You didn’t go into business to lose money. In fact, if you chose a business partner to work with you on building and growing your new venture, you probably trusted that person to help you make as much money as possible. If you start to notice fraudulent behavior, the last person you likely want to suspect is your business partner, but when signs start to point in that direction, it’s far better to know than to remain in the dark. Here are a few things you can do after learning your business partner is guilty of theft.

Gather the Facts

It may be tempting to lash out in anger, but the best thing you can do is take as long as possible to gather proof. If your partner is taking money, document the instances and pay close attention to your accounts. Pull copies of all bank accounts and credit card receipts and go over the information thoroughly. If possible, have a third party review your books in secret to verify your suspicions. Set a new policy that every expense must have a receipt and put controls on your accounting practices, such as requiring the person who collects the money each day not be the one who counts it and prepares the bank deposit.

Consider Your Options

Once you have proof of your partner’s activities, you can go in one of several directions. If the offense is serious enough, it may merit filing criminal charges. In many cases, though, it’s sufficient to dissolve the partnership. Review your contract. There should be verbiage specific to theft or fraud, which is your “out” when it comes to taking control of your business. It may be necessary to have an attorney review your paperwork to make sure you’re on solid footing. If you are, you can approach your partner and suggest an amicable splitting of the ways.

Seek Legal Help

As peaceful as an amicable split might be, though, if your partner stole significant assets from your business, you’re well within your rights to seek recourse. Whether that’s the case or not, though, it can be beneficial to seek legal advice before having that conversation. An attorney can review your situation and offer options. Ultimately you’ll be the one to make the decision, but knowing your legal rights will give you confidence. You may need to bring a mediator with you to the discussion or go straight to filing legal action, depending on the situation.

When business partnerships go south, it can be tricky to resolve things. Legal help may not always be necessary, but it’s important to know when it’s time to consult an attorney. If you have the right contracts in place, though, you may be able to get your partner to agree to let you take over the business and return any stolen assets.

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