Finn v. Ballentine Partners, LLC

Plaintiff Alice Finn appealed a Superior Court order denying her motion to affirm, and granting the defendants Ballentine Partners, LLC (BPLLC), Ballentine & Company, Inc., Roy C. Ballentine, Kyle Schaffer, Claudia Shilo, Andrew McMorrow, and Gregory Peterson's motion to vacate a final arbitration award. Ballentine and Finn founded Ballentine Finn & Company, Inc. (BFI). Each owned one half of the company’s stock, and Finn served as the Chief Executive Officer. Later, four other individuals became shareholders of BFI. In 2008, Ballentine and the other shareholders forced Finn out of the corporation and terminated her employment. At the time of her termination, Finn held 37.5% of the shares of BFI. BFI gave Finn a promissory note in the amount of $4,635,684, which represented 1.4 times earnings for her shares for the 12 months before her termination. This amount was below the fair market value of Finn’s shares. Finn challenged her termination before an arbitration panel in 2009. This first arbitration panel found that Finn’s termination was unlawful and awarded her $5,721,756 for the stock that BFI forced her to sell and $720,000 in lost wages. The panel recognized that BFI likely did not have sufficient liquidity to pay the award immediately, so it authorized BFI to make periodic payments. After the first panel award, BFI formed BPLLC, contributed all of its assets and some of its liabilities to BPLLC, and became its sole member. BFI then changed its name to Ballentine & Company. After the reorganization, Ballentine & Co. sold 4,000 preferred units, a 40% membership interest in BPLLC, to Perspecta Investments, LLC. Perspecta paid $7,000,000 to Ballentine & Co. and made a $280,000 capital contribution to BPLLC. The defendants asserted that the membership interest had to be sold in order to raise funds to pay the arbitration award to Finn. In 2013, Finn filed a complaint and a motion to compel arbitration in superior court, alleging that she was entitled to relief under the “Claw Back” provision of the Agreement. The defendants moved to dismiss Finn’s complaint, arguing that it was barred by res judicata. A second arbitration concluded that Finn was entitled to an award based upon an unjust enrichment claim. and awarded Finn $600,000 in equitable relief. Returning to court, Finn moved to affirm, and the defendants moved to vacate in part, the second arbitration award. Applying the "plain mistake" standard of review found in RSA 542:8, the trial court ruled that the second panel’s award of additional damages to Finn on her unjust enrichment claim was barred by res judicata. Finn moved for reconsideration, arguing that the FAA applied to this case. The trial court denied the motion. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the trial court did not err in ruling that RSA 542:8 was not preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), and that the second arbitration panel committed a plain mistake of law by concluding that res judicata did not bar Finn’s claim, it affirmed. View "Finn v. Ballentine Partners, LLC" on Justia Law