Michael B. Lehner, CPA/ABV, CFE, ASA
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Should you consider hiring a joint business valuation expert?

joint business valuation experts

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The use of a joint business valuation expert can often save resources. This strategy assumes that the parties will openly share information and trust each other. But it may not be realistic in all situations, including contentious divorces and shareholder disputes.

Sharing fees and information

When using a joint valuation expert, the parties will only be satisfied by the outcome if there’s a mutual perception of fairness. Perceived fairness is enhanced when:

  • Both parties have a say in the preferred valuation credentials and are allowed to interview candidates when hiring the expert,
  • The valuation professional and both parties have full access to relevant information, such as tax returns, financial statements, responses to questionnaires and notes from site visits,
  • Any time the expert communicates with the clients and/or their attorneys, the conversation or written notes are shared with both sides, and
  • Both parties share in the expert’s costs.

The expert should explain upfront that the valuation will be performed in an objective, unbiased manner. If either party suspects that a joint valuation expert is biased, dissatisfaction may ensue, possibly leading to appeals and additional fees.

Potential upsides

When the conditions are right, using a joint expert can benefit both sides. The benefits extend beyond just saving money and streamlining the valuation process. A joint expert also helps minimize disruptions to business operations from site visits, information requests and management interviews. These steps happen only once with a joint expert, rather than twice.

Additionally, parties that share a valuation expert prove that they can trust each other, improving the chances of effectively working together in the future. For example, buyers and sellers who share an expert to conduct M&A due diligence lay the groundwork for transitioning management from the seller to the buyer after the deal closes. Likewise, divorcing spouses who own a business may find it easier to co-parent their children or co-manage a family business after they use a joint expert to help settle their marital estate.

A joint valuation expert also may improve the odds of settling by giving the parties the opportunity to discuss issues and discrepancies out of court. But, if they do wind up in court, the parties’ positions may be closer when using one expert who has full access to information, rather than two experts who may be using different data points.

Realistic expectations

There may be times when joint experts won’t work — for instance, if one party to a lawsuit hides information or doesn’t appreciate the value the expert brings to the table. For help evaluating whether a joint expert might work in a particular situation, consult with a business valuation professional.

Michael Lehner

This publication is distributed with the understanding that the author, publisher and distributor are not rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice or opinions on specific facts or matters, and, accordingly, assume no liability whatsoever in connection with its use. In addition, any discounts are used for illustrative purposes and do not purport to be specific recommendations.