.S. 55-7-09.
  4. If the corporation refuses to allow a shareholder or his representative to inspect the shareholders' list before or at the meeting (or copy the list as permitted by subsection (b)), the superior court of the county where a corporation's principal office (or, if none in this State, its registered office) is located, on application of the shareholder, after notice is given to the corporation, may summarily order the inspection or copying at the corporation's expense and may postpone the meeting for which the list was prepared until the inspection or copying is complete.
  5. Refusal or failure to prepare or make available the shareholders' list does not affect the validity of action taken at the meeting.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1993, c. 552, s. 9; 2001-387, s. 13; 2013-153, s. 6.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 7.20 requires the preparation of a list of shareholders entitled to notice of a meeting and requires that this list be made available on request to shareholders within two business days after the meeting notice is given.

The list of shareholders is often referred to as the "voting list" and usually the list will include only the names of those shareholders entitled to vote at the meeting. The list, however, must also include the names and shareholdings of shareholders of nonvoting shares if they are entitled to notice of the meeting by reason of the nature of the actions proposed to be taken at the meeting. See section 7.05 and its Official Comment.

Making the list of shareholders available before the meeting marks a change from the 1969 version of the Model Act. Through this device, a shareholder may learn the identity of the owners of substantial blocks of shares or the owners of shares similarly situated and communicate with them to see if his concerns are shared and should be pursued.

  1. When the list must be available
  2. Where the list must be maintained
  3. The form in which the list is maintained
  4. Consequences of failing to prepare the list or refusal to make it available
  5. The right to obtain a copy of the list
  6. Relationship to right to inspect corporate records generally

The list must generally be available for inspection two business days after notice of the meeting is given and continuously thereafter until the meeting occurs. If, however, notice of the meeting is waived by all the shareholders, the list need be available only at the meeting itself under section 7.20(c) unless one or more waivers are conditioned upon receipt of the list.

Section 7.20(b) permits the list to be maintained either at the corporation's principal office or at another location in the city in which the meeting is to be held, the precise location to be designated in the notice of meeting. If the corporation changes the location of its annual meeting, it thus may correspondingly change the location of the list of shareholders pursuant to this subsection.

Section 7.20(c) also requires a copy of the shareholders' list to be available at the meeting itself for inspection. This list may be used to determine attendance, the presence or absence of a quorum, and the right to vote.

Section 7.20 does not require the list of shareholders to be in any particular form. It may be maintained, for example, in electronic form. If the list is maintained in other than written form, however, suitable equipment must be provided so that a comprehensible list may be inspected by a shareholder as permitted by this section.

Section 7.20 creates a corporate obligation rather than an obligation imposed upon a corporate officer. If the corporation fails to prepare the list or refuses to permit a shareholder to inspect it, either before the meeting as required by section 7.20(b) or at the meeting itself as required by section 7.20(c), a shareholder may apply to the appropriate court under section 7.20(d) for a summary order permitting inspection of the list; the court may further order the meeting to be postponed for a reasonable time. If the court orders a copy of the list to be provided to the shareholders, the copying is at the corporation's expense; if the corporation produces the list voluntarily pursuant to section 7.20(b) or (c), any inspection and copying are at the shareholder's expense.

This judicial remedy is the only sanction for violation of section 7.20 since section 7.20(e) provides that the failure to prepare, maintain, or produce the list does not affect the validity of any action taken at the meeting.

Section 7.20(b) permits shareholders to "inspect" the list without limitation, but permits the shareholder to "copy" the list only if the shareholder complies with the requirement of section 16.02(c), that the demand be "made in good faith and for a proper purpose." The right to copy the list includes, if reasonable, the right to receive a copy of the list upon payment of a reasonable charge. See sections 16.03(b) and (c). The distinction between "inspection" and "copying" set forth in section 7.20(b) reflects an accommodation between competing considerations of permitting shareholders access to the list before a meeting and possible misuse of the list.

Section 7.20 creates a right of shareholders to inspect a list of shareholders in advance of and at a meeting that is independent of the rights of shareholders to inspect corporate records under chapter 16A. A shareholder may obtain the right to inspect the list of shareholders as provided in chapter 16A without regard to the provisions relating to the pendency of a meeting in section 7.20, and similarly the limitations of chapter 16A are not applicable to the right of inspection created by section 7.20 except to the extent the shareholder seeks to copy the list in advance of the meeting.

The right to inspect under chapter 16A is also broader in the sense that in some circumstances the shareholder may be entitled to receive copies of the documents he may inspect. See section 16.03.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

An "or" was inserted in the second sentence of subsection (b) following the word "shareholders" in order to clarify that the disjunctive is either the shareholder or his agent or attorney. Subsection (d) was modified from the Model Act to make it clear that notice must be given to the corporation before a court enters a summary order.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2001-387, s. 154(b) provides that nothing in this act shall supersede the provisions of Article 10 or 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes, and this act does not create an alternate means for an entity governed by Article 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes to convert to a different business form.

Session Laws 2013-153, s. 15 provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

Section 55-7-08, referred to in subsection (c), was repealed by Session Laws 2013-153, s. 4, effective January 1, 2014. For present provisions pertaining to remote participation in shareholder meetings, see G.S. 55-7-09.

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2013-153, s. 6, effective January 1, 2014, substituted "G.S. 55-7-09" for "G.S. 55-7-08" at the end of subsection (c).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - The case below was decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955.

As to applicability of former section relating to shareholders' voting list to building and loan associations, see White v. Smith, 256 N.C. 218, 123 S.E.2d 628 (1962).


§ 55-7-21. Voting entitlement of shares.

  1. Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c) of this section or unless the articles of incorporation provide otherwise, each outstanding share, regardless of class, is entitled to one vote on each matter voted on at a shareholders' meeting.
  2. Absent special circumstances, the shares of a corporation are not entitled to vote if they are owned by or otherwise belong to the corporation, directly or indirectly, through an entity of which a majority of the voting power is held directly or indirectly by the corporation or which is otherwise controlled by the corporation.
  3. Subsection (b) of this section does not limit the power of a corporation to vote any shares, including its own shares, held, directly or indirectly, in a fiduciary capacity, unless they are held for the benefit of, or otherwise belong to, the corporation, directly or indirectly, through an entity of which a majority of the voting power is held directly or indirectly by the corporation or which is otherwise controlled by the corporation.
  4. Redeemable shares are not entitled to vote after notice of redemption is given to the holders and a sum sufficient to redeem the shares has been deposited with a bank, trust company, or other financial institution under an irrevocable obligation to pay the holders the redemption price on surrender of the shares.
  5. For purposes of this section, "voting power" means the current power to vote in the election of directors of a corporation or to elect, select, or appoint managers, managing members, or other members of the governing body of another entity.

History

(Rev., ss. 1183, 1184; 1907, c. 457, s. 1; 1909, c. 827, s. 1; C.S., s. 1173; 1945, c. 635; G.S., s. 55-110; 1951, c. 265, s. 2; 1953, c. 722; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 768; c. 1316, s. 23; 1963, c. 1065; 1969, c. 751, ss. 34, 35; 1985, c. 419; 1985 (Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 801, s. 45; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2021-106, s. 1(a).)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 7.21 deals with the entitlement of shareholders to vote, while section 7.22 deals with voting by proxy and section 7.24 establishes rules for the corporation's acceptance or rejection of proxy votes.

  1. Voting power of shares
  2. Voting power of nonshareholders
  3. Circular holdings
  4. Shares held in a fiduciary capacity
  5. Redeemable shares

Section 7.2(a) provides that each outstanding share, regardless of class, is entitled to one vote per share unless otherwise provided in the articles of incorporation. See section 6.01 and its Official Comment. The articles of incorporation may provide for multiple or fractional votes per share, and may provide that some classes of shares are nonvoting on some or all matters, or that some classes have multiple or fractional votes per share while other classes have a single vote per share or different multiple or fractional votes per share, or that some classes constitute one or more separate voting groups and are entitled to vote separately on the matter.

The articles of incorporation may also authorize the board of directors to create classes or series of shares with preferential rights, which may be voting or nonvoting in whole or in part. See section 6.02 and its Official Comment.

Fractional or multiple votes per share, or nonvoting shares, are often used in the planning of business ventures, particularly closely held ventures, when the contributions of participants vary in kind or quality. It is possible through these devices, for example, to give persons with relatively small financial contributions a relatively large voting power within the corporation.

The power to vary or condition voting power is also often used to give increased protection to financial interests in the corporation. It is customary, for example, to make classes of shares with preferential rights nonvoting, but the power to vote may be granted to those classes if distributions are omitted for a specified period. This conditional right to vote may permit the class of shares with preferential rights to vote separately as a voting group to elect one or more directors or to vote with the shares having general voting rights in the election of the directors.

In order to reflect the possibility that shares may have multiple or fractional votes per share, all provisions relating to quorums, voting, and similar matters in the Model Act are phrased in terms of "votes" rather than "shares."

Under the last sentence of section 7.21(a), the power to vote cannot be granted generally to nonshareholders. The statutes of some states permit bondholders to be given the power to vote under certain specified circumstances; this option is not available under the Model Act. But creditors may in effect be given the power to vote, e.g., by creating a special class of redeemable voting shares for them, by creating a voting trust at the time the credit is extended with power in the creditors to name the voting trustees, by registering the shares in the name of the creditors as pledgees with power to vote, or by granting the creditors a revocable or irrevocable proxy to vote some or all of the outstanding shares. See the Official Comment to section 7.22.

Section 7.21(b) prohibits the voting of shares held by a domestic or foreign corporation that is itself a majority-owned subsidiary of the corporation issuing the shares. The purpose of this prohibition is to prevent management from using a corporate investment to perpetuate itself in power. Similar public policy considerations may be present in situations where the issuing corporation owns a large but not a majority interest in the corporation voting the shares. The inclusion of section 7.21(b) is not intended to affect the possible application of common law principles that may invalidate circular holding situations not within its literal prohibition. As to the possible existence of these common law principles, see, e.g., Cleveland Trust Co. v. Eaton, 11 Ohio Misc. 151, 229 N.E.2d 850 (1967), rev'd on the basis of statutory amendment, 20 Ohio St.2d 129, 256 N.E.2d 198 (1970). The phrase "absent special circumstances" is included to enable a court to permit the voting of shares where it deems that the purpose of the section is not violated.

Section 7.21(c) makes the prohibition against voting of circularly-owned shares of section 7.21(b) inapplicable to shares held in a fiduciary capacity. Compare DEL. GEN. CORP. LAW § 160(c). The Ohio statute involved in the Eaton case authorized a bank to vote its own shares that were held by it in a fiduciary capacity. A state may grant or prohibit such voting by another statute; section 7.21(c) provides only that such voting is not prohibited by the Model Act.

Redeemable shares are often redeemed in connection with a transaction such as a merger or the issuance of a new senior class of shares that requires shareholder approval. Section 7.21(d) avoids subjecting a transacting to approval by a class of redeemable shares that will be redeemed as a result of the transaction if adequate provision has been made to ensure that the holders of the redeemable shares will in fact receive the amount payable to them on redemption.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The last sentence of subsection 7.21(a) of the Model Act, which specifies that only shares are entitled to vote, was omitted because G.S. 55-7-21.1 permits a corporation to provide to holders of debt securities the right to vote in certain circumstances. Subsection (d) was modified by substituting "given" for the Model Act's word "mailed" in order to make the provision consistent with the definition of "notice" in G.S. 55-1-41.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2021-106, s. 7(a), provides: "The Revisor of Statutes shall cause to be printed, as annotations to the published General Statutes, all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor may deem appropriate."

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2021-106, s. 1(a), effective October 1, 2021, deleted "of this section” following "and (c)” in subsection (a); substituted "owned by or otherwise belong to the corporation, directly or indirectly, through an entity of which a majority of the voting power is held directly or indirectly by the corporation or which is otherwise controlled by the corporation” for "owned, directly or indirectly, by a second corporation, domestic or foreign, and the first corporation owns, directly or indirectly, a majority of the shares entitled to vote for directors of the second corporation” in subsection (b); in (c), inserted "of this section” and substituted "held, directly or indirectly” for "held by it” and "capacity, unless they are held for the benefit of, or otherwise belong to, the corporation, directly or indirectly, through an entity of which a majority of the voting power is held directly or indirectly by the corporation or which is otherwise controlled by the corporation” for "capacity”; and added subsection (e).

Legal Periodicals. - For article on the evolution of corporate combination law, see 76 N.C.L. Rev. 687 (1998).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - The cases below were decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955 or under prior law.

Agreement Depriving Stockholders of Right to Vote. - See Harvey v. Linville Imp. Co., 118 N.C. 693, 24 S.E. 489 (1896); Sheppard v. Rockingham Power Co., 150 N.C. 776, 64 S.E. 894 (1909).

When Trustee May Vote. - See Haywood v. Wright, 152 N.C. 421, 67 S.E. 982 (1910).

Vote of One Trustee as Act of All Trustees. - The vote of one trustee ordinarily is the act of all the trustees where the trust owns shares of corporate stock. Fulk & Needham, Inc. v. United States, 411 F.2d 1403 (4th Cir. 1969).

§ 55-7-21.1. Rights of holders of debt securities.

In addition to any rights otherwise lawfully conferred, the articles of incorporation of the corporation may confer upon the holders of any bonds, debentures or other debt obligations issued or to be issued by the corporation any one or more of the following powers and rights upon such terms and conditions as may be prescribed in the articles of incorporation:

  1. The power to vote on any matter either in conjunction with or to the full or partial exclusion of its shareholders, notwithstanding G.S. 55-6-01(c)(1), and in determination of votes and voting groups, the holders of such debt obligations shall be treated as shareholders;
  2. The right to inspect the corporate books and records;
  3. Any other rights concerning the corporation which its shareholders have or may have.

Any such power or right shall not be diminished, as to bonds, debentures or other obligations then outstanding, except by an amendment of the articles of incorporation approved by the vote or written consent of the holders of a majority in principal amount thereof or such larger percentage as may be specified in the articles of incorporation.

History

(1969, c. 751, s. 19; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1024, s. 12.10; 1991, c. 645, s. 5.)

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section, which does not appear in the Model Act, was added to bring forward the provisions of former G.S. 55-44.1(1), which enabled a corporation to confer upon the holders of debt securities the right to vote and to exercise other rights of shareholders in certain circumstances.

§ 55-7-22. Proxies.

  1. A shareholder may vote his shares in person or by proxy.
  2. A shareholder may appoint one or more proxies to vote or otherwise act for the shareholder by signing an appointment form, either personally or by the shareholder's attorney-in-fact. Without limiting G.S. 55-1- 50, an appointment in the form of an electronic record that bears the shareholder's electronic signature and that may be directly reproduced in paper form by an automated process shall be deemed a valid appointment form within the meaning of this section. In addition, a public corporation may permit a shareholder may to appoint one or more proxies by any kind of telephonic transmission, even if not accompanied by written communication, under circumstances or together with information from which the corporation can reasonably assume that the appointment was made or authorized by the shareholder.
  3. An appointment of a proxy is effective when received by the secretary or other officer or agent authorized to tabulate votes. An appointment is valid for 11 months unless a different period is expressly provided in the appointment form.
  4. An appointment of a proxy is revocable by the shareholder unless the appointment form conspicuously states that it is irrevocable and the appointment is coupled with an interest. Appointments coupled with an interest include the appointment of:
    1. A pledgee;
    2. A person who purchased or agreed to purchase the shares;
    3. A creditor of the corporation who extended it credit under terms requiring the appointment;
    4. An employee of the corporation whose employment contract requires the appointment; or
    5. A party to a voting agreement created under G.S. 55-7-31.
  5. The death or incapacity of the shareholder appointing a proxy does not affect the right of the corporation to accept the proxy's authority unless notice of the death or incapacity is received by the secretary or other officer or agent authorized to tabulate votes before the proxy exercises his authority under the appointment.
  6. An appointment made irrevocable under subsection (d) shall be revocable when the interest with which it is coupled is extinguished.
  7. A transferee for value of shares subject to an irrevocable appointment may revoke the appointment if he did not know of its existence when he acquired the shares and the existence of the irrevocable appointment was not noted conspicuously on the certificate representing the shares or on the information statement for shares without certificates.
  8. Subject to G.S. 55-7-24 and to any express limitation on the proxy's authority appearing on the face of the appointment form, a corporation is entitled to accept the proxy's vote or other action as that of the shareholder making the appointment.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, s. 24; 1973, c. 469, ss. 23-25; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1999-138, s. 1; 2001-387, s. 14.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 7.22 provides that shareholders may vote in person or by proxy and establishes the basic rules for appointing a proxy. As business organizations have increased in size and complexity, the number of shareholders has also increased. As a result, proxy voting is an essential step in the governance of many corporations.

  1. Nomenclature
  2. Appointment of proxy
  3. Duration of proxy
  4. Irrevocable proxies

The word "proxy" is often used ambiguously, sometimes referring to the grant of authority to vote, sometimes to the document granting the authority, and sometimes to the person to whom the authority is granted. In the revised Model Act the word "proxy" is used only in the last sense; the term "appointment form" is used to describe the document appointing the proxy; and the word "appointment" is used to describe the grant of authority to vote.

A shareholder may appoint a proxy to vote for him simply by signing an appointment form, either personally or by his attorney-in-fact. The appointment is effective when it is received by the secretary or other officer or agent authorized to receive and tabulate votes. The proxy has the same power to vote as that possessed by the shareholder, unless the appointment form contains an express limitation on the power to vote or direction as to how to vote the shares on a particular matter, in which event the corporation must tabulate the votes in a manner consistent with that limitation or direction. See section 7.22(h).

An appointment form that contains no expiration date is valid for 11 months. See section 7.22(c). This ensures that in the normal course a new appointment will be solicited at least once every 12 months. But an appointment form may validly specify a longer period if the parties agree.

The appointment of a proxy is essentially the appointment of an agent and is revocable in accordance with the principles of agency law unless it is "coupled with an interest." See section 7.22(d). Thus, an appointment may be revoked either expressly or by implication, as when a shareholder later executes a second appointment form inconsistent with an earlier one, or attends the meeting in person and seeks to vote on his own behalf. The revised Model Act does not attempt to codify these common law principles of agency law.

While death or incapacity of the appointing shareholder revokes an agency appointment under common law principles, section 7.22(e) modifies the common law rule to provide that the corporation may accept the vote of the proxy until the appropriate corporate officer or agent receives notice of the shareholder's death or incapacity. In view of the widespread dispersal of shareholders in many corporations, it is not feasible for the corporation to learn of these events independently of notice. On the other hand, section 7.22(e) does not affect the validity of the proxy appointment or its manner of exercise as between the proxy and the personal representatives of the decedent or incompetent. That relationship is governed by the law of agency independent of the Model Act.

Section 7.22(d) deals with the irrevocable appointment of a proxy. The general test adopted is the common law test that all appointments are revocable unless "coupled with an interest." But section 7.22(d) provides considerable certainty since it describes several accepted forms of relationship as examples of "proxies coupled with an interest." These examples are not exhaustive and other arrangements may also be held to be "coupled with an interest." See Comment, "The Irrevocable Proxy and Voting Control of Small Business Corporations," 98 U. PA. L. REV. 401, 405-7 (1950); see generally I RESTATEMENT OF AGENCY (SECOND) § 138 (1958).

Section 7.22(f) provides that an irrevocable proxy is revoked when the interest with which it was coupled is extinguished - for example, by repayment of the loan or release of the pledge.

A transferee for value of shares that are subject to an irrevocable appointment takes free of the appointment if (1) he did not know of the existence of the appointment and (2) the existence of the irrevocable appointment was not noted conspicuously on the certificate or information statement. See section 7.22(g). Under this subsection, both the appointment and the irrevocable nature of the appointment must conspicuously appear on the certificate.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The second sentence of subsection (b), which was contained in substance in former G.S. 55-68, was added to the Model Act's provisions to broaden the permissible forms of proxies. The use of a variety of methods of modern communication to transmit a proxy is especially useful for public corporations.

The Model Act was modified in the second sentence of subsection (c) by changing "longer" to "different" to permit proxy appointments for less than 11 months.

The Model Act was modified in subsection (f) to provide that an irrevocable proxy appointment is revocable (but not automatically revoked) when the interest with which it is coupled is extinguished. The drafters concluded that the automatic revocation in the Model Act could create reliance problems for third parties.

Former G.S. 55-68(b) provided that no proxy was valid for more than 10 years from the date of its execution unless it was renewed or extended for an additional period of not more than 10 years. This limitation was not brought forward.

SUPPLEMENTAL NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY (2001)

Effective January 1, 2002, subsection (b) was amended to coordinate this section with the North Carolina Uniform Electronic Transactions Act.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2001-387, s. 154(a) authorizes the Revisor of Statutes to cause to be printed all explanatory comments of the drafters of the act as the Revisor deems appropriate.

Session Laws 2001-387, s. 154(b) provides that nothing in this act shall supersede the provisions of Article 10 or 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes, and this act does not create an alternate means for an entity governed by Article 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes to convert to a different business form.

Legal Periodicals. - For comment on the proxy system in the corporate electoral process, see 60 N.C.L. Rev. 145 (1981).

For article, "Should Corporate Statutes Providing Special Protection for Directors Be Limited to Publicly Traded Corporations?," see 24 Wake Forest L. Rev. 79 (1989).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - The case below was decided under prior law.

Assignment Reserving Possession and Right to Dividends. - A written agreement assigning stock in a corporation with authority to vote, reserving to the assignors who retain possession the right to all dividends, amounts only to a proxy. Bridgers v. Staton, 150 N.C. 216, 63 S.E. 892 (1909).


§ 55-7-23. Shares held by nominees.

  1. A corporation may establish a procedure by which the beneficial owner of shares that are registered in the name of a nominee is recognized by the corporation as a shareholder. The extent of this recognition may be determined in the procedure.
  2. The procedure may set forth:
    1. The types of nominees to which it applies;
    2. The rights or privileges that the corporation recognizes in a beneficial owner;
    3. The manner in which the procedure is selected by the nominee;
    4. The information that must be provided when the procedure is selected;
    5. The period for which selection of the procedure is effective; and
    6. Other aspects of the rights and duties created.

History

(1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Traditionally, a corporation recognizes only the registered owner as the owner of shares. Indeed, section 1.40 defines "shareholder" basically as the registered owner of shares. But it has become a common practice for persons purchasing shares to have them registered in the "street name" of a broker-dealer or other financial institution, principally to facilitate transfer by eliminating the need for the beneficial owner's signature and delivery. In addition, in order to avoid the burdens of processing securities transfers, which caused a crisis in the securities industry in the late 1960s, a system of securities depositories (defined as "clearing corporations" in section 8-102(3) of the UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE) has been developed. In this system, financial institutions deposit securities with the depository, which becomes the registered owner of the shares. Transfers between depositories are then accomplished by book entry of the depository. As a result, there may be two entities interposed between the corporation and the beneficial owner with the depository being the registered owner for the account of the brokerage firm that in turn holds the shares for the account of the beneficial owner.

The purpose of section 7.23 is to facilitate direct communication between the corporation and the beneficial owner by authorizing the corporation to create a procedure for bypassing both the registered owner and intermediate brokerage firms. The adoption of this procedure is discretionary with each corporation and affirmative action by the corporation is necessary to accomplish it. The procedure is also discretionary with the shareholder, who must elect to follow the applicable procedure prescribed by the corporation. The shareholder retains all of his rights except those granted to the beneficial owner.

The corporation may limit or qualify the procedure as it deems appropriate. For example, the corporation may:

  1. limit the procedure to certain classes of shareholders, such as depositories, broker-dealers and banks, or their nominees, or make the procedure available to all shareholders;
  2. permit a shareholder to adopt the procedure with respect to some but not all of the shares registered in his name (and in that case he continues to be treated as the shareholder with respect to the balance);
  3. specify the purpose or purposes for which the certification is effective, e.g., for giving notice of, and voting at, shareholders' meetings, for the distribution of proxy statements and annual reports, or for payment of cash dividends;
  4. specify the form of the certification, e.g., a written list, computer tape, or some other form of compatible input;
  5. specify the type of information that must be provided, e.g., the name and address of the beneficial owner, his taxpayer identification number, and the number of shares registered directly in his name;
  6. establish deadlines for receipt of the certifications after the establishment of a record date so that the corporation may schedule its mailings;
  7. provide that a new certification is required following each record date or that a certification as of a certain date may continue until changed by the certifying shareholder.

This listing is illustrative and not exhaustive. It is expected that experimentation with various devices under this section may reveal other areas which the corporation's plan should address.

The definition of "shareholder" in section 1.40 includes beneficial owners to the extent they obtain the rights of shareholders pursuant to the procedure authorized by this section.

§ 55-7-24. Corporation's acceptance of votes.

  1. If the name signed on a vote, consent, waiver, or proxy appointment corresponds to the name of a shareholder, the corporation if acting in good faith is entitled to accept the vote, consent, waiver, or proxy appointment and give it effect as the act of the shareholder.
  2. If the name signed on a vote, consent, waiver, or proxy appointment does not correspond to the name of its shareholder, the corporation if acting in good faith is nevertheless entitled to accept the vote, consent, waiver, or proxy appointment and give it effect as the act of the shareholder if:
    1. The shareholder is an entity and the name signed purports to be that of an officer or agent of the entity;
    2. The name signed purports to be that of an administrator, executor, guardian, or conservator representing the shareholder and, if the corporation requests, evidence of fiduciary status acceptable to the corporation has been presented with respect to the vote, consent, waiver, or proxy appointment;
    3. The name signed purports to be that of a receiver or trustee in bankruptcy of the shareholder and, if the corporation requests, evidence of its status acceptable to the corporation has been presented with respect to the vote, consent, waiver, or proxy appointment;
    4. The name signed purports to be that of a pledgee, beneficial owner, or attorney-in-fact of the shareholder and, if the corporation requests, evidence acceptable to the corporation of the signatory's authority to sign for the shareholder has been presented with respect to the vote, consent, waiver, or proxy appointment;
    5. Two or more persons are the shareholder as co-tenants or fiduciaries and the name signed purports to be the name of at least one of the co-owners and the person signing appears to be acting on behalf of all the co-owners.
  3. The corporation is entitled to reject a vote, consent, waiver, or proxy appointment if the secretary or other officer or agent authorized to tabulate votes, acting in good faith, has reasonable basis for doubt about the validity of the signature on it or about the signatory's authority to sign for the shareholder.
  4. The corporation and its officer or agent who accepts or rejects a vote, consent, waiver, or proxy appointment in good faith and in accordance with the standards of this section or G.S. 55-7-22(b) are not liable in damages to the shareholder for the consequences of the acceptance or rejection.
  5. Corporate action based on the acceptance or rejection of a vote, consent, waiver, or proxy appointment under this section is valid unless a court of competent jurisdiction determines otherwise.

History

(1901, c. 2, ss. 42, 43; c. 474, ss. 1, 2; Rev., ss. 1185, 1186, 1187; C.S., s. 1174; G.S., s. 55-111; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1957, c. 1039; 1959, c. 1316, s. 36; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2005-268, ss. 4, 5.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Corporations are often asked to accept written instrument as evidence of action by a shareholder. These instruments usually involve appointment forms for a proxy to vote the shares, but may also include waivers of notice, consents to action without a meeting, requests for a special meeting of shareholders, and similar instruments involving action by the shareholders. Usually the corporation or its officers will have no personal knowledge of the circumstances under which the instrument was executed and no way of verifying whether the signature on the instrument is in fact the signature of the shareholder. This problem is particularly acute in large corporations with thousands of shareholders.

Section 7.24 establishes general rules permitting the corporation and its officers or agents to accept these instruments if they appear to be executed by the shareholder or by a person who has authority to execute the instrument for the shareholder and they are accompanied by whatever authenticating evidence the corporation reasonably requests. The rules set forth in this section are not exclusive and may be supplemented by additional rules established by the corporation pursuant to section 2.06(b). Section 7.24(a) authorizes acceptance of an instrument if the name appearing on the instrument "corresponds" to the name of the shareholder, while section 7.24(b) permits the acceptance of an instrument executed by a person other than the shareholder if there is a designation or evidence of the capacity of the person executing the instrument that indicates the act of the person is the act of the shareholder. On the other hand, section 7.24(c) permits rejection of an instrument if the officer or agent tabulating votes has a "reasonable basis for doubt" about the validity of the signature or about the authority of the person acting on behalf of the shareholder. These principles are described in greater detail below.

