We at The Capital Commitment blog have previously discussed several steps for fund managers and others to weather the storm brought by COVID-19.  One of those steps is assessing the likelihood of a carried interest return obligation under a fund agreement’s general partner clawback provision (and planning for how to mitigate those obligations, if necessary).  A recent article from our colleagues in Proskauer’s Private Funds group highlights the important role that general partner clawbacks play in ensuring the economic deal between a fund manager and the fund’s limited partners is protected, regardless of how market disruptions, such as those brought on by COVID-19, impact a fund’s portfolio.

As detailed in that article, a boom-bust cycle may result in a general partner receiving more than its agreed-upon share of a fund’s cumulative profits if initial investments resulted in large profits, but later investments lose value or are written off entirely.  If distributions of carried interest made early in the life of a fund result in a general partner receiving a total share of the fund’s aggregate profits greater than what was agreed upon with the investors at the fund’s outset, the excess must be returned to the fund for distribution to the limited partners.  It is important to note that general partner clawbacks can and do happen, even for successful funds and for funds that return full contributions back to investors before making carried interest distributions, which is why it is important for all general partners to analyze and plan for a potential return obligation.

Returning carried interest under a clawback obligation can often be complex and painful, as general partners ordinarily distribute carried interest out to their individual members and other carry recipients on or shortly after receipt.  Clawback provisions, on the other hand, are not typically applied until the end of a fund’s life, meaning that several years may pass between distributions of carried interest and the final calculation determining whether excess profits have been received by the general partner.  Asking individuals to return money they received several years prior, and likely have already spent, is very difficult and may increase the potential for disputes between the individual members of the general partner, particularly those who may have already departed the firm.  Fund sponsors that are considering fundraising in the near future should recognize that limited partners will be very interested in whether a sponsor’s prior funds are facing potential clawbacks and what plans the sponsor has to help mitigate and manage those obligations.

Effective communication between and among a general partner and its limited partners, as well as between the individual members of a fund sponsor, are of the utmost importance in managing carried interest clawback risk and avoiding potential disputes.  For more, please check out our colleagues’ recently published article, and watch here for future updates as we continue to monitor disputes and litigation arising from the impacts of COVID-19.

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Proskauer’s cross-disciplinary, cross-jurisdictional Coronavirus Response Team is focused on supporting and addressing client concerns. Visit our Coronavirus Resource Center for guidance on risk management measures, practical steps businesses can take and resources to help manage ongoing operations.

Photo of James Anderson James Anderson

James Anderson is an attorney in the Litigation Department and a member of the firm’s Asset Management Litigation and Intellectual Property groups. Jim leverages his technological background and expertise to represent clients in sophisticated business and intellectual property disputes.

Jim has experience litigating…

James Anderson is an attorney in the Litigation Department and a member of the firm’s Asset Management Litigation and Intellectual Property groups. Jim leverages his technological background and expertise to represent clients in sophisticated business and intellectual property disputes.

Jim has experience litigating cases for clients in the technology, life sciences, and financial services industries, including a significant number of pharmaceutical, biotech, consumer electronics, and asset management clients. He has litigated cases in state and federal courts throughout the United States, as well as before the International Trade Commission and Patent Trial and Appeal Board.

In addition to his commercial litigation practice, Jim advises clients on intellectual property strategy spanning the full range of patent, trademark, and trade secret protections. He has developed and maintained intellectual property portfolios in a broad range of industries, including consumer products, medical devices, machining and fabrication equipment, and semiconductor devices. Jim is registered to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Jim also maintains an active pro bono practice. He has been awarded for his work on behalf of victims of domestic violence and abuse.

Jim has a degree in Mechanical Engineering, with a concentration in energy, power, and fuel cell technologies, from the University of Connecticut. Prior to joining Proskauer, Jim served as a judicial intern in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut and represented clients with the UConn Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Law Clinic.

Photo of Timothy W. Mungovan Timothy W. Mungovan

Tim Mungovan serves as chair of the Firm’s Litigation Department, co-head of Proskauer’s Commercial Litigation Practice Group and co-head of the Asset Management Litigation team. His practice is focused on solving complex business disputes in a variety of areas including securities, investment management…

Tim Mungovan serves as chair of the Firm’s Litigation Department, co-head of Proskauer’s Commercial Litigation Practice Group and co-head of the Asset Management Litigation team. His practice is focused on solving complex business disputes in a variety of areas including securities, investment management, corporate governance, fiduciary obligations, capital markets, financial services, bankruptcy and insolvency. A significant portion of Tim’s practice involves disputes and risk management for private investment funds (private equity, venture capital and hedge funds) and private credit vehicles.

Recently, Tim has been heavily involved in: representing the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico in litigation involving the restructuring of Puerto Rico’s finances; SEC investigations of advisers to private equity funds and venture funds; control contests within advisers to private equity and venture capital funds; debt restructuring disputes on behalf of private credit funds and business development companies (BDCs); and litigation on behalf of two publicly-listed biotech companies against a hedge fund manager and a venture fund manager, respectively.

Photo of Howard J. Beber Howard J. Beber

Howard J. Beber is a partner in the Corporate Department and co-head of the Private Funds Group, which is recognized by Chambers GlobalChambers USA and US Legal 500. His practice focuses on representing private equity funds and institutional investors on…

Howard J. Beber is a partner in the Corporate Department and co-head of the Private Funds Group, which is recognized by Chambers GlobalChambers USA and US Legal 500. His practice focuses on representing private equity funds and institutional investors on a broad range of issues including fund formations, secondary transactions and portfolio investments.

Howard is actively involved in all stages of fund formation and fund sponsor representation, counseling on terms and marketing strategy, preparing offering documents, negotiating with placement agents, drafting partnership and general partner documents, negotiating with investors and providing advice on internal general partner and management company issues. His clients range from newly formed firms to a number of leading firms in the private equity industry. In addition, he routinely represents some of the most active institutional and fund-of-fund investors when investing in venture capital, buyout, real estate and other private investment funds, as well as co-investment transactions. Howard also represents institutional investors in connection with the acquisition and sale of partnership interests on the secondary market and has worked with several management teams on large spin-out transactions.

Photo of Michael R. Hackett Michael R. Hackett

Michael R. Hackett is a partner in the Litigation Department and a member of the Asset Management Litigation practice. Mike is an experienced litigator and trial lawyer focused on sophisticated business disputes.

A significant portion of Mike’s practice concerns disputes and regulation involving…

Michael R. Hackett is a partner in the Litigation Department and a member of the Asset Management Litigation practice. Mike is an experienced litigator and trial lawyer focused on sophisticated business disputes.

A significant portion of Mike’s practice concerns disputes and regulation involving private funds, including private equity, venture capital, hedge, real estate and private credit funds, as well as other limited partnerships, where he regularly advises funds, fund sponsors, investment advisers and institutional and individual investors.

Mike’s experience representing private fund clients runs the gamut, from control contests within advisers, to disputes between limited partners and general partners, to representation of investment advisers in connection with regulatory examinations, investigations and enforcement matters. Mike also routinely represents fund sponsors and their portfolio companies, including in significant post-closing disputes.

In addition to his private funds practice, Mike represents public and private companies in a variety of complex commercial and securities litigation matters, including in the areas of corporate governance, fiduciary obligations, capital markets, financial services, and bankruptcy and insolvency.

Mike has been named a “Rising Star” by Massachusetts Super Lawyers, and was identified as an “associate to watch” by Chambers USA in 2017 and 2018.

During law school, Mike served as an intern judicial clerk to the Honorable William G. Young of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.