Steve Hong is the sole shareholder of Koryeo International Corp. Hong sued his mother, Kyung Ja Hong for looting Koryeo before she transferred the corporation to him.
Hong worked for the corporation after law school. His parents promised to transfer the corporation to him in exchange for his agreement to work for a minimal salary. After the death of Hong’s father, Mrs. Hong assumed sole ownership and control of corporation. In 2012, Mrs. Hong transferred ownership and control of the corporation to Hong. Upon that transfer, Hong learned that the corporation’s bank account held some $50,000, despite revenue in the millions of dollars. Hong and the Corporation sued his mother, claiming that she looted the corporation prior to its transfer, leaving him with a virtually worthless entity. Mrs. Hong sought dismissal of the claims.
Initially, the court found that because Mrs. Hong was the sole shareholder when she allegedly looted the corporation, the corporation could not be a plaintiff against her. The Court would not find anything wrongful in the corporation’s actions, or claims of a wrong, when those actions were sanctioned by its sole shareholder. The Court then held that the vague promise to Hong, made 20 years before the transfer, was too indefinite to create a true contract. Moreover, found the court, Hong received exactly what he was promised–the corporation–and even if looted, that was all he was promised.
Keep in mind: There are few exceptions to the rule that any business agreement–even with one’s mother–should be set out in a detailed writing. Oral or indefinite agreements are fertile grounds for long-term legal battles.