The purpose of section 7.24 is to protect the corporation and its officers or agents from liability for damages to the shareholder if action is taken in accordance with the section. Thus section 7.24(d) provides that there is no liability to the shareholder if the corporation's officer or agent, acting in good faith, accepts an instrument that meets the requirements of section 7.24(a) or (b), even if it turns out that the execution was invalid or unauthorized; similarly, no liability exists if the officer or agent, again acting in good faith, rejects an instrument because of a "reasonable basis for doubt," even though it turns out that the instrument was properly executed by the shareholder. But section 7.24 does not address the question whether an action was properly or improperly taken or approved, and section 7.24(e) makes clear that the validity or invalidity of corporate action is ultimately a matter for judicial resolution through review of the results of an election in a suit to enjoin or compel corporate action. It is contemplated that any such suit will be brought promptly, typically before the corporate action is consummated or the corporation's position otherwise changes in reliance on the vote, and that any suit that is not brought promptly under the circumstances would normally be barred because of laches.

Similarly, section 7.24 does not address the liability of the proxy to the shareholder for exercising authority beyond that granted to him or for disobeying instructions. These matters are governed by the law of agency and not by section 7.24.

The American Society of Corporate Secretaries has established principles for the acceptance of proxy appointments in routine elections in which there is no proxy contest. Many of the examples of the application of section 7.24 set forth below are based on these principles.

  1. Examples of executions "corresponding with" the name of the shareholder
    1. Assuming that shares are registered in the name of an individual, an instrument may be accepted as corresponding to the name of the shareholder:
  1. Whether executed in ink, pencil, ballpoint, crayon, etc.
  2. Regardless of where the signature appears on the instrument (whether or not in the space provided), if there is no reason to doubt the intent to execute.
  3. Whether the name is handwritten, handprinted, or rubberstamped in facsimile-signature or printed form.
  4. Whether there are deviations between the registered name and the signature, provided that the deviations are not inconsistent with the registered name. For example, if the shares are registered in the name of "John F. Smith," the following are acceptable: "J. Foster Smith," "J. Smith," "J.F. Smith," "J.F.S.," "J.S.," "John F.," and even simply "Smith." Similarly, if "John Smith" is the name of the shareholder, "John F. Smith" and "J. Foster Smith" are also acceptable.
  5. If marked by an "X" and witnessed by one other person.
  6. If not executed at all, a signed letter or telegram from the shareholder states that he has signed the instrument or approves of the action taken by the instrument.
  7. The signature is illegible, unless it cannot reasonably be considered to be the signature of the shareholder. For example, if shares are registered in the name of "John F. Smith," the signature is not acceptable if the first letter of the signature is clearly an "M" or the first word is "Mark."
    1. Assuming that the shares are registered in the name of a partnership, e.g., "Smith Bros.," an instrument may be accepted if executed either in the form "Smith Bros. by John Able, Partner" or simply "Smith Bros."
    2. Assuming that the shares are registered in the name of a corporation, e.g., "Smith Corporation," an instrument may be accepted if executed in the name of the corporation, by an officer or agent designated as holding a responsible position, by a person with a surname similar to the corporate name, or simply in the name of the corporation, e.g., "Smith Corporation by John Able, President," "Smith Corporation by Peter Apt, Agent," "Smith Corporation by John Smith," or "Smith Corporation."
    3. Assuming that the shares are registered in the name of an individual who is deceased, incompetent, a minor, in bankruptcy, or in receivership, an instrument may be accepted if it is executed by an executor, administrator, guardian, receiver, or trustee who signs as such. Shares registered in the name of a minor may be voted by a parent of the shareholder if he is identified as such, e.g., "Ralph Able by John Able, Father."
    4. Assuming that the shares are registered in the name of an individual, an instrument may be accepted if it is executed by another individual who indicates (1) that he is signing as an agent or attorney-in-fact for the shareholder (see section 7.22); (2) that he has a close family or other relationship with the shareholder from which authority can be inferred; or (3) that he is the beneficial owner of shares, a pledgee of the shares, or a donee of the shares. For example: if shares are registered in the name of "Peter Jones," "Ed Smith, Agent," "Paul Smith, Son," "Mary Smith Jones, Wife," "Emelia Able, Attorney," "Arthur Peters, Private Secretary," "Paul Jones, Trustee under Deed of Trust dated April 1, 1980," or "Mary Smith, Donee," are all acceptable absent some indication that the execution was unauthorized.
    5. Assuming that the shares are registered in the names of two or more persons - as joint tenants or tenants in common, executors or administrators, guardians or conservators, a committee for an incompetent, or trustees - an instrument may be accepted if signed by or on behalf of fewer than all the persons named. This conclusion proceeds on the assumption that the signer or signers have authority to act for the others and there is nothing on the face of the instrument that rebuts this assumption.

b. If the shares are registered in the maiden name of a woman, e.g., Mary Smith, and the instrument is executed:

(1) In her married name, clearly indicated as such, e.g., "Mary Smith Jones (formerly Mary Smith)" or "Mary Smith (now Mrs. Mary Smith Jones)."

(2) In her married name or in a form that implies her married status, e.g., "Mary Smith Anderson," "Mrs. Mary S. Anderson," "Mrs. Mary Smith Anderson," or "Mrs. Mary Anderson."

c. If the shares are registered in the name "Peter Smith, Sr." but the designation "Sr." is omitted, e.g., "Peter Smith." The execution "Peter Smith, Jr.," however, does not correspond with the shareholder.

2. Examples of executions that "indicate the capacity" of the person signing

In all the following instances, the corporation may request additional evidence of authority but is not required to do so; officers and agents are protected from liability if they routinely accept the instrument without requiring additional evidence.

3. Examples of "reasonable basis for doubt"

The phrase "reasonable basis for doubt" about the validity of a signature or about the signer's authority creates an objective standard for the exercise of the authority granted by section 7.24(c) to reject proffered instruments. In the absence of a proxy fight or a seriously contested issue, instruments should be rejected only if there seems to be no basis for finding the execution regular on its face. In a proxy fight or other contested issue, the possibility of illegal or unauthorized execution is greatly increased, and a more cautious attitude should therefore be adopted. The following are examples in which a "reasonable basis for doubt" could be found to exist:

a. The shares are registered in the name of "John F. Smith" and the instrument is executed by "Joseph F. Smith" or by "Frank W. Smith."

b. The shares are registered in the name of "Ellen Smith, a Minor" or "John Smith, Custodian for Ellen Smith, a Minor," and the instrument is executed by "Ellen Smith." There is no "reasonable basis for doubt," however, if the instrument is accompanied by evidence satisfactory to the corporation that the shareholder is no longer a minor.

c. A proxy appointment is received that is regular on its face, and the secretary or other corporate officer or agent receives a telephone call from a person who identifies himself as the shareholder and says either that he wishes to revoke the appointment or that he did not authorize its original execution.

d. Shares are registered in the name of two or more persons as co-owners, the instrument is executed by fewer than all of them, and the instrument shows on its face that not all the registered owners granted authority to the signers, as where the instrument states that it was not possible to obtain all the coowners' signatures or that some refused to sign. For the normal rule of acceptability of proxies executed by fewer than all co-owners, however, see section 7.24(b)(5) and part 2.e of this Official Comment.

e. The corporation receives a copy of letters of appointment of a receiver, executor, administrator or other fiduciary, and the instrument is executed in the name of the shareholder rather than by the fiduciary.

4. Other principles applicable to proxy appointments

As indicated in the Official Comment to section 7.22, a proxy is simply an agent of the shareholder, and his appointment therefore involves primarily the law of agency. The law of agency determines the rights and duties of the shareholder and the proxy, and it is important to recognize that section 7.24 is not intended to affect these rights and duties. Rather, it recognizes that the great bulk of instruments executed in the name of a shareholder or on his behalf are in fact authorized and the corporation and its officers should be encouraged to accept them rather than to adopt unduly narrow requirements.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The word "pledgee," which appears immediately prior to the words "beneficial owner" in subdivision 7.24(b)(4) of the Model Act, was omitted as misleading, since a pledgee does not automatically have the right to vote pledged shares.

SUPPLEMENTAL NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY (2005)

Effective October 1, 2005, subdivision (b)(4) is amended to refer to "pledgee" in conformity with the Model Business Corporation Act. A corporation may require evidence that the pledgee has been granted authority to sign for the pledgor but the corporation is not obligated to do so. Also effective October 1, 2005, a reference to the proxy appointment provisions in G.S. 55-7-22(b) is added to subsection (d).

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2005-268, ss. 4 and 5, effective October 1, 2005, substituted "pledge, beneficial, owner" for "beneficial owner" in subdivision (b)(4); and inserted "or G.S. 55-7-22(b)" in subsection (d).

Legal Periodicals. - For article on joint ownership of corporate securities in North Carolina, see 44 N.C.L. Rev. 290 (1966); 46 N.C.L. Rev. 520 (1968).

§ 55-7-25. Quorum and voting requirements for voting groups.

  1. Shares entitled to vote as a separate voting group may take action on a matter at a meeting only if a quorum of that voting group exists with respect to that matter, except that, in the absence of a quorum at the opening of any meeting of shareholders, such meeting may be adjourned from time to time by the vote of a majority of the votes cast on the motion to adjourn. Unless the articles of incorporation, a bylaw adopted by the shareholders, or this act provides otherwise, a majority of the votes entitled to be cast on the matter by the voting group constitutes a quorum of that voting group for action on that matter.
  2. Once a share is represented for any purpose at a meeting, it is deemed present for quorum purposes for the remainder of the meeting and for any adjournment of that meeting unless a new record date is or must be set for that adjourned meeting.
  3. If a quorum exists, action on a matter (other than the election of directors) by a voting group is approved if the votes cast within the voting group favoring the action exceed the votes cast opposing the action, unless the articles of incorporation, a bylaw adopted by the shareholders, or this Chapter requires a greater number of affirmative votes.
  4. An amendment of the articles of incorporation or bylaws adding, changing, or deleting a quorum or voting requirement for a voting group greater than specified in subsection (a) or (c) is governed by G.S. 55-7-27.
  5. The election of directors is governed by G.S. 55-7-28.
  6. Whenever a provision of this Chapter provides for voting by one or more series as separate voting groups, unless otherwise provided in this Chapter, the requirement provided in G.S. 55-10-04(c) for amendments of articles of incorporation apply to that provision.

History

(1901, c. 2, s. 39; Rev., s. 1182; C.S., s. 1175; 1927, c. 138; G.S., s. 55-112; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1973, c. 469, ss. 21, 22; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1991, c. 645, s. 16(a); 2018-45, s. 4.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT TO THE MODEL BUSINESS CORPORATION ACT, =nl 2016 REVISION

Section 7.25 establishes general quorum and voting requirements for voting groups for purposes of the Act. As defined in section 1.40, a "voting group" consists of all shares of one or more classes or series that under the articles of incorporation or the Act are entitled to vote and be counted together collectively on a matter. Shares entitled to vote "generally" on a matter (that is, all shares entitled to vote on the matter by the articles of incorporation or the Act that do not expressly have the right to be counted separately) are a single voting group. On most matters coming before shareholders' meetings, only a single voting group, consisting of a class of voting shares, will be involved, and action on such a matter is effective when approved by that voting group pursuant to section 7.25. See section 7.26(a).

Section 7.25 covers quorum and voting requirements for all actions by the shareholders of a corporation with a single class of voting shares. It also covers quorum and voting requirements for a matter on which only a class or series of shares is entitled to vote under the articles of incorporation, for example, when a class with preferential rights may vote to elect directors because of a default in the payment of dividends (a vote which is often described as a "class vote"). Finally, section 7.25 also covers quorum and voting requirements for a matter on which both common and preferred shares or separate classes or series of common or preferred shares are entitled to vote, either together as a single voting group under the articles of incorporation or separately as two or more voting groups under either the articles of incorporation or the Act. See section 7.26(b).

  1. Determination of Voting Groups under the Act
  2. Quorum and Voting Requirements in General
  3. Quorum Requirements for Action by Voting Group
  4. Voting Requirements for Approval by Voting Group
  5. Modification of Standard Requirements

Under the Act, classes or series of shares are generally not entitled to vote separately by voting group except to the extent specifically authorized by the articles of incorporation. But sections 9.21, 9.32, 10.04, and 11.04 of the Act grant classes or series of shares the right to vote separately when fundamental changes are proposed that may adversely affect that class or series. Section 10.04(c) further provides that when two or more classes or series are affected by an amendment covered by section 10.04 in essentially the same way, the classes or series are grouped together and must vote as a single voting group rather than as multiple voting groups on the matter, unless otherwise provided in the articles of incorporation or required by the board of directors. Section 7.25(f) provides that the group voting rule of section 10.04(c), including the ability to vary that rule in the articles of incorporation or by action of the board of directors, also applies to the group voting provisions in sections 9.21, 9.32, and 11.04. Under the Act even a class or series of shares that is expressly described as nonvoting under the articles of incorporation may be entitled to vote separately on an amendment to the articles of incorporation that affects the class or series in a designated way. See section 10.04(d).

In addition to the provisions of the Act, separate voting by voting group may be authorized by the articles of incorporation (except that the statutory privilege of voting by separate voting groups cannot be diluted or reduced). On some matters, the board of directors may condition its submission of matters to shareholders on their approval by specific voting groups designated by the board of directors. Sections 7.25 and 7.26 establish the mechanics by which all voting by single or multiple voting groups is carried out.

In some situations, shares of a single class or series may be entitled to vote in two different voting groups. See the Official Comment to section 7.26.

A corporation's determination of the voting groups entitled to vote, and the quorum and voting requirements applicable to that determination, should be determined separately for each matter coming before a meeting. As a result, different quorum and voting requirements may be applicable to different portions of a meeting, depending on the matter being considered. In the normal case where only a single voting group is entitled to vote on all matters coming before a meeting of shareholders, a single quorum and voting requirement will usually be applicable to the entire meeting. To reflect the possibility that shares may have multiple or fractional votes per share, the provisions relating to quorums are phrased in terms of votes represented by shares.

Under section 7.25(b), once a share is present at a meeting, it is deemed present for quorum purposes throughout the meeting. Thus, a voting group may continue to act despite the withdrawal of persons having the power to vote one or more shares.

The shares owned by a shareholder who comes to the meeting to object on grounds of lack of notice are considered present for purposes of determining the presence of a quorum. Similarly, shares owned by a shareholder who attends a meeting solely for purposes of raising the objection that a quorum is not present are considered present for purposes of determining the presence of a quorum. Attendance at a meeting, however, does not constitute a waiver of other objections to the meeting such as the lack of notice. Such waivers are governed by section 7.06(b).

If a new record date is set, new notice must be given to holders of shares of a voting group and a quorum must be established from within the holders of shares of that voting group as of the new record date.

Section 7.25(c) provides that an action (other than the election of directors, which is governed by section 7.28) is approved by a voting group at a meeting at which a quorum is present if the votes cast in favor of the action exceed the votes cast opposing the action, unless the articles of incorporation require a greater number of votes. This default rule differs from a formulation appearing in some state statutes that an action is approved at a meeting at which a quorum is present if it receives the affirmative vote of a majority of the shares represented at that meeting. That formulation in effect treats abstentions as negative votes; the Act treats them truly as abstentions. For example, if a corporation (that has not, through the articles of incorporation, modified quorum and voting requirements) has 1,000 shares of a single class outstanding, each share entitled to cast one vote, a quorum consists of 501 shares; if 600 shares are represented at the meeting and the vote on a proposed action is 280 in favor, 225 opposed, and 95 abstaining, the action would not be approved in a state following the formulation that treats abstentions as negative votes because fewer than a majority of the 600 shares attending voted in favor of the action. Under section 7.25(c) the action would be approved and not be defeated by the 95 abstaining votes.

The articles of incorporation may modify the quorum and voting requirements of section 7.25 for a single voting group or for all voting groups entitled to vote on any matter. The articles of incorporation may increase the quorum and voting requirements to any extent desired up to and including unanimity, subject to section 7.27. They may also require that shares of different classes or series are entitled to vote separately or together on specific issues or provide that actions are approved only if they receive the favorable vote of a majority of the shares of a voting group present at a meeting at which a quorum is present. The articles may also decrease the quorum requirement as desired, subject to section 7.25(a) and section 7.27.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The Model Act was modified in subsection (a) to bring forward the provisions of former G.S. 55-65(d), which permitted adjournment of a meeting in the absence of a quorum until a quorum is present. Subsections (a), (c) and (d) were modified to provide that special quorum and voting requirements can be established by a bylaw adopted by the shareholders, as well as by the articles of incorporation or the provisions of this Act.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2001-387, s. 154(a), authorizes the Revisor of Statutes to cause to be printed all explanatory comments of the drafters of the act as the Revisor deems appropriate.

Section 55-7-08, referred to in the commentary, was repealed by Session Laws 2013-153, s. 4, effective January 1, 2014.

Session Laws 2018-45, s. 33, provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2018-45, s. 4, effective October 1, 2018, added subsection (f).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - Some of the cases below were decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955 or under prior law.

Derivative Action by FDIC. - Plaintiff FDIC, which had suffered a loss as an equitable shareholder in defendant corporation, was entitled to maintain a derivative action, and the FDIC's individual claim did not preclude its derivative claim. FDIC v. Kerr, 650 F. Supp. 1356 (W.D.N.C. 1986).

Effect of Illegal Motion of Adjournment on Election of Officers. - When a motion to adjourn a stockholders' meeting has been carried, and a sufficient number have withdrawn to reduce the number of those present below a majority of all the stock issued and outstanding, an election of officers cannot be lawfully held thereafter at that meeting, though the adjournment was carried by an illegal vote. Bridgers v. Staton, 150 N.C. 216, 63 S.E. 892 (1909).

Cited in Hershner v. N.C. Dep't of Admin., 232 N.C. App. 552, 754 S.E.2d 847 (2014).


§ 55-7-26. Action by single and multiple voting groups.

  1. If the articles of incorporation, a bylaw adopted by the shareholders, or this Chapter provides for voting by a single voting group on a matter, action on that matter is taken when voted upon by that voting group as provided in G.S. 55-7-25.
  2. If the articles of incorporation, a bylaw adopted by the shareholders, or this Chapter provides for voting by two or more voting groups on a matter, action on that matter is taken only when voted upon by each of those voting groups counted separately as provided in G.S. 55-7-25. Action may be taken by one voting group on a matter even though no action is taken at the same time by another voting group entitled to vote on the matter.

History

(1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 7.26(a) provides that when a matter is to be voted upon by a single voting group, action is taken when the voting group votes upon the action as provided in section 7.25. In most instances the single voting group will consist of all the shares of the class or classes entitled to vote by the articles of incorporation; voting by two or more voting groups as contemplated by section 7.26(b) is the exceptional case.

Section 7.26(b) basically requires that if more than one voting group is entitled to vote on a matter, favorable action on a matter is taken only when it is voted upon favorably by each voting group, counted separately. Implicit in this section are the concepts that (1) different quorum and voting requirements may be applicable to different matters considered at a single meeting and (2) different quorum and voting requirements may be applicable to different voting groups voting on the same matter. See the Official Comment to section 7.25. Thus, each group entitled to vote must independently meet the quorum and voting requirements established by section 7.25. But if a quorum is present for one or more voting groups but not for all voting groups, section 7.26(b) provides that the voting groups for which a quorum is present may vote upon the matter.

A single meeting, furthermore, may consider matters on which action by several voting groups is required and also matters on which only a single voting group may act. Action may be taken on the matters on which the single voting group may act even though no quorum is present to take action on other matters. For example, in a corporation with one class of nonvoting shares with preferential rights ("preferred shares") and one class of general voting shares without preferential rights ("common shares"), a matter to be considered at the annual meeting may be a proposed amendment to the articles of incorporation that reduces the cumulative dividend right of the preferred shares (a matter on which the preferred shares have a statutory right to vote as a separate voting group). Other matters to be considered may include the election of directors and the appointment of an auditor, both matters on which the preferred shares have no vote. If a quorum of the voting group consisting of the common shares but no quorum of the voting group consisting of the preferred shares is present, the common shares may proceed to elect directors and appoint the auditor. The common shares voting group may also vote to approve the proposed amendment to the articles of the incorporation, but that amendment will not be approved until the preferred shares voting group also votes to approve the amendment.

  1. Voting requirements on multiple voting group matters
  2. Participation of shares in multiple voting groups

In many multiple voting group situations under the Model Act, proposals are adopted only if a majority of all the votes entitled to be cast by each voting group approve the proposal. This percentage of votes is higher than that required by section 7.25, and is required, for example, under sections 10.03(e)(1) and 10.04(b) for all amendments to articles of incorporation that create dissenters' rights with respect to part or all of the shares of the voting group.

As described in section 7.26(b), if voting by multiple voting groups is required, the votes of members of each voting group must be separately tabulated. Normally, each class or series of shares will participate in only a single voting group. But since holders of shares entitled by the articles of incorporation to vote generally on a matter are always entitled to vote in the voting group consisting of the general voting shares, in some instances classes or series of shares may be entitled to be counted simultaneously in two voting groups. This will occur whenever a class or series of shares entitled to vote generally on a matter under the articles of incorporation is affected by the matter in a way that gives rise to the right to have its vote counted separately as an independent voting group under the Act. For example, assume that corporation Y has outstanding one class of general voting shares without preferential rights ("common shares"), 500 shares issued, and one class of shares with preferential rights ("preferred shares"), 100 shares issued, that also have full voting rights under the articles of incorporation, i.e., the preferred may vote for election of directors and on all other matters on which common may vote. The preferred and the common therefore are part of the general voting group. The directors propose to amend the articles of incorporation to change the preferential dividend rights of the preferred from cumulative to noncumulative. All shares are present at the meeting and they divide as follows on the proposal to adopt the amendment:

Yes - Common 230 - Preferred 80 No - Common 270 - Preferred 20. Both the preferred and the common are entitled to vote on the amendment to the articles of incorporation since they are part of a general voting group pursuant to the articles. But the vote of the preferred is also entitled to be counted separately on the proposal by section 10.04(a)(4) of the Model Act. The result is that the proposal passes by a vote of 310 to 290 in the voting group consisting of the shares entitled to vote generally and 80 to 20 in the voting group consisting solely of the preferred shares: (a) First voting group Yes: Common 230 Preferred 80 310 No: Common 270 Preferred 20 290 (b) Second voting group (preferred) Yes: Preferred 80 No: Preferred 20

In this situation, in the absence of a special quorum requirement, a meeting could approve the proposal to amend the articles of incorporation if - and only if - a quorum of each voting group is present, i.e., at least 51 shares of preferred and 301 shares of common and preferred were represented at the meeting.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The Model Act was modified in subsections (a) and (b) to permit a bylaw adopted by the shareholders to provide for voting by a single voting group on a particular matter.

§ 55-7-27. Greater quorum or voting requirements.

  1. The articles of incorporation or a bylaw adopted by the shareholders may provide for a greater quorum or voting requirement for shareholders (or voting groups of shareholders) than is provided for by this Chapter. Any such bylaw adopted by the shareholders after the effective date of this section must be approved by a quorum and vote sufficient to amend the articles of incorporation for that purpose.
  2. Any provision in the articles of incorporation or bylaws prescribing the quorum or vote required for any purpose as permitted by this section may not itself be amended by a quorum or vote less than the quorum or vote therein prescribed.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, ss. 2, 3; 1973, c. 469, ss. 4, 22; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 7.27(a) permits the articles of incorporation to increase the quorum or voting requirements for approval of an action by shareholders up to any desired amount including unanimity. These provisions may relate to ordinary or routine actions by the general voting group (which otherwise may be acted upon under section 7.25 if the number of affirmative votes exceeds the number of negative votes at a meeting at which a quorum of that voting group is present) or to one or more other voting groups or to actions for which the Model Act provides a greater voting requirement - for example, changes of a fundamental nature in the corporation like certain amendments to articles of incorporation (section 10.03), mergers (section 11.03), sales of all or substantially all the property of a corporation not in the ordinary course of business (section 12.02), and dissolution (section 14.02). Generally, the Model Act requires these fundamental changes to receive the affirmative vote of a majority of the votes entitled to be cast on the proposal by each voting group entitled to vote thereon rather than by a majority of the shares voting affirmatively or negatively at a meeting at which a quorum is present.

A provision that increases the requirement for approval of an ordinary matter or a fundamental change is usually referred to as a "supermajority" provision.

Section 7.27(b) requires any amendment of the articles of incorporation that adds, modifies, or repeals any supermajority provision to be approved by the greater of the proposed quorum and vote requirement or by the quorum and vote required by the articles before their amendment. Thus, a supermajority provision that requires an 80 percent affirmative vote of all eligible votes of a voting group present at the meeting may not be removed from the articles of incorporation or reduced in any way except by an 80 percent affirmative vote. If the 80 percent requirement is coupled with a quorum requirement for a voting group that shares representing two-thirds of the total votes must be present in person or by proxy, both the 80 percent voting requirement and the two-thirds quorum requirement are immune from reduction except at a meeting of the voting group at which the two-thirds quorum requirement is met and the reduction is approved by an 80 percent affirmative vote. If the proposal is to increase the 80 percent voting requirement to 90 percent, that proposal must be approved by a 90 percent affirmative vote at a meeting of the voting group at which the two-thirds quorum requirement is met; if the proposal is to increase the two-thirds quorum requirement to three-fourths without changing the 80 percent voting requirement, that proposal must be approved by an 80 percent affirmative vote at a meeting of the voting group at which a three-fourths quorum requirement is met.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section differs from the Model Act by permitting a bylaw adopted by the shareholders to establish greater quorum or voting requirements for shareholders. If adopted after July 1, 1990, such a bylaw must be approved by a quorum and vote sufficient to amend the articles of incorporation for that purpose. Any such provision, whether in the articles of incorporation or in the bylaws, may not itself be amended by a quorum or vote less than the quorum or vote therein prescribed.

§ 55-7-28. Voting for directors; cumulative voting.

  1. Unless otherwise provided in the articles of incorporation or in an agreement valid under G.S. 55-7-31, directors are elected by a plurality of the votes cast by the shares entitled to vote in the election at a meeting at which a quorum is present.
  2. Except as provided in subsection (e) of this section, shareholders do not have a right to cumulate their votes for directors unless the articles of incorporation so provide.
  3. A statement included in the articles of incorporation that "[all] [a designated voting group of ] shareholders are entitled to cumulate their votes for directors" (or words of similar import) means that the shareholders designated are entitled to multiply the number of votes they are entitled to cast by the number of directors for whom they are entitled to vote and cast the product for a single candidate or distribute the product among two or more candidates.
  4. Shares otherwise entitled to vote cumulatively may not be voted cumulatively at a particular meeting unless:
    1. The meeting notice or proxy statement accompanying the notice states conspicuously that cumulative voting is authorized; or
    2. A shareholder or proxy who has the right to cumulate his votes announces in open meeting, before voting for directors starts, his intention to vote cumulatively; and if such announcement is made, the chair shall declare that all shares entitled to vote have the right to vote cumulatively and shall announce the number of votes represented in person and by proxy, and shall thereupon grant a recess of not less than one hour nor more than four hours, as he shall determine, or of such other period of time as is unanimously then agreed upon.
  5. Shareholders of a corporation incorporated in this State shall have the right to cumulate their votes for directors if
    1. The corporation was in existence prior to July 1, 1957, under a charter which does not grant the right of cumulative voting and at the time of the election the stock transfer book of such corporation discloses, or it otherwise appears, that there is at least one stockholder who owns or controls more than one-fourth of the voting stock of such corporation (shares represented at a meeting by revocable proxy relating to that meeting or adjourned meetings thereof shall not be deemed shares "controlled" within the meaning of this subsection), or if
    2. The corporation was incorporated on or after July 1, 1957, and before July 1, 1990,

unless, when the stock transfer books are closed or at the record date fixed to determine the shareholders entitled to receive notice of and to vote at the meeting of shareholders, the corporation is a public corporation as defined in G.S. 55-1-40(18a). This right to vote cumulatively may be denied or limited by amendment to the articles of incorporation, but no such amendment shall be made when the number of shares voting against the amendment would be sufficient to elect a director by cumulative voting if such shares are entitled to be voted cumulatively for the election of directors.

