This is “Cases”, section 26.7 from the book Legal Basics for Entrepreneurs (v. 1.0).
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United Steel Industries, Inc. v. Manhart
405 S.W.2d 231 (Tex. 1966)
MCDONALD, CHIEF JUSTICE
This is an appeal by defendants, United Steel Industries, Inc., J. R. Hurt and W. B. Griffitts, from a judgment declaring void and cancelling 5000 shares of stock in United Steel Industries, Inc. issued to Hurt, and 4000 shares of stock in such corporation issued to Griffitts.
Plaintiffs Manhart filed this suit individually and as major stockholders against defendants United Steel Industries, Inc., Hurt, and Griffitts, alleging the corporation had issued Hurt 5000 shares of its stock in consideration of Hurt agreeing to perform CPA and bookkeeping services for the corporation for one year in the future; and had issued Griffitts 4000 shares of its stock in consideration for the promised conveyance of a 5 acre tract of land to the Corporation, which land was never conveyed to the Corporation. Plaintiffs assert the 9000 shares of stock were issued in violation of Article 2.16 Business Corporation Act, and prayed that such stock be declared void and cancelled.
Trial was before the Court without a jury which, after hearing, entered judgment declaring the 5000 shares of stock issued to Hurt, and the 4000 shares issued to Griffitts, issued without valid consideration, void, and decreeing such stock cancelled.
* * *
The trial court found (on ample evidence) that the incorporators of the Corporation made an agreement with Hurt to issue him 5000 shares in consideration of Hurt’s agreement to perform bookkeeping and accounting services for the Corporation for the first year of its operation. The Corporation minutes reflect the 5000 shares issued to Hurt “in consideration of labor done, services in the incorporation and organization of the Corporation.” The trial court found (on ample evidence) that such minutes do not reflect the true consideration agreed upon, and that Hurt performed no services for the Corporation prior to February 1, 1965. The Articles of Incorporation were filed on January 28, 1965, and the 5000 shares were issued to Hurt on May 29, 1965. There is evidence that Hurt performed some services for the Corporation between January and May 29, 1965; but Hurt himself testified the “5000 (shares) were issued to me for services rendered or to be rendered for the first year in keeping the books.…”
The situation is thus one where the stock was issued to Hurt both for services already performed and for services to be rendered in the future.
The trial court concluded the promise of future services was not a valid consideration for the issuance of stock under Article 2.16 Business Corporation Act; that the issuance was void; and that since there was no apportionment of the value of future services from the value of services already rendered, the entire 5000 shares were illegally issued and void.
Article 12, Section 6, Texas Constitution, provides: “No corporation shall issue stock…except for money paid, labor done, or property actually received.…” And Article 2.16 Texas Business Corporation Act provides: “Payment for Shares.
“A. The consideration paid for the issuance of shares shall consist of money paid, labor done, or property actually received. Shares may not be issued until the full amount of the consideration, fixed as provided by law, has been paid.…
“B. Neither promissory notes nor the promise of future services shall constitute payment or part payment for shares of a corporation.
“C. In the absence of fraud in the transaction, the judgment of the board of directors…as to the value of the consideration received for shares shall be conclusive.”
The Fifth Circuit in Champion v. CIR, 303 Fed. 2d 887 construing the foregoing constitutional provision and Article 2.16 of the Business Corporation Act, held:
Where it is provided that stock can be issued for labor done, as in Texas…the requirement is not met where the consideration for the stock is work or services to be performed in the future.…The situation is not changed by reason of the provision that the stock was to be given…for services rendered as well as to be rendered, since there was no allocation or apportionment of stock between services performed and services to be performed.”
The 5000 shares were issued before the future services were rendered. Such stock was illegally issued and void.
Griffitts was issued 10,000 shares partly in consideration for legal services to the Corporation and partly in exchange for the 5 acres of land. The stock was valued at $1 per share and the land had an agreed value of $4000. The trial court found (upon ample evidence) that the 4000 shares of stock issued to Griffitts was in consideration of his promise to convey the land to the Corporation; that Griffitts never conveyed the land; and the issuance of the stock was illegal and void.
The judgment of the board of directors “as to the value of consideration received for shares” is conclusive, but such does not authorize the board to issue shares contrary to the Constitution, for services to be performed in the future (as in the case of Hurt), or for property not received (as in the case of Griffitts).
The judgment is correct. Defendants’ points and contentions are overruled.
Dodge v. Ford Motor Co.
204 Mich. 459, 170 N.W. 668 (Mich. 1919)
[Action by plaintiffs John F. Dodge and Horace E. Dodge against defendant Ford Motor Company and its directors. The lower court ordered the directors to declare a dividend in the amount of $19,275,385.96. The court also enjoined proposed expansion of the company. The defendants appealed.]
