By: Adrienne B. Knack
In Michigan, corporations (including non-profits) are required to have a board of directors. The board is responsible for overseeing the affairs and activities of the company or organization. The board of directors is elected by the shareholders of a corporation, including the chairperson of the board of directors. The company’s bylaws will dictate how the board operates. The bylaws will also indicate how many directors need to be on the board. This can be as few as one director, which is very common for a single shareholder corporation.
One of the more important things that the board of directors is responsible for is selecting the company’s officers – president, secretary, and treasurer. The officers are responsible for the day-to-day affairs of the company and running the business. Michigan requires an annual meeting of directors to select each year’s officers. This is usually done on the first Tuesday in March each year. Michigan also requires there to be an annual meeting of shareholders whereby the directors are elected each year.
The bylaws of the company will also dictate how often the board will meet. The bylaws can be set up so that consent documents can be prepared and signed every year in place of having actual, physical meetings of the directors and the shareholders. This is typical for companies that have a single officer, shareholder, and director. On the other hand, some organizations have ongoing affairs that need to be addressed by the board of directors, so monthly or bi-monthly meetings are necessary. For other organizations, annual meetings are all that is needed.
For a company that requires an actual, physical board meeting, the protocol for the meeting varies based on the organization. Typically, an agenda for the board meeting will be sent out to the board members in advance of the meeting. Often, this will constitute notice of the meeting to the board of directors pursuant to the bylaws. The agenda will include reports of the officers and committees, new business that the board needs to discuss, and old business from a prior meeting. The secretary will take notes (minutes) of the meeting to report back to the shareholders what the board discussed and decided. The minutes also memorialize the board meeting and should be kept with all important company records. The minutes will include all motions brought in front of the board, notes on the discussion, who seconded a motion, and whether or not the motion passed. Motions are required to be made, seconded, discussed, and voted on to adopt (or deny) significant proposals before the shareholders and directors, such as the organization borrowing funds, potential mergers or sale, adding a new line of business, etc. Typically, the “significant” events are outlined in the company’s bylaws.
These formalities are imperative to maintain proper legal standing for a corporation and keep separation between the entity and its shareholders, officers, and directors as individuals. If these formalities are not complied with, the personal assets of shareholders, officer and directors may be at risk despite the purported protection of the corporate form. The company should also be sure that its business insurance policy includes officer and director coverage.