History

(Rev., ss. 1183, 1184; 1907, c. 457, s. 1; 1909, c. 827, s. 1; C.S., s. 1173; 1945, c. 635; G.S., s. 55-110; 1951, c. 265, s. 2; 1953, c. 722; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 768; c. 1316, s. 23; 1963, c. 1065; 1969, c. 751, ss. 34, 35; 1985, c. 419; 1985 (Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 801, s. 45; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1024, s. 12.11; 1991, c. 645, ss. 16(b), 19.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 7.28(a) provides that directors are elected by a plurality of the votes cast in an election of directors at a meeting at which a quorum is present of the voting group entitled to participate in the election. A "plurality" means that the individuals with the largest number of votes are elected as directors up to the maximum number of directors to be chosen at the election. In elections in which several factions are competing within a voting group, the individuals elected may have fewer than a majority of all the votes cast in the election. The articles of incorporation or bylaws of the corporation may, however, provide a different manner of election of directors.

The entire board of directors may be elected by a single voting group or the articles of incorporation may provide that different voting groups are entitled to elect a designated number or fraction of the board of directors. See section 8.04. Elections are contested only within specific voting groups.

Under section 7.28(b) each corporation may determine whether or not to elect its directors by cumulative voting. If directors are elected by different voting groups, the articles of incorporation may provide that specified voting groups are entitled to vote cumulatively while others are not. Cumulative voting affects the manner in which votes may be cast by shares participating in the election but does not affect the plurality principle set forth in section 7.28(a).

  1. The manner of electing cumulative voting
  2. The mechanics of cumulative voting

Section 7.28(b) provides basically for an "opt in" election. A corporation has cumulative voting with respect to a voting group only if an affirmative provision to that effect appears in its articles of incorporation. Under section 7.28(c) this election may be made simply by inserting a statement that "all directors are elected by cumulative voting" or "holders of class A shares are entitled to cumulate their votes," or words of similar import. The effect of such a statement is to make applicable automatically the detailed provisions of subsections (c) and (d) describing the cumulative right to vote at elections of directors by the voting group or groups specified.

Section 7.28(c) describes the mechanics of cumulative voting: each shareholder may multiply the number of votes he is entitled to cast (based on the number of shares held by him) by the number of directors to be elected by the voting group at the meeting and may cast the product for a single candidate or distribute the product among two or more candidates. By casting all his votes for a single candidate or a limited number of candidates, a minority shareholder increases his voting power and may be able to elect one or more directors.

Section 7.28(d) applies only if cumulative voting is potentially available under section 7.28(b). It is designed to ensure that all shareholders participating in the election understand the rules and to avoid the distortions that may be created when some shareholders vote cumulatively while others do not. Cumulative voting will be employed if the notice of meeting or accompanying proxy statement conspicuously announces that a shareholder is entitled to cumulate his votes or a shareholder who is entitled to vote gives notice to the corporation of his intent to do so at least 48 hours before the meeting. This notice puts the corporation and all shareholders who are entitled to vote in the election with that shareholder on notice that voting will be on a cumulative basis. If this notice is given by any shareholder, all other shareholders who are part of the same voting group are entitled to vote cumulatively without giving further notice.

The proxy regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission require proxy statements to include a statement that persons have the right to vote cumulatively, if that is the case, and briefly to describe that right.

AMENDED NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The Model Act was modified in subsection (a) to clarify that an agreement valid under G.S. 55-7-31 may modify the vote by which directors are elected.

For corporations incorporated on or after July 1, 1990, subsection (b) changes prior law, which mandated cumulative voting except with respect to corporations having shares listed on national securities exchanges or held by more than 2,000 holders of record. A corporation may elect to retain cumulative voting by a provision in its articles of incorporation or in a shareholders' agreement complying with G.S. 55-7-31.

The provisions of subdivision (d)(2) were modified from the Model Act to conform with prior law with respect to the manner of electing to vote cumulatively.

Subsection (e) is a transitional provision that preserves cumulative voting for substantially all corporations that had cumulative voting by law prior to July 1, 1990.

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - The cases below were decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955 or under prior law.

The right of cumulative voting in an election of corporate directors was granted by former G.S. 55-68(c). Stancil v. Bruce Stancil Refrigeration, Inc., 81 N.C. App. 567, 344 S.E.2d 789, cert. denied, 318 N.C. 418, 349 S.E.2d 601 (1986).

When Cumulative Voting Applies. - See Bridgers v. Staton, 150 N.C. 216, 63 S.E. 892 (1909).

Requirements for Exercise of Cumulative Voting. - Under former G.S. 55-68, before the right of cumulative voting may be exercised, four things must be done: (1) A shareholder must announce in the open meeting, before the voting starts, that he intends to vote cumulatively; (2) upon such an announcement, the chair must declare that all shares have the right to vote cumulatively; (3) the chair must announce the number of shares present in person or by proxy; and (4) the chair must declare a recess of not less than one hour nor more than four hours, unless a different time period is unanimously agreed upon. Stancil v. Bruce Stancil Refrigeration, Inc., 81 N.C. App. 567, 344 S.E.2d 789, cert. denied, 318 N.C. 418, 349 S.E.2d 601 (1986).

Same - Purpose. - The four requirements imposed by former G.S. 55-68(c) for the exercise of cumulative voting were designed, among other things, (1) to prevent a shareholder, by a surprise announcement of his intention to vote cumulatively, from taking unfair advantage of other shareholders, and (2) to permit the shareholders an opportunity to determine how their votes may be distributed to their best advantage. Stancil v. Bruce Stancil Refrigeration, Inc., 81 N.C. App. 567, 344 S.E.2d 789, cert. denied, 318 N.C. 418, 349 S.E.2d 601 (1986).

Lack of Recess. - Where the only person who could possibly have been prejudiced by the fact that no recess was taken after the announcement by the holder of 50% of the stock that he intended to vote cumulatively had been made was the owner of the other 50% of the stock, whose duty it was, as chairman of the meeting, to declare a recess, he would not be permitted, by his own violation of the statute, to defeat his fellow shareholder's proper exercise of a right to vote cumulatively, nor to void an otherwise valid election. Stancil v. Bruce Stancil Refrigeration, Inc., 81 N.C. App. 567, 344 S.E.2d 789, cert. denied, 318 N.C. 418, 349 S.E.2d 601 (1986).


§ 55-7-29: Reserved for future codification purposes.

PART 3. VOTING TRUSTS AND AGREEMENTS.

§ 55-7-30. Voting trusts.

  1. One or more shareholders may create a voting trust, conferring on a trustee the right to vote or otherwise act for them, by signing an agreement setting out the provisions of the trust (which may include anything consistent with its purpose) and transferring their shares to the trustee. When a voting trust agreement is signed, the trustee shall prepare a list of the names and addresses of all owners of beneficial interests in the trust, together with the number and class of shares each transferred to the trust, and deliver copies of the list and agreement to the corporation's principal office.
  2. A voting trust becomes effective on the date the first shares subject to the trust are registered in the trustee's name.
  3. Repealed by Session Laws 2018-45, s. 5, effective October 1, 2018.
  4. Any limits on the duration of a voting trust shall be as set forth in the voting trust. A voting trust that became effective prior to October 1, 2018, is valid for not more than 10 years after its effective date unless the voting trust is amended to provide otherwise by agreement of the parties to the voting trust. An amendment to a voting trust under this subsection shall bind only those parties signing it. The voting trustee shall deliver copies of the amendment and a list of beneficial owners signing it to the corporation's principal office.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1963, c. 1233; 1973, c. 469, ss. 26-28; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2018-45, s. 5.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT TO THE MODEL BUSINESS CORPORATION ACT, =nl 2016 REVISION

A voting trust is a device by which one or more shareholders divorce the voting rights of their shares from the ownership, retaining the latter but transferring the former to one or more trustees in whom the voting rights of all the shareholders who are parties to the trust are pooled. Section 7.30(a) provides a straightforward procedure for the creation of an enforceable voting trust and does not impose narrow or technical requirements. Typically, the voting trust provides that all attributes of beneficial ownership other than the power to vote are retained by the voting trust beneficial owners. In addition, the voting trustees may issue to the voting trust beneficial owners voting trust certificates which may be transferable in the same way as shares. Section 7.30 does not limit the duration of a voting trust, consistent with section 7.32 governing shareholder agreements generally. Section 7.30 permits participants to specify limits but does not establish an automatic sunset provision as a matter of law. Section 7.30(c) addresses voting trusts entered into when the Act limited their duration to 10 years.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The Model Act was modified in the second sentence of subsection (c) to insert "not more than" in order to clarify that a voting trust may be extended for any period less than 10 years.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2018-45, s. 33, provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2018-45, s. 5, effective October 1, 2018, deleted the former last sentence of subsection (b), which read: "A voting trust is valid for not more than 10 years after its effective date unless extended under subsection (c)."; deleted subsection (c), pertaining to extensions of voting trusts for additional terms; and added subsection (d).

Legal Periodicals. - For note, "Voting Trusts - Should Trust Principles Apply to Close Corporations?," see 48 N.C.L. Rev. 342 (1970).

§ 55-7-31. Shareholders' agreements.

  1. An agreement between two or more shareholders, if in writing and signed by the parties thereto, may provide that in the exercise of any voting rights of shares held by the parties, including any vote with respect to directors, the shares shall be voted as provided by the agreement, or as the parties may agree, or as determined in accordance with any procedure (including arbitration) specified in the agreement. A voting agreement created under this subsection is not subject to the provisions of G.S. 55-7-30 and is specifically enforceable.
  2. Except for public corporations, an agreement among the shareholders of a corporation that complies with this section and does any or all of the following is effective among the shareholders and the corporation even though it is inconsistent with one or more other provisions of this Chapter:
    1. Eliminates the board of directors or restricts the discretion or powers of the board of directors.
    2. Governs the authorization or making of distributions, whether or not in proportion to ownership of shares, subject to the limitations in G.S. 55-6-40.
    3. Establishes who shall be directors or officers of the corporation, or their terms of office or manner of selection or removal.
    4. Governs, in general or in regard to specific matters, the exercise or division of voting power by or between the shareholders and directors or by among any of them, including use of weighted voting rights or director proxies.
    5. Establishes the terms and conditions of any agreement for the transfer or use of property or the provision of services between or among the corporation and any shareholder, director, officer, or employee of the corporation.
    6. Transfers to one or more shareholders or other persons all or part of the authority to exercise the corporate powers or to manage the business and affairs of the corporation, including the resolution of any issue about which there exists a deadlock among directors or shareholders.
    7. Requires dissolution of the corporation at the request of one or more of the shareholders or upon the occurrence of a specified event or contingency.
    8. Otherwise governs the exercise of the corporate powers or the management of the business and affairs of the corporation or the relationship between or among the shareholders, the directors, and the corporation and is not contrary to public policy.
  3. Repealed by Session Laws 2018-45, s. 6, effective October 1, 2018.
  4. Both of the following requirements apply to an agreement authorized by subsection (b) of this section:
    1. The agreement shall be set forth (i) in the articles of incorporation or bylaws and approved by all persons who are shareholders at the time of the agreement or (ii) in a written document that is signed by all persons who are shareholders at the time of the agreement and is made known to the corporation.
    2. The agreement is subject to amendment only by all persons who are shareholders at the time of the amendment unless the agreement provides otherwise.
  5. The existence of an agreement authorized by subsection (b) of this section shall be noted conspicuously on the front or back of each certificate for outstanding shares or on the information statement required by G.S. 55-6-26(b). If, at the time of the agreement, the corporation has shares outstanding represented by certificates, the corporation shall recall the outstanding certificates and issue substitute certificates that comply with this subsection. The failure to note the existence of the agreement on the certificate or information statement shall not affect the validity of the agreement or any action taken pursuant to it. Any purchaser of shares who, at the time of purchase, did not have knowledge of the existence of the agreement is entitled to rescission of the purchase. A purchaser is deemed to have knowledge of the existence of the agreement if its existence is noted on the certificate or information statement for the shares in compliance with this subsection and, if the shares are not represented by a certificate, the information statement is delivered to the purchaser at or prior to the time of purchase of the shares. An action to enforce the right of rescission authorized by this subsection shall be commenced within the earlier of 90 days after discovery of the existence of the agreement or two years after the time of purchase of the shares.
  6. An agreement authorized by subsection (b) of this section shall cease to be effective when the corporation becomes a public corporation. If the agreement ceases to be effective for any reason, the board of directors may, if the agreement is contained or referred to in the corporation's articles of incorporation or bylaws, adopt an amendment to the articles of incorporation or bylaws, without shareholder action, to delete the agreement and any references to it.
  7. The existence or performance of an agreement authorized by subsection (b) of this section shall not be a ground for imposing personal liability on any shareholder for the acts or debts of the corporation even if the agreement or its performance treats the corporation as if it were a partnership or results in failure to observe the corporate formalities otherwise applicable to the matters governed by the agreement.
  8. Incorporators or subscribers for shares may act as shareholders with respect to an agreement authorized by subsection (b) of this section if no shares have been issued when the agreement is made.
  9. A written agreement between all or less than all of the shareholders, whether solely between themselves or between one or more of them and a party who is not a shareholder, is not invalid as between the parties thereto on the ground that it relates to the conduct of the affairs of the corporation so as to limit the discretion or powers of the board of directors. The effect of the agreement is to relieve the directors of, and impose upon the person or persons in whom the discretion or powers are vested, liability for managerial acts or omissions that are imposed on directors to the extent and so long as the discretion or powers of the board of directors in its management of corporate affairs is controlled by the agreement.
  10. Any limits on the duration of any agreement authorized by this section shall be set forth in the agreement. A voting agreement authorized by subsection (a) of this section that became effective prior to October 1, 2018, is valid as between the parties thereto for not more than 10 years after its effective date or, if later, the effective date of the most recent extension or renewal of the voting agreement, unless it is amended after October 1, 2018, to provide otherwise by agreement of the parties thereto. An amendment to a voting agreement under this subsection shall bind only those parties signing it.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1973, c. 469, s. 29; 1981 (Reg. Sess., 1982), c. 1163; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2018-45, s. 6.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT TO THE MODEL BUSINESS CORPORATION ACT, =nl 2016 REVISION

Shareholders of some corporations, especially those that are closely held, frequently enter into agreements that govern the operation of the enterprise.

Section 7.32 provides, within the context of the traditional corporate structure, legal certainty to such agreements that embody various aspects of the business arrangement established by the shareholders to meet their business and personal needs. The subject matter of these arrangements includes governance of the entity, allocation of the economic return from the business, and other aspects of the relationships among shareholders, directors, and the corporation which are part of the business arrangement. Section 7.32 also recognizes that many of the corporate norms contained in the Act were designed with an eye towards corporations whose management and share ownership are distinct. These functions are often conjoined in some corporations, such as the close corporation. Thus, section 7.32 validates agreements among shareholders even when the agreements are inconsistent with the statutory norms contained in the Act.

Importantly, section 7.32 only addresses the parties to the shareholder agreement, their transferees, and the corporation, and does not have any binding legal effect on the state, creditors, or other third persons.

Section 7.32 supplements the other provisions of the Act. If an agreement is not in conflict with another section of the Act, no resort need be made to section 7.32 with its requirement of unanimity. For example, special provisions may be included in the articles of incorporation or bylaws with less than unanimous shareholder agreement so long as such provisions are not in conflict with other provisions of the Act. Similarly, section 7.32 would not have to be relied upon to validate typical buy-sell agreements among two or more shareholders or the covenants and other terms of a stock purchase agreement entered into in connection with the issuance of shares by a corporation.

  1. Section 7.32(a)
  2. Section 7.32(b)
  3. Section 7.32(c)
  4. Section 7.32(d)
  5. Section 7.32(e) through (g)
  6. Section 7.32(h)

An agreement authorized by section 7.32 is "not inconsistent with law" within the meaning of sections 2.02(b)(2) and 2.06(b) of the Act.

The range of agreements validated by section 7.32(a) is expansive though not unlimited. Section 7.32 defines the types of agreements that can be validated largely by illustration. The seven specific categories that are listed are designed to cover some of the most frequently used arrangements. There are numerous other arrangements that may be made, and section 7.32(a)(8) provides an additional category for any provisions that, in a manner inconsistent with any other provision of the Act, otherwise govern the exercise of the corporate powers or the management of the business and affairs of the corporation or the relationship between and among the shareholders, the directors, and the corporation or any of them, and are not contrary to public policy.

Section 7.32(a) validates virtually all types of shareholder agreements that, in practice, normally concern shareholders and their advisors. Given that breadth, any provision that may be contained in the articles of incorporation with a majority vote under sections 2.02(b)(2)(ii) and (iii), as well as under section 2.02(b)(4), may also be effective if contained in a shareholder agreement that complies with section 7.32.

The provisions of a shareholder agreement authorized by section 7.32(a) will often, in operation, conflict with the language of more than one section of the Act, and courts should in such cases construe all related sections of the Act flexibly and in a manner consistent with the underlying intent of the shareholder agreement. Thus, for example, in the case of an agreement that provides for weighted voting by directors, every reference in the Act to a majority or other proportion of directors should be construed to refer to a majority or other proportion of the votes of the directors.

Although the limits of section 7.32(a)(8) are left uncertain, there are provisions of the Act that may not be overridden if they reflect core principles of public policy with respect to corporate affairs. For example, a provision of a shareholder agreement that purports to eliminate all of the standards of conduct established under section 8.30 might be viewed as contrary to public policy and thus not validated under section 7.32(a)(8). Similarly, a provision that exculpates directors from liability more broadly than permitted by section 2.02(b)(4), or indemnifies them more broadly than permitted by section 2.02(b)(5), might not be validated under section 7.32 because of strong public policy reasons for the statutory limitations on the right to exculpate directors from liability and to indemnify them. The validity of some provisions may depend upon the circumstances. For example, a provision of a shareholder agreement that limited inspection rights under section 16.02 or the right to financial statements under section 16.20 might, as a general matter, be valid, but that provision might not be given effect if it prevented shareholders from obtaining information necessary to determine whether directors of the corporation have satisfied the standards of conduct under section 8.30. The foregoing are examples and are not intended to be exclusive.

As noted above, shareholder agreements otherwise validated by section 7.32 are not legally binding on the state, on creditors, or on other third parties. For example, an agreement that dispenses with the need to make corporate filings required by the Act would be ineffective. Similarly, an agreement among shareholders that provides that only the president has authority to enter into contracts for the corporation would not, without more, be binding against third parties, and ordinary principles of agency, including the concept of apparent authority, would continue to apply.

Section 7.32 minimizes the formal requirements for a shareholder agreement so as not to restrict unduly the shareholders' ability to take advantage of the flexibility the section provides. Thus, it is not necessary to "opt in" to a special class of close corporations to obtain the benefits of section 7.32. An agreement can be validated under section 7.32 whether it is set forth in the articles of incorporation, the bylaws or in a separate agreement, and regardless of whether section 7.32 is specifically referenced in the agreement. Where the corporation has a single shareholder, the requirement of an "agreement among the shareholders" is satisfied by the unilateral action of the shareholder in establishing the terms of the agreement, evidenced by provisions in the articles of incorporation or bylaws, or in a writing signed by the sole shareholder. Although a writing signed by all the shareholders is not required where the agreement is contained in articles of incorporation or bylaws unanimously approved, it may be desirable to have all the shareholders actually sign the instrument to establish unequivocally their agreement. Similarly, although transferees are bound by a valid shareholder agreement, subject to section 7.32(c), it may be desirable to obtain the affirmative written assent of the transferee at the time of the transfer. Section 7.32(b) also establishes and permits amendments by less than unanimous agreement if the shareholder agreement so provides.

Section 7.32(b) requires unanimous shareholder approval of the shareholder agreement regardless of entitlement to vote. Unanimity is required because an agreement authorized by section 7.32 can effect material organic changes in the corporation's operation and structure, and in the rights and obligations of shareholders.

The requirement that the shareholder agreement be made known to the corporation is the predicate for the requirement in section 7.32(c) that share certificates or information statements be legended to note the existence of the agreement. No specific form of notification is required and the agreement need not be filed with the corporation. In the case of shareholder agreements in the articles of incorporation or bylaws, the corporation will necessarily have notice. In the case of a shareholder agreement outside the articles of incorporation or bylaws, the requirement of signatures by all of the shareholders should in virtually all cases be sufficient to make the corporation aware of the agreement, as one or more signatories will normally also be a director or an officer.

Section 7.32(c) addresses the effect of a shareholder agreement on subsequent purchasers or transferees of shares. Typically, corporations with shareholder agreements also have restrictions on the transferability of the shares as authorized by section 6.27, thus lessening the practical effects of the problem in the context of voluntary transferees. Transferees of shares without knowledge of the agreement or those acquiring shares upon the death of an original participant in a close corporation may, however, be heavily affected. Weighing the burdens on transferees against the burdens on the remaining shareholders in the enterprise, section 7.32(c) affirms the continued validity of the shareholder agreement on all transferees, whether by purchase, gift, operation of law, or otherwise. Unlike restrictions on transfer, it may be impossible to enforce a shareholder agreement against less than all of the shareholders. Thus, under section 7.32, one who inherits shares subject to a shareholder agreement must continue to abide by the agreement. If that is not the desired result, care must be exercised at the initiation of the shareholder agreement to ensure a different outcome, such as providing for a buy-back upon death.

Where shares are transferred to a purchaser without knowledge of a shareholder agreement, the validity of the agreement is similarly unaffected, but the purchaser is afforded a rescission remedy against the seller. Under section 7.32(c), the time at which notice to a purchaser is relevant for purposes of determining entitlement to rescission is the time when a purchaser acquires the shares rather than when a commitment is made to acquire the shares. If the purchaser learns of the agreement after committing to purchase but before acquiring the shares, the purchaser may not proceed with the purchase and still obtain the benefit of the remedies in section 7.32(c). Under contract principles and the securities laws, a failure to disclose the existence of a shareholder agreement may constitute the omission of a material fact and may excuse performance of the commitment to purchase. The term "purchaser" includes a person acquiring shares upon initial issue or by transfer, and also includes a pledgee, for whom the time of purchase is the time the shares are pledged.

Section 7.32 addresses the underlying rights of shares and shareholders and the validity of shareholder action which redefines those rights, as contrasted with questions regarding entitlement to ownership of the security, competing ownership claims, and disclosure issues. Consistent with this dichotomy, the rights and remedies available to purchasers under section 7.32(c) are independent of those provided by contract law, Article 8 of the Uniform Commercial Code, the securities laws, and other laws outside the Act.

With respect to the related subject of restrictions on transferability of shares, note that section 7.32 does not directly address or validate such restrictions, which are governed instead by section 6.27 of the Act. However, if such restrictions are adopted as a part of a shareholder agreement that complies with the requirements of section 7.32, a court should apply the concept of reasonableness under section 6.27 in determining the validity of such restrictions.

Section 7.32(c) contains an affirmative requirement that the share certificate or information statement for the shares be legended to note the existence of a shareholder agreement. No specified form of legend is required, and a simple statement that "[t]he shares represented by this certificate are subject to a shareholder agreement" is sufficient. At that point, a purchaser must obtain a copy of the shareholder agreement from the transferor or proceed at the purchaser's peril. In the event a corporation fails to legend share certificates or information statements, a court may, in an appropriate case, imply a cause of action against the corporation in favor of an injured purchaser without knowledge of a shareholder agreement. The circumstances under which such a remedy would be implied, the proper measure of damages, and other attributes of and limitations on such an implied remedy are left to development in the courts.

A purchaser who has no actual knowledge of a shareholder agreement and is not charged with knowledge by virtue of a legend on the certificate or information statement has a rescission remedy against the transferor (which would be the corporation in the case of a new issue of shares).

If the shares are certificated and duly legended, a purchaser is charged with notice of the shareholder agreement even if the purchaser never saw the certificate. In the case of uncertificated shares, however, the purchaser is not charged with notice of the shareholder agreement unless a duly-legended information statement is delivered to the purchaser at or before the time of purchase. This different rule for uncertificated shares is intended to provide an additional safeguard to protect innocent purchasers, and is necessary because section 6.26(b) of the Act and Article 8 of the Uniform Commercial Code permit delivery of statements after a transfer of shares.

Section 7.32(d) recognizes that the terms of a shareholder agreement may provide for its termination upon the happening of a specified event or condition. An example may be when the corporation undergoes an initial public offering. This approach is consistent with the broad freedom of contract provided to participants in such enterprises.

Section 7.32(e) provides a shift of liability from the directors to any person or persons in whom the discretion or powers otherwise exercised by the board of directors are vested under the shareholder agreement. A shareholder agreement which provides for such a shift of responsibility, with the concomitant shift of liability provided by subsection § 7.32(e), could also provide for exculpation from that liability to the extent otherwise authorized by the Act. The transfer of liability provided by subsection § 7.32(e) covers liabilities imposed on directors "by law," which is intended to include liabilities arising under the Act, the common law, and statutory law outside the Act.

Section 7.32(f) provides that shareholders shall not have personal liability for the debts of a corporation arising out of acts or omissions taken pursuant to a shareholder agreement validated by section 7.32. Section 7.32(g) authorizes shareholder agreements for corporations that are in the process of being organized and do not yet have shareholders.

Section 7.32 does not limit the duration of a shareholder agreement. This approach is consistent with the wide freedom of contract provided to participants in such enterprises. For agreements entered into during a time that section 7.32 provided for a 10-year term if no other time limit was specified, section 7.32(h) provides that its duration will be governed by the provisions of section 7.32 concerning duration in force at the time the agreement became effective. This would include, for example, both the default termination rule and the authority under former section 7.32(b)(2) that such an agreement's automatic 10-year term could be amended by all shareholders (unless the agreement had prohibited such amendment).

REVISED NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY 2018

The provisions of the Model Act relating to voting agreements were omitted entirely and replaced by the provisions, slightly modified, of former G.S. 55-73, which appear in subsection (a). Subsections (b), (d), (e), (f), (g), (h) and (j) are based on Model Act Section 7.32 subsections (a), (b), (c), (d), (f), (g) and (h), respectively. Model Act Section 7.32 subsection (e) was omitted entirely and replaced in subsection (i) by the provisions of former G.S. 55-31(c).

SUPPLEMENTAL NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY 2018

Subsections (b), (d), (e), (f), (g), (h) and (j) are based on Model Act subsections (a), (b), (c), (d), (f), (g) and (h), respectively. Model Act subsection (e) was omitted entirely and replaced in subsection (i) by the provisions of former G.S. 55-31(c).

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2018-45, s. 33, provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2018-45, s. 6, effective October 1, 2018, rewrote the section.

Legal Periodicals. - For note, "Voting Trusts - Should Trust Principles Apply to Close Corporations?," see 48 N.C.L. Rev. 342 (1970).

For comment on tax and corporate aspects of professional incorporation in North Carolina, see 48 N.C.L. Rev. 573 (1970).

For note on unanimous approval of corporate bylaws and creation of shareholder agreements, see 1 Campbell L. Rev. 153 (1979).

For note on the amendment of shareholder agreements of close corporations in North Carolina, see 15 Wake Forest L. Rev. 531 (1979).

For note on close corporations and personal liability from execution of shareholder agreements, see 16 Wake Forest L. Rev. 975 (1980).

For article, "Defining the Scope of Controlling Shareholders' Fiduciary Responsibilities," see 22 Wake Forest L. Rev. 9 (1987).

For note discussing shareholder agreements in close corporations, in light of Penley v. Penley, 314 N.C. 1, 332 S.E.2d 51 (1985), see 22 Wake Forest L. Rev. 147 (1987).

CASE NOTES

I. GENERAL CONSIDERATION.

Editor's Note. - The cases below were decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955 or under prior law.

