Most of the Uniform Partnership Act (UPA) and Revised Uniform Partnership Act (RUPA) rules apply only in the absence of agreement among the partners. Under both, unless the agreement states otherwise, partners have certain duties: (1) the duty to serve—that is, to devote themselves to the work of the partnership; (2) the duty of loyalty, which is informed by the fiduciary standard: the obligation to act always in the best interest of the partnership and not in one’s own best interest; (3) the duty of care—that is, to act as a reasonably prudent partner would; (4) the duty of obedience not to breach any aspect of the agreement or act without authority; (5) the duty to inform copartners; and (6) the duty to account to the partnership. Ordinarily, partners operate through majority vote, but no act that contravenes the partnership agreement itself can be undertaken without unanimous consent.
Partners’ rights include rights (1) to distributions of money, including profits (and losses) as per the agreement or equally, indemnification, and return of capital contribution (but not a right to compensation); (2) to management as per the agreement or equally; (3) to choose copartners; (4) to property of the partnership, but no partner has any rights to specific property (under UPA the partners own property as tenants in partnership; under RUPA the partnership as entity owns property, but it will be distributed upon liquidation); (5) to assign (voluntarily or involuntarily) the partnership interest; the assignee does not become a partner or have any management rights, but a judgment creditor may obtain a charging order against the partnership; and (6) to enforce duties and rights by suits in law or equity (under RUPA a formal accounting is not required).
Under UPA, a change in the relation of the partners dissolves the partnership but does not necessarily wind up the business. Dissolution may be voluntary, by violation of the agreement, by operation of law, or by court order. Dissolution terminates the authority of the partners to act for the partnership. After dissolution, a new partnership may be formed.
Under RUPA, a change in the relation of the partners is a dissociation, leaving the remaining partners with two options: continue on; or wind up, dissolve, and terminate. In most cases, a partnership may buy out the interest of a partner who leaves without dissolving the partnership. A term partnership also will not dissolve so long as at least one-half of the partners choose to remain. When a partner’s dissociation triggers dissolution, partners are allowed to vote subsequently to continue the partnership.
When a dissolved partnership is carried on as a new one, creditors of the old partnership remain creditors of the new one. A former partner remains liable to the creditors of the former partnership. A new partner is liable to the creditors of the former partnership, bur only to the extent of the new partner’s capital contribution. A former partner remains liable for debts incurred after his withdrawal unless he gives proper notice of his withdrawal; his actual authority terminates upon dissociation and apparent authority after two years.
If the firm is to be terminated, it is wound up. The assets of the partnership include all required contributions of partners, and from the assets liabilities are paid off (1) to creditors and (2) to partners on their accounts. Under RUPA, nonpartnership creditors share equally with unsatisfied partnership creditors in the personal assets of their debtor-partners.
- Anne and Barbara form a partnership. Their agreement specifies that Anne will receive two-thirds of the profit and Barbara will get one-third. The firm suffers a loss of $3,000 the first year. How are the losses divided?
- Two lawyers, Glenwood and Higgins, formed a partnership. Glenwood failed to file Client’s paperwork on time in a case, with adverse financial consequences to Client. Is Higgins liable for Glenwood’s malpractice?
- When Client in Exercise 2 visited the firm’s offices to demand compensation from Glenwood, the two got into an argument. Glenwood became very agitated; in an apparent state of rage, he threw a law book at Client, breaking her nose. Is Higgins liable?
- Assume Glenwood from Exercise 2 entered into a contract on behalf of the firm to buy five computer games. Is Higgins liable?
- Grosberg and Goldman operated the Chatham Fox Hills Shopping Center as partners. They agreed that Goldman would deposit the tenants’ rental checks in an account in Grosberg’s name at First Bank. Without Grosberg’s knowledge or permission, Goldman opened an account in both their names at Second Bank, into which Goldman deposited checks payable to the firm or the partners. He indorsed each check by signing the name of the partnership or the partners. Subsequently, Goldman embezzled over $100,000 of the funds. Second Bank did not know Grosberg and Goldman were partners. Grosberg then sued Second Bank for converting the funds by accepting checks on which Grosberg’s or the partnership’s indorsement was forged. Is Second Bank liable? Discuss.
- Pearson Collings, a partner in a criminal defense consulting firm, used the firm’s phones and computers to operate a side business cleaning carpets. The partnership received no compensation for the use of its equipment. What claim would the other partners have against Collings?
- Follis, Graham, and Hawthorne have a general partnership, each agreeing to split losses 20 percent, 20 percent, and 60 percent, respectively. While on partnership business, Follis negligently crashes into a victim, causing $100,000 in damages. Follis declares bankruptcy, and the firm’s assets are inadequate to pay the damages. Graham says she is liable for only $20,000 of the obligation, as per the agreement. Is she correct?
- Ingersoll and Jackson are partners; Kelly, after much negotiation, agreed to join the firm effective February 1. But on January 15, Kelly changed his mind. Meanwhile, however, the other two had already arranged for the local newspaper to run a notice that Kelly was joining the firm. The notice ran on February 1. Kelly did nothing in response. On February 2, Creditor, having seen the newspaper notice, extended credit to the firm. When the firm did not pay, Creditor sought to have Kelly held liable as a partner. Is Kelly liable?
SELF CHECK QUESTIONS
- Under UPA, a partner is generally entitled to a formal accounting of partnership affairs
- whenever it is just and reasonable
- if a partner is wrongfully excluded from the business by copartners
- if the right exists in the partnership agreement
- all of the above
- Donners, Inc., a partner in CDE Partnership, applies to Bank to secure a loan and assigns to Bank its partnership interest. After the assignment, which is true?
- Bank steps into Donners’s shoes as a partner.
- Bank does not become a partner but has the right to participate in the management of the firm to protect its security interest until the loan is paid.
- Bank is entitled to Donners’s share of the firm’s profits.
- Bank is liable for Donners’s share of the firm’s losses.
- None of these is true.
- Which of these requires unanimous consent of the partners in a general partnership?
- the assignment of a partnership interest
- the acquisition of a partnership debt
- agreement to be responsible for the tort of one copartner
- admission of a new partner
- agreement that the partnership should stand as a surety for a third party’s obligation
- Paul Partner (1) bought a computer and charged it to the partnership’s account; (2) cashed a firm check and used the money to buy a computer in his own name; (3) brought from home a computer and used it at the office. In which scenario does the computer become partnership property?
- 1 only
- 1 and 2
- 1, 2, and 3
- That partnerships are entities under RUPA means they have to pay federal income tax in their own name.
- That partnerships are entities under RUPA means the partners are not personally liable for the firm’s debts beyond their capital contributions.