Stock Options vs Warrants

Clients frequently ask us the differences between “stock options” and “warrants” and which is the right instrument for compensatory arrangements. Stock options and compensatory warrants are a great way to align the interests of a company with another individual or entity.

Of the two, stock options are more commonly used for compensatory purposes and can be issued to key employees, officers, directors, board members and other service providers.  Typically, the company will have a stock option plan under which they can issue a maximum number of stock options.   The issuance of stock options will be governed by the stock option plan and will usually have a vesting period, repurchase rights in the event of termination of service and other restrictions. The stock option is being used as a compensatory vehicle in order to increase an individual’s (or entity’s) overall compensation.

On the other hand warrants are not issued pursuant to any stock option plan and typically will not come with vesting restrictions.  Warrants are more typically associated with investment transactions, however they can be used similarly to stock option as compensation.  The typical term for the exercise of a warrant lasts longer then a stock option – it is not uncommon to see a warrant that lasts for ten years (although that is far more common with investment transactions), while a stock option will typically have a much shorter exercies period.  While a warrant can be used for compensatory purposes, it is important to note that a compensatory warrant will likely be taxed just like the compensatory stock option, while a investment warrant will have far different tax implications).

In short, stock options and warrants can both be used for compensatory purposes, but it is far more common to issue stock options under a stock options plan.  The differences are largely superficial and can be minimized by drafting either document to suit your company’s needs.  Before deciding which instrument is right for a company it is important for both the company and the recipient to consult its attorney and tax advisor.

Chicago Tribune

Peter Minton was quoted in the Chicago Tribune on using competition to your advantage:

“As fellow professionals, other attorneys are actually one of my best sources of clients and can be great resources for my practice and clientele. I may bring them in for a client because of a conflict with one of my other clients on a project, for extra help during an upswing in business or if the other attorney is just a better fit for the client’s immediate legal needs.”

The full story is available here.

Hanging Your Own Shingle: Building a Successful Solo Practice

I had the pleasure of speaking last week on a panel on going solo with Angela Barker, of the Law Office of Angela Barker, LLC; Allison G. Greenberg of Fensterstock & Partners LLP; Ian E. Scott of Scott Legal Services PC and moderated by Daphney Francois of Francois Legal Services.

I thought it was a very successful panel – the diversity of backgrounds and paths taken to create the varied practcies represented on the panel was very inspiring.

More info on the panel is available here.

May Milestones

May was a great month for the Minton Law Group.  First, the firm signed on its first attorney, Josh Levin.  I had the pleasure to work with Josh at Schulte Roth & Zabel, and was impressed with his work and attitude when we worked together, and I have first-hand knowledge of the high-level training SRZ’s corporate associates obtain.  While helping me, Josh is also an entrepreneur who recently co-founded Flash Tabs ( a mobile app that allows bar and restaurant patrons to open tabs, place orders and make payments directly from their smartphones by processing orders and payments through each venue’s existing point of sale system.  Needless to say, he is very a busy man.

Second, May marked my first month with three deal closings that spanned the gamut of convertible notes, preferred stock and LLC membership purchases.  It was a fantastic month and there are a lot of reasons to think that trend will continue.

Finally, on a personal note, I am pleased to say that I joined the Board of Directors of the Penn Club, and am looking forward to doing a lot of neat things through that position.

6 Legal Requirements For Unpaid Internship Programs

My latest article in Forbes has published:  “6 Legal Requirements For Unpaid Internship Programs“.

“[T]here are some very serious legal considerations every for-profit company –including startups — must be aware of before attempting to use unpaid interns.

Under federal law, every employee in America is entitled to a minimum wage, additional compensation for overtime and certain other benefits. An employment relationship will also have consequences for the employer relating to worker’s compensation, discrimination laws, employee benefits, state labor laws and unemployment insurance coverage. For these requirements not to apply, the employment relationship must fall under applicable legal exemptions.”

Please read the whole thing.

Corporation or LLC for Startups?

The LLC/Corp question seemed like it was pretty settled about two years ago in favor of corporations, but I recently have had multiple clients make inquiries about which to be and why.  For clients who are anticipating having third party investors, employee option pools, etc. I still think the corporate formation is the way to go in the vast majority of situations.
As a starting point, we can do everything with an LLC that we can do with a corporation – this is due to an LLC at its heart being a contractual arrangement.  While there are some things we can do with an LLC that we cannot do as simply with corporations (for instance, divorcing economic interests from control at the equity level), while the flexibility of LLCs are part of their allure, it also makes it much more complicated to mimic aspects of the corporate form with an LLC than to just use a stock corporation.  For instance, it takes a lot more paper to create employee options plans, vesting arrangements, different tranches of equity, etc. with an LLC than it does with a corporation.  This doesn’t even get into the practical reality of your employees being incentivized by receiving “options,” while receiving “phantom membership unit appreciation rights” does not have the same cache.  If a business were to try and do a raise and keep the LLC form, that transaction could end up being much more complicated.  Moreover, while it is relatively simple to convert a Delaware LLC into a Delaware corp, it is not without cost.  Converting a New York LLC to a Delaware Corp, however, requires a full form merger that is a transaction unto itself.  In either case, many of the formation documents that were in place for the LLC would have to be recreated to address the new corporate form.  Put simply, initial legal costs would increase, as would the cost for any future transaction.  As for the tax benefits of LLC’s, with limited exceptions they are duplicated by corporation making an S election.
Regarding investors, I can not imagine ever being in a situation where someone was asked why they were using the corporate form and not an LLC.  Ownership of an LLC can greatly complicate investor’s personal taxation because it is a pass through entity (for this same reason, you should expect that when a Company gets investors it would need to transition from an S Corp to a C Corp, but that is a very simple process) – put simply, owners of pass through entities can be taxed on their proportion of profits even if no money is distributed to them.  Even removing the complication factor, many VC funds are barred from investing in LLCs because they have tax-exempt partners who would lose that tax-exempt status if they received active business income.  Finally, because these profits are K-1 income, it could also open investors to being liable for state income taxes in states where they otherwise would not have to file.

13 Ways to Bring the Entrepreneurial Spirit to the Classroom

I was recently quoted by Upmarket in a post on bringing Entrepreneurship to the Classroom.  My suggestion was to encourage programming at younger ages:

“Every startup needs someone who can fulfill its technological requirements, and there simply are not enough good programmers to fill this demand. Moreover, chief technical officer is a fantastic position from which a future entrepreneur can learn what it means to run a new business.”

Apparently Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Chris Bosh read my blog.  Great minds think alike.


How to Get the Most Out of a Startup Accelerator

I was recently quoted by

Not all accelerators are created equal. With the growth of the entrepreneurial space has come a similar pop in the programs available for startups. Some are worth their weight in gold, while others are just looking to churn and burn their clients. Do your diligence before signing on – it is easy to find current and past startups of any accelerator who can give you real insight into what you are signing up for and whether the price is right.