Minority shareholder rights in California include protections from oppressive conduct by the majority shareholder.
California Corporation Code § 1800 provides several grounds for involuntary dissolution. A court may grant involuntary dissolution where (1) “[t]hose in control of the corporation have been guilty of or have knowingly countenanced persistent and pervasive fraud, mismanagement or abuse of authority or persistent unfairness toward any shareholders or its property is being misapplied or wasted by its directors or officers.” § 1800(b)(4), and (2) “liquidation is reasonably necessary for the protection of the rights or interests of the complaining shareholder or shareholders.” § 1800)(b(5). See also Bauer v. Bauer, 46 Cal.App.4th 1113, 54 Cal.Rptr.2d 377, Stuparich v. Harbor Furniture Mfg., Inc. 83 Cal.App.4th 1268, 100 Cal.Rptr.2d 313, 2000 Daily Journal D.A.R. 10,657.
Involuntary corporate dissolution under subdivision (b)(4) requires a showing that those in control of the corporation have been guilty of, or have knowingly countenanced, “persistent and pervasive fraud, mismanagement or abuse of authority or persistent unfairness toward any shareholders,” or that the corporation’s property “is being misapplied or wasted by its directors or officers.”
Bauer described the course of conduct that satisfies the definition of the improper “squeezing out” of a minority shareholder, thus entitling a minority shareholder to dissolution of the corporation to protect his or her interests. The court took its definition of a from Marsh’s California Corporation Law, the portion quoted by the Bauer court is below:
“The term ‘squeeze-out’ is . . . generally intended to describe a situation where the majority controlling shareholders, who are also the principal officers of a corporation, engage in a course of conduct which is designed to exclude a minority shareholder or shareholders both from participation in the conduct of the corporate business and from the economic benefits derived therefrom . . . The conduct most typically takes the form of refusing to pay any dividends on the corporate stock, refusing to permit the minority shareholder to have any corporate office or position on the board of directors . . . , and the payment of large salaries to the controlling shareholders who are the principal officers of the corporation . . . Obviously it makes a great deal of difference whether dividends had once been paid on a regular basis, but were stopped; whether the minority shareholder had a job with the corporation from which he was fired; and whether the controlling majority shareholders increased their own officers’ salaries, after the rift appeared and the dividends were terminated.” 2 Marsh’s California Corporation Law (3d ed. 1995) § 11.46, 958-960
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