Intent of Statute. - Former G.S. 55-73 was not intended to, and it did not, define "shareholders' agreements" to mean only those arrangements which were an attempt to treat the corporation as if it were a partnership or which arranged relationships in a manner that would be appropriate only between partners. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

The authorization of shareholders' agreements was a recognition of the needs of stockholders in a close corporation to be able to protect themselves from each other and from hostile invaders. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

The reason for phrasing the provisions of the statute mainly in the negative was to provide latitude to both the shareholders who enter into agreements which relate to the affairs of the corporation and to the courts which must construe and assess their contracts. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

The provisions of former G.S. 55-73 were designed to permit the management of close corporations by shareholders thereof who act by other than normal corporate procedures, and such actions by the shareholders, if so intended, must perforce bind the corporation. Snyder v. Freeman, 300 N.C. 204, 266 S.E.2d 593 (1980).

Principal Provision as to Close Corporations. - With respect to close corporations, the heart of the North Carolina Business Corporation Act was former G.S. 55-73. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

By means of a shareholders' agreement a small group of investors who seek gain from direct participation in their business and not from trading its stock or securities in the open market can adopt the decision-making procedures of partnership, avoid the consequences of majority rule (the standard operating procedure for corporations), and still enjoy the tax advantages and limited liability of a corporation. Such businesses are often called "incorporated partnerships." Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

Shareholders' Agreement Defined. - A shareholders' agreement is a contract between shareholders which may apply broadly to the rights of the shareholders in conducting the business of the corporation, so long as their purposes are legal and not contrary to public policy. Blount v. Taft, 29 N.C. App. 626, 225 S.E.2d 583 (1976), aff'd, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

In a broad sense the term "shareholders' agreement" refers to any agreement among two or more shareholders regarding their conduct in relation to the corporation whose shares they own. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

Terms "bylaw" and "shareholders' agreement" are not mutually exclusive. Bylaws which are unanimously enacted by all the shareholders of a corporation are also shareholders' agreements. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

Function of Shareholders' Agreement. - Ordinarily the function of a shareholders' agreement is to avoid the consequences of majority rule or other statutory norms imposed by the corporate form. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

Partnership-Like Management Enabled. - The statute enables the shareholders of a close corporation by agreement in writing assented to by all to provide for the management and operation of the corporation in a manner similar to a partnership. Blount v. Taft, 29 N.C. App. 626, 225 S.E.2d 583 (1976), aff'd, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

No particular title, phrasing or content is necessary for a consensual arrangement among all shareholders to constitute a "shareholders' agreement." Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

Form and Substance May Vary. - The form and substance of a shareholders' agreement will vary with the nature of the business and the objectives of the parties. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

Who May Be Party to Agreement. - A shareholders' agreement may be between stockholders in a corporation the shares of which are publicly traded or one whose shares are closely held. However, agreements among shareholders are primarily a feature of close corporations. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

Agreement as to Voting Is Valid Absent Fraud or Prejudice. - North Carolina is aligned with the majority of jurisdictions which hold that a contract entered into between corporate stockholders to which they agree to vote their stock in a specified manner, including agreements for the election of directors and corporate officers, is not invalid, unless it is inspired by fraud or will prejudice the other stockholders. Wilson v. McClenny, 262 N.C. 121, 136 S.E.2d 569 (1964); Stein v. Capital Outdoor Adv., Inc., 273 N.C. 77, 159 S.E.2d 351 (1968).

Agreements for Future Management Must Be "Otherwise Lawful". - Both former G.S. 55-24 and G.S. 55-73 required that contemplated agreements providing for the future management and control of a corporation be "otherwise lawful." Wilson v. McClenny, 262 N.C. 121, 136 S.E.2d 569 (1964).

When Such Agreements Held Invalid. - Agreements providing for the future management and control of a corporation which violate the express charter or statutory provision, contemplate an illegal object, involve any fraud, oppression or wrong against other stockholders or are made in consideration of a private benefit to the promisor, will be declared invalid. Wilson v. McClenny, 262 N.C. 121, 136 S.E.2d 569 (1964).

Invalidation of Agreements. - A shareholders' agreement is not valid and enforceable merely because it fits the specifications of this section. It can be invalidated under the law of contracts upon any ground which would entitle a party to such relief. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

Burden of Proof of Valid Agreement. - Those who have the burden of proving a valid shareholders' agreement could ease this burden by offering an agreement in writing signed by all shareholders, or if embodied in the charter or bylaws, explicit designation therein of a shareholders' agreement and provision for alteration of the agreement if different from the alteration or amendment provisions applicable to the charter or bylaw provisions which are not within the agreement. Blount v. Taft, 29 N.C. App. 626, 225 S.E.2d 583 (1976), aff'd, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

Enforcement of Agreements. - Agreements by shareholders to vote their shares so as to cause their corporation to take certain action are generally enforceable against the shareholders. Snyder v. Freeman, 300 N.C. 204, 266 S.E.2d 593 (1980).

Agreements Construed and Enforced Like Contracts. - Since consensual arrangements among shareholders are agreements - the products of negotiation - they should be construed and enforced like any other contract so as to give effect to the intent of the parties as expressed in their agreements, unless they violate the express charter or statutory provision, contemplate an illegal object, involve fraud, oppression or wrong against other shareholders, or are made in consideration of a private benefit to the promisor. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978); Snyder v. Freeman, 300 N.C. 204, 266 S.E.2d 593 (1980).

II. DECISIONS UNDER FORMER G.S. 55-73(B).

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Intent. - Subsection (b) of former G.S. 55-73 was intended to supply a legal framework within which partner-like arrangements having a reasonable business purpose could be worked out with substantial assurance of legal validity. Blount v. Taft, 29 N.C. App. 626, 225 S.E.2d 583 (1976), aff'd, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

Subsection (b) of former G.S. 55-73 simply abrogated, as to agreements within its purview, certain judicial doctrines which had formerly invalidated particular shareholders' agreements on those grounds which the statute disallowed. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

Language in subsection (b) of former G.S. 55-73 was widely borrowed for the close corporations statutes of several other jurisdictions. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

Effect of Subsection (b) of Former G.S. 55-73 Generally. - Subsection (b) of former G.S. 55-73 created no distinctions between a shareholders' agreement in which the parties sought to deal with the corporation as a partnership and any other stockholders' agreement which related to any phase of the affairs of the corporation. It added nothing, either expressly or impliedly, to the words of the agreement; nor did it suspend the rules of contract law relating to its construction, modification or rescission. It merely provided that a shareholders' agreement in which the parties sought to deal with affairs of the corporation in a manner which would be appropriate only between partners was not invalid for that reason. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

To meet the requirements of subsection (b) of former G.S. 55-73 for establishing a valid shareholders' agreement in a close corporation, there had to be an agreement in writing of all shareholders; but the writing could consist of a written provision in the charter or bylaws of the corporation which could be based on an oral agreement which had been embodied therein. Blount v. Taft, 29 N.C. App. 626, 225 S.E.2d 583 (1976), aff'd, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

Consensual agreements coming within subsection (b) of former G.S. 55-73 were shareholders' agreements whether embodied in the bylaws or in a duly executed side agreement. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

III. AMENDMENT AND TERMINATION.

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Amendment of Agreement in Charter or Bylaws. - When parties to a shareholders' agreement choose to embody it in the charter or bylaws, it must be concluded that they intended for statutory or common-law norms governing amendment to apply, absent an expressed intention to deviate from them. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

If a shareholders' agreement is made a part of the charter or bylaws it will be subject to amendment as provided therein, or in the absence of an internal provision governing amendments, as provided by statutory norms. Blount v. Taft, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).

How Altered or Terminated. - A shareholders' agreement may not be altered or terminated except as provided by the agreement, or by all the parties, or by operation of law. Blount v. Taft, 29 N.C. App. 626, 225 S.E.2d 583 (1976), aff'd, 295 N.C. 472, 246 S.E.2d 763 (1978).


§§ 55-7-32 through 55-7-39: Reserved for future codification purposes.

PART 4. DERIVATIVE PROCEEDINGS.

§ 55-7-40. Shareholders' derivative actions.

Subject to the provisions of G.S. 55-7-41 and G.S. 55-7-42, a shareholder may bring a derivative proceeding in the superior court of this State. The superior court has exclusive original jurisdiction over shareholder derivative actions.

History

(1973, c. 469, s. 12; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1995, c. 149, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 7.40 deals with the procedural requirements applicable to derivative suits. A great deal of controversy has surrounded the derivative suit, and widely different perceptions as to the value and efficacy of this litigation continue to exist. On the one hand, the derivative action has historically been the principal method of challenging allegedly improper, illegal, or unreasonable action by management. On the other hand, it has long been recognized that the derivative suit may be instituted more with a view to obtaining a settlement favorable to the plaintiff and his attorney than to righting a wrong to the corporation (the so-called "strike suit").

Earlier versions of section 7.40, and similar statutes in many states, imposed a series of procedural requirements designed in part to deter or prevent strike suits. The FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, rule 23.1, also imposes procedural requirements on derivative litigation brought in federal court. There has thus been a great deal of experience with procedural devices to control abuses of the derivative suit. Section 7.40 reflects a reappraisal of these devices in light of major developments in corporate governance, the public demand for corporate accountability, and the corporate response in the form of greater independence and sense of responsibility in boards of directors.

  1. Procedural Requirements
    1. The plaintiff may be either a registered or beneficial owner of shares held by a nominee in his behalf
    2. The plaintiff must have been an owner of shares at the time of the transaction in question
    3. The complaint must be verified
    4. Option holders and convertible debenture holders are not permitted to sue
    5. There must be prior notice and demand on directors in most circumstances
    6. There need be no prior notice to or demand on shareholders
    7. A court may stay a derivative suit while the board of directors investigate
    8. Plaintiffs are not required to post bond as security for expenses
    9. Recovery of reasonable expenses of suit, including attorneys' fees, if suit brought without good cause
    10. Settlement or discontinuance of derivative litigation requires judicial approval

The procedural requirements imposed by section 7.40 are as follows:

Many statutes, including earlier versions of the Model Act, required the plaintiff to be a shareholder "of record." This limiting requirement was dropped in revising section 7.40, in light of the widespread use of street name or nominee ownership of shares. At the same time, it was determined that the beneficial owner of shares held in a voting trust should also be permitted to serve as a plaintiff in a derivative suit. These changes were accomplished by the addition of a special definition of "shareholder" in subsection (e) to broaden the definition of that term in section 1.40.

The Model Act and the statutes of many states have long imposed a "contemporaneous ownership" rule, i.e., the plaintiff must have been an owner of shares at the time of the transaction in question. This rule has been criticized as being unduly narrow and technical and unnecessary to prevent the transfer or purchase of lawsuits. A few states, particularly California, Cal. G.C.L. § 800(B), have relaxed this rule to the extent of allowing some subsequent purchasers of shares to be plaintiffs in limited circumstances.

The decision to retain the contemporaneous ownership rule in section 7.40 was based primarily on the view that it was simple, clear, and easy to apply while the California approach might encourage litigation on peripheral issues like the extent of the plaintiff's knowledge of the transaction in question when he acquired his shares. Further, there has been no persuasive showing that the contemporaneous ownership rule has prevented the litigation of substantial suits since there appear to be many persons who might qualify as plaintiffs to bring suit even if subsequent purchasers are disqualified.

Section 7.40(b) requires the complaint in a derivative suit to be verified, i.e., sworn to. Compare FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, rule 23.1; Surowitz v. Hilton Hotels Corp., 383 U.S. 363 (1966). This requirement provides some protection against groundless litigation without deterring suits brought in good faith.

Arguments may be made that long-term creditors and investors with the privilege of becoming shareholders by the exercise of options or conversion rights should be permitted to bring derivative suits. These arguments, however, appear to involve the substantive rights of these various classes of investors more than the procedures required for the assertion of derivative rights on behalf of the corporation. See, e.g., Harff v. Kerkorian, 324 A.2d 215 (Del. Ch. 1974), rev'd in part, 347 A.2d 133 (Del. 1975). Therefore, section 7.40(a) does not permit option holders or convertible debenture holders to serve as derivative plaintiffs.

The purpose of a demand on the board of directors is to stimulate the board of directors to enforce the rights of the corporation on its own. Modern trends in corporate governance - particularly the increasing number of outside directors and greater directors sensitivity to their roles in the corporation and to the possibility of personal liability - improve the likelihood that the board of directors will weigh carefully the shareholder's demand. Therefore, section 7.40(b) requires an allegation with particularity of the demand made, if any, on the board of directors. On the other hand, there may be circumstances showing that a demand on the board of directors would be useless, and in those circumstances it should be sufficient to allege the reasons why the plaintiff did not make the demand.

Of itself, the rejection by the board of directors of the shareholder's demand neither permits nor precludes the shareholder's suit. See paragraph 2a. below.

Rule 23.1 of the FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE requires that, in addition to a demand on the board of directors, a demand be made on shareholders "if necessary." The statutes of a number of states, including California and New York, require demands only on boards of directors.

Although a demand on shareholders seems generally consistent with the broad doctrine of requiring exhaustion of all internal avenues of relief before commencement of suit, the board of directors, not the shareholders, is charged with governance of the corporation, including the commencement and management of litigation. Further, to require a demand on shareholders would virtually require the plaintiff to engage in a preliminary proxy contest and, in the case of publicly held corporations, would greatly increase the costs of filing all derivative suits, discouraging even legitimate cases.

For these reasons, it was concluded that the requirement of a demand on shareholders would add uncertainty, expense, and delay without commensurately improving the prospects of resolving the substantive issues.

The last sentence of section 7.40(b) provides that if the corporation undertakes an investigation, the court may stay the proceeding until the investigation of the charges made in the demand or complaint is completed. The purpose of this stay is to preserve the right of the board of directors to consider whether or not to seek to enforce on its own the corporation's claim.

Earlier versions of the Model Act and the statutes of many states required a plaintiff to give security for reasonable expenses, including attorneys' fees, if his holdings of shares did not reach a specified size or value - five percent of the outstanding shares or a value of $25,000 in the earlier version of the Model Act. This requirement has been deleted. The security for expenses requirement, to the extent it was based on the size or value of the plaintiff's holdings rather than on the apparent good faith of his claim, was subject to criticism that it unreasonably discriminated against small shareholders.

The basic policy question with respect to the requirement of a bond for small shareholders is how far to go in protecting the corporation and its officers and directors from suits. The choice is between making the right to sue widely available, without obstacles except in obviously baseless cases, or imposing obstacles in the way of the small shareholder without imposing a similar obstacle in the way of the large shareholder. Moreover, no bond requirement exists for class actions, antitrust cases, or individual actions for personal injury, all of which involve the corporation in substantial expense of defending against suit.

Several states have concluded on the basis of these considerations that the bond requirement for small plaintiffs should be repealed or not adopted.

In lieu of the bond requirement, section 7.40(d) provides that on termination of a proceeding the court may require the complainant to pay the defendants' reasonable expenses, including attorneys' fees, if it finds that the proceeding "was commenced without reasonable cause." This test is similar to but not identical with the test utilized in section 13.31, relating to dissenters' rights, where the standard for award of expenses and attorneys' fees is that dissenters "acted arbitrarily, vexatiously or not in good faith" in demanding a judicial appraisal of their shares. The derivative action situation is sufficiently different from the dissenters' rights situation to justify a different and less onerous test for imposing costs on the plaintiff. The test of section 7.40 that the action was brought without reasonable cause is appropriate to deter strike suits, on the one hand, and on the other hand to protect plaintiffs whose suits have a reasonable foundation.

Section 7.40(d) does not refer to the award of expenses, including attorneys' fees, to successful plaintiffs. The right of successful plaintiffs in derivative suits to this recovery is so universally recognized, both by statute and on the theory of a recovery of a fund or benefit for the corporation, that specific reference was thought to be unnecessary. The intention is to preserve fully these nonstatutory rights of reimbursement. Therefore, no negative inference should be drawn from section 7.40(d) as to the rights of plaintiffs to reimbursement.

Abuses in the conduct of derivative litigation may occur on the part of defendants and their counsel as well as by plaintiffs and their counsel. Abuses may occur with respect to motions, pleadings, requests for discovery and resistance to discovery when conducted either in bad faith or without good cause. Sanctions to deal with such conduct are not included in this Act because courts possess adequate power to impose appropriate sanctions under rules of civil procedure or the general equity power of courts. See Roadway Express, Inc. v. Piper, 447 U.S. 752 (1980).

Section 7.40(c) follows the FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, and the statutes of a number of states, including New York and Michigan, and requires that all proposed settlements and discontinuances must receive judicial approval. This requirement seems a natural consequence of the proposition that a derivative suit is brought on behalf of the class of all shareholders and avoids many of the evils of the strike suit by preventing the individual shareholder-plaintiff from settling privately with the defendants.

Section 7.40(c) also requires notice to all affected shareholders if the court determines that the proposed settlement may substantially affect the interest of one or more classes of shareholders. Unlike the statutes of some states, however, section 7.40(c) does not address the issue of which party should bear the cost of giving this notice. That is a matter left to the discretion of the court reviewing the proposed settlement.

2. Issues unresolved by section 7.40

Several issues relating to section 7.40 were reserved for future consideration because it was felt that further experience or experimentation was desirable before their resolution was encapsulated in model statutory language. The issues so reserved include the following:

a. Should a decision by the board of directors that maintenance of a derivative suit is against the corporation's interest bar the suit?

The case law concerning the power of the board of directors or of an independent committee of the board to bar a derivative suit without judicial review is in a state of flux. See, e.g., Burks v. Lasker, 441 U.S. 471 (1979); Auerbach v. Bennett, 47 N.Y.2d 619, 419 N.Y.S.2d 920, 393 N.E.2d 994 (1979); Zapata Corp. v. Maldonado, 430 A.2d 779 (Del. 1981); Aronson v. Lewis, 473 A.2d 805 (Del. 1984). For the present it should be permitted to continue to develop. Moreover, this issue may be the subject of an amendment to the Model Act at a later date.

b. Should the method of calculating attorneys' fees be specified?

Courts are today scrutinizing plaintiffs' fees more closely than they have in the past. This trend should be encouraged, and it was therefore concluded that the subject was not appropriate for statutory language at the present time. It is believed that the problem is more acute with respect to plaintiffs' fees recoverable under general principles of derivative litigation than it is under section 7.40(d).

c. Should there be a maximum limit on an individual's liability?

The sums involved in claims of alleged wrongdoing by a corporation and its officers and directors are often extremely large when viewed in the light of the personal resources of even an affluent person. Claims for millions of dollars may create a high leverage to settle, and the potential exposure to these claims is an undesirable deterrent to service on the board of directors, particularly by outside directors. The proposed Federal Securities Code imposes a limit on individual liability resulting from certain violations of the Code and similar suggestions have also been made by others. On the other hand, where a director's or officer's conduct has proved to be wrongful and detrimental to the corporation, he should clearly be required to disgorge the entire benefit, and it also may be appropriate to require him rather than the victimized corporation and shareholders to bear any other loss suffered.

Since no state has yet adopted a limitation of liability provision, and there is no experience with these provisions, it was thought inappropriate at the present time to discard the principle of unlimited liability.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The provisions of the Model Act relating to the procedures in derivative proceedings were omitted in their entirety. The provisions of former G.S. 55-55, with minor modifications, have become subsections (a), (b), (d), (e), and (f). The second sentence of subsection (b) was added to permit the stay of any proceeding in the discretion of the court during pendency of an investigation by the corporation of the charges made in the demand or complaint.

Subsection (c) permits a recently developed procedure whereby two or more disinterested directors or other disinterested persons determine whether a corporation should pursue a particular legal right or remedy and report their findings to the court, which may then determine whether or not the derivative proceedings should be continued.

Subsection (g), which had no equivalent under prior law, imposes additional conditions upon plaintiffs who bring derivative proceedings on behalf of public corporations.

Subsection (h), which also had no equivalent under prior law, assures availability of the normal corporate attorney-client privilege in derivative proceedings.

Legal Periodicals. - For note, "The Nonprofit Corporation in North Carolina: Recognizing a Right to Member Derivative Suits," see 63 N.C.L. Rev. 999 (1985).

For note, "Alford v. Shaw: North Carolina Adopts a Prophylactic Rule to Prevent Termination of Shareholders' Derivative Suits Through Special Litigation Committees," see 64 N.C.L. Rev. 1228 (1986).

For article, "The Corporate Fox and the Shareholders' Hen House: Reflections on Alford v. Shaw," see 65 N.C.L. Rev. 569 (1987).

For article, "The Perils Of Caesar's Wife: Special Litigation Committees v. The Judiciary; Is Anyone Above Reproach?," see 22 Wake Forest L. Rev. 57 (1987).

For note discussing presumption of good faith in deliberations by special litigation committees, in light of Alford v. Shaw, see 22 Wake Forest L. Rev. 127 (1987).

For article discussing derivative suit litigation, see 66 N.C.L. Rev. 565 (1988).

For note, "Shareholder Derivative Suits Under the New North Carolina Business Corporation Act," see 68 N.C. L. Rev. 1091 (1990).

For article, "Agency Theory: Still Viable? Six Degrees of Separation: From Derivative Suits to Shareholder Class Actions," see 48 Wake Forest L. Rev. 643 (2013).

For article, "How Understanding the Nature of Corporate Norms Can Prevent Their Destruction by Settlements," see 66 Duke L.J. 501 (2016).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - Many of the cases below were decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955 or under prior law.

Derivative actions are brought by one or more shareholders to enforce the rights of the corporation. Robbins v. Tweetsie R.R., Inc., 126 N.C. App. 572, 486 S.E.2d 453 (1997), cert. denied, 347 N.C. 402, 494 S.E.2d 418 (1997).

There is no individual recovery where a shareholder alleges mere injury to the corporation and nothing more. Robbins v. Tweetsie R.R., Inc., 126 N.C. App. 572, 486 S.E.2d 453 (1997), cert. denied, 347 N.C. 402, 494 S.E.2d 418 (1997).

No Standing to Bring Suit Without Beneficial Interest. - Plaintiff had no standing to bring suit challenging action of corporation where he failed to maintain his status as a holder of a beneficial interest in the stock of that corporation throughout the pendency of the litigation. Ashburn v. Wicker, 95 N.C. App. 162, 381 S.E.2d 876 (1989), decided under the former Business Corporation Act.

Plaintiff had no standing to challenge a loan made by defendant corporation to other defendant when plaintiff's beneficial interest, if any, in the defendant corporation consisted of a pledge of stock which secured a debt that was paid by another pledgee of the stock before plaintiff filed suit. Ashburn v. Wicker, 95 N.C. App. 162, 381 S.E.2d 876 (1989), decided under the former Business Corporation Act.

Effect of Futility Doctrine. - The futility doctrine does not allow a shareholder to bring a claim directly. Rather, it simply allows a shareholder to bring a derivative claim without first making demand upon corporate management. Thus, this doctrine offered no support to plaintiff's attempt to recover directly for the breach of his fellow directors' fiduciary duty to corporation. Silverman v. Miller, 155 Bankr. 362 (Bankr. E.D.N.C. 1993).

Pledgee of corporate stock has a significant beneficial interest to have standing to sue the corporation derivatively for mismanagement, provided he maintains an equitable interest in the collateral. Ashburn v. Wicker, 95 N.C. App. 162, 381 S.E.2d 876 (1989), decided under the former Business Corporation Act.

Demand for Action by Directors as Prerequisite. - Former G.S. 55-55(b) codified the prior case law of this and other jurisdictions that in order for an individual as a shareholder to bring suit against the directors of a corporation for breach of their duties to the corporation, he must show that he has exhausted his intracorporate remedies by making demand upon the board to do that which he seeks to have done. Swenson v. Thibaut, 39 N.C. App. 77, 250 S.E.2d 279 (1978), cert. denied and appeal dismissed, 296 N.C. 740, 254 S.E.2d 181, 254 S.E.2d 182, 254 S.E.2d 183 (1979).

In the absence of circumstances indicating that such a step would be futile, a demand that the directors act is a prerequisite of a shareholder suing upon behalf of the corporation. Roney v. Joyner, 86 N.C. App. 81, 356 S.E.2d 401 (1987).

Exhaustion of intracorporate remedies (that is, "demand") is a procedural prerequisite to the filing of a derivative action in this State. Alford v. Shaw, 320 N.C. 465, 358 S.E.2d 323 (1987).

Minutes of board of directors meeting introduced into evidence by plaintiff confirmed that plaintiff made a motion that the corporation retain counsel to investigate the usurpation of a commercial leasing deal, and that this motion died for lack of a second. This action satisfied the demand requirement of this section, and any further demand would have been futile. Silverman v. Miller, 155 Bankr. 362 (Bankr. E.D.N.C. 1993).

An equitable exception to the demand requirement may be invoked when the directors who are in control of the corporation are the same ones (or under the control of the same ones) as were initially responsible for the breaches of duty alleged; in such a case, the demand of a shareholder upon the directors to sue themselves or their principals would be futile and therefore is not required for the maintenance of the action. Swenson v. Thibaut, 39 N.C. App. 77, 250 S.E.2d 279 (1978), cert. denied and appeal dismissed, 296 N.C. 740, 254 S.E.2d 181, 254 S.E.2d 182, 254 S.E.2d 183 (1979); Alford v. Shaw, 320 N.C. 465, 358 S.E.2d 323 (1987).

Mere negligence of the directors in evaluation of a purchase or in relying upon the advice of accounting and investment experts does not excuse a shareholder from demanding action by the board of directors before suing to enforce a corporate right. Roney v. Joyner, 86 N.C. App. 81, 356 S.E.2d 401 (1987).

Pleading of Damages and Defenses Thereto. - The pleading of the damages is an issue which is central to the merits of a derivative action and was not an area in which the corporation had standing to assert a defense. Swenson v. Thibaut, 39 N.C. App. 77, 250 S.E.2d 279 (1978), cert. denied and appeal dismissed, 296 N.C. 740, 254 S.E.2d 181, 254 S.E.2d 182, 254 S.E.2d 183 (1979).

Business Judgment Rule. - The business judgment rule, stated simply, provides that when a corporation's decision not to assert a claim represents a good faith business judgment by its directors, a shareholder will not be permitted to substitute his judgment for that of the company's management by asserting the claim in a derivative action. Swenson v. Thibaut, 39 N.C. App. 77, 250 S.E.2d 279 (1978), cert. denied and appeal dismissed, 296 N.C. 740, 254 S.E.2d 181, 254 S.E.2d 182, 254 S.E.2d 183 (1979).

Business Judgment Defense Involves Question of Good Faith. - Where the business judgment question is presented to the court as a ground for dismissal, the sole issue for determination is whether the decision was made in good faith. Swenson v. Thibaut, 39 N.C. App. 77, 250 S.E.2d 279 (1978), cert. denied and appeal dismissed, 296 N.C. 740, 254 S.E.2d 181, 254 S.E.2d 182, 254 S.E.2d 183 (1979).

When Defense of "Business Judgment" Available to Corporation. - The defense of business judgment is not available to the corporation in a derivative action where a majority of its directors are implicated in the allegations of the suit, as it is a defense on the merits which may properly be interposed only by the directors and management of the corporation, unless the corporation is a real defendant as to some meritorious issue in the suit. Swenson v. Thibaut, 39 N.C. App. 77, 250 S.E.2d 279 (1978), cert. denied and appeal dismissed, 296 N.C. 740, 254 S.E.2d 181, 254 S.E.2d 182, 254 S.E.2d 183 (1979).

Recommendation of Special Litigation Committee. - To rely blindly on the report of a corporation-appointed special litigation committee is to abdicate the judicial duty to consider the interests of shareholders imposed by statute; this abdication is particularly inappropriate in a case where shareholders allege serious breaches of fiduciary duties owed to them by the directors controlling the corporation. Alford v. Shaw, 320 N.C. 465, 358 S.E.2d 323 (1987).

The fact that a special litigation committee appointed by directors charged with self-dealing recommends that derivative action should not proceed, while carrying weight, is not binding upon the trial court; rather, the court must make a fair assessment of the report of the special committee, along with all the other facts and circumstances in the case, in order to determine whether the defendants will be able to show that the transaction complained of was just and reasonable to the corporation. Alford v. Shaw, 320 N.C. 465, 358 S.E.2d 323 (1987).

