Friday, July 18, 2008

Legal Risk

Many businesses never assess their legal risk and more importantly their exposure should legal problems develop. Since one can sue anyone for any reason it is hard to get your arms around all of the possibilities, but here are some main areas that can be looked at and assessed and is a valuable CFO Service:

1. Payroll and employees – Is the company paying 1099 wages when they should be paying W-2 wages? Is the company paying regular wages when they should be paying union or prevailing wages? Is the company current with payroll taxes and medical insurance premiums that they collected from employees? Are employees safe in the work place? Do some employees have special perks that other employees do not have? Is there risk of abuse?
2. Sales Taxes – Are all sales taxes current? Since these taxes are collected from the customer they must be paid. Certain trades must pay sales taxes upon the purchase of inventory and if their vendor does not add the tax to the invoice the Company must self impose the tax and pay it.
3. Business operations – Does the nature of the Companys business operations lend itself to legal risk with employees and with customers? For example a medical business by virtue of its operations is exposed to risk through patient care. A food business is always at risk of impacting a customer’s health with bad food. A contractor is at risk of damaging customer property through construction efforts. Of course these risks can be mitigated with insurance, but the question always is how much insurance?
4. Stockholder risk – Are the businesses partners in harmony with one another and can that harmony stay in tact for the foreseeable future? What lies ahead that may disrupt that harmony?

The aforementioned risks are the first things a CFO should look at when assessing what the legal risk is of a company. Of course there are countless legal risks but all must be assessed as to the probability of occurring.