Navigating the Complexities of Cross-Jurisdictional Startup Shutdowns

Gain expert advice on shutting down a startup in multiple jurisdictions, along with case studies and actionable insights!
jessica pedraza
Jessica Pedraza
Legal Consultant
Published: April 16, 2024
enterpreneur 5

Shutting down a startup that operates across multiple jurisdictions comes with a unique set of legal challenges. Different countries, states within the same country, and sometimes even cities and counties within one state can have varied laws regarding company operations, employee rights, tax obligations, and corporate dissolution.

In this blog, we'll explore the legal complexities of cross-jurisdictional startup shutdowns and provide you with actionable strategies to navigate this process effectively. You'll gain a deeper understanding of the challenges involved and learn from real-world case studies to help you make informed decisions.

Why Should You Care About Dissolving Across Multiple Jurisdictions?

Jurisdiction refers to a particular court, agency or government's power to enact and enforce laws. Startups operating in multiple jurisdictions are subject to different sets of laws, rules, and regulations that can be difficult to reconcile. 

For example, a Delaware company with a headquarters in California and employees in Texas may be subject to the laws of all three states plus the United States federal government, and must satisfy the laws, rules and regulations of each in order to dissolve properly.

Understanding the interplay between jurisdictions is crucial for a startup founder to ensure they operate and shut down legally.. For example, the labor laws, tax obligations, and corporate dissolution protocols that are standard in one region might not be allowed in another.

Also, the term 'cross-jurisdictional' can refer to legal differences based on one or more of the following:

  • Intrastate: Involves navigating legal differences within the same state, where local laws and regulations can vary between municipalities or counties.

  • Interstate: Relates to the legal challenges of operating across multiple states, each with its own set of laws and regulations.

  • International: Entails managing the complexities of operating in multiple countries, each with its unique legal system and business regulations.

Common Challenges Associated with Cross-Jurisdictional Startup Shutdown

When shutting down a startup spanning multiple states, you'll likely encounter the following cross-jurisdictional challenges:

1. Regulatory Compliance

Complying with varying regulations across jurisdictions during startup closure is like navigating through a legal maze. For instance, California's Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (Cal-WARN) Act requires 60 days' notice for mass layoffs, whereas Texas has no state-specific WARN Act and adheres to federal guidelines. You must ensure compliance in each state, as well as the federal government, to avoid financial penalties.

2. Asset and Liability Management

Managing and liquidating assets – alongside settling liabilities – greatly varies from one state to another. A startup operating in New York and Nevada, for example, must operate within separate legal frameworks for issues like bankruptcy and asset liquidation. New York has a complex creditor hierarchy and strict asset liquidation laws unlike Nevada that's known to be business-friendly and has relatively simpler legal procedures.

3. Intellectual Property Considerations

Properly handling intellectual property (IP) rights during a shutdown requires founders to be well acquainted with state-specific nuances. Although IP laws are primarily federal in the U.S, many states have their own laws governing copyrights, trademarks, and trader secrets. This means a business must properly follow the registration, transfer, and recording rules of each jurisdiction

4. Data Protection and Privacy Laws

Different states have unique data protection and privacy laws, complicating the shutdown process for startups handling personal information. California's Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), for example, offers more stringent data protection compared to many other states and necessitates certain actions during shutdown to protect consumer data. Failing to adhere to these laws can result in hefty fines, agonizing lawsuits, and lost customer trust.

Case Study #1: Interstate Company Closure – Theranos

Theranos was a health tech startup based in California that quickly rose to prominence for its claims of revolutionizing blood testing. It was incorporated in Delaware, established its headquarters in California, and operated its labs in Arizona. However, after facing mounting legal and financial challenges, the company shut down in 2018.

Although not a conventional startup shutdown by any means, Theranos' case effectively highlights the legal and regulatory complexities of interstate startup shutdown. Here are some of the challenges it faced:

  • Regulatory Scrutiny Across States: The company faced intense scrutiny from federal regulators, such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and from state health departments like the California Department of Public Health and Arizona's Department of Health Services.