[T]he case for plaintiffs must rest upon the claim, and the proof in support of it, that the proposed expansion of the business of the corporation, involving the further use of profits as capital, ought to be enjoined because it is inimical to the best interests of the company and its shareholders, and upon the further claim that in any event the withholding of the special dividend asked for by plaintiffs is arbitrary action of the directors requiring judicial interference.
The rule which will govern courts in deciding these questions is not in dispute. It is, of course, differently phrased by judges and by authors, and, as the phrasing in a particular instance may seem to lean for or against the exercise of the right of judicial interference with the actions of corporate directors, the context, or the facts before the court, must be considered.
* * *
In 1 Morawetz on Corporations (2d Ed.), § 447, it is stated:
Profits earned by a corporation may be divided among its shareholders; but it is not a violation of the charter if they are allowed to accumulate and remain invested in the company’s business. The managing agents of a corporation are impliedly invested with a discretionary power with regard to the time and manner of distributing its profits. They may apply profits in payment of floating or funded debts, or in development of the company’s business; and so long as they do not abuse their discretionary powers, or violate the company’s charter, the courts cannot interfere.
But it is clear that the agents of a corporation, and even the majority, cannot arbitrarily withhold profits earned by the company, or apply them to any use which is not authorized by the company’s charter.…
Mr. Henry Ford is the dominant force in the business of the Ford Motor Company. No plan of operations could be adopted unless he consented, and no board of directors can be elected whom he does not favor. One of the directors of the company has no stock. One share was assigned to him to qualify him for the position, but it is not claimed that he owns it. A business, one of the largest in the world, and one of the most profitable, has been built up. It employs many men, at good pay.
“My ambition,” said Mr. Ford, “is to employ still more men, to spread the benefits of this industrial system to the greatest possible number, to help them build up their lives and their homes. To do this we are putting the greatest share of our profits back in the business.”
“With regard to dividends, the company paid sixty per cent on its capitalization of two million dollars, or $1,200,000, leaving $58,000,000 to reinvest for the growth of the company. This is Mr. Ford’s policy at present, and it is understood that the other stockholders cheerfully accede to this plan.”
He had made up his mind in the summer of 1916 that no dividends other than the regular dividends should be paid, “for the present.”
“Q. For how long? Had you fixed in your mind any time in the future, when you were going to pay—
“Q. That was indefinite in the future?
“A. That was indefinite, yes, sir.”
The record, and especially the testimony of Mr. Ford, convinces that he has to some extent the attitude towards shareholders of one who has dispensed and distributed to them large gains and that they should be content to take what he chooses to give. His testimony creates the impression, also, that he thinks the Ford Motor Company has made too much money, has had too large profits, and that although large profits might be still earned, a sharing of them with the public, by reducing the price of the output of the company, ought to be undertaken. We have no doubt that certain sentiments, philanthropic and altruistic, creditable to Mr. Ford, had large influence in determining the policy to be pursued by the Ford Motor Company—the policy which has been herein referred to.
* * *
The difference between an incidental humanitarian expenditure of corporate funds for the benefit of the employees, like the building of a hospital for their use and the employment of agencies for the betterment of their condition, and a general purpose and plan to benefit mankind at the expense of others, is obvious. There should be no confusion (of which there is evidence) of the duties which Mr. Ford conceives that he and the stockholders owe to the general public and the duties which in law he and his codirectors owe to protesting, minority stockholders. A business corporation is organized and carried on primarily for the profit of the stockholders. The powers of the directors are to be employed for that end. The discretion of directors is to be exercised in the choice of means to attain that end and does not extend to a change in the end itself, to the reduction of profits or to the nondistribution of profits among stockholders in order to devote them to other purposes.
* * *
We are not, however, persuaded that we should interfere with the proposed expansion of the business of the Ford Motor Company. In view of the fact that the selling price of products may be increased at any time, the ultimate results of the larger business cannot be certainly estimated. The judges are not business experts. It is recognized that plans must often be made for a long future, for expected competition, for a continuing as well as an immediately profitable venture. The experience of the Ford Motor Company is evidence of capable management of its affairs. It may be noticed, incidentally, that it took from the public the money required for the execution of its plan and that the very considerable salaries paid to Mr. Ford and to certain executive officers and employees were not diminished. We are not satisfied that the alleged motives of the directors, in so far as they are reflected in the conduct of the business, menace the interests of shareholders. It is enough to say, perhaps, that the court of equity is at all times open to complaining shareholders having a just grievance.
[The court affirmed the lower court’s order that the company declare a dividend and reversed the lower court’s decision that halted company expansion].