Fiduciary Duties of Directors of Insolvent Nonprofit Corporations


Because the financial turmoil triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak continues, administrators and officers of nonprofit firms ought to pay heightened consideration to their fiduciary duties and tasks and particularly how these duties shift when the nonprofit company is approaching insolvency or turns into bancrupt.[1]

Fiduciary Duties of Boards of Administrators of Solvent Nonprofit Firms

As with for-profit boards of administrators, the fiduciary duties of boards of administrators of solvent nonprofit firms are ruled underneath relevant state legislation. Sometimes, members of a nonprofit board of administrators owe fiduciary duties of care and loyalty to the company.[2] Below New York legislation, the fiduciary duties imputed to a nonprofit company’s board of administrators are codified within the New York Not-For-Revenue Company Regulation (“NPCL”), which imposes duties of care and loyalty on members of the board. “Administrators and officers shall discharge the duties of their respective positions in good religion and with that diploma of diligence, care and talent which ordinarily prudent males would train underneath comparable circumstances in like positions.”[3] The board and officers of nonprofit firms even have an extra fiduciary responsibility distinctive to nonprofit firms: the responsibility of obedience. The responsibility of obedience requires the board to make sure that the nonprofit company abides by its said functions and targets since, “[u]nlike enterprise firms, whose final job is to generate profits, nonprofit firms are outlined by their particular targets” central to the mission of the nonprofit.[4] This responsibility, as an example, prevents administrators of a nonprofit chartered for the aim of rescuing animals in New York from expending funds to assist rescuing animals in Detroit.

As a result of nonprofit firms lack shareholders, their officers and administrators have extra advanced fiduciary duties then these of a for-profit company.[5] Along with contemplating the monetary well being of their group, officers and administrators should think about the charitable and tax-exempt functions of the group and the general public profit for which the group operates.[6] These duties are additional sophisticated by the truth that non-profit organizations usually obtain restricted items that restrict the makes use of to which such items will be put.

Fiduciary Duties of Boards of Administrators of Bancrupt Nonprofit Firms

The fiduciary duties of boards of administrators of bancrupt nonprofit firms are decided underneath relevant state legislation and primarily mirror the fiduciary duties of bancrupt for-profit firms. However there are exceptions. Below well-established New York legislation, for instance, the board of an bancrupt company owes a fiduciary responsibility to protect company belongings for the good thing about its collectors.[7] Nonetheless, in contrast to for-profit firms, even when bancrupt, officers and administrators of a nonprofit should stability the pursuits of the company’s collectors towards the curiosity of preserving and observing the group’s charitable objective.[8]

For instance, if an bancrupt nonprofit company seeks to promote all of its belongings, it should think about all of its constituencies, together with the beneficiaries of the charitable mission and collectors. Fairly than merely aiming to maximise the worth of the nonprofit’s belongings, the administrators should stability the targets of “paying collectors as a lot as potential and serving the mission of the company…with no different requirement or specific weight to be utilized” when figuring out who to promote the belongings to if bidders have opposing targets.[9]

Enforcement of Fiduciary Duties and Enterprise Judgment Rule

Breaches of fiduciary duties associated to nonprofit firms are usually enforced by the state’s Lawyer Basic. In New York, for instance, the Lawyer Basic has authority to order basic modifications and require its approval of main developments and transactions, such because the sale, lease, or alternate of the company’s materials belongings;[10] mergers and consolidations;[11] and dissolution.[12]

Simply as with for-profit firms, in managing the affairs of the nonprofit company, administrators’ selections are largely shielded from scrutiny by the enterprise judgment rule if they will present that they discharged their duties in good religion, in an knowledgeable method, and didn’t personally profit from their actions.[13] Usually, the enterprise judgment rule could defend a board of administrators of a nonprofit company that, when appearing in good religion, decides to pursue doubtlessly dangerous methods to generate earnings or maximize the worth of the company—even when the choice doesn’t yield such a consequence.[14] Even when an organization approaches insolvency, the enterprise judgment rule could insulate a board in its decision-making processes.[15] To get pleasure from the advantages of this rule, nevertheless, administrators are required, amongst different issues, to tell themselves totally and in a deliberate method with respect to a transaction or different enterprise choice that the administrators will make on behalf of the company.[16]

Boards are sometimes effectively suggested to have interaction outdoors advisors to offer detailed info relating to sure transactions or selections that shall be made by the board, particularly if the board deems there to be danger related to a possible choice. Boards could rely in good religion on the data, opinions, experiences, or statements ready or offered by authorized professionals, public accountants, funding professionals, amongst others, in discharging their duties.[17]


A nonprofit company’s administrators and officers ought to be aware of their fiduciary duties whereas navigating monetary hardships and potential insolvency. If a nonprofit company is approaching insolvency, turns into bancrupt, or elects to file for chapter, specific scrutiny shall be given to the officers’ and administrators’ actions. Involving authorized counsel and monetary advisors within the decision-making course of and counting on their recommendation can additional defend particular person board members from private legal responsibility. Nonprofit board members and officers ought to think about the next whereas assessing company motion because the non-profit company navigates potential or precise insolvency:

  1. Whether or not the motion serves the objective of maximizing the company’s said objective and mission;
  2. Whether or not the motion is based upon a good evaluation the debtor’s monetary situation;
  3. Whether or not the motion favors sure collectors or constituencies over others within the absence of enterprise concerns or contractual rights that dictate in any other case;
  4. Whether or not the motion relies on a well-informed choice; and
  5. Whether or not the motion advantages the officers and administrators of the nonprofit company on the expense of the company’s mission or different constituencies.

By partaking in such due diligence, the nonprofit board ought to be higher positioned to reveal the requisite good religion train of its duties, as a protection to any problem.


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