The burden is on the movant, usually the corporation on whose behalf the suit was initiated, to prove the independence, disinterestedness, and appropriate qualifications of the committee and that it conducted a reasonable investigation in good faith of the matters alleged in the complaint. The committee is not entitled to a presumption of independence, disinterestedness, good faith, or reasonableness. Alford v. Shaw, 327 N.C. 526, 398 S.E.2d 445 (1990).

Corporation as Defendant Where Interest Adverse to Plaintiff's. - In some situations, the corporation in whose interest the derivative action is purportedly brought will have interests adverse to those of the nominal plaintiffs bringing the action derivatively, and will of necessity be more than a nominal defendant. Such situations would include an action to enjoin the performance of a contract by the corporation, to appoint a receiver, to interfere with a corporate reorganization, or to interfere with internal management, where there is no allegation of fraud or bad faith. Swenson v. Thibaut, 39 N.C. App. 77, 250 S.E.2d 279 (1978), cert. denied and appeal dismissed, 296 N.C. 740, 254 S.E.2d 181, 254 S.E.2d 182, 254 S.E.2d 183 (1979).

Corporation's Right to Defend Generally. - A corporation is not powerless in all cases and in all circumstances to resist a derivative action. Swenson v. Thibaut, 39 N.C. App. 77, 250 S.E.2d 279 (1978), cert. denied and appeal dismissed, 296 N.C. 740, 254 S.E.2d 181, 254 S.E.2d 182, 254 S.E.2d 183 (1979).

Individual and Derivative Action Available to Minority Shareholders in Closely Held Corporation. - Minority shareholders in a closely held corporation who allege wrongful conduct and corruption against the majority shareholders in the corporation may bring an individual action against those shareholders, in addition to maintaining a derivative action on behalf of the corporation. Norman v. Nash Johnson & Sons' Farms, Inc., 140 N.C. App. 390, 537 S.E.2d 248 (2000).

Burden of Proving Reasonableness of Transactions. - When a stockholder in a derivative action seeks to establish self-dealing on the part of a majority of the board, the burden should be upon those directors to establish that the transactions complained of were just and reasonable to the corporation when entered into or approved. Alford v. Shaw, 320 N.C. 465, 358 S.E.2d 323 (1987).

Defenses Not on Merits Available to Corporation. - Certain defenses, such as matters of personal jurisdiction, venue and subject matter jurisdiction (which question may arise in the context of alleged existence of prior pending actions involving matters identical to those complained of in the derivative suit) could be asserted by both the corporation and individual defendants where appropriate, as they are not defenses on the merits of the derivative claim. Swenson v. Thibaut, 39 N.C. App. 77, 250 S.E.2d 279 (1978), cert. denied and appeal dismissed, 296 N.C. 740, 254 S.E.2d 181, 254 S.E.2d 182, 254 S.E.2d 183 (1979).

Additionally, certain defenses which are properly asserted before trial on the merits of the derivative action are peculiar to the corporation alone, and may be properly raised only by the corporate nominal defendant who, for purposes of those matters, ceases to be a nominal defendant and becomes an actual party defendant. These defenses would include the lack of standing of the plaintiffs to sue derivatively for reasons of insufficient representation of shareholders and a failure on plaintiffs' part to make a demand upon the board of directors. Swenson v. Thibaut, 39 N.C. App. 77, 250 S.E.2d 279 (1978), cert. denied and appeal dismissed, 296 N.C. 740, 254 S.E.2d 181, 254 S.E.2d 182, 254 S.E.2d 183 (1979).

Limits on Corporation's Right to Defend. - In an action brought by a minority shareholder derivatively in the name and right of a corporation, to enforce rights or to seek redress accruing to the corporation, that corporation will be deemed for purposes of the litigation to be aligned as a party plaintiff (except to the extent that the corporation is an actual defendant as to an issue in the action) although for purposes of form it is designated as a nominal defendant. Accordingly, the corporation may not defend itself against the derivative action on the merits and must limit its defenses, if any, to the pre-trial matters proper to it. Where a corporation seeks to extend its defenses beyond those areas in which it may properly conduct them, dismissal will lie against it. Swenson v. Thibaut, 39 N.C. App. 77, 250 S.E.2d 279 (1978), cert. denied and appeal dismissed, 296 N.C. 740, 254 S.E.2d 181, 254 S.E.2d 182, 254 S.E.2d 183 (1979).

When Order Not Void for Lack of Notice to Shareholders. - In an action challenging the appointment of operating receivers for a corporation, there was no merit to defendants' contention that the initial order of the trial court appointing the receivers was void because certain shareholders were not given notice of the proceedings and were thereby denied their due process rights to notice prior to a court proceeding, the outcome of which would affect their property interests, since there was no requirement in the statutes, either in the provisions governing the appointment of receivers or in the provisions governing derivative shareholder suits, that notice be given to persons who are not parties to the action. Lowder v. All Star Mills, Inc., 301 N.C. 561, 273 S.E.2d 247 (1981).

The statute sets forth two distinct standards for awarding attorneys' fees to successful litigants and taxing unsuccessful litigants with their opponents' attorney's fees. The court may award attorney's fees to a successful litigant who obtains a compromise and settlement or judgment, and may also assess attorney's fees against an unsuccessful litigant in certain cases. Lowder ex rel. Doby v. Doby, 79 N.C. App. 501, 340 S.E.2d 487, cert. denied, 316 N.C. 732, 345 S.E.2d 388 (1986).

When Fees May Be Awarded. - The statute does not impose a requirement to quantify the financial success of the derivative claim before fees may be awarded. The plaintiff need only succeed, in whole or in part, on behalf of the corporation. Lowder v. All Star Mills, Inc., 82 N.C. App. 470, 346 S.E.2d 695 (1986).

Amount of Award. - The statute does not provide, directly or indirectly, that the award of fees and expenses cannot exceed the specific monetary recovery. Lowder v. All Star Mills, Inc., 82 N.C. App. 470, 346 S.E.2d 695 (1986).

Award Upheld. - The removal of a self-dealing, controlling director from office and the appointment of a permanent receiver to protect the corporation in question conferred a substantial benefit on the corporation, so as to justify an award of attorneys' fees against the corporation. Lowder v. All Star Mills, Inc., 82 N.C. App. 470, 346 S.E.2d 695 (1986).

Merit Bonus Improperly Added to Award. - An award of a merit bonus added by the court to the attorneys' fees awarded, based on factors that were properly considered in the initial determination of the hourly rates and the number of hours reasonably expended, was an abuse of discretion. Lowder v. All Star Mills, Inc., 82 N.C. App. 470, 346 S.E.2d 695 (1986).

The trial court, in its discretion, may charge plaintiffs with defendants' reasonable expenses, including attorneys' fees, incurred in defense of the action. Lowder ex rel. Doby v. Doby, 79 N.C. App. 501, 340 S.E.2d 487, cert. denied, 316 N.C. 732, 345 S.E.2d 388 (1986).

Plaintiffs' actions were brought without reasonable cause where both the federal bankruptcy court and state receivership court had previously, either in Chapter X reorganization proceeding or receivership proceeding, dealt with the merits of the allegations made by plaintiffs in their five complaints, and the record was devoid of evidence to support any reasonable belief that there was a sound chance that plaintiffs' claims in the litigation might be sustained. Lowder ex rel. Doby v. Doby, 79 N.C. App. 501, 340 S.E.2d 487, cert. denied, 316 N.C. 732, 345 S.E.2d 388 (1986).

Calculation of Fees and Expenses. - Where plaintiff filed five lawsuits involving substantially overlapping contentions of law and fact, four of which were virtually identical and were linked together for purposes of appeal, plaintiffs, who created the situation, could not complain that the fees and expenses apportioned by the trial court to each of these nominally separate proceedings were not calculated with precision. Lowder ex rel. Doby v. Doby, 79 N.C. App. 501, 340 S.E.2d 487, cert. denied, 316 N.C. 732, 345 S.E.2d 388 (1986).

Judicial Review. - The plain language of the statute requires thorough judicial review of suits initiated by shareholders on behalf of a corporation. The court is directed to determine whether the interest of any shareholder will be substantially affected by the discontinuance, dismissal, compromise, or settlement of a derivative suit. Alford v. Shaw, 320 N.C. 465, 358 S.E.2d 323 (1987).

Although the statute does not specify what test the court must apply in making its determination, it would be difficult for the court to determine whether the interests of shareholders or creditors would be substantially affected by such discontinuance, dismissal, compromise, or settlement without looking at the proposed action substantively; the court must of necessity evaluate the adequacy of materials prepared by the corporation which support the corporation's decision to settle or dismiss a derivative suit, along with the plaintiff's forecast of evidence. Alford v. Shaw, 320 N.C. 465, 358 S.E.2d 323 (1987).

Court approval is required for disposition of all derivative suits, even where the directors are not charged with fraud or self-dealing, or where the plaintiff and the board agree to discontinue, dismiss, compromise, or settle the lawsuit. Alford v. Shaw, 320 N.C. 465, 358 S.E.2d 323 (1987).

Disposition Where Amount of Recovery Would Not Outweigh Detriment to Corporation. - If it appears likely that plaintiff could prevail on the merits, but that the amount of the recovery would not be sufficient to outweigh the detriment to the corporation, the court may allow discontinuance, dismissal, compromise, or settlement. Alford v. Shaw, 320 N.C. 465, 358 S.E.2d 323 (1987).

In exercising its own independent business judgment, the court must consider "such ethical, commercial, promotional, public relations and fiscal factors as may be involved in a given situation." Alford v. Shaw, 327 N.C. 526, 398 S.E.2d 445 (1990).

The corporation as the party seeking final disposition of the case under former G.S. 55-55(c) (see now this section) has the burden of going forward with evidence, on such items, and to show that continuing the action is more likely than not to be against the interests of the corporation. Of course, the shareholders initiating the suit are also entitled to present evidence and arguments as to their contentions. Ultimately, however, while "the review contemplated does not lend itself to any formula-like approach," it is for the court to decide whether the case begun in the superior court will continue. Alford v. Shaw, 327 N.C. 526, 398 S.E.2d 445 (1990).

Trial judge may allow discovery to enable him to assess the committee of decision-makers, the investigation made by the committee, the findings of the committee, and the recommendation of the committee. After hearing evidence on these matters, the trial court is to determine the independence, disinterestedness, and good faith of the committee in making its investigation, in addition to the reasonableness of the bases relied upon by the committee in concluding and recommending that the cause of action on behalf of the corporation be disposed of as recommended. Alford v. Shaw, 327 N.C. 526, 398 S.E.2d 445 (1990).

Plaintiffs were not required to pursue statutory dissenters' rights under former G.S. 55-113 (see now Art. 13 of ch. 55) to oppose merger during litigation in order to maintain standing. Subdivision (c) of former G.S. 55-113 would have deprived them of all interest in defendant corporation. Alford v. Shaw, 327 N.C. 526, 398 S.E.2d 445 (1990).

Responsibility of Court When Party Challenges Recommendation of Corporation. - Since proceedings under former G.S. 55-55(c) (see now this section) are held before a trial judge sitting without a jury, when a party challenges the recommendation of the corporation in whose name a lawsuit was initiated derivatively, it is the court's responsibility first, to require the party taking issue with the recommendation to outline his contentions so he may receive an appropriate response from the other parties to the suit, and then secondly, to hear evidence on these contentions, in order to be able to determine whether the lawsuit is to be discontinued, dismissed, settled, or turned over to the plaintiff-shareholders or the corporation for litigation. Alford v. Shaw, 327 N.C. 526, 398 S.E.2d 445 (1990).

There was no requirement of continuing share ownership in former G.S. 55-55 in order for an individual, who was a shareholder at the time of the transaction about which he was complaining and at the time the action was filed, to proceed with a derivative action. Had the legislature intended to include such a requirement in the corporate statutes, it would have done so. Alford v. Shaw, 327 N.C. 526, 398 S.E.2d 445 (1990).

Section Does Not Contain Continuing Share Ownership Requirement. - This section, the new statute, while elaborating some of the procedures set forth in former G.S. 55-55, does not contain a continuing share ownership requirement. Alford v. Shaw, 327 N.C. 526, 398 S.E.2d 445 (1990).

No State Constitutional Right Exists to Trial by Jury of Factual Issues. - Although a litigant's right to have a jury try issues of fact concerning the merits of the action initiated by the filing of a derivative suit complaint is guaranteed by the Constitution of North Carolina, the procedure required by former G.S. 55-55(c) (see now this section) did not exist before the adoption of the Constitution of 1868, and therefore no State constitutional right exists to a trial by jury of factual issues that might arise during the course of the proceedings required under this statute. Alford v. Shaw, 327 N.C. 526, 398 S.E.2d 445 (1990).

A litigant has no right to the determination of factual issues by a jury during proceedings occurring pursuant to former G.S. 55-55(c) (see now this section). In this section of the statute, it is clear that the word "court" referred to the trial judge and not to a jury. The remaining sentences of former G.S. 55-55(c) referred to discretionary decisions exercisable properly only by the trial judge; clearly the legislature did not intend that a jury be involved in the procedures required under former G.S. 55-55(c). Alford v. Shaw, 327 N.C. 526, 398 S.E.2d 445 (1990).

Jury Properly Not Involved in Deciding Future of Case. - The trial judge proceeded properly insofar as he did not involve a jury in the decision whether to allow the case to be discontinued, dismissed, compromised or settled. Alford v. Shaw, 327 N.C. 526, 398 S.E.2d 445 (1990).

Judge May Need to Resolve Fact Issues to Determine Future of Case. - As the judicial official charged under former G.S. 55-55(c) (see now this section) with this authority, the trial judge may well have to resolve issues of fact to decide whether to permit the suit to go forward, be settled, or be dismissed. Alford v. Shaw, 327 N.C. 526, 398 S.E.2d 445 (1990).

Judge, Not Jury, Decides Whether Case Will Be Settled, Dismissed, etc. - The hearing on motions filed under former G.S. 55-55(c) (see now this section) was appropriately held by the trial judge sitting without a jury. Alford v. Shaw, 327 N.C. 526, 398 S.E.2d 445 (1990).

Trial Court's Review of Motions to Settle, Dismiss, Compromise or Discontinue. - The trial court is to undertake a two-step review of motions brought under former G.S. 55-55(c) (see now this section). First, it is to decide whether the proposal for disposition of the case which is submitted to the court was reached by qualified independent disinterested decision-makers who in good faith proceeded to thoroughly investigate and evaluate the claims set forth in the complaint. The second step requires the trial court to exercise its own independent business judgment as to whether the case is to be discontinued, dismissed, compromised or settled. Alford v. Shaw, 327 N.C. 526, 398 S.E.2d 445 (1990).

Procedure and Discovery in Hearing Concerning Motion to Dismiss, Settle, etc. - For a case discussing interplay of rules and statutes governing procedure and discovery in shareholder's derivative action, particularly with respect to former G.S. 55-55(c) (see now this section) and G.S. 1A-1, Rules 12, 23 and 56. Alford v. Shaw, 327 N.C. 526, 398 S.E.2d 445 (1990).

Rule 23.1, Fed. R. Civ. P., is entirely consistent with this section, as this section allows for a device that the federal rule does not contemplate. The terms of Rule 23.1 and the appointment of a committee pursuant to this section both can be fully honored in a federal court sitting in diversity. Crown Crafts, Inc. v. Aldrich, 148 F.R.D. 547 (E.D.N.C. 1993).

Appointment of a committee under subsection (c) of former similar section is generally more appropriate in the context of a publicly held corporation, or at the very least within a close corporation with more than two owners. The appointment of a committee would likely only delay litigation in action brought by minority shareholders of close corporation alleging breach of fiduciary duties and deceptive and unfair trade practices. Crown Crafts, Inc. v. Aldrich, 148 F.R.D. 547 (E.D.N.C. 1993).

Issuance of Stay Pending Committee Report. - The language of subsection (c) of former similar section, while not expressly granting it, contemplates the issuance of a stay pending the committee's report. The appointment of a committee would be meaningless if the litigation were allowed to continue pending its investigation. Crown Crafts, Inc. v. Aldrich, 148 F.R.D. 547 (E.D.N.C. 1993).

Cited in Crown Crafts, Inc. v. Aldrich, 148 F.R.D. 151 (E.D.N.C. 1993); Guess v. Parrott, 160 N.C. App. 325, 585 S.E.2d 464 (2003); Bridges v. Oates, 167 N.C. App. 459, 605 S.E.2d 685 (2004); Burgess v. Burgess, 205 N.C. App. 325, 698 S.E.2d 666 (2010); Green v. Freeman, 367 N.C. 136, 749 S.E.2d 262 (2013); Piazza v. Kirkbride, 246 N.C. App. 576, 785 S.E.2d 695 (2016).


§ 55-7-40.1. Definitions.

In this Part:

  1. "Derivative proceeding" means a civil suit in the right of a domestic corporation or, to the extent provided in G.S. 55-7-47, in the right of a foreign corporation.
  2. "Shareholder" has the same meaning as in G.S. 55-1-40 and includes a beneficial owner whose shares are held in a voting trust or held by a nominee on the beneficial owner's behalf.

History

(1995, c. 149, s. 1.)

CASE NOTES

Standing. - As 50% shareholder failed to show that her damages differed from those sustained by her corporation, by reason of some special circumstances or special relationship to the defendants, she lacked standing to maintain a direct action against defendants on claims of fraud, constructive fraud, and unfair and deceptive practices. Aubin v. Susi, 149 N.C. App. 320, 560 S.E.2d 875 (2002), cert. dismissed, 356 N.C. 610, 574 S.E.2d 473 (2002), cert. denied, 356 N.C. 610, 574 S.E.2d 474 (2002).

Cited in Norman v. Nash Johnson & Sons' Farms, Inc., 140 N.C. App. 390, 537 S.E.2d 248 (2000); Bridges v. Oates, 167 N.C. App. 459, 605 S.E.2d 685 (2004); Ellison v. Alexander, 207 N.C. App. 401, 700 S.E.2d 102 (2010); Burgess v. Burgess, 205 N.C. App. 325, 698 S.E.2d 666 (2010); Fisher v. Flue-Cured Tobacco Coop. Stabilization Corp., 369 N.C. 202, 794 S.E.2d 699 (2016).


§ 55-7-41. Standing.

A shareholder may not commence or maintain a derivative proceeding unless the shareholder:

  1. Was a shareholder of the corporation at the time of the act or omission complained of or became a shareholder through transfer by operation of law from one who was a shareholder at that time; and
  2. Fairly and adequately represents the interests of the corporation in enforcing the right of the corporation.

History

(1995, c. 149, s. 1.)

Legal Periodicals. - For recent development, "In re Wachovia Shareholders Litigation: The Case for the Common Benefit Doctrine," see 84 N.C. L. Rev. 2066 (2006).

CASE NOTES

Cited in Norman v. Nash Johnson & Sons' Farms, Inc., 140 N.C. App. 390, 537 S.E.2d 248 (2000); Bridges v. Oates, 167 N.C. App. 459, 605 S.E.2d 685 (2004); T-Wol Acquisition Co. v. ECDG South, LLC, 220 N.C. App. 189, 725 S.E.2d 605 (2012); Green v. Freeman, 367 N.C. 136, 749 S.E.2d 262 (2013).


§ 55-7-42. Demand.

No shareholder may commence a derivative proceeding until:

  1. A written demand has been made upon the corporation to take suitable action; and
  2. 90 days have expired from the date the demand was made unless, prior to the expiration of the 90 days, the shareholder was notified that the corporation rejected the demand, or unless irreparable injury to the corporation would result by waiting for the expiration of the 90-day period.

History

(1995, c. 149, s. 1.)

Legal Periodicals. - For recent development, "In re Wachovia Shareholders Litigation: The Case for the Common Benefit Doctrine," see 84 N.C. L. Rev. 2066 (2006).

CASE NOTES

The enactment of this section has eliminated the futility exception to the demand requirement; that is, all derivative actions based on conduct occurring on or after 1 October 1995 require demand. Norman v. Nash Johnson & Sons' Farms, Inc., 140 N.C. App. 390, 537 S.E.2d 248 (2000).

This section does not require that the complaint in a derivative proceeding state how the demand requirement was met, although its predecessor statute (G.S. 55-7-40) required that a plaintiff allege his efforts "with particularity;" consequently, the trial court erred in dismissing the plaintiffs' complaint in the context of a G.S. 1A-1, Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to comply with the statutory requirements of a derivative action where the plaintiffs had complied with G.S. 1A-1, Rule 9(c). Norman v. Nash Johnson & Sons' Farms, Inc., 140 N.C. App. 390, 537 S.E.2d 248 (2000).

Failure to Satisfy Requirements of This Section Results in Dismissal. - The trial court properly dismissed plaintiff's claims pursuant to G.S. 1A-1, Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to satisfy the shareholder derivative action demand requirement of this section where he was not excused from meeting the requirements because the enactment of it abolished the futility exception under North Carolina law. Allen v. Ferrera, 141 N.C. App. 284, 540 S.E.2d 761 (2000).

Trial court properly dismissed a property owners association's suit against its developer, which asserted claims of constructive fraud and unfair and deceptive trade practices, for lack of standing on the part of the association, because the association failed to obtain a two-thirds vote of its membership authorizing the suit, as was required by its bylaws; as a result, the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and properly granted the developer's motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment. Peninsula Prop. Owners Ass'n v. Crescent Res., LLC, 171 N.C. App. 89, 614 S.E.2d 351 (2005), cert. denied, 360 N.C. 177, 626 S.E.2d 648 (2005).

The failure to make adequate pre-litigation demand did not bar plaintiffs minority shareholders' claims insofar as they were based on defendant's actions prior to October 1, 1995, the date that this section became effective. Norman v. Nash Johnson & Sons' Farms, Inc., 140 N.C. App. 390, 537 S.E.2d 248 (2000).

No Impact on Class Certification Request. - Tobacco cooperative had not shown that the trial court abused its discretion by allowing the motion for class certification notwithstanding the cooperative's contention that the current and former flue-cured tobacco producers' action was derivative in nature as nothing in G.S. 55-7-42 precluded class certification. Fisher v. Flue-Cured Tobacco Coop. Stabilization Corp., 369 N.C. 202, 794 S.E.2d 699 (2016).

Applied in Wright v. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc., 231 F.R.D. 475 (M.D.N.C. 2005).

Cited in Bridges v. Oates, 167 N.C. App. 459, 605 S.E.2d 685 (2004); T-Wol Acquisition Co. v. ECDG South, LLC, 220 N.C. App. 189, 725 S.E.2d 605 (2012); LeCann v. Cobham (In re Cobham), 551 B.R. 181 (E.D.N.C. 2015), aff'd, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 18523 (2016).


§ 55-7-43. Stay of proceedings.

If the corporation commences an inquiry into the allegations set forth in the demand or complaint, the court may stay a derivative proceeding for a period of time the court deems appropriate.

History

(1995, c. 149, s. 1.)

CASE NOTES

Applied in Wright v. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc., 231 F.R.D. 475 (M.D.N.C. 2005).

Cited in Norman v. Nash Johnson & Sons' Farms, Inc., 140 N.C. App. 390, 537 S.E.2d 248 (2000); Bluebird Corp. v. Aubin, 188 N.C. App. 671, 657 S.E.2d 55 (2008), review denied, 362 N.C. 679, 669 S.E.2d 741 (2008); T-Wol Acquisition Co. v. ECDG South, LLC, 220 N.C. App. 189, 725 S.E.2d 605 (2012).


§ 55-7-44. Dismissal.

  1. The court shall dismiss a derivative proceeding on motion of the corporation if one of the groups specified in subsection (b) or (f) of this section determines in good faith after conducting a reasonable inquiry upon which its conclusions are based that the maintenance of the derivative proceeding is not in the best interest of the corporation.
  2. Unless a panel is appointed pursuant to subsection (f) of this section, the inquiry and determination shall be made by:
    1. A majority vote of independent directors present at a meeting of the board of directors if the independent directors constitute a quorum; or
    2. A majority vote of a committee consisting of two or more independent directors appointed by majority vote of independent directors present at a meeting of the board of directors, whether or not the independent directors constituted a quorum.
  3. For purposes of this section, none of the following factors by itself shall cause a director to be considered not independent:
    1. The nomination or election of the director by persons who are defendants in the derivative proceeding or against whom action is demanded;
    2. The naming of the director as a defendant in the derivative proceeding or as a person against whom action is demanded; or
    3. The approval by the director of the act being challenged in the derivative proceeding or demand if the act resulted in no personal benefit to the director.
  4. If a derivative proceeding is commenced after a determination has been made rejecting a demand by a shareholder, the complaint shall allege with particularity facts establishing that the requirements of subsection (a) of this section have not been met. Defendants may make a motion to dismiss a complaint under subsection (a) of this section for failure to comply with this subsection. Prior to the court's ruling on such a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff shall be entitled to discovery only with respect to the issues presented by the motion and only if and to the extent that the plaintiff has alleged such facts with particularity. The preliminary discovery shall be limited solely to matters germane and necessary to support the facts alleged with particularity relating solely to the requirements of subsection (a) of this section.
  5. If a majority of the board of directors does not consist of independent directors at the time the determination is made, the corporation shall have the burden of proving that the requirements of subsection (a) of this section have been met. If a majority of the board of directors consists of independent directors at the time the determination is made, the plaintiff shall have the burden of proving that the requirements of subsection (a) of this section have not been met.
  6. The court may appoint a panel of one or more independent persons upon motion of the corporation to make a determination whether the maintenance of the derivative proceeding is in the best interest of the corporation. The plaintiff shall have the burden of proving that the requirements of subsection (a) of this section have not been met.

History

(1995, c. 149, s. 1; c. 509, s. 135.2(t).)

Legal Periodicals. - For recent development, "In re Wachovia Shareholders Litigation: The Case for the Common Benefit Doctrine," see 84 N.C. L. Rev. 2066 (2006).

CASE NOTES

Special Committee Conducted Reasonable Inquiry. - Shareholder derivative action failed because a special committee, which was comprised of independent directors and a law firm, conducted a reasonable inquiry that actually exceeded the scope of the shareholder's allegations of corporate misconduct based on alleged accounting errors, and the committee made a good faith decision that the lawsuit was not in the best interests of the corporation since there was no evidence supporting the shareholder's claims, and damages were questionable while litigation would be costly and disruptive. Madvig v. Gaither, 461 F. Supp. 2d 398 (W.D.N.C. 2006).

In a shareholder derivative case in which a corporation moved to dismiss, a magistrate judge correctly found that the special committee acted reasonably in determining that the derivative suit was not in the corporation's best interest; under G.S. 55-8-30(b)(2), the special committee was entitled to rely in good faith on the outside counsel's report. Borchardt v. King, - F. Supp. 2d - (M.D.N.C. Jan. 29, 2015).

In a shareholder derivative case in which a corporation moved to dismiss, it met its burden of showing that the special committee acted independently, in good faith, and based upon a reasonable inquiry in determining that the derivative suit was not in the corporation's best interest. Borchardt v. King, - F. Supp. 2d - (M.D.N.C. Jan. 29, 2015).

Cited in Norman v. Nash Johnson & Sons' Farms, Inc., 140 N.C. App. 390, 537 S.E.2d 248 (2000); T-Wol Acquisition Co. v. ECDG South, LLC, 220 N.C. App. 189, 725 S.E.2d 605 (2012).


§ 55-7-45. Discontinuance or settlement.

  1. A derivative proceeding may not be discontinued or settled without the court's approval. If the court determines that a proposed discontinuance or settlement will substantially affect the interests of the corporation's shareholders or a class of shareholders, the court shall direct that notice be given to the shareholders affected.
  2. The court shall determine the manner and form of the notice and the manner in which costs of the notice shall be borne.

History

(1995, c. 149, s. 1.)

CASE NOTES

Cited in Norman v. Nash Johnson & Sons' Farms, Inc., 140 N.C. App. 390, 537 S.E.2d 248 (2000); Bluebird Corp. v. Aubin, 188 N.C. App. 671, 657 S.E.2d 55 (2008), review denied, 362 N.C. 679, 669 S.E.2d 741 (2008); T-Wol Acquisition Co. v. ECDG South, LLC, 220 N.C. App. 189, 725 S.E.2d 605 (2012).


