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We have distilled decades of experience at the intersection of law, business and finance into a suite of articles to help our clients make sense of business valuation, forensic accounting, and litigation support. Please visit our site regularly for our latest content.

  Last week’s blog inspired a lot of conversation regarding the economic impact of the coronavirus virus.  I have received numerous phone calls and emails from attorneys and business owners inquiring about our damage calculation services. Yesterday, my wife and I took a short walk near our New York City apartment.  As we witnessed many store owners covering their windows with plywood in anticipation of their planned “temporary closure,” I wondered how many of these businesses would be able to weather the storm of this pandemic. Our firm just reached our 30th anniversary.  During this time, we have worked with businesses of various sizes and sophistication. One of the differences between the two, other than size, is that these businesses often differ by their access to capital. Small and medium-sized companies have always been considered riskier by lenders and investors.  Many of those small business owners whose shops line Main Street, USA are covering their windows with plywood panes, and many may never open again. Only time will tell as to which ones survive. With that being said, your business clients may now be considering filing a damage report.  This analysis may look to calculate either lost profits or lost business.  In either case, the objective is to restore the plaintiff to the position it would have been – “but-for” the event that caused the damages. Lost Profits When calculating lost profits, damages are typically measured for a specific or limited period of time. In general, the loss is the […]


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  Like you, I woke up today to numerous news programs discussing the coronavirus. Aside from the health concerns, it has become apparent that businesses, large and small, national and local, are being affected.  Some have stated that this week’s events have the potential to be the most catastrophic economic challenge in generations. With no immediate correction anticipated, business owners may be considering filing a business interruption claim. Business interruption insurance can provide much-needed assistance when disaster strikes. But filing a claim requires detailed analysis and documentation to allow the business owner to focus on recovery efforts. What’s covered? Most business interruption policies require the insured to file a detailed “proof of loss” within a short period (30 days, for example) after a loss occurs. But before estimating losses, it’s critical to review the scope of coverage. Policies typically reimburse the insured for lost business income (profits) during the loss period. Some also offer more extensive coverage.  Here are just a few examples. Extraordinary expenses. Some policies will reimburse the insured for repairing damaged inventory and equipment, as well as the cost of operating the business at a temporary location until the original location is restored. “Denial of access” losses. This can occur when a natural disaster or other incident causes governmental authorities to block access to a company’s property for security reasons, even if the property isn’t damaged. Rebuilding costs. Depending on the policy language, some courts have found that the insured should be reimbursed for the extra cost […]


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  The NBA & NHL have suspended play. MLB has postponed the start of its season. Public & private schools around the country are closing. Locally, the NYC St. Patricks’ Day parade and other large public gatherings are canceled, amongst the rumors surrounding that the city will order a mandatory quarantine. These are just a few of the headlines we have heard and read this week in response to the current coronavirus pandemic. The health of our family, friends, and neighbors is paramount at this time. Still, as the stock market seems to be in freefall, one can only wonder what impact the coronavirus will have on the short-term and long-term valuation of closely-held businesses. The micro and macroeconomic communities have experienced this turmoil before. Of course, there was 911 and the financial crisis of 2008, but when was the last time the spokes on the economic wheel have slowed down or stopped because people were either too sick to work or discouraged from going to work?  Yes, many of us will be able to work from home; but let’s be honest – it will not be the same. Local restaurants and attractions expect to see a drastic decrease in business; the travel and hospitality business is flooded with cancellations, despite offering services at unheard-of low prices. (Someone told me you could fly to Florida this weekend for $50.) If you are one of our frequent readers, you are familiar with the three general methods of valuation, the asset, market, […]


