The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined plaintiff cooperative apartment corporation (HDFC) demonstrated defendants (one of whom was a member of plaintiff’s board) had entered a lease with plaintiff which was not voted upon by a majority of disinterested directors and was therefore voidable under Business Corporation Law 713(b). In addition plaintiff demonstrated defendants had breached their fiduciary duty to the corporation:
Plaintiff, a low-income cooperative apartment corporation (HDFC), established prima facie that the lease between plaintiff and defendants Thomas Green and A Cup of Harlem was not voted on by a majority of disinterested directors and is therefore voidable under Business Corporation Law § 713(b). A Cup of Harlem is a partnership between Thomas Green and Siwana Green, who are married. Siwana Green is a shareholder in the HDFC and a former officer and member of plaintiff’s board of directors. By lease dated April 1, 2004, while Siwana Green was one of three members of the board, plaintiff leased one of the two commercial spaces in the building to Thomas Green and A Cup of Harlem for a 99-year term, with a monthly rent of $700 for the entirety of the term and an option to extend the lease for a 10-year term at a rate of $800 per month. In support of its motion, plaintiff submitted a former board member’s affidavit that he was elected to a one-year term in February 2004, that he only learned of the lease in 2018, when Siwana Green was removed from the board, and that he never would have approved a lease with such “outlandish” terms. …
The record demonstrates that Siwana Green breached her fiduciary duty to plaintiff by diverting a corporate opportunity without plaintiff’s knowledge or consent and admittedly receiving more than $200,000 profit from the sublessee to whom, in March 11, 2009, Thomas Green sublet the leased premises at a monthly rent of $2,500 for a ten-year term, which was then renewed for a monthly rent of $2,800. 67-69 St. Nicholas Ave. Hous. Dev. Fund Corp. v Green, 2022 NY Slip Op 04087, First Dept 6-23-22
Practice Point: Here a low-rent lease between plaintiff corporation and defendants (one of whom was a member of plaintiff’s board) was voidable because the lease was not approved by a majority of disinterested directors. Defendants sublet the leased premises for a much higher rent without plaintiff corporation’s knowledge and thereby breached their fiduciary duty to the corporation.