Calculation of Value Family-Owned Entities Profit Loss M&A Fairness Opinions Solvency Valuation Events Business Valuation Equation Steps Of A Valuation Process Timing When Valuing A Business Rebuttal Reports Going-Concern Value Levels of Value Buy-Sell Agreements Transaction Databases Lost Business Value ESOP Valuations Management Interviews Reasonable Compensation Intangible Assets Chapter 11 Valuation Valuing A Business In Divorce Proceedings

Assessing Loss: Profit Loss Vs. Diminished Organization Value

In organizational legal disputes, valuation experts often measure damages based on profit loss or diminished organization value — or both. Here’s an introduction to what that means for your organization.

The Basics Of Profit Loss & Diminished Organization Value

Generally, it’s appropriate to estimate profit loss when a plaintiff suffers an economic loss for a discrete period and then returns to normal. On the other hand, diminished organization value is typically reserved for organizations that are completely destroyed or otherwise suffer a permanent loss, such as destruction of an entire division or product line.

In rare situations, profit loss may fail to adequately capture a plaintiff’s damages. For example, suppose a defendant’s wrongful conduct damages a plaintiff’s reputation, but it doesn’t directly affect the plaintiff’s expected profits. Nevertheless, the defendant’s actions have rendered the plaintiff’s organization less marketable and, therefore, less valuable. In this situation, diminished organization value may be an appropriate measure of damages, even though the plaintiff’s organization will survive.

Double Dipping

There are important similarities between how lost profits and diminished organization value are measured. Typically, lost profits are a function of lost revenue caused by the defendant’s wrongful conduct and avoided costs that otherwise would have been incurred to generate the revenue. Once lost profits have been estimated, the amount is adjusted to present value.

Alternatively, organization value is generally determined using one or more of the following three techniques:

  1. The cost (or asset-based) approach,
  2. The market approach, and
  3. The income approach.

Because value is generally a function of an organization’s ability to generate future economic benefits, awarding damages based on both lost profits and diminished organization value is usually considered double dipping. A possible exception is the “slow death” scenario: A defendant’s wrongful conduct initially causes the plaintiff’s profits to decline, but the plaintiff continues operating. Eventually, however, the plaintiff succumbs to its injuries and goes out of business. In these cases, it may be appropriate for the plaintiff to recover lost profits for the period following the injury, plus diminished organizational value as of the “date of death.”

Major Differences

Both lost profits and diminished organization value involve calculating the present value of future economic benefits. So, you might expect damages to be identical, regardless of which measure is used. But consider the following differences between the two metrics:

  • Organization value is usually based on expected cash flow, which can be more or less than expected profits, depending on the case facts.
  • Lost profits are typically measured on a pretax basis, while organization value is generally determined based on after-tax cash flow.
  • Differences in the discount rates that are used to calculate present value of lost profits vs. diminished organizational value may substantially affect the expert’s conclusion.
  • Organization value is based on what’s “known or knowable” on the valuation date, while lost profits calculations may sometimes consider developments that have occurred up to the time of trial.

In addition, fair market value is generally based on the perspective of a hypothetical buyer, while lost profits can consider the specific plaintiff’s perspective. The plaintiff may have a special tax situation, benefit from unique synergies, or view the organization as less risky than a hypothetical buyer would. Likewise, an organization’s value may include adjustments, such as discounts for lack of marketability and key person risks, that may not be considered when estimating lost profits.

What’s Right For Your Case?

Profit loss and diminished organization value are closely related, but they’re not identical. Contact us to discuss which measure is appropriate for your situation and how it might affect the outcome.

Related Articles

Talk with the pros

Our CPAs and advisors are a great resource if you’re ready to learn even more.