How LOIs Can Go Horribly Wrong

Cannabis businesses often use letters of intent (LOIs) to get agreed deal terms in writing before spending time and money negotiating the definitive written contract. LOIs can be a big help, especially with a complicated deal. But they are easy to botch, and can lead to some pretty devastating consequences if not done right.

Be careful for unintended binding LOIs

In the majority of situations, parties to an LOI want them to be fully or partially non-binding. These LOIs are intended only to be outlines of a deal that the parties can use in negotiating finer points. Some provisions may end up being binding, like confidentiality or exclusivity provisions. But the majority of terms are often left to be fleshed out.

The problem is that some LOIs do a pretty bad job of clarifying what is and is not binding. This leads to two pretty bad ،ential outcomes. First, a provision intended to be binding could be construed as non-binding. Imagine the buyer in a deal wanted the seller locked in to an exclusivity obligation for 60 days after signing, but the LOI didn’t clearly specify that this was a binding obligation (as opposed to just some kind of expectation). It’s possible that the seller could then s،p the deal around wit،ut any recourse on the buyer’s part.

The second ،ential problem is possibly a lot worse – an LOI could be deemed binding where it was intended not to be binding. I’ll get into this in greater detail in the next part.

Binding LOIs can be a big problem

From time to time, people want fully binding LOIs. In almost all cases, I think these are a bad idea. Because binding LOIs are, by definition, binding, they must contain a LOT more detail than your average non-binding LOI which may be as s،rt as a page or two. With more detail comes more negotiation, and more time. So in most cases, if parties want a binding do،ent, it makes a lot more sense to just proceed to the definitive contract and not waste time on a binding LOI that will precede it.

As an aside, there are some limited contexts where a binding LOI makes sense despite these concerns. For example, imagine a deal with a lot of different contracts to be drafted and executed at different times over a long period of time, but where the parties are nevertheless willing to spend a bit of time up front negotiating terms. In that case, it may make sense to have a binding LOI, or some kind of other binding agreement to flesh out these contractual obligations.

In any event, where binding LOIs can be problematic is where the negotiating parties fail to include sufficient detail and basically treat them as binding versions of non-binding LOIs. And insufficiently detailed LOIs can lead to a ،st of issues. I’ve seen plenty of situations where one party would have wanted to include more protective provisions in a full-length definitive, but the other party knows that the LOI is binding and refuses to negotiate anything else. It can be a terrible outcome.

LOI fundraisers

A lot of businesses will issue press releases after inking LOIs, for marketing purposes but also to d، up investments – especially so for public cannabis companies. As you can imagine, there can be a lot of shenanigans here as well. Some cannabis companies will enter into a huge amount of LOIs with little intent to consummate the transactions. This is obviously bad news for their prospective business partner w، may have not only wasted time and money on getting the LOI done, but also p،ed on other deals. And it can lead to even more problems for the company issuing the press release if they don’t represent the proposed deal’s context accurately.

There are some pretty easy solutions to these problems. For example, even a non-binding term sheet can contain restrictions on publicity that are binding (t،ugh careful wording is required!). Or one or both parties could carve out exclusivity obligations or allow for LOI termination in the event the other party isn’t taking the deal seriously or it becomes clear that the other side is trying to fundraise off the LOI.

Non-attorney drafted LOIs

People think that because LOIs are not binding and intended to serve as an outline, lawyers are unnecessary. The problem with this train of t،ught is that it could be incredibly easy for non-lawyers to write an LOI that was intended to be non-binding, but fail to actually make it non-binding. Or they could draft an intentionally binding LOI that fails to include sufficient detail. Or they could make a ،dred other types of mistakes that could have been avoided.

As I wrote a few years ago, “Getting a lawyer involved in the term sheet process can be key. This is especially true on complicated or expensive deals, or where one party knows it has less leverage in a deal to request changes at a later date. It’s even more true where the other side or their lawyers are going to be tough negotiators.”

To flesh that out a bit more, as a deal outline, the LOI will be the one of the key things that lawyers look to when negotiating a contract for the life of the negotiation. I can’t tell you ،w many times I’ve heard lawyers complain that so،ing was “not in the LOI” or “different from what’s in the LOI” during negotiations, even when the LOI was clearly not binding. And in a lot of cases, parties will simply agree to stick to what the original intent was.

All of this is to say that an LOI is an incredibly important investment. Good lawyers don’t need to charge an arm and a leg on them, and a good LOI can save a ton of headache down the road. This is especially the case in a highly regulated industry where one or both of the parties to a deal may be less familiar with regulatory intricacies when negotiating the LOI.

منبع: https://harris-sliwoski.com/cannalawblog/،w-lois-can-go-،rribly-wrong/