McLeod vs NLRC (G.R. No. 146667 January 23, 2007)

McLeod vs National Labor Relations Commission
G.R. No. 146667 January 23, 2007

Facts: On February 2, 1995, John F. McLeod filed a complaint for retirement benefits, vacation and sick leave benefits, nonpayment of unused airline tickets, holiday pay, underpayment of salary and 13th month pay, moral and exemplary damages, attorney’s fees plus interest against Filipinas Synthetic Corporation (Filsyn), Far Eastern Textile Mills, Inc., Sta. Rosa Textiles, Inc., Patricio Lim and Eric Hu. In his Position Paper, complainant alleged that he is an expert in textile manufacturing process; that as early as 1956 he was hired as the Assistant Spinning Manager of Universal Textiles, Inc. (UTEX); that he was promoted to Senior Manager and worked for UTEX till 1980 under its President, respondent Patricio Lim; that in 1978 Patricio Lim formed Peggy Mills, Inc. with respondent Filsyn having controlling interest; that complainant was absorbed by Peggy Mills as its Vice President and Plant Manager of the plant at Sta. Rosa, Laguna; that at the time of his retirement complainant was receiving P 60,000.00 monthly with vacation and sick leave benefits; 13th month pay, holiday pay and two round trip business class tickets on a Manila-London-Manila itinerary every three years which is convertible to cas[h] if unused; that in January 1986, respondents failed to pay vacation and leave credits and requested complainant to wait as it was short of funds but the same remain unpaid at present; that complainant is entitled to such benefit as per CBA provision (Annex “A”); that respondents likewise failed to pay complainant’s holiday pay up to the present; that complainant is entitled to such benefits as per CBA provision (Annex “B”); that in 1989 the plant union staged a strike and in 1993 was found guilty of staging an illegal strike; that from 1989 to 1992 complainant was entitled to 4 round trip business class plane tickets on a Manila-London-Manila itinerary but this benefit not (sic) its monetary equivalent was not given; that on August 1990 the respondents reduced complainant’s monthly salary of P 60,000.00 by P9,900.00 till November 1993 or a period of 39 months; that in 1991 Filsyn sold Peggy Mills, Inc. to Far Eastern Textile Mills, Inc. as per agreement (Annex “D”) and this was renamed as Sta. Rosa Textile with Patricio Lim as Chairman and President; that complainant worked for Sta. Rosa until November 30 that from time to time the owners of Far Eastern consulted with complainant on technical aspects of reoperation of the plant as per correspondence (Annexes “D-1” and “D-2”); that when complainant reached and applied retirement age at the end of 1993, he was only given a reduced 13th month pay of P 44,183.63, leaving a balance of P 15,816.87; that thereafter the owners of Far Eastern Textiles decided for cessation of operations of Sta. Rosa Textiles; that on two occasions, complainant wrote letters (Annexes “E-1” to “E-2”) to Patricio Lim requesting for his retirement and other benefits; that in the last quarter of 1994 respondents offered complainant compromise settlement of only P 300,000.00 which complainant rejected; that again complainant wrote a letter (Annex “F”) reiterating his demand for full payment of all benefits and to no avail, hence this complaint; and that he is entitled to all his money claims pursuant to law. On the other hand, respondents in their Position Paper alleged that complainant was the former Vice-President and Plant Manager of Peggy Mills, Inc.; that he was hired in June 1980 and Peggy Mills closed operations due to irreversible losses at the end of July 1992 but the corporation still exists at present; that its assets were acquired by Sta. Rosa Textile Corporation which was established in April 1992 but still remains non-operational at present; that complainant was hired as consultant by Sta. Rosa Textile in November 1992 but he resigned on November 30, 1993; that Filsyn and Far Eastern Textiles are separate legal entities and have no employer relationship with complainant; that respondent Patricio Lim is the President and Board Chairman of Sta. Rosa Textile Corporation; that respondent Eric Hu is a Taiwanese and is Director of Sta. Rosa Textiles, Inc.; that complainant has no cause of action against Filsyn, Far Eastern Textile Ltd., Sta. Rosa Textile Corporation and Eric Hu; that Sta. Rosa only acquired the assets and not the liabilities of Peggy Mills, Inc.; that Patricio Lim was only impleaded as Board Chairman of Sta. Rosa Textile and not as private individual; that while complainant was Vice President and Plant Manager of Peggy Mills, the union staged a strike up to July 1992 resulting in closure of operations due to irreversible losses as per Notice (Annex “1”); that complainant was relied upon to settle the labor problem but due to his lack of attention and absence the strike continued resulting in closure of the company; and losses to Sta. Rosa which acquired its assets as per their financial statements (Annexes “2” and “3”); that the attendance records of complainant from April 1992 to November 1993 (Annexes “4” and “5”) show that he was either absent or worked at most two hours a day; that Sta. Rosa and Peggy Mills are interposing counterclaims for damages in the total amount of P 36,757.00 against complainant; that complainant’s monthly salary at Peggy Mills was P P 50,495.00 and not 60,000.00; that Peggy Mills, does not have a retirement program; that whatever amount complainant is entitled should be offset with the counterclaims; that complainant worked only for 12 years from 1980 to 1992; that complainant was only hired as a consultant and not an employee by Sta. Rosa Textile; that complainant’s attendance record of absence and two hours daily work during the period of the strike wipes out any vacation/sick leave he may have accumulated; that there is no basis for complainant’s claim of two (2) business class airline tickets; that complainant’s pay already included the holiday pay; that he is entitled to holiday pay as consultant by Sta. Rosa; that he has waived this benefit in his 12 years of work with Peggy Mills; that he is not entitled to 13th month pay as consultant; and that he is not entitled to moral and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees.
Issues: Whether or not the doctrine of piercing the corporate veil should be applied to further entitle petitioner for the claim sought in all the corporations allegedly his employer.