§ 55-7-46. Payment of expenses.

On termination of the derivative proceeding, the court may:

  1. Order the corporation to pay the plaintiff's reasonable expenses, including attorneys' fees, incurred in the proceeding if it finds that the proceeding has resulted in a substantial benefit to the corporation;
  2. Order the plaintiff to pay any defendant's reasonable expenses, including attorneys' fees, incurred in defending the proceeding if it finds that the proceeding was commenced or maintained without reasonable cause or for an improper purpose; or
  3. Order a party to pay an opposing party's reasonable expenses, including attorneys' fees, incurred as a result of the filing of a pleading, motion, or other paper, if the court, after reasonable inquiry, finds that the pleading, motion, or other paper was not well grounded in fact or was not warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law, and that it was interposed for an improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation.

History

(1995, c. 149, s. 1.)

Legal Periodicals. - For recent development, "In re Wachovia Shareholders Litigation: The Case for the Common Benefit Doctrine," see 84 N.C. L. Rev. 2066 (2006).

CASE NOTES

Award of Fees to Non-Prevailing Party. - Under G.S. 55-7-46(1), the party seeking attorney's fees need not necessarily be the prevailing party, nor must the derivative claim have proceeded to a final judgment or order; upon a plaintiff's motion, the trial court is at least required to consider whether the proceeding resulted in a substantial benefit to the corporation, and whether such benefit warranted any award of fees. Aubin v. Susi, 149 N.C. App. 320, 560 S.E.2d 875 (2002), cert. dismissed, 356 N.C. 610, 574 S.E.2d 473 (2002), cert. denied, 356 N.C. 610, 574 S.E.2d 474 (2002).

Cited in Norman v. Nash Johnson & Sons' Farms, Inc., 140 N.C. App. 390, 537 S.E.2d 248 (2000); BellSouth Telecomms., Inc. v. City of Laurinburg, 168 N.C. App. 75, 606 S.E.2d 721, cert. denied, - N.C. - , 615 S.E.2d 660, cert. denied, 359 N.C. 629, - S.E.2d - (2005); In re Wachovia S'holders Litig., 168 N.C. App. 135, 607 S.E.2d 48 (2005), cert. denied, 359 N.C. 411, 613 S.E.2d 25 (2005); Bluebird Corp. v. Aubin, 188 N.C. App. 671, 657 S.E.2d 55 (2008), review denied, 362 N.C. 679, 669 S.E.2d 741 (2008); McMillan v. Ryan Jackson Props., LLC, 232 N.C. App. 35, 753 S.E.2d 373 (2014).


§ 55-7-47. Applicability to foreign corporations.

In any derivative proceeding in the right of a foreign corporation, the matters covered by this Part shall be governed by the laws of the jurisdiction of incorporation of the foreign corporation except for the matters governed by G.S. 55-7-43, 55-7-45, and 55-7-46.

History

(1995, c. 149, s. 1.)

CASE NOTES

Internal Affairs Doctrine. - In a suit between a lender and a broker, a prior New York decision was not overturned when the North Carolina court found that the lender breached fiduciary duties because: (1) collateral estoppel, res judicata, and full faith and credit did not apply since the New York court did not dispose of or address the broker's counterclaims; and (2) the internal affairs doctrine was a conflict of laws principle, not a jurisdictional principal. Bluebird Corp. v. Aubin, 188 N.C. App. 671, 657 S.E.2d 55 (2008), review denied, 362 N.C. 679, 669 S.E.2d 741 (2008).

Suit for Breach of Fiduciary Duty. - In a shareholder's suit asserting breach of fiduciary duties and other violations wherein the substantive law of North Carolina applied, the shareholder's motion to amend the complaint was granted despite the motion being filed without seeking the required leave of court; regardless, the motion to dismiss filed by the defending officers and directors was granted for failure to state a claim because the amended complaint failed to show any misrepresentations made in the 2011 proxy statement sent out with regard to the executive compensation plan. Haberland v. Bulkeley, - F. Supp. 2d - (E.D.N.C. Sept. 26, 2012).

§ 55-7-48. Suits against directors of public corporations.

In addition to the requirements of this Part, the plaintiff in an action brought on behalf of a corporation that is a public corporation at the time of the action against one or more of its directors for monetary damages shall:

  1. Allege, and it must appear, that each plaintiff has been a shareholder or holder of a beneficial interest in shares of the corporation for at least one year;
  2. Bring the action within two years of the date of the transaction of which the plaintiff complains; and
  3. If the court orders, execute and deposit with the clerk of court a written undertaking with sufficient surety, approved by the court, to indemnify the corporation against any and all expenses reasonably expected to be incurred by the corporation in connection with the proceeding, including expenses arising by way of indemnity.

History

(1995, c. 149, s. 1.)

§ 55-7-49. Privileged communications.

In any derivative proceeding, no shareholder shall be entitled to obtain or have access to any communication within the scope of the corporation's attorney-client privilege that could not be obtained by or would not be accessible to a party in an action other than on behalf of the corporation.

History

(1995, c. 149, s. 1.)

§ 55-7-50. Exclusive forum or venue provisions valid.

A provision in the articles of incorporation or bylaws of a corporation that specifies a forum or venue in North Carolina as the exclusive forum or venue for litigation relating to the internal affairs of the corporation shall be valid and enforceable.

History

(2014-110, s. 3.)

ARTICLE 8. Directors and Officers.

Part 1. Board of Directors.

Sec.

Part 2. Meetings and Action of the Board.

Part 3. Standards of Conduct.

Part 4. Officers.

Part 5. Indemnification.

PART 1. BOARD OF DIRECTORS.

§ 55-8-01. Requirement for and duties of board of directors.

  1. Except as provided in subsection (c), each corporation must have a board of directors.
  2. All corporate powers shall be exercised by or under the authority of, and the business and affairs of the corporation managed by or under the direction of, its board of directors, except as otherwise provided in the articles of incorporation or in an agreement valid under G.S. 55-7-31(b).
  3. A corporation may dispense with or limit the authority of a board of directors by describing in its articles of incorporation or in an agreement valid under G.S. 55-7-31(b) who will perform some or all of the duties of a board of directors; but no such limitation upon the authority which the board of directors would otherwise have shall be effective against other persons without actual knowledge of such limitation.
  4. To the extent the articles of incorporation or an agreement valid under G.S. 55-7-31(b) vests authority of the board of directors in an individual or group other than the board of directors, such individual or group in the exercise of such authority shall be deemed to be acting as the board of directors for all purposes of this Chapter.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2005-268, s. 6.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 8.01 requires that every corporation have a board of directors except that a corporation with 50 or fewer shareholders may dispense with or limit the authority of the board of directors by describing in the articles "who will perform some or all of the duties of a board of directors." Section 8.01(c). This election is independent of the various close corporation elections permitted by the Model Statutory Close Corporation Supplement, though the basic standard of 50 shareholders is the same in both section 8.01 and that Supplement.

Obviously, some form of governance is necessary for every corporation. The board of directors is the traditional form of corporate governance but it need not be the exclusive form. Patterns of management may be tailored to specific needs in connection with family controlled enterprises, wholly or partially owned subsidiaries, or corporate joint ventures without the requirement of electing close corporation status under the Model Statutory Close Corporation Supplement. The persons who perform some or all of the duties of the board of directors may be designated "trustees," "agents," or "managers," and they may be selected in ways other than the traditional election by the shareholders. It is necessary, however, that some person or group perform these duties, and the designated persons, while performing them, are subject to the same duties as directors.

An example of the restructuring of the traditional board of directors permitted by section 8.01 is presented by the facts of Lehrman v. Cohen, 43 Del. Ch. 222, 222 A.2d 800 (Del. 1966), where two shareholders (or allied family interests) had equal voting power and wished to permit the corporation's attorney to cast a tie-breaking vote on the board of directors without giving him a participating equity interest in the corporation. While the desired result was successfully achieved in that case by creating a class of voting shares without a significant economic interest in the corporation, the same result may be reached under section 8.01 directly by provision in the articles of incorporation without creating a special class of shares.

Any arrangement under section 8.01(c) may also be established by a close corporation election under the Model Statutory Close Corporation Supplement.

When a corporation has more than 50 shareholders, it must adopt the traditional board of directors as its sole form of governance. Because questions may at least theoretically arise how joint share ownership and other arrangements should be counted in applying a numerical limitation, section 1.42 prescribes rules for calculating the number of shareholders for the purpose of this and other numerical limitations in the Model Act.

Section 8.01(b) states that if a corporation has a board of directors "all corporate powers shall be exercised by or under the authority of, and the business and affairs of the corporation managed under the direction of," the board of directors. The quoted language is chosen to reflect the role and functions of boards of directors in all varieties of corporations. In a small corporation and in some larger corporations where the board of directors is composed entirely of persons actively involved in the management of the corporate business, it may be reasonable to describe management as being "by" the board of directors. But a different model is appropriate for the boards of directors of publicly held corporations, which usually include individuals not actively involved in management. In these corporations it is not feasible to impose a requirement that the business and affairs of the corporation be managed "by" the board of directors. In these corporations the appropriate model is that the business and affairs be managed "under the direction of" the board of directors, since the role of the board of directors consist principally of the formulation of major management policy with little or no direct involvement in day-to-day management.

As a correlative in large and complex publicly held corporations it is generally recognized that the board of directors may delegate to appropriate officers those powers not required by law to be exercised by the board of directors itself. Although delegation does not relieve the board of directors from its responsibilities of oversight, directors should not be held personally responsible for actions or omissions of officers, employees, or agents of the corporation so long as the directors have relied reasonably upon these officers, employees, or agents. See section 8.30 and its Official Comment. The board of directors has the power to probe to any depth its chooses in day-to-day management, but it has the responsibility to do so only to the extent that section 8.30 requires.

Section 8.01(b) also recognizes that the powers of the board of directors may be limited by express provisions in the articles of incorporation.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section contains several variations from former G.S. 55-24 and former G.S. 55-73. First, it requires that the board direct the management of the business and affairs of the corporation whereas former G.S. 55-24 required that the board manage the corporation's business and affairs. As pointed out in the Official Comment, the new language clarifies the role of directors as policy makers rather than managers. Also, this section clarifies that all shareholders must assent to an agreement (not contained in the articles of incorporation) which limits or dispenses with the board; and it explicitly provides that those in whom the board's authority is vested under such an arrangement are deemed to be acting as the board for all purposes of this Act (including the duties defined in G.S. 55-8-30 et seq.). Such substitutes for the board would be subject to liability to the same extent as directors.

This section differs from the Model Act in permitting limitation of the board's authority in a shareholders' agreement as well as in the articles of incorporation, and it permits dispensing with or limiting the board of a corporation regardless of the number of shareholders. Any such arrangement accomplished through a shareholders' agreement must comply with G.S. 55-7-31(b). The second clause of subsection (c) relating to rights of third parties without knowledge does not appear in the Model Act; it brings forward former G.S. 55-24(b). Finally, paragraph (d) does not appear in the Model Act, although it is likely that the same result would be reached under the Model Act. See Official Comment, supra, para. 2.

Former G.S. 55-33, which provided for jurisdiction over nonresident directors, was not brought forward because G.S. 1-75.4, the general jurisdiction statute, specifically provides such jurisdiction. It was therefore deemed unnecessary to continue to include a special provision in Chapter 55.

SUPPLEMENTAL NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY (2005)

Effective October 1, 2005, subsection (b) is amended to recognize that a corporation's business and affairs may be managed by the board of directors.

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2005-268, s. 6, effective October 1, 2005, inserted "by or" following "corporation managed" in subsection (b).

Legal Periodicals. - For note on the liability of directors and officers for negligent management, see 45 N.C.L. Rev. 748 (1967).

For note on the fiduciary duty of interested directors and the business judgment rule, see 45 N.C.L. Rev. 755 (1967).

For comment on promoters of corporations dealing in condominiums, see 12 Wake Forest L. Rev. 979 (1976).

For note on close corporations and personal liability from execution of shareholder agreements, see 16 Wake Forest L. Rev. 975 (1980).

For article on corporate directors' accountability, see 66 N.C.L. Rev. 171 (1987).

For article discussing derivative suit litigation, see 66 N.C.L. Rev. 565 (1988).

For comment, "Fiduciary Duties of Directors, How Far Do They Go?," see 23 Wake Forest L. Rev. 163 (1988).

For comment, "North Carolina's Statutory Limitation on Directors' Liability," see 24 Wake Forest L. Rev. 117 (1989).

For article, "The Corporate Persona, Contract (and Market) Failure, and Moral Values," see 69 N.C.L. Rev. 273 (1991).

For article, "Discrimination, Managerial Discretion and the Corporate Contract," see 26 Wake Forest L. Rev. 541 (1991).

For note, "Ignorance is not Bliss: Responsible Corporate Officers Convicted of Environmental Crimes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines," see 1992 Duke L.J. 145.

For article, "The Creation of North Carolina's Limited Liability Corporation Act," see 32 Wake Forest L. Rev. 179 (1997).

For article, "Branch Office of the Prosecutor: The New Role of the Corporation in Business Crime Prosecutions," 89 N.C.L. Rev. 23 (2010).

For article, "Board Diversity and Corporate Performance: Filling in the Gaps: Diversity and Corporate Performance: A Review of the Psychological Literature," see 89 N.C. L. Rev. 715 (2011).

For article, "Board Diversity and Corporate Performance: Filling in the Gaps: Commentary: The Milieu of the Boardroom and the Precinct of Employment," see 89 N.C.L. Rev. 749 (2011).

For article, "Board Diversity and Corporate Performance: Filling in the Gaps: Dangerous Categories: Narratives of Corporate Board Diversity," see 89 N.C.L. Rev. 759 (2011).

For article, "Board Diversity and Corporate Performance: Filling in the Gaps: Corporate Board Gender Diversity and Stock Performance: The Competence Gap or Institutional Investor Bias?," see 89 N.C.L. Rev. 809 (2011).

For article, "Board Diversity and Corporate Performance: Filling in the Gaps: Commentary: Puzzles about Corporate Boards and Board Diversity," see 89 N.C.L. Rev. 841 (2011).

For article, "Board Diversity and Corporate Performance: Filling in the Gaps: Board Diversity Revisted: New Rationale Same Old Story?," see 89 N.C.L. Rev. 855 (2011).

For article, "Board Diversity and Corporate Performance: Filling in the Gaps: Commentary: Diversity on Corporate Boards: Limits of the Business Case and the Connection Between Supporting Rationales and the Appropriate Response of the Law," see 89 N.C.L. Rev. 887 (2011).

For article, "Board Diversity and Corporate Performance: Filling in the Gaps: Justifying Board Diversity," see 89 N.C.L. Rev. 901 (2011).

For article, "Board Diversity and Corporate Performance: Filling in the Gaps: Commentary: The Mismatch Critique Comment on Fanto, Solan, and Darley," see 89 N.C.L. Rev. 937 (2011).

For article, "Board Diversity and Corporate Performance: Filling in the Gaps: The Diversity Double Standard," see 89 N.C.L. Rev. 945 (2011).

For article, "Board Diversity and Corporate Performance: Filling in the Gaps: Commentary: Different Strokes for Different Folks: A Different Standard is not Inherently a Double Standard," see 89 N.C.L. Rev. 1003 (2011).

For article, "Board Diversity and Corporate Performance: Filling in the Gaps: Showcasing Diversity," see 89 N.C.L. Rev. 1017 (2011).

For article, "Board Diversity and Corporate Performance: Filling in the Gaps: Commentary: Showcasing: The Positive Spin," see 89 N.C.L. Rev. 1055 (2011).

For article, "Beyond the Board of Directors," see 46 Wake Forest L. Rev. 783 (2011).

For article, "Is the Corporate Director's Duty of Care a 'Fiduciary' Duty? Does it Matter?," see 48 Wake Forest L. Rev. 1027 (2013).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - Many of the cases below were decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955 or under prior law.

Director occupies a fiduciary relation to the company which, by virtue of his office, he represents in the management of its principal functions. Hill v. Pioneer Lumber Co., 113 N.C. 173, 18 S.E. 107 (1893).

Directors are to be considered and dealt with as trustees or quasi trustees. Besseliew v. Brown, 177 N.C. 65, 97 S.E. 743 (1919).

Liability for Gross Mismanagement and Neglect. - Good faith alone will not relieve the directors of a corporation from liability to its creditors for damages caused them by their gross mismanagement and neglect of its affairs. Anthony v. Jeffress, 172 N.C. 378, 90 S.E. 414 (1916).

Duty of Care. - Directors are not, as a rule, responsible for mere errors of judgment, nor for slight omissions from which the loss complained of could not have been reasonably expected; but where they accept these positions of trust they are expected and required to give them the care and attention that a prudent man should exercise in like circumstances, and are charged with a like duty, usually the care that a prudent man shows in the conduct of his own affairs of a similar kind. Besseliew v. Brown, 177 N.C. 65, 97 S.E. 743 (1919).

Same Good Faith Required of Promoters as Directors. - The promoters of a corporation occupy a relation of trust and confidence towards the corporation which they are calling into existence as well as to each other, and the law requires of them the same good faith it exacts from directors and other fiduciaries. Wilson v. McClenny, 262 N.C. 121, 136 S.E.2d 569 (1964).

Right of Corporation to Sue Negligent Directors. - Where the directors or managing officers of a corporation are liable in damages for their willful or negligent failure to exercise the care and attention to corporate affairs entrusted to them and which they have assumed, an action will lie against them in favor of the corporation, and in case of its insolvency and receivership, in favor of its receiver. Besseliew v. Brown, 177 N.C. 65, 97 S.E. 743 (1919).

Directors Establish Policies. - In general, the directors establish corporate policies and supervise the carrying out of those policies through their duly elected and authorized officers. Burlington Indus., Inc. v. Foil, 284 N.C. 740, 202 S.E.2d 591 (1974).

Powers to Borrow Money and Encumber Property. - The directors of a corporation, unless they are specially restrained by the charter or bylaws, have the power to borrow money with which to conduct its business and to secure payment by mortgage on corporate property. Wall v. Rothrock, 171 N.C. 388, 88 S.E. 633 (1916).

Director of a company may lend it money when needed for its benefit, and take a lien upon the corporate property as security for its repayment, provided the transaction is open and entirely fair and capable of strict proof as to its bona fides. Hill v. Pioneer Lumber Co., 113 N.C. 173, 18 S.E. 107 (1893).

Director who is also a creditor of a corporation cannot prefer himself to the other creditors in the application of the corporation's assets to the security or payment of its debts. Hill v. Pioneer Lumber Co., 113 N.C. 173, 18 S.E. 107 (1893); Merchants Nat'l Bank v. Newton Cotton Mills, 115 N.C. 507, 20 S.E. 765 (1894); McIver v. Young Hdwe. Co., 144 N.C. 478, 57 S.E. 169 (1907).

Right of Directors to Security. - By taking a mortgage on corporate property when the corporation is in failing circumstances, directors, occupying a fiduciary relation, are not permitted to secure themselves against preexisting liabilities of the corporation upon which they are already bound. Wall v. Rothrock, 171 N.C. 388, 88 S.E. 633 (1916); Caldwell v. Robinson, 179 N.C. 518, 103 S.E. 75 (1920).

Judgment Liens of Directors. - Where the directors of a corporation made a bona fide sale of property to it, for value and free from fraud, judgments against the corporation for the purchase price, duly docketed, constitute liens in favor of the directors against the corporate property. Caldwell v. Robinson, 179 N.C. 518, 103 S.E. 75 (1920).

Use of Inside Information by Director to Gain Advantage Against Other Creditors. - Where a corporation is insolvent, a director who is a creditor cannot, upon a debt theretofore existing, take advantage of his superior means of information to secure his debt as against other creditors. Hill v. Pioneer Lumber Co., 113 N.C. 173, 18 S.E. 107 (1893).

Stockholder's Agreements on Election of Directors Are Valid Absent Fraud or Prejudice. - North Carolina is aligned with the majority of jurisdictions which hold that a contract entered into between corporate stockholders by which they agree to vote their stock in a specified manner - including agreements for the election of directors and corporate officers - is not invalid unless it is inspired by fraud or will prejudice the other stockholders. Wilson v. McClenny, 262 N.C. 121, 136 S.E.2d 569 (1964).

Agreements for Future Management Must Be "Otherwise Lawful". - Former G.S. 55-24 and former G.S. 55-73 required that contemplated agreements providing for the future management and control of a corporation be "otherwise lawful." Wilson v. McClenny, 262 N.C. 121, 136 S.E.2d 569 (1964).

When Such Agreements Will Be Declared Invalid. - Agreements providing for the future management and control of a corporation which violate express charter or statutory provisions, contemplate an illegal object, involve any fraud, oppression or wrong against other stockholders, or are made in consideration of a private benefit to the promisor will be declared invalid. Wilson v. McClenny, 262 N.C. 121, 136 S.E.2d 569 (1964).

Cited in Ron Medlin Constr. v. Harris, 364 N.C. 577, 704 S.E.2d 486 (2010).


§ 55-8-02. Qualifications of directors.

The articles of incorporation or bylaws may prescribe qualifications for directors. A director need not be a resident of this State or a shareholder of the corporation unless the articles of incorporation or bylaws so prescribe.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

The elimination of mandatory special qualifications for directors is now nearly universal. The articles of incorporation or bylaws, however, may prescribe special qualifications, an option that is most likely to be utilized in closely held corporations where qualifications for directors may be used as a device for ensuring representation and voting power on the board of directors.

§ 55-8-03. Number and election of directors.

  1. A board of directors must consist of one or more individuals, with the number specified in or fixed in accordance with the articles of incorporation or bylaws.
  2. The number of directors may be increased or decreased from time to time by amendment to, or in the manner provided in, the articles of incorporation or the bylaws, but for a corporation to which G.S. 55-7-28(e) applies in which shares are entitled to be voted cumulatively, the number of directors shall not be decreased unless one of the following applies:
    1. The decrease is approved by the shareholders in a vote in which the number of shares entitled to be voted cumulatively that vote against the proposal for decrease would not be sufficient to elect a director by cumulative voting.
    2. The decrease is made pursuant to a provision of the articles of incorporation or bylaws fixing a minimum and maximum number of directors and authorizing the number of directors to be fixed or changed from time to time, within the maximum and the minimum, by the shareholders or, unless the articles of incorporation or an agreement valid under G.S. 55-7-31 provides otherwise, the board of directors.
  3. Repealed by Session Laws 2005-268, s. 7.
  4. Directors are elected at the first annual shareholders' meeting and at each annual meeting thereafter unless their terms are staggered under G.S. 55-8-06.

History

(1901, c. 2, ss. 14, 39; Rev., ss. 1147, 1182; C.S., ss. 1144, 1175; 1927, c. 138; G.S., ss. 55-48, 55-112; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, s. 33; 1969, c. 751, ss. 10, 11; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1993, c. 552, s. 13; 2005-268, s. 7; 2006-264, s. 44(a).)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 8.03 prescribes rules for the determination of the size of the board of directors of corporations that have not dispensed with a board of directors under section 8.01(c), and for changes in the size of the board of directors once it is established.

  1. Minimum number of directors
  2. Changes in the size of the board of directors
  3. Annual elections of directors

Section 8.03(a) provides that the size of the initial board of directors may be "specified in or fixed in accordance with" the articles of incorporation or bylaws. The size of the board of directors may thus be fixed initially in the fundamental corporate documents, or the decision as to the size of the initial board of directors may be made thereafter by those authorized in those documents. After shares have been issued, however, the power to increase or decrease the size of the board of directors by more than 30 percent, whether by amendment of the bylaws or otherwise, is reserved to the shareholders.

Before 1969 the Model Act required a board of directors to consist of at least three directors. Since then, however, the Model Act, and the corporation statutes of an increasing number of states, have provided that the board of directors may consist of one or more members. A board of directors consisting of one or more individuals may be appropriate for corporations with one or two shareholders, or for corporations with more than two shareholders where in fact the full power of management is vested in only one or two persons. The requirement that every corporation have a board of directors of at least three directors may require the introduction into these closely held corporations of persons with no financial interest in the corporation.

Section 8.03(b) and (c) prescribe rules for corporations in which the board of directors has authority to establish or change the size of the board of directors. It has no application to corporations in which the size of the board of directors is fixed by the bylaws and the shareholders reserve to themselves the power to amend bylaws. See section 10.20. The basic premise is that the determination of the size of the board of directors should rest with the shareholders. These subsections also prevent the board of directors from manipulating its own size without the approval of the shareholders. But experience has shown, particularly in larger corporations, that it is desirable to grant the board of directors some authority to change its size without incurring the expense of obtaining shareholder approval.

Subsection (b) therefore permits the board of directors to increase or decrease its own size by up to 30 percent without shareholder approval. The 30 percent is calculated from the size last approved by the shareholders, thereby preventing directors from tacking a series of 30 percent increases or decreases to alter the basic composition of a board of directors without shareholder approval. For example, in a board of directors fixed or approved by the shareholders at 15 members, the board may, without shareholder approval, change the size of the board to as few as 11 or as many as 19; a board of 5 may be changed by the board to as few as 4 or as many as 6. The 30-percent limit was established to give the board of directors reasonable leeway in adjusting its own size. Thus, when a director resigns, the board of directors should normally be able to reduce its own size and elect not to fill the vacancy without shareholder action; similarly, if an exceptionally qualified person becomes available (or is invited to serve on the board of directors because of a felt need), he may normally be added to the board of directors without shareholder approval.

Alternatively, subsection (c) authorizes the articles of incorporation or bylaws to establish a variable-range size for the board of directors. If a variable range size is established, either the shareholders or the board of directors may prescribe or change the size of the board of directors within that range. However, only the shareholders may amend the bylaws to change the limits established for the size of the board of directors, or to change from a variable-range size board to a fixed board or vice versa. A variable-range size board is intended to provide essentially the same benefits as the authority granted a board of directors by subsection (b) to change its own size by 30 percent. Many publicly held corporations have established variable-range size boards of directors pursuant to general authority in state statutes. Specific recognition and regulation of this widespread practice seems desirable.

Section 8.03(c) also applies to a variable-range size board of directors whose initial size is established by the articles of incorporation if the articles authorize changing the limits of the size of the board without having to amend the articles.

The limitations on the authority of the board of directors set forth in this section are substantive restrictions that may not be changed by provisions in articles of incorporation or bylaws. For example, a general provision in bylaws granting the board of directors authority to amend bylaws does not authorize a board of directors, after shares are issued, to change the limits of a variable-range board established by the bylaws.

Sections 8.03(b) and (c) are primarily designed for publicly held corporations. In closely held corporations, typically, a change in the size of the board of directors may be accomplished readily by the shareholders if that is desired. In many closely held corporations, on the other hand, a board of directors of a fixed size may be an essential part of a control arrangement. In these situations, an increase or decrease in the size of the board of directors by even a single member may significantly affect control. In order to effectuate control arrangements dependent on a board of directors of a fixed size, the power of the board of directors to change its own size must be negated. This may be accomplished by fixing the size of the board of directors in the articles of incorporation or by expressly negating all powers of the board of directors to change the size of the board, whether by amendment of the bylaws or otherwise. See section 10.22.

Section 8.03(d) makes it clear that all directors are elected annually unless the board is staggered. See section 8.05 and its Official Comment.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section permits any corporation to have fewer than three directors, whereas former G.S. 55-25(a) permitted it only where there were fewer than three shareholders. In addition, unless there is cumulative voting, this section permits the board to change the number of directors by up to 30% in a 12-month period, whereas former G.S. 55-25(b) required shareholder action or a provision in the articles of incorporation to change the number of directors except within a variable range. Finally, this section eliminates the provision in former G.S. 55-25(e) which allowed a shareholder to demand election by ballot unless the articles of incorporation or bylaws provided otherwise.

Subsection (b) of this section modifies the Model Act's subsection 8.03(b) to retain the former G.S. 55-25(b) protection of the right of cumulative voting if it exists. The Model Act leaves cumulative voting unprotected in this situation unless such protection is written into the articles of incorporation.

Subsection (c) modifies the Model Act by the addition of the parenthetical clause in the second sentence of this subsection.

