Getting money from a startup that folded - possible or pipe dream?
April 12, 2016 11:41 AM   Subscribe

I drove for Sidecar briefly last year but never cashed out my earnings into my bank account. I just heard they closed. What are my options for getting my money?

I think I have about $500 of earnings from when I drove for them January-March 2015. Then circumstances changed, I stopped driving for them, and forgot about the account.

A recent search turned up a single notification email that Sidecar sent in January urging account holders to claim their funds, but this email got filtered to my Updates folder in Gmail which I barely ever check. So I didn't see this email until yesterday.

How do I get my earnings?

I just tried calling a few different phone numbers listed with Sidecar but none of them seem to be active anymore. Not sure what my other options are. Try to personally email the founders? Set up a twitter account and tweet at the founders? Small claims court (seems unlikely to be worth it)?
posted by danceswithlight to Law & Government (4 answers total)
Check with the unclaimed property division in your state.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 11:51 AM on April 12, 2016

Sidecar Technologies Inc. continues to be an active business according to the California secretary of state. (you can do the same search I did from here) However, they are a foreign business in California and are actually registered in Delaware (you can do a similar search here which charges a $10 fee to see whether it is still active in Delaware.

In your shoes, I would pay the $10 fee and find out if the company is active. If so, file a claim in small claims. They will either pay it or file for bankruptcy, in which case, as an employee, you'll have a higher priority claim than shareholders. If the company is dissolved, someone had to file to undertake the remaining debts and that person should be findable via the DE SOS.
posted by janey47 at 12:01 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

It doesn't look like Sidecar ever filed for bankruptcy, which is good. (Depending on your relationship with the company, you actually might have found yourself in the unenviable position of being an unsecured creditor.)

Re jane47's advice above: dollars to donuts your Sidecar contract had a forum-selection clause in it, in which you agreed to sue them only in some particular court, or (even more likely) to go into arbitration with any disputes. If that's true, if you filed and served in small claims, you would likely get bounced immediately on the grounds that you agreed to sue them elsewhere, and wherever elsewhere is, it's not going to be your local small claims court. (Even if they defaulted, you would have a hard time ultimately enforcing the judgment and collecting the $$$.) Then you have to decide whether you want to sue wherever Elsewhere is (or go into arbitration), and I can tell you right now that the cost of simply filing a complaint or starting an arbitration will eat up 50-100% of what you are owed. E.g., it's usually $400 to file a complaint in federal district court. ("So, praemunire, are you saying that forum-selection clauses and especially mandatory arbitration clauses can effectively prevent people from recovering on their smaller claims against corporations?" "Why, yes, I am!!!")

Now, it seems that GM bought Sidecar. So what I would do, which will not cost you much in the way of cash money, is write a letter to GM's GC putting forth your claim. It will get deflected to the legal department and whoever is handling legacy Sidecar issues. They will have at least a modest interest in resolving the situation. Mighr or might not work, but as an inexpensive first step, worth trying.
posted by praemunire at 12:37 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

praemunire, good advice. I agree that a letter to GM is a good first step but I do notice that the Bloomberg article states that GM bought the assets of Sidecar, not its stock, so.... likely the liabilities stayed behind. You're absolutely right, though, that GM *might* have an interest in resolving the issues. I'd be interested to see the contract that danceswithlight signed.
posted by janey47 at 1:14 PM on April 12, 2016

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