Regions Bank v. Regional Property Development Corp., 2008 NCBC 8 (N.C. Super. Ct. April 21, 2008) (Diaz)
The Business Court ruled today that a member of a North Carolina LLC could not sue the LLC’s lender for aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty, because that claim was derivative, not direct.
Here are the facts: The LLC had defaulted on its loan. The Bank then sold the loan to the other members of the LLC. The Defendant asserted in a counterclaim that the Bank had done so knowing that the other LLC members would use their ownership of the defaulted loan as leverage to obtain a substantial cash distribution to which they were not entitled.
The Court relied on “[t]he well-established general rule . . . that shareholders cannot pursue individual causes of action against third parties for wrongs or injuries to the corporation that result in the diminution or destruction of the value of their stock.” That principle applies "equally to suits brought by members of a limited liability company."
The unlawful distribution claim was "just another way of saying that the Individual Members wrongfully diverted Company assets." That was a derivative claim belonging to the Company, not to its members. The Motion to Dismiss the Counterclaim was therefore granted.
The Court did not resolve a parallel ground for the Motion to Dismiss: whether North Carolina still recognizes a claim for aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty in light of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Central Bank of Denver, N.A. v. First Interstate Bank of Denver, N.A., 511 U.S. 164 (1994). That question has come before the Business Court a number of times in recent years, but has not been resolved by North Carolina’s appellate courts.