SUPPLEMENTAL NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY (2005)

Effective October 1, 2005, this section's limitations on the authority of the board of directors to set the size of the board are removed, subject to retaining certain limitations if shareholders are entitled to vote cumulatively in the election of directors.

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2005-268, s. 7, effective October 1, 2005, rewrote subsection (b); and deleted former subsection (c), which read: "The articles of incorporation or bylaws may establish a variable range for the size of the board of directors by fixing a minimum and maximum number of directors. If a variable range is established, the number of directors may be fixed or changed from time to time, within the minimum and maximum, by the shareholders or (unless the articles of incorporation or an agreement valid under G.S. 55-7-31 shall otherwise provide) the board of directors. After shares are issued, only the shareholders may change the range for the size of the board or change from a fixed to a variable-range size board or vice versa."

Session Laws 2006-264, s. 44(a), effective August 27, 2006, substituted "applies in which shares are entitled to be voted cumulatively, the number" for "applies, the number" in subsection (b), in subsection (b)(1) substituted "entitled to be voted cumulatively that vote against" for "voting against."

Legal Periodicals. - For recent development, "In re Wachovia Shareholders Litigation: The Case for the Common Benefit Doctrine," see 84 N.C. L. Rev. 2066 (2006).

§ 55-8-04. Election of directors by certain classes of shareholders.

If the articles of incorporation authorize dividing the shares into classes, the articles may also authorize the election of all or a specified number of directors by the holders of one or more authorized classes of shares. A class (or classes) of shares entitled to elect one or more directors is a separate voting group for purposes of the election of directors.

History

(1901, c. 2, ss. 14, 39; Rev., ss. 1147, 1182; C.S., ss. 1144, 1175; 1927, c. 138; G.S., ss. 55-48, 55-112; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, s. 33; 1969, c. 751, ss. 10, 11; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 8.04 makes explicit that the articles of incorporation may provide that a specified number (or all) of the directors may be elected by the holders of one or more classes of shares. This approach is widely used in closely held corporations to effect an agreed upon allocation of control, for example, to ensure minority representation on the board of directors by issuing to that minority a class of shares entitled to elect one or more directors. A class (or classes) of shares entitled to elect separately one or more directors constitutes a separate voting group for purposes of the election of directors; within each voting group directors are elected by a plurality of votes and quorum and voting requirements must be separately met by each voting group. See sections 7.25, 7.26, and 7.28.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section is substantially the same as former G.S. 55-25(b) and former G.S. 55-26.

§ 55-8-05. Terms of directors generally.

  1. The terms of the initial directors of a corporation expire at the first shareholders' meeting at which directors are elected.
  2. The terms of all other directors expire at the next annual shareholders' meeting following their election unless their terms are staggered under G.S. 55-8-06.
  3. A decrease in the number of directors does not shorten an incumbent director's term.
  4. The term of a director elected to fill a vacancy expires at the next shareholders' meeting at which directors are elected.
  5. Despite the expiration of a director's term, he continues to serve until his successor is elected and qualifies or until there is a decrease in the number of directors.

History

(1901, c. 2, ss. 14, 39; Rev., ss. 1147, 1182; C.S., ss. 1144, 1175; 1927, c. 138; G.S., ss. 55-48, 55-112; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, s. 33; 1969, c. 751, ss. 10, 11; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 8.05 provides for the annual election of directors at the annual shareholders' meeting with a single exception that terms may be staggered as permitted in section 8.06.

Section 8.05(c) provides that a decrease in the number of directors does not shorten the term of an incumbent director or divest any director of his office. Rather, the incumbent director's term expires at the annual meeting at which his successor would otherwise be elected.

Section 8.05(d) provides that the terms of all directors elected to fill vacancies expire at the next meeting of shareholders at which directors are elected. Thus, if terms are staggered under section 8.06, the term of a director elected to fill a vacant term with more than a year to run is shorter than the term of his predecessor. The board of directors may take appropriate steps, by designation of short terms or otherwise, to return the rotation of election of directors to the original terms established or fixed by the articles or bylaws.

Section 8.05(e) provides for "holdover" directors so that directorships do not automatically become vacant at the expiration of their terms but the same persons continue in office until successors qualify for office. Thus the power of the board of directors to act continues uninterrupted even though an annual shareholders' meeting is not held or the shareholders are deadlocked and unable to elect directors at the meeting.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section is substantially the same as former G.S. 55-25(c) and (d).

§ 55-8-06. Staggered terms for directors.

The articles of incorporation or bylaws adopted by the shareholders may provide for staggering the terms of directors by dividing the total number of directors into two, three, or four groups, with each group containing one-half, one-third, or one-fourth of the total, as near as may be. In that event, the terms of directors in the first group expire at the first annual shareholders' meeting after their election, the terms of the second group expire at the second annual shareholders' meeting after their election, the terms of the third group, if any, expire at the third annual shareholders' meeting after their election, and the terms of the fourth group, if any, expire at the fourth annual shareholders' meeting after their election. At each annual shareholders' meeting held thereafter, directors shall be chosen for a term of two, three, or four years, as the case may be, to succeed those whose terms expire.

History

(1901, c. 2, ss. 14, 44; Rev., ss. 1147, 1148; C.S., s. 1144; 1937, c. 179; 1945, c. 200; 1949, c. 917; G.S., s. 55-48; 1955, c. 914, s. 1; c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, s. 7; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1993, c. 552, s. 10; 2005-268, s. 8.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 8.06 recognizes the practice of "classifying" the board or "staggering" the terms of directors so that only one-half or one-third of them are elected at each annual shareholders' meeting and directors are elected for two- or three-year terms rather than one-year terms.

Under section 8.06 at least three directors must be elected at each annual meeting. These directors may be elected by one or more voting groups, as provided in the articles of incorporation.

The principal justification for staggering the board today is that it protects against sudden change in the management of the corporation despite a change in shareholdings. It also reduces the impact of cumulative voting since a greater number of votes is required to elect a director if the board is staggered than is required if the entire board were elected at each annual meeting.

The staggered board of directors is sometimes used by incumbent management to make unwanted takeover attempts more difficult to effectuate. It is unlikely to be effective alone, however, since the shareholders may in any event remove directors under section 8.08 whether or not their terms are staggered. As a result, a staggered board is likely to be used for this purpose only in conjunction with a provision that directors may be removed only for cause.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section is substantially the same as former G.S. 55-26. The corresponding provision in the Model Act was modified to permit staggered terms for directors to be fixed in a bylaw adopted by the shareholders, thus continuing the former North Carolina practice.

SUPPLEMENTAL NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY (2005)

Effective October 1, 2005, the requirement that a board of directors consist of at least nine directors before directors' terms may be staggered is eliminated.

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2005-268, s. 8, effective October 1, 2005, in the first sentence, deleted "If the number of directors is fixed at nine or more directors" from the beginning, inserted "of directors" following "terms" and made a minor stylistic change.

§ 55-8-07. Resignation of directors.

  1. A director may resign at any time by communicating his resignation to the board of directors, its chair, or the corporation.
  2. A resignation is effective when it is communicated unless it specifies in writing a later effective date or subsequent event upon which it will become effective.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, s. 34; 1973, c. 469, s. 7; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2001-358, s. 6(c); 2001-387, ss. 173, 175(a); 2001-413, s. 6.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

The resignation of a director is effective when the written notice is delivered unless the notice specifies a later effective date, in which case the director continues to serve until that later date. Since the person giving the notice is still a member of the board, he may participate in all decisions until the specified date, including the choice of his successor under section 8.10. The participation of the retiring director in the decision on his successor may be of importance in closely held corporations where control of the board may be affected by the resignation.

Vacancies created by a resignation effective at a later date may be filled before that date under section 8.10.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section is more explicit than former G.S. 55-27(a)(1) in specifying the effective time of a director's resignation.

The section is also more explicit than the Model Act in clarifying that notice is effective when communicated unless a later date is specified in writing. The Model Act merely uses the term "delivered." Since "delivered" is defined to include "mail," a more precise term was deemed desirable.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2001-358, s. 53, provided that the act, which amended this section, was effective October 1, 2001, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date. Section 173 of Session Laws 2001-387 changed the effective date of Session Laws 2001-358 from October 1, 2001, to January 1, 2002. Section 6 of Session Laws 2001-413, effective September 14, 2001, added a sentence to s. 175(a) of Session Laws 2001-387, making s. 173 of that act effective when it became law (August 26, 2001). As a result of these changes, the amendment by Session Laws 2001-358 is effective January 1, 2002, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date.

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2001-358, s. 6(c), effective January 1, 2002, and applicable to documents submitted for filing on or after that date, substituted "chair" for "chairman" in subsection (a).

§ 55-8-08. Removal of directors by shareholders.

  1. The shareholders may remove one or more directors with or without cause unless the articles of incorporation provide that directors may be removed only for cause.
  2. If a director is elected by a voting group of shareholders, only the shareholders of that voting group may participate in the vote to remove him.
  3. If cumulative voting is authorized, unless the entire board of directors is to be removed, a director may not be removed if the number of votes sufficient to elect him under cumulative voting is voted against his removal. If cumulative voting is not authorized, a director may be removed only if the number of votes cast to remove him exceeds the number of votes cast not to remove him.
  4. A director may not be removed by the shareholders at a meeting unless the notice of the meeting states that the purpose, or one of the purposes, of the meeting is removal of the director.
  5. Unless otherwise provided in the articles of incorporation or a bylaw adopted by the shareholders, the entire board of directors may be removed from office with or without cause by the affirmative vote of a majority of the votes entitled to be cast at any election of directors.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, s. 34; 1973, c. 469, s. 7; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1991, c. 645, s. 6.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 8.08(a) accepts the view that since the shareholders are the owners of the corporation, they should normally have the power to change the directors at will. This section reverses the common law position that directors have a statutory entitlement to their office and can be removed only for cause - fraud, criminal conduct, gross abuse of office amounting to a breach of trust, or similar conduct. The power to remove directors is subject to several restrictions set forth in section 8.08:

  1. The power to remove a director without cause may be eliminated by a provision in the articles of incorporation. Such a provision in effect guarantees the directors the same entitlement to office that directors enjoyed at common law. It is likely to be used in closely held corporations as an element of an agreed-upon allocation of power and control which ensures directors immunity from removal except for cause. It may also be used in publicly held corporations that fear changes in ownership of the majority of the shares and desire to provide security to the directors.
  2. If the articles of incorporation provide that one or more classes of shares constitute a separate voting group entitled to elect a director (see section 8.04), only the shareholders of that voting group may participate in the vote whether or not to remove that director. But that director may be removed by court proceeding under section 8.09 despite this section.
  3. If cumulative voting is not authorized, a director is removed (with or without cause) only if the votes cast to remove him exceed the votes cast to retain him at a meeting of the voting group electing him at which a quorum of shares entitled to vote on his election is present.
  4. If cumulative voting is authorized, a different standard for removal is involved. Under cumulative voting, a director may be removed (with or without cause) only if the votes cast in favor of retaining him would not have been sufficient to elect him pursuant to cumulative voting at that meeting. This provision guarantees that a minority faction with sufficient votes to guarantee the election of a director under cumulative voting will be able to protect that director from removal by the remaining shareholders. The director, however, may be removed by court proceeding under section 8.09 despite this section. In computing whether or not a director elected by cumulative voting is protected from removal from office by section 8.08(c), the votes should be counted as though (1) the vote to remove the director occurred in an election to elect the number of directors normally elected by the voting group along with the director whose removal is sought, (2) the number of votes cast cumulatively against removal of the director had been cast for his election, and (3) all votes cast for removal of the director had been cast cumulatively in an efficient pattern for the election of a sufficient number of candidates so as to deprive the director whose removal is being sought of his office.

Removal of directors under section 8.08(d) requires the meeting notice to state that removal of specific directors will be proposed.

AMENDED NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section is consistent with prior law as contained in former G.S. 55-27(f) with two notable differences. This section does not contain a specific provision allowing removal of the entire board by a majority vote, and the notice requirement of subsection (d) is new. Subsection (d) does not prohibit removal of a director by unanimous consent ( see G.S. 55-7-04) but requires notice if the removal is to be considered at a meeting. The language of the Model Act was modified in this subsection for clarity.


§ 55-8-09. Removal of directors by judicial proceeding.

  1. The superior court of the county where a corporation's principal office (or, if none in this State, its registered office) is located may remove a director of the corporation from office in a proceeding commenced either by the corporation or by its shareholders holding at least ten percent (10%) of the outstanding shares of any class if the court finds that:
    1. The director engaged in fraudulent or dishonest conduct, or gross abuse of authority or discretion, with respect to the corporation; and
    2. Removal is in the best interest of the corporation.
  2. The court that removes a director may bar the director from reelection for a period prescribed by the court.
  3. If shareholders commence a proceeding under subsection (a), they shall make the corporation a party defendant.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, s. 34; 1973, c. 469, s. 7; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 8.09 authorizes the removal of a director who is found in a judicial proceeding to have engaged in fraudulent or dishonest conduct or gross abuse of office. For example, a judicial proceeding (as contrasted with removal under section 8.08) may be necessary or appropriate in the following situations:

  1. In a closely held corporation, the director charged with misconduct is elected by voting group or cumulative voting, and the shareholders with power to prevent his removal exercise that power despite the existence of fraudulent or dishonest conduct. The classic example is where the director charged with misconduct himself possesses sufficient votes to prevent his own removal and exercises his voting power to that end.
  2. In a publicly held corporation, the director charged with misconduct declines to resign, though urged to do so, and because of the large number of widely scattered shareholders, a special shareholders' meeting can be held only after a period of delay and at considerable expense.

A shareholder who owns less than 10 percent of the outstanding shares of the corporation may bring suit derivatively in the name of the corporation under this section upon compliance with the requirements of section 7.40. A shareholder who owns at least 10 percent of the outstanding shares of the corporation may maintain suit in his own name and in his own right without compliance with section 7.40. The corporation, however, must be made a party to the proceeding. See section 8.09(c).

The purpose of section 8.09 is to permit the prompt and efficient elimination of dishonest directors. It is not intended to permit judicial resolution of internal corporate struggles for control except in those cases in which a court finds that the director has been guilty of wrongful conduct of the type described.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section increases from 5% (as in former G.S. 55-27(g)) to 10% the number of shares needed to petition for removal of a director. Otherwise, this section is consistent with the prior law.

§ 55-8-10. Vacancy on board.

  1. Unless the articles of incorporation provide otherwise, if a vacancy occurs on a board of directors, including, without limitation, a vacancy resulting from an increase in the number of directors or from the failure by the shareholders to elect the full authorized number of directors:
    1. The shareholders may fill the vacancy;
    2. The board of directors may fill the vacancy; or
    3. If the directors remaining in office constitute fewer than a quorum of the board, they may fill the vacancy by the affirmative vote of a majority of all the directors, or by the sole director, remaining in office.
  2. If the vacant office was held by a director elected by a voting group of shareholders, only the remaining director or directors elected by that voting group or the holders of shares of that voting group are entitled to fill the vacancy.
  3. A vacancy that will occur upon a specific later date or subsequent event (by reason of a resignation effective upon a later date or subsequent event under G.S. 55-8-07(b) or otherwise) may be filled before the vacancy occurs but the new director may not take office until the vacancy occurs.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, s. 34; 1973, c. 469, s. 7; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1024, s. 12.12.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Vacancies on the board of directors may be filled either by the shareholders or by the board of directors. In large corporations the cost of calling a special meeting of shareholders may be prohibitive so that in those corporations filling vacancies by the board of directors is the norm. On the other hand, in a closely held corporation the shareholders may fill vacancies as readily as the board.

Section 8.10(a)(3) allows the directors remaining in office to fill vacancies even though they are fewer than a quorum. The test for the exercise of this power is whether the directors remaining in office are fewer than a quorum, not whether the directors seeking to act are fewer than a quorum. For example, on a board of six directors where a quorum is four, if there are two vacancies, they may not be filled under section 8.10(a)(3) at a "meeting" attended by only three directors. Even though the three directors are fewer than a quorum, section 8.10(a)(3) is not applicable because the number of directors remaining in office - four - is not fewer than a quorum.

Section 8.10(b) provides that if a voting group of shares is entitled to elect a director, only that voting group is entitled to fill a vacant office which was held by a director elected by that voting group. This section is part of the consistent treatment of directors elected by a voting group of shareholders. See sections 1.40, 7.25, 7.26, 7.28, 8.04 and 8.08(b).

Section 8.10(c) permits vacancies that will arise on a specific later date to be filled in advance of that date so long as the designee does not actually take office until the vacancy occurs. The director in the office that will become vacant may participate in the selection of his successor. A vacancy arising at a later date is most likely to arise because of a resignation effective at a later date; it may also arise in connection with retirements or with prospective amendments to bylaws. In a closely held corporation with a balance of power on the board of directors that was reached by agreement, a prospective resignation followed by the appointment of a successor under this section permits the board to act on the replacement before the change in balance caused by the resignation.

AMENDED NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section is generally consistent with prior law. However, unlike the present section, former G.S. 55-27(c) permitted the bylaws as well as the articles of incorporation to withhold from directors the power to fill board vacancies and did not permit the directors to fill vacancies created by an increase in the authorized number of directors, except within a minimum-maximum range fixed by the shareholders.

This section expands the comparable Model Act section in subsection (a) by explicitly recognizing a vacancy occurring from failure by the shareholders to elect a full board and in subsection (b) by permitting the remaining directors elected by a voting group to fill a vacancy in that class of directors, both of which are consistent with former G.S. 55-27(c). The Model Act was modified in subsection (c) to conform to the changes made in G.S. 55-8-07(b) regarding the effective date of a resignation.


§ 55-8-11. Compensation of directors.

Unless the articles of incorporation or bylaws provide otherwise, the board of directors, without regard to personal interest, may fix the compensation of directors for services in any capacity as a director. The compensation established pursuant to this section of directors of a public corporation or of a corporation that so provides in its articles of incorporation is presumed to be fair to the corporation unless proven not to be fair to the corporation by a preponderance of the evidence.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2018-45, s. 7; 2021-106, s. 2(a).)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

This section puts at rest the question whether the board of directors can fix the compensation of its members for serving as directors. The practice of compensating directors is now of long standing, and the establishment of a policy with respect to director compensation is an appropriate function of the board of directors.

In publicly held corporations, compensation is customarily provided to nonmanagement directors. As stated in The Corporate Director's Guidebook, ". . . it is expected that a nonmanagement director will devote substantial attention to the affairs of the corporation and will be compensated accordingly." 33 BUS. LAW. 1591, 1622 (1978).

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY 2018

This section differs from the Model Act by confirming that, in the case of a public corporation or of a private corporation that so provides in its articles of incorporation, if the board of directors fixes the compensation of directors, then regardless of their personal interest in that decision, the amount of compensation is presumed fair to the corporation and the challenger would be required to allege facts, that if proven true, would be sufficient to overcome the presumption in order to avoid dismissal at the summary judgment stage of any proceeding. In effect, the section confirms that the decision of a board regarding its compensation is subject to review under the business judgment rule, but the amendment does not preclude meritorious challenges where a board of directors has awarded itself compensation that is proven not to be fair to the corporation.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2018-45, s. 33, provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

Session Laws 2021-106, s. 7(a), provides: "The Revisor of Statutes shall cause to be printed, as annotations to the published General Statutes, all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor may deem appropriate."

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2018-45, s. 7, effective October 1, 2018, rewrote the first sentence which formerly read "Unless the articles of incorporation or bylaws provide otherwise, the board of directors may fix the compensation of directors", and added the second sentence.

Session Laws 2021-106, s. 2(a), effective October 1, 2021, substituted "capacity as a director” for "capacity” in the first sentence.

§§ 55-8-12 through 55-8-19: Reserved for future codification purposes.

PART 2. MEETINGS AND ACTION OF THE BOARD.

§ 55-8-20. Meetings.

  1. The board of directors may hold regular or special meetings in or out of this State.
  2. Unless otherwise provided by the articles of incorporation, the bylaws, or the board of directors, any or all directors may  participate in a regular or special meeting by, or conduct the meeting through the use of, any means of communication by which all directors participating may simultaneously hear each other during the meeting. A director participating in a meeting by this means is deemed to be present in person at the meeting.
  3. Unless the bylaws provide otherwise, special meetings of the board of directors may be called by the president or any two directors.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, s. 8; 1969, c. 751, s. 12; 1973, c. 469, ss. 8-10; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1991, c. 645, s. 7.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

This section authorizes meetings of directors anywhere. No distinction is made between meetings in-state and out-of-state. It also authorizes the board of directors to permit any or all directors to participate in a meeting by the use of any means of communication by which all directors participating may simultaneously hear each other. This decision is discretionary with the board of directors, and a person participating in this fashion is deemed to be present in person at the meeting for purposes of quorum and voting requirements.

With the development of modern electronic technology, it is possible that the advantages of the traditional meeting, at which all members are present at a single place, may be obtained even though the members are physically dispersed and no two directors are present at the same place. The advantage of the traditional meeting is the opportunity for interchange that is permitted by a meeting in a single room at which members are physically present. If this opportunity for interchange is thought to be available by the board of directors, a meeting may be conducted by electronic means although no two directors are physically present at the same place and no specific place for the meeting is designated.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

By providing that, in the absence of contrary provisions in the articles of incorporation or bylaws, "the board of directors may permit" telephonic participation in its meetings, this section resolves the ambiguity of former G.S. 55-29(c), which provided that a director "may participate" telephonically in such meetings. It is now clear that an individual director may not assert telephonic participation as a right.

§ 55-8-21. Action without meeting.

  1. Unless the articles of incorporation or bylaws provide otherwise, action required or permitted by this Chapter to be taken at a board of directors' meeting may be taken without a meeting if the action is taken by all members of the board. The action must be evidenced by one or more unrevoked written consents signed by each director before or after such action, describing the action taken, and included in the minutes or filed with the corporate records. To the extent the corporation has agreed pursuant to G.S. 55-1-50, a director's consent to action taken without meeting or revocation thereof may be in electronic form and delivered by electronic means.
  2. Action taken under this section is effective when one or more unrevoked consents signed by all of the directors are delivered to the corporation, unless the consents specify a different effective date. A director's consent to action may be revoked in a writing signed by the director and delivered to the corporation prior to the action becoming effective.
  3. A consent signed under this section has the effect of a meeting vote and may be described as such in any document.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, s. 8; 1969, c. 751, s. 12; 1973, c. 469, ss. 8-10; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2001-387, s. 15; 2005-268, s. 9.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

The power of the board of directors to act unanimously without a meeting is based on the pragmatic consideration that in many situations a formal meeting is a waste of time. For example, in a closely held corporation there will often be informal discussion by the manager-owners of the venture before a decision is made. And, of course, if there is only a single director (as is permitted by section 8.03), a written consent is the natural method of signifying director action. Consent may be signified on one or more documents if desirable.

In publicly held corporations, formal meetings of the board of directors may be appropriate for many actions. But there will always be situations where prompt action is necessary and the decision noncontroversial, so that approval without a formal meeting may be appropriate.

Under section 8.21 the requirement of unanimous consent precludes the possibility of stifling or ignoring opposing argument. A director opposed to an action that is proposed to be taken by unanimous consent, or uncertain about the desirability of that action, may compel the holding of a directors' meeting to discuss the matter simply by withholding his consent.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section is generally consistent with former G.S. 55-29, except that it does not contain the provisions for estoppel of a director who does not object promptly after obtaining knowledge of the action. The drafters believed that little, if any, use was made of the estoppel provisions of former G.S. 55-29(a)(3).

The Model Act was modified in subsection (a) to conform to a corresponding change made in G.S. 55-7-04(a), providing that written consent to action without a meeting can be given before or after the action is taken.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2001-387, s. 154(b) provides that nothing in this act shall supersede the provisions of Article 10 or 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes, and this act does not create an alternate means for an entity governed by Article 65 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes to convert to a different business form.

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2005-268, s. 9, effective October 1, 2005, in subsection (a), inserted "unrevoked" preceding "written consents signed" in the second sentence and "or revocation thereof" in the last sentence; and rewrote subsection (b).

§ 55-8-22. Notice of meeting.

  1. Unless the articles of incorporation or bylaws provide otherwise, regular meetings of the board of directors may be held without notice of the date, time, place, or purpose of the meeting.
  2. Special meetings of the board of directors shall be held upon such notice as is provided in the articles of incorporation or bylaws, or in the absence of any such provision, upon notice sent by any usual means of communication not less than five days before the meeting. The notice need not describe the purpose of the special meeting unless required by this chapter, the articles of incorporation or bylaws.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1969, c. 751, s. 12; 1973, c. 469, s. 8; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Regular meetings of the board of directors may be held without notice and special meetings require only two days' notice unless other requirements are imposed by the articles of incorporation or bylaws. The notice may be written or oral. Also, no statement of the purpose of either a regular or special meeting is necessary unless required by the articles of incorporation or bylaws. These requirements differ from the requirements applicable to meetings of shareholders because of fundamental differences in their roles: directors are expected to be more closely involved in corporate affairs than shareholders, and meetings of directors are held more systematically and regularly than meetings of shareholders.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section is consistent with former G.S. 55-28(c).

The section differs in subsection (b) from the Model Act by requiring five instead of two days' notice of meetings in the absence of a notice provision in the articles of incorporation or bylaws, and by adding "this act" to the last sentence of the subsection.

§ 55-8-23. Waiver of notice.

  1. A director may waive any notice required by this Chapter, the articles of incorporation, or bylaws before or after the date and time stated in the notice. Except as provided by subsection (b), the waiver must be in writing, signed by the director entitled to the notice, and filed with the minutes or corporate records.
  2. A director's attendance at or participation in a meeting waives any required notice to him of the meeting unless the director at the beginning of the meeting (or promptly upon his arrival) objects to holding the meeting or transacting business at the meeting and does not thereafter vote for or assent to action taken at the meeting.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1969, c. 751, s. 12; 1973, c. 469, s. 8; 1989, c. 265, s. 1.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 8.23(a) reverses the common law rule that invalidates waivers of notice by directors after the date and time of the meeting. In modern practice notice is often a technical requirement and waivers should be freely permitted.

Section 8.23(b) recognizes that the function of notice is to inform directors of a meeting. If a director actually appears at the meeting he has probably had notice of it and generally should not be able to raise a technical objection that he was not given notice.

In cases where actual prejudice occurs because of the lack of notice, as may be indicated by the absence of one or more other directors, the director must call attention to the defect at the outset of the meeting or promptly upon his arrival. That director, or a director who did not receive notice and was not present at the meeting, may then attack the validity of the action taken for want of notice. If a director properly objects to the meeting being held, he is not presumed to have assented to actions taken thereafter, but he waives his objection if he there after votes for or assents to action taken at the meeting. See section 8.24(d).

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section is substantially the same as former G.S. 55-28(c) and 55-172.

§ 55-8-24. Quorum and voting.

  1. Unless the articles of incorporation or bylaws provide for a greater or lesser number or unless otherwise expressly provided in this Chapter, a quorum of a board of directors consists of a majority of the number of directors specified in or fixed in accordance with the articles of incorporation or bylaws.
  2. The quorum of the board of directors provided in the articles of incorporation or bylaws shall not consist of less than one-third of the number of directors specified in or fixed in accordance with the articles of incorporation or bylaws.
  3. If a quorum is present when a vote is taken, the affirmative vote of a majority of directors present is the act of the board of directors unless the articles of incorporation or bylaws require the vote of a greater number of directors or unless otherwise expressly provided in this Chapter.
  4. A director who is present at a meeting of the board of directors or a committee or subcommittee of the board of directors when corporate action is taken is deemed to have assented to the action taken unless any of the following requirements are met:
    1. The director objects at the beginning of the meeting, or promptly upon the director's arrival, to holding it or transacting business at the meeting.
    2. The director's dissent or abstention from the action taken is entered in the minutes of the meeting.
    3. The director files written notice of the director's dissent or abstention with the presiding officer of the meeting before its adjournment or with the corporation immediately after adjournment of the meeting. The right of dissent or abstention is not available to a director who votes in favor of the action taken.