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  Are loans due to or due from shareholders a bona fide debt obligation, a form of equity capital, or a hybrid of the two? This distinction is relevant when valuing a business – particularly in a shareholder dispute or in a divorce case. I customarily devote a good portion of class time discussing this issue in my class at Fordham Law School. This distinction may cause a material difference in the ultimate valuation of a closely-held business or even the income attributed to its owner. Often, experts turn to the Internal Revenue Service for objective guidance on this issue. What Would The IRS Say? Owners occasionally borrow funds from their businesses, say, to pay a child’s college costs or provide a down payment on a vacation home. These loans to shareholders appear on a company’s balance sheet as a receivable. For loans of more than $10,000, the IRS requires taxpayers to treat the transaction as a bona fide debt. Then the company must charge the shareholder an “adequate” rate of interest. Each month the IRS publishes its applicable federal rates (AFRs), which vary depending on the term of the loan. If the company doesn’t charge interest or follow a complicated set of below-market interest rules to impute interest on the loan, the IRS may claim the shareholder received a taxable dividend or compensation payment rather than a loan. The company may deduct the latter, but it will also be subject to payroll taxes. However, both dividends and additional compensation […]


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  Our firm was recently retained to determine the fair value of a minority interest in a business for a shareholder dispute. Despite it being a sizable business, the owners never got around to memorialize the termination terms within its shareholder’s agreement.  Hence, one of the reasons for the current litigation is to address its value. This business had grown organically over the years and by acquiring multiple competitors.  It is now at a size that there are enough comparable sales transactions to consider under the market approach. In reviewing these transactions, we noted components to the deals that needed to be considered to address its cash equivalent value. When reviewing the file, I thought of two adages learned in business school relating to the time value of money. The first, “a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow” and second, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. How does this concept relate to business valuation? When the value of a business utilizes the sales of comparable companies under the guideline merger and acquisition (M&A) method, it’s important to understand the cash-equivalent value of comparable transactions. Creative deal terms can make a deal more (or less) valuable than it may appear.  Some of these terms may include installment payments, earnout provisions, and contractual agreements such as employment/consulting contracts and/or covenants not to compete. The following discusses a few of these issues that may affect the selling prices found within these transactions. Installment Contracts In […]


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What To Consider When Valuing Franchises

Posted in Business Valuation, on May 2019, By: Mark S. Gottlieb

  A number of years ago I went on a short vacation to Ottawa, Canada.  We stayed at the Fairmont Hotel, which is known for its elegance and convenient locale. Between the hotel and the town center was what we New Yorker’s call a coffee shop or diner.  The storefront was brightly lit, clean, and had a menu the size of a small phone book.  FYI, I grew up in a similar family business, so it was no surprise to my wife that I was drawn to this familiar scene.  As I often do, I excused myself from the table and walked around to inspect the restaurant while my breakfast was being prepared.  To my delight, the restaurant had an open kitchen and I was able to park myself in a corner and watch the kitchen staff dance with one another between the grill, sandwich board, and refrigeration units.  I was in heaven.  In case you are interested, I was a short-order cook, or what my Pop called a “griddle man”, way before business school. While returning to my table I observed a series of laminated colored pictures of the most common dishes ordered taped to the exhaust units. I quickly understood they were there so the kitchen staff would know exactly how the food should look.  My immediate reaction was, why didn’t I ever think of that?  What a good idea, especially if you had a number of shifts or stores and wanted everything to look the same.  Upon […]


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Testing For Solvency & The Business Valuation Expert

Posted in Business Valuation, on Apr 2019, By: Mark S. Gottlieb

  A business is considered solvent when it is able to meet its long-term obligations. In determining same both the federal Bankruptcy Code and the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act look at the fair value of a debtor’s assets. Although this definition seems straightforward, both lawyers and accountants quickly learn the devil is in the details. Some companies may be legally solvent but nonetheless are unable to pay their debts because the fair value of their assets might include nonliquid assets. Independent analysis A company’s solvency may come into play in (a) fraudulent conveyances, (b) bankruptcy, and (c) due diligence actions. When questions arise about solvency, the parties often call on a business valuation expert to prepare a solvency opinion. A solvency opinion is an independent professional analysis that questions management’s assumptions and projections. Obtaining an accurate, authoritative solvency opinion is essential because transactions made during an insolvency period can be voided by a court. Experts consider several key issues to determine solvency: Does the company have positive equity (that is, do assets exceed liabilities)? Is the company able to pay off debts as they come due? Does the company possess adequate capital to operate? With these questions in mind, the expert then applies three tests to analyze solvency. Test #1 – Balance Sheet Test The first test determines whether, at the time of the transaction at issue, the debtor’s asset value exceeded its liability value. Assets are generally valued at fair market value, rather than at book value. The latter […]