Whether or not the corporate directors can be held liable personally with petitioner.

Whether or not there is merger between PMI and SRTI.

Held: No. A corporation is an artificial being invested by law with a personality separate and distinct from that of its stockholders and from that of other corporations to which it may be connected.
While a corporation may exist for any lawful purpose, the law will regard it as an association of persons or, in case of two corporations, merge them into one, when its corporate legal entity is used as a cloak for fraud or illegality. This is the doctrine of piercing the veil of corporate fiction. The doctrine applies only when such corporate fiction is used to defeat public convenience, justify wrong, protect fraud, or defend crime, or when it is made as a shield to confuse the legitimate issues, or where a corporation is the mere alter ego or business conduit of a person, or where the corporation is so organized and controlled and its affairs are so conducted as to make it merely an instrumentality, agency, conduit or adjunct of another corporation.
To disregard the separate juridical personality of a corporation, the wrongdoing must be established clearly and convincingly. It cannot be presumed.
Here, we do not find any of the evils sought to be prevented by the doctrine of piercing the corporate veil.  Respondent corporations may be engaged in the same business as that of PMI, but this fact alone is not enough reason to pierce the veil of corporate fiction.
At any rate, the existence of interlocking incorporators, directors, and officers is not enough justification to pierce the veil of corporate fiction, in the absence of fraud or other public policy considerations.
No. Personal liability of corporate directors, trustees or officers attaches only when (1) they assent to a patently unlawful act of the corporation, or when they are guilty of bad faith or gross negligence in directing its affairs, or when there is a conflict of interest resulting in damages to the corporation, its stockholders or other persons; (2) they consent to the issuance of watered down stocks or when, having knowledge of such issuance, do not forthwith file with the corporate secretary their written objection; (3) they agree to hold themselves personally and solidarily liable with the corporation; or (4) they are made by specific provision of law personally answerable for their corporate action.
No. As a rule, a corporation that purchases the assets of another will not be liable for the debts of the selling corporation, provided the former acted in good faith and paid adequate consideration for such assets, except when any of the following circumstances is present: (1) where the purchaser expressly or impliedly agrees to assume the debts, (2) where the transaction amounts to a consolidation or merger of the corporations, (3) where the purchasing corporation is merely a continuation of the selling corporation, and (4) where the selling corporation fraudulently enters into the transaction to escape liability for those debts.26 None of the foregoing exceptions is present in this case.
Here, PMI transferred its assets to SRTI to settle its obligation to SRTI in the sum of P 210,000,000. We are not convinced that PMI fraudulently transferred these assets to escape its liability for any of its debts. PMI had already paid its employees, except McLeod, their money claims. There was also no merger or consolidation of PMI and SRTI.
Consolidation is the union of two or more existing corporations to form a new corporation called the consolidated corporation. It is a combination by agreement between two or more corporations by which their rights, franchises, and property are united and become those of a single, new corporation, composed generally, although not necessarily, of the stockholders of the original corporations. Merger, on the other hand, is a union whereby one corporation absorbs one or more existing corporations, and the absorbing corporation survives and continues the combined business. The parties to a merger or consolidation are called constituent corporations. In consolidation, all the constituents are dissolved and absorbed by the new consolidated enterprise. In merger, all constituents, except the surviving corporation, are dissolved. In both cases, however, there is no liquidation of the assets of the dissolved corporations, and the surviving or consolidated corporation acquires all their properties, rights and franchises and their stockholders usually become its stockholders.


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