History

(Code, s. 681; 1901, c. 2, ss. 33, 52; Rev., s. 1192; C.S., s. 1179; 1927, c. 121; 1933, c. 354, s. 1; G.S., s. 55-116; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1959, c. 1316, s. 35; 1969, c. 751, s. 12; 1973, c. 469, s. 8; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2018-45, s. 8; 2021-106, s. 3(a).)

OFFICIAL COMMENT TO THE MODEL BUSINESS CORPORATION ACT, =nl 2016 REVISION

In the absence of a provision in the articles of incorporation or bylaws, a quorum is a majority of the total number of directors specified ( e.g., "the number of directors shall be X") in or fixed ( e.g., "the number of directors shall be not less than Y or more than Z as determined by the board of directors") in accordance with the articles of incorporation or the bylaws.

Section 8.24(a) recognizes that the Act itself may provide for a different quorum in certain specified situations. See sections 8.53(c)(1) and 8.55(b)(1).

Section 8.24 allows the articles of incorporation or bylaws to decrease the required quorum (but not below one-third) or to increase the quorum or the vote necessary to take action up to and including unanimity. The articles of incorporation or bylaws may also establish quorum or voting requirements with respect to directors elected by voting groups of shareholders pursuant to section 8.04. The options to increase the quorum and vote requirements might be used, for example, in closely held corporations where a greater degree of participation is thought appropriate or where a minority participant in the venture seeks to obtain a veto power over corporate action.

The phrase "when the vote is taken" in section 8.24(c) is designed to make clear that the board of directors may act only when a quorum is present. If directors leave during the course of a meeting, the board of directors may not act after the number of directors present is reduced to less than a quorum.

If a director who is present at a meeting wishes to object or abstain with respect to action taken by the board of directors or a committee, that director must make his or her position clear in one of the ways described in section 8.24(d). If objection is made in the form of a written dissent under clause (iii) of section 8.24(d), it may be transmitted by any form of delivery authorized by the definition of that term in section 1.40, including electronic transmission, if authorized by section 1.41. Section 8.24(d) serves the important purpose of bringing the position of the dissenting director clearly to the attention of the other directors. The provision that a director who is present is deemed to have assented unless an objection is noted also prevents a director from later seeking to avoid responsibility because of unexpressed doubts about the wisdom of the action taken.

Section 8.24(d) applies only to directors who are present at the meeting. Directors who are not present are not deemed to have assented to any action taken at the meeting in their absence.

NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

This section is generally consistent with prior law but clarifies an ambiguity in former G.S. 55-28(d) by expressly requiring in subsection (c) that a quorum be present when the vote is taken, thus explicitly permitting directors to prevent further action by withdrawing from the meeting to eliminate a quorum.

This section varies from the Model Act in requiring in subsection (b) that a bylaw fixing a low quorum be "adopted by the shareholders." For clarification, the word "files" was substituted in subdivision (d) (3) for the Model Act's ambiguous "delivers."

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2018-45, s. 33, provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

Session Laws 2021-106, s. 7(a), provides: "The Revisor of Statutes shall cause to be printed, as annotations to the published General Statutes, all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor may deem appropriate."

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2018-45, s. 8, effective October 1, 2018, in subsection (d), substituted "committee or subcommittee" for "committee", "unless any of the following requirements are met" for "unless", "The director" for "He", "The director's" for "His", and made minor stylistic changes throughout.

Session Laws 2021-106, s. 3(a), effective October 1, 2021, rewrote subsections (a) and (b); substituted "directors or unless otherwise expressly provided in this Chapter” for "directors” in subsection (c); and substituted "meeting, or promptly upon the director's arrival, to” for "meeting (or promptly upon the director's arrival) to.”

Legal Periodicals. - For note on unanimous approval of corporate bylaws and creation of shareholder agreements, see 1 Campbell L. Rev. 153 (1979).

CASE NOTES

No Cause of Action Stated. - Claim against director of dissolved corporation did not state a cause of action where plaintiff only alleged that director was officer when corporation dissolved and where there was no allegation that corporation's assets were distributed by officers without providing for known or reasonably ascertainable liabilities. Heather Hills Home Owners Ass'n v. Carolina Custom Dev. Co., 100 N.C. App. 263, 395 S.E.2d 154 (1990), decided under former G.S. 55-32.


§ 55-8-25. Committees.

  1. Unless this Chapter, the articles of incorporation, or the bylaws provide otherwise, a board of directors may create one or more committees and appoint one or more members of the board of directors to serve on the committee. Unless otherwise provided in the articles of incorporation, the bylaws, or the resolution of the board of directors designating the committee, a committee, by action of a majority of its members then in office when the action is taken, may create one or more subcommittees consisting of one or more members of the committee and delegate to the one or more subcommittees any or all of the powers and authority of the committee.
  2. Unless this Chapter provides otherwise, the creation of a committee and appointment of members to it shall be approved by the greater of either of the following:
    1. A majority of all the directors in office when the action is taken.
    2. The number of directors required by the articles of incorporation or bylaws to take action under G.S. 55-8-24.
  3. The creation and appointment of a committee pursuant to G.S. 55-7-44(b)(2) may be approved in the manner set forth in G.S. 55-7-44(b)(2).
  4. G.S. 55-8-20 through G.S. 55-8-24 apply both to committees and subcommittees of the board of directors and to their members.
  5. To the extent specified by the board of directors or in the articles of incorporation or bylaws, each committee may exercise the authority of the board of directors under G.S. 55-8-01.
  6. A committee shall not, however, do any of the following:
    1. Authorize or approve distributions, except according to a formula or method, or within limits, prescribed by the board of directors.
    2. Approve or propose to shareholders action that this act requires be approved by shareholders.
    3. Fill vacancies on the board of directors or on any of its committees.
    4. Amend articles of incorporation pursuant to G.S. 55-10-02.
    5. Adopt, amend, or repeal bylaws.
    6. Approve a plan of merger not requiring shareholder approval.
  7. The creation of, delegation of authority to, or action by a committee or subcommittee does not alone constitute compliance by a director with the standards of conduct described in G.S. 55-8-30.
  8. The board of directors may appoint one or more directors as alternate members of any committee, who may replace any absent or disqualified member at any meeting of the committee, or a subcommittee of the committee, during the member's absence or disqualification.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1969, c. 751, s. 13; 1973, c. 1087, ss. 1, 2; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2005-268, s. 10; 2007-385, s. 1; 2018-45, s. 9.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 8.25 makes explicit the common law power of a board of directors to act through committees of directors and specifies the powers of the board of directors that are nondelegable, that is, powers that only the full board of directors may exercise. Section 8.25 deals only with committees of the board of directors exercising the functions of the board of directors; the board of directors or management, independently of section 8.25, may establish nonboard committees composed of directors, employees, or others to deal with corporate powers not required to be exercised by the board of directors.

Section 8.25(b) provides that a committee of the board of directors may be created only by the affirmative vote of a majority of the board of directors then in office, or, if greater, by the number of directors required to take action by the articles of incorporation or the bylaws. This supermajority requirement reflects the importance of the decision to invest board committees with power to act under section 8.25.

Committees of the board of directors are assuming increasingly important roles in the governance of publicly held corporations. See "The Corporate Director's Guidebook," 33 BUS. LAW. 1591 (1978); "The Overview Committees of the Board of Directors," 35 BUS. LAW. 1335 (1980). Executive committees have long provided guidance to management between meetings of the full board of directors. Audit committees also have a long history of performing essential review and control functions on behalf of the board of directors. In recent years nominating and compensation committees, composed primarily or entirely of nonmanagement directors, have also become more widely used by publicly held corporations.

Section 8.25 establishes the desirable and appropriate role of director committees in light of competing considerations: on the one hand, it seems clear that appropriate board committee action is not only desirable but also is likely to improve the functioning of larger and more diffuse boards of directors; on the other hand, wholesale delegation of authority to a board committee, to the point of abdication of director responsibility as a board of directors, is manifestly inappropriate and undesirable. Overbroad delegation also increase the potential, where the board of directors is divided, for usurpation of basic board functions by means of delegation to a committee dominated by one faction.

The statement of nondelegable functions set out in section 8.25(e) is based on the principle that prohibitions against delegation should be limited generally to actions substantially affecting the rights of shareholders among themselves as shareholders and specifically to (1) those matters that have immediate and irrevocable effect (such as the declaration of a dividend), (2) those matters that may well become irrevocable without swift action, and (3) those matters that will cause changes of position by others that cannot be rectified. As a result, delegation of authority to committees under section 8.25(e) may be broader than mere authority to act with respect to matters arising within the ordinary course of business. The ordinary course of business standard for delegation was rejected as being too narrow and inappropriate for many modern corporations. For example, although section 8.25(e)(8) makes nondelegable the decision whether to issue and sell shares or create a class or series of shares with designated rights and preferences, it permits the board of directors to delegate to a committee (within limits specifically prescribed by the board of directors) the important but more limited functions of fixing the specific terms - including without limitation, the price, the dividend rate, provisions for redemption, sinking fund, conversion, voting or preferential rights, and provisions for other features of a class or series of shares. The committee may also be empowered to adopt any final resolution setting forth the terms and to authorize the appropriate filing with the Secretary of State required by this Act. Thus, terms of the sale of shares may be set quickly and upon the most accurate information without necessarily involving a meeting of the board of directors. The phrase "(or senior executive officer of the corporation)" also permits these functions to be delegated to the chief financial officer or other appropriate officer of the corporation. The subsection also permits delegation to a committee of authority to determine the terms of a contract or option for the sale of shares if the board prescribes specific limits in a stock option plan or otherwise. This delegation avoids requiring involvement of the full board in the details of the administration of stock option or other compensation plans.

Section 8.25(e) prohibits delegation of authority with respect to most mergers, sales of substantially all the assets, amendments to articles of incorporation and voluntary dissolution under section 8.25(e)(2) since these require shareholder action. In addition, section 8.25(e) prohibits delegation to a board committee of authority to declare dividends or distributions, designate director candidates for purposes of proxy solicitation, fill board vacancies, approve a so-called "short-form merger" (where the interests of the minority shareholders warrant special attention), authorize the disposition or reacquisition of shares, or amend the bylaws or the articles of incorporation (without shareholder approval under section 10.02). On the other hand, under section 8.25(e) many actions of a material nature, such as the authorization of long-term debt and capital investment or the pricing of shares, may properly be made the subject of committee delegation.

The statutes of several states make nondelegable certain powers not listed in section 8.25(e) - for example, the power to change the principal corporate office, to appoint or remove officers, to fix director compensation, or to remove agents. These are not prohibited by section 8.25(e) since the whole board of directors may reverse or rescind the committee action taken, if it should wish to do so, without undue risk that implementation of the committee action might be irrevocable or irreversible.

Section 8.25(f) makes clear that although the board of directors may delegate to a committee the authority to take action, the designation of the committee, the delegation of authority to it, and action by the committee will not alone constitute compliance by a noncommittee board member with his responsibility under section 8.30. On the other hand, a noncommittee director also will not automatically incur liability should the action of the particular committee fail to meet the standard of care set out in section 8.30. The noncommittee member's liability in these cases will depend upon whether he failed to comply with section 8.30(b)(3). Factors to be considered in this regard will include the care used in the delegation to and supervision over the committee, and the amount of knowledge regarding the particular matter which the noncommittee director has available to him. Care in delegation and supervision include appraisal of the capabilities and diligence of the committee directors in light of the subject and its relative importance and may be facilitated, in the usual case, by review of minutes and receipt of other reports concerning committee activities. The enumeration of these factors is intended to emphasize that directors may not abdicate their responsibilities and secure exoneration from liability simply by delegating authority to board committees. Rather, a director against whom liability is asserted based upon acts of a committee of which he is not a member avoids liability if the standards contained in section 8.30 are met.

Section 8.25(f) has no application to a member of the committee itself. The standard applicable to a committee member is set forth in section 8.30(a).

AMENDED NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY

The powers which may not be delegated to committees, specified in subsection (e) of this section, are different and more extensive than those specified in former G.S. 55-31(a). Also, this section contains no counterpart of former G.S. 55-31(c), which expressly held the board responsible for action of its committees. This difference is moderated by subsection (f) of the present section.

SUPPLEMENTAL NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY (2005)

Effective October 1, 2005, this section is amended (i) to permit a committee of the board of directors to consist of a single director, (ii) to permit a committee to approve the corporation's purchase of its own shares, to approve the issuance of shares, and to determine the designation and relative rights, preferences, and limitations of a class or series of shares, and (iii) to recognize the special procedures provided in G.S. 55-7-44(b)(2) for appointment of a committee to make certain determinations in a derivative proceeding.

SUPPLEMENTAL NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY (2007)

The amendment to subsection (e)(1) affected by Session Law 2007-385 permits a board of directors to delegate to a committee the authority to authorize or approve distributions, but only according to a formula or method, or within limits, prescribed by the board of directors. This applies to distributions as defined in G.S. 55-1-40, including but not limited to share reacquisitions and dividends.

SUPPLEMENTAL NORTH CAROLINA COMMENTARY (2018)

Subsection (a) provides that a board of directors may create committees and appoint one or more members of the board of directors to serve on the committees, but does not address the use of substitute committee members. The change in subsection (h), which is based on Model Act (2016 Revision) Section 8.25(e), empowers board committees to continue operating despite a member's absence or disqualification by allowing the full board to designate another board member who would be available to act without delay in committee meetings if a regular committee member was disqualified or unable to be present at a committee meeting.

Unless otherwise required by committee governing documents, replacement of an absent or disqualified member is not necessary to permit the other committee members to continue to perform their duties (provided that a quorum is present). Rather, appointing alternate committee members in advance is intended as an expedient temporary solution, allowing a committee to continue effectively accomplishing its duties despite an absent or disqualified committee member and without necessity of convening a special meeting of the full board to make a short-fuse replacement. The alternate director owes the same fiduciary duties and is subject to the same liabilities as any other director.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2007-385, s. 7, provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all explanatory comments of the drafters of the act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

The comment under the heading Supplemental North Carolina Commentary (2007) above was printed under authority of Session Laws 2007-385, s. 7. It was provided by the original drafters of Session Laws 2007-385 and was printed as received.

Session Laws 2018-45, s. 33, provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

Effect of Amendments. - Session Laws 2005-268, s. 8, effective October 1, 2005, rewrote subsections (a) and (c); added "unless this chapter provides otherwise" in subsection (b); added subsection (b1); substituted "shall not, however, do any of the following" for "may not, however" in subsection (e); deleted former subdivisions (e)(7) and (e)(8); and made minor punctuation changes.

Session Laws 2007-385, s. 1, effective August 19, 2007, substituted "or approve distributions, except according to a formula or method, or within limits, prescribed by the board of directors" for "distributions" in subdivision (e)(1).

Session Laws 2018-45, s. 9, effective October 1, 2018, in subsection (a), substituted "the committee" for "any such committee" in the first sentence, and added the last sentence; in subsection (b), substituted "shall" for "must", and "greater of either of the following" for "greater of", and made a minor stylistic change; substituted "committees and subcommittees" for "committees" in subsection (c); substituted "committee or subcommittee" for "committee" in subsection (f); and added subsection (g).

Legal Periodicals. - For note, "Alford v. Shaw: North Carolina Adopts a Prophylactic Rule to Prevent Termination of Shareholders' Derivative Suits Through Special Litigation Committees," see 64 N.C.L. Rev. 1228 (1986).

CASE NOTES

Editor's Note. - The case below was decided under the Business Corporation Act adopted in 1955.

Special Litigation Committee. - The fact that the appointing members of a board of directors are acting under the "disability" of potential liability as a result of shareholder allegations does not per se extend to disable them from delegating managerial authority over the litigation to a special litigation committee. Alford v. Shaw, 318 N.C. 289, 349 S.E.2d 41 (1986), modified and aff'd on rehearing, 320 N.C. 465, 358 S.E.2d 323 (1987).


§ 55-8-26. Submission of matters for shareholder vote.

A corporation may agree to submit a matter to a vote of its shareholders even if, after approving the matter, the board of directors determines it no longer recommends the matter.

History

(2013-153, s. 7.)

OFFICIAL COMMENTS (2013)

Section 8.26 is intended to clarify that a corporation can enter into an agreement, such as a merger agreement, containing a force the vote provision. Section 8.26 is broader than some analogous state corporation law provisions and applies to several different provisions of the Model Act that require the directors to approve a matter before recommending that the shareholders vote to approve it. Under section 8.26, directors can agree to submit a matter to the shareholders for approval even if they later determine that they no longer recommend it. The provision is not intended to relieve the board of directors of its duty to consider carefully the proposed transaction and the interests of the shareholders.

Editor's Note. - Session Laws 2013-153, s. 15 provides: "The Revisor of Statutes may cause to be printed all relevant portions of the Official Comments to the Model Business Corporation Act and all explanatory comments of the drafters of this act as the Revisor deems appropriate."

§§ 55-8-27 through 55-8-29: Reserved for future codification purposes.

PART 3. STANDARDS OF CONDUCT.

§ 55-8-30. General standards for directors.

  1. A director shall discharge the director's duties as a director, including the director's duties as a member of a committee or subcommittee, in accordance with all of the following:
    1. In good faith.
    2. With the care an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would exercise under similar circumstances.
    3. In a manner the director reasonably believes to be in the best interests of the corporation.
  2. In discharging the duties of a director's office, a director is entitled to rely on information, opinions, reports, or statements, including financial statements and other financial data, if prepared or presented by any of the following:
    1. One or more officers or employees of the corporation whom the director reasonably believes to be reliable and competent in the matters presented.
    2. Legal counsel, public accountants, or other persons as to matters the director reasonably believes are within their professional or expert competence.
    3. A committee or subcommittee of the board of directors of which the director is not a member if the director reasonably believes the committee or subcommittee merits confidence.
  3. A director is not entitled to the benefit of subsection (b) of this section if the director has actual knowledge concerning the matter in question that makes reliance otherwise permitted by subsection (b) of this section unwarranted.
  4. A director is not liable for (i) any action taken as a director, or any failure to take any action, if the director performed the duties of the director's office in compliance with this section or (ii) any failure to offer the corporation the right to have or participate in a business opportunity prior to the pursuit or taking of the opportunity by the director or other person if the corporation's articles of incorporation include a provision authorized by G.S. 55-2-02(b)(4) and the procedures and approvals required by the provision, if any, were complied with or obtained prior to the pursuit or taking of the opportunity by the director or other person. The duties of a director weighing a change of control situation shall not be any different, nor the standard of care any higher, than otherwise provided in this section.
  5. A director's personal liability for monetary damages for breach of a duty as a director may be limited or eliminated only to the extent permitted in G.S. 55-2-02(b)(3), and a director may be entitled to indemnification against liability and expenses pursuant to Part 5 of Article 8 of this Chapter.

History

(1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1993, c. 552, s. 11; 2018-45, s. 10.)

OFFICIAL COMMENT

Section 8.30 defines the general standard of conduct for directors. It sets forth the standard by focusing on the manner in which the director performs his duties, not the correctness of his decisions. Section 8.30(a) thus requires a director to perform his duties in good faith, with the care of an ordinarily prudent person in a like position and in a manner he believes to be in the best interests of the corporation. This standard is based on former section 35 of the 1969 Model Act, a number of state statutes and on judicial formulations of the duty of care applicable to directors. Section 8.30 also parallels, to the extent possible, the indemnification provisions of sections 8.50 through 8.58.

In determining whether to impose liability, the courts recognize that boards of directors and corporate managers continuously make decisions that involve the balancing of risks and benefits for the enterprise. Although some decisions turn out to be unwise or the result of a mistake of judgment, it is unreasonable to reexamine these decisions with the benefit of hindsight. Therefore, a director is not liable for injury or damage caused by his decision, no matter how unwise or mistaken it may turn out to be, if in performing his duties he met the requirements of section 8.30.

Even before statutory formulations of directors' duty of care, courts sometimes invoked the business judgment rule in determining whether to impose liability in a particular case. In doing so, courts have sometimes used language similar to the standards set forth in section 8.30(a). The elements of the business judgment rule and the circumstances for its application are continuing to be developed by the courts. In view of that continuing judicial development, section 8.30 does not try to codify the business judgment rule or to delineate the differences, if any, between that rule and the standards of director conduct set forth in this section. That is a task left to the courts and possibly to later revisions of this Model Act.

Section 8.30 should be read in light of the basic duty of directors set forth in section 8.01(b) that the "business and affairs of a corporation [shall be] managed under the direction of" the board. Since the board may delegate or assign to appropriate officers of the corporation the authority or duty to exercise powers that section 8.01 does not require the board to retain, directors are not personally responsible under section 8.30 for actions or omissions of officers, employees, or agents of the corporation so long as the directors, complying with the standard of care set forth in section 8.30, have acted reasonably in delegating responsibility.

  1. Section 8.30(a)
  2. Section 8.30(b)
  3. Section 8.30(c)
  4. Section 8.30(d)
  5. Application to officers

Section 8.30(a) establishes a general standard of care for all directors. It requires a director to exercise "the care an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would exercise." Some state statutes use the words "diligence," "care," and "skill" to define this duty. E.G., N.C. GEN. STAT. ANN. § 55-35 (1975). There is very little authority as to what "skill" and "diligence," as distinguished from "care," can be required or properly expected of corporate directors in the performance of their duties. "Skill," in the sense of technical competence in a particular field, should not be a qualification for the office of director. The concept of "diligence" is sufficiently subsumed within the concept of "care." Accordingly, the words "diligence" and "skill" were omitted from the standard adopted.

Likewise, section 8.30 does not use the term "fiduciary" in the standard for directors' conduct, because that term could be confused with the unique attributes and obligations of a fiduciary imposed by the law of trusts, some of which are not appropriate for directors of a corporation.

Several of the phrases chosen to define the general standard of care in section 8.30(a) deserve specific mention.

  1. The reference to "ordinarily prudent person" embodies long traditions of the common law, in contrast to suggested standards that might call for some undefined degree of expertise, like "ordinarily prudent businessman." The phrase recognizes the need for innovation, essential to profit orientation, and focuses on the basic director attributes of common sense, practical wisdom, and informed judgment.
  2. The phrase "in a like position" recognizes that the "care" under consideration is that which would be used by the "ordinarily prudent person" if he were a director of the particular corporation.
  3. The combined phrase "in a like position . . . under similar circumstances" is intended to recognize that (a) the nature and extent of responsibilities will vary, depending upon such factors as the size, complexity, urgency, and location of activities carried on by the particular corporation, (b) decisions must be made on the basis of the information known to the directors without the benefit of hindsight, and (c) the special background, qualifications, and management responsibilities of a particular director may be relevant in evaluating his compliance with the standard of care. Even though the quoted phrase takes into account the special background, qualifications and management responsibilities of a particular director, it does not excuse a director lacking business experience or particular expertise from exercising the common sense, practical wisdom, and informed judgment of an "ordinarily prudent person."

The process by which a director informs himself will vary but the duty of care requires every director to take steps to become informed about the background facts and circumstances before taking action on the matter at hand. In relying upon the performance by management of delegated or assigned duties pursuant to section 8.01 (including, for example, matters of law and legal compliance), the director may depend upon the presumption of regularity, absent knowledge or notice to the contrary. A director may also rely on information, opinions, reports, and statements prepared or presented by others as set forth in section 8.30(b). Furthermore, a director should not be expected to anticipate the problems which the corporation may face except in those circumstances where something has occurred to make it obvious to the director that the corporation should be addressing a particular problem.

A director complying with the standards expressed in section 8.30(a) is entitled to rely upon information, opinions, reports or statements, including financial statements and other financial data, prepared or presented by the persons or committees described in section 8.30(b). The right to rely under this section applies to the entire range of matters for which the board of directors is responsible. Under section 8.30(c), however, a director so relying must be without knowledge concerning the matter in question that would cause his reliance to be unwarranted. Also inherent in the concept of good faith is the requirement that, in order to be entitled to rely on a report, statement, opinion, or other matter, the director must have read the report or statement in question, or have been present at a meeting at which it was orally presented, or have taken other steps to become generally familiar with its contents. In short, the director must comply with the general standard of care of section 8.30(a) in making a judgment as to the reliability and competence of the source of information upon which he proposes to rely.

Section 8.30(b) permits reliance upon outside advisers, including not only those in the professional disciplines customarily supervised by state authorities, such as lawyers, accountants, and engineers, but also those in other fields involving special experience and skills, such as investment bankers, geologists, management consultants, actuaries, and real estate appraisers. The concept of "expert competence" in section 8.30(b)(2) embraces a wide variety of qualifications and is not limited to the more precise and narrower recognition of experts under the Securities Act of 1933. In this respect section 8.30(b) goes beyond any existing state business corporation act, although several state statutes permit reliance on reports of appraisers selected with reasonable care by the board of directors and deal with the scope and nature of corporate reports and records generally.

Section 8.30(b) permits reliance upon a committee of the board of directors when performing a supervisory or other functions in instances where neither the full board of directors nor the committee takes dispositive action. For example, there may be reliance upon an investigation undertaken by a board committee and reported to the full board of directors, which forms the basis for action by the board of directors itself. Another example is reliance upon a committee of the board of directors, such as a corporate audit committee, with respect to the ongoing role of oversight of the accounting and auditing functions of the corporation. In addition, where reliance upon information or materials prepared or presented by a board committee is not involved, a director may properly rely on dispositive action by a board committee (of which he is not a member) empowered to act pursuant to authority delegated under section 8.25 or acting with the acquiescence of the board of directors. In this connection, see the Official Comment to section 8.25. A director may similarly rely on committees not created under section 8.25 which have nondirector members.

Section 8.30(b) permits reliance upon a committee of the board of directors when performing a supervisory or other functions in instances where neither the full board of directors nor the committee takes dispositive action. For example, there may be reliance upon an investigation undertaken by a board committee and reported to the full board of directors, which forms the basis for action by the board of directors itself. Another example is reliance upon a committee of the board of directors, such as a corporate audit committee, with respect to the ongoing role of oversight of the accounting and auditing functions of the corporation. In addition, where reliance upon information or materials prepared or presented by a board committee is not involved, a director may properly rely on dispositive action by a board committee (of which he is not a member) empowered to act pursuant to authority delegated under section 8.25 or acting with the acquiescence of the board of directors. In this connection, see the Official Comment to section 8.25. A director may similarly rely on committees not created under section 8.25 which have nondirector members.

In conditioning reliance upon reasonable belief that the board committee merits the director's "confidence," section 8.30(b)(3) recognizes a difference between a board committee and an expert. In sections 8.30(b)(1) and (2) the reference is to "competence of an expert," which recognizes the expectation of experience and in most instances technical skills on the part of those upon whom the director may rely. In section 8.30(b)(3), the concept of "confidence" is substituted for "competence" in order to avoid any inference that technical skills are a prerequisite.

By identifying those upon whom a director may rely in discharging his duties, section 8.30(b) does not limit the ability of directors to delegate their powers under section 8.01(a) to committees of the board of directors or officers of the corporation, except where this delegation is expressly prohibited by the Act. Delegation should be carried out in accordance with the standards set forth in section 8.30(a). See also section 8.25 and its Official Comment with respect to delegation to committees.

Section 8.30(c) expressly prevents a director from "hiding his head in the sand" and relying on information, opinions, reports, or statements when he has actual knowledge which makes reliance unwarranted.

Section 8.30(d) follows former section 35 of the Model Act, which provided that "An individual who performs the duties of his office in accordance with this section is not liable for serving or having served as a director." Thus, both former section 35 and current section 8.30(d) are self-executing, and the individual director's exoneration from liability is automatic. If compliance with the standard of conduct set forth in former section 35 or section 8.30 is established, there is no need to consider possible application of the business judgment rule. The possible application of the business judgment rule need only be considered if compliance with the standard of conduct set forth in former section 35 or section 8.30 is not established.

Section 8.30(d) makes clear that the section will apply whether or not affirmative action was in fact taken. If the board of directors or a committee considers an issue (such as a recommendation of independent auditors concerning the corporation's internal accounting controls) and determines not to take action, the determination not to act is protected by section 8.30. Similarly, if the board of directors or committee delegates responsibility for handling a matter to subordinates, the delegation constitutes "action" under section 8.30. Section 8.30(d) applies (assuming its requirements are satisfied) to any con