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  We are presently working of several assignments concerning dissenting shareholder disputes.  Attorneys that represent clients in such matters can attest that there are many challenges unique to these cases.  One of them, and perhaps the most prominent, relates to the value of the business subject to the dispute.  Within this broad context, attorneys need to be familiar with a number of valuation issues affecting their case.  These often include a familiarity of the standard of value, the valuation date, and valuation method to be employed. This week’s blog briefly discusses these issues. Hopefully, it will set you in the right direction. Standard Of Value The standard of value for dissenting shareholder cases in most states is fair value, although the term is subject to different statutory and judicial interpretations. Generally, fair value is defined as the value of the plaintiff’s shares immediately before the corporate action that the shareholder objected to. Fair value typically excludes any appreciation or depreciation related to the corporate action unless exclusion would be inequitable. This definition may not necessarily be synonymous with the “fair market value” standard of value. For instance, the dissenting shareholder is not usually a willing participant in the transaction; nor is the transaction consummated on an objective, unbiased basis. Also, fair value usually doesn’t always include discounts for lack of control and marketability. Some jurisdictions may recognize one of these discounts — or leave the application of these discounts to the court’s discretion based on the case’s facts and circumstances. […]


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Recently, while testifying to the fair market value of a closely-held business, the attorney began off-scrip and asked, “Mr. Gottlieb, what is valuation?” He didn’t ask me to explain the genesis of the fair market value standard or the premise of value used in my report.  He completely ignored the first set of questions we carefully planned. My initial response was, “excuse me”.  He repeated the question, “What is valuation?” Not to lose the attention of the Judge, I responded with confidence, “Valuation is the prophecy of the future”. With that, the usual and customary questions defining the general valuation theory and how one selects the most appropriate method for each instance quickly ensued.  We were back on track, following the script that has been written many times before. So, now that we are clear what valuation is, the next question – How is the future determined? – needs to be addressed. The income approach is often used to determine the initial indication of value.  Simply stated, the income or cash flow of the business that is expected to continue in perpetuity is utilized. In this week’s blog, we are providing our readers with a cram course comparing and contrasting the differences between the Discounted Cash Flow and Capitalization of Earnings Methods. The Discounted Cash Flow Method. The International Glossary of Business Valuation Terms defines discounted cash flow as “a method within the income approach whereby the present value of future expected net cash flows is calculated using a discount […]


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  The upcoming audit season will bring some new challenges for auditors testing of fair value measurements for financial reporting. Some recent changes due to the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2018 (“TCJA”) will create valuation issues: The reduction in corporate tax rates affected the value both publicly traded investments and privately held investments; Deductibility of interest expense is now limited; Bonus depreciation will further reduce taxes for both new and used equipment purchases; Carryback of Net Operating Losses is no longer allowed and limited to 80% of taxable income; The TCJA moves U.S. taxation to a territorial system. The tax benefits of electing S-Corp. status should be revisited, if used. If relevant to an investment held or to a company acquired, the above will require valuation models to be updated, particularly when valuation is based upon a discounted cash-flow method. Companies that do business with the People’s Republic of China are and will be greatly affected by the Tariffs instituted recently.  It is uncertain how much and how long is to be factored into valuation, but pricing should consider such events. Some other changes in accounting standards also may affect valuations. Starting in 2019 under ASU 2016-02 the accounting for leases will change. The new standard will require that Companies record a liability for operating leases, if the criteria of an “embedded lease” is met. Previously, such a valuation was unnecessary.  For acquisition accounting, such leases will require a valuation, when previously no liability was recorded. The changes […]


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