  • Legal Actions and Settlements: The company faced numerous legal challenges including consumer fraud lawsuits in multiple states. For instance, in Arizona, Theranos reached a settlement with the Arizona Attorney General to refund all Arizona customers for blood tests, showcasing the financial and operational impacts of interstate legal challenges.

  • Closure and Liquidation Process: As the company moved towards dissolution, it had to manage the shutdown process across state lines, dealing with different creditors, lawsuits, and regulatory orders in the states it operated. This included handling the layoff of employees, asset liquidation, and responding to state-specific legal claims and regulatory orders.

Case Study #2: International Company Closure – SoundCloud

The case of SoundCloud's restructuring and layoffs in 2017 is an excellent example of understanding the legal and regulatory cross-jurisdictional company closure across different countries. It involved navigating the varying shutdown and layoff laws of Germany (where its headquarters is located), the United Kingdom (where one of its closed offices was located), and the United States (specifically, the state of California, where another office was closed). Here's how the company shutdown laws of each region differed:


  • Worker Consultation: German laws require consulting with workers' representatives before executing employee layoffs. Startups must work with the works council (Betriebsrat) to negotiate terms of layoffs, including social plans to mitigate the layoffs' effects on employees.

  • Social Plan: Depending on the size of the layoffs, German companies or branches may need to create a social plan, outlining compensation and support for all affected employees.

United Kingdom

  • Redundancy Notice and Consultation: UK law requires employers to give proper notice to employees facing redundancy (layoff) and to consult with them about the layoff process. This consultation should aim to find ways to avoid redundancies, reduce the number of employees affected, and minimize the consequences.

  • Redundancy Payments: Employees laid off in the UK might be entitled to redundancy payments, which are calculated based on their length of service, age, and pay.

United States (California)

  • WARN Act: The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 days' notice before a mass layoff or office closure. California has its own version of the WARN Act, which applies to employers with 75 or more employees and includes additional requirements beyond the federal law.

  • Final Paycheck Laws: California law also requires employees laid off to receive their final paychecks, including unpaid earned wages and accrued vacation pay, immediately at the time of their termination.

As you can see, the more jurisdictions your startup 'covers', the more difficult it becomes to shut down the company.

How to Handle Cross-Jurisdictional Startup Shutdown Properly

To effectively navigate the complexities of a cross-jurisdictional startup shutdown, consider the following strategies:

1. Strategically Communicate the Shutdown

Be as transparent as possible when breaking the news to all stakeholders. How you communicate the shutdown influences the success and failure of your future endeavors. Provide clear and timely information to employees, investors, customers, and other relevant parties to maintain trust and minimize potential legal issues.

2. Fulfill Post-Closure Obligations

Planning shouldn't stop at the shutdown. Consider the post-shutdown obligations such as final tax filings, ongoing litigation, or maintaining essential services for a transitional period. Work with legal and financial professionals to ensure that you meet all necessary requirements and avoid potential penalties or legal consequences.

3. Explore Creative Solutions for Employee Transition

Help your employees move onto the next chapter of their lives by offering career transition services, networking assistance, and personalized recommendation letters. Learn about that and more by reading this blog on managing employee layoffs.

4. Get Help from Professionals

Startup closure is the last thing you should DIY. By working with the right people, you can safely maneuver the legal and regulatory landscape, avoid hefty fines, and come across as a founder who knows what they're doing. 


Navigating the complexities of cross-jurisdictional startup shutdowns is no small feat. However, by understanding the essential aspects of the process and the added layers of complexity that come with operating across different jurisdictions, you can make informed decisions and minimize potential legal and financial risks.

Remember, knowledge is just one-half of the equation; the second is execution. That's where SimpleClosure comes in. Our team of legal experts specializes in helping founders navigate the complex process of shutting down a startup, including those operating across multiple jurisdictions. We leverage cutting-edge fintech and AI to streamline the shutdown process, ensuring compliance and minimizing risks while saving you time and money compared to traditional service providers.

By working with SimpleClosure, you can safely maneuver the legal and regulatory landscape, avoid hefty fines, and come across as a founder who knows what they're doing. Don't let the challenges of a cross-jurisdictional startup shutdown hold you back from moving forward with your next venture.

Get the help you need with SimpleClosure

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