Promises are made to be broken.
Politicians break them all the time. Most of us have had a friend or a family member who broke a pact somewhere along the way. Even Rose snapped her promise to Jack of not letting go while floating on that piece of wood in “Titanic.” Seconds later: Push. Savage, Rose.
So should we be all that surprised when business partners break their promises? That depends.
I spoke to a woman this week who is in a tough bind with a man who she loaned upwards of $50,000 before the two prepared to go into business together buying and selling cars.
Prior to dishing out the money in 2011, Exeter resident Nancy LaNunziata told me she had her prospective partner, Dean Pavinski, sign a promissory note. The agreement is a form of debt similar to a loan or an IOU. Investors typically loan money to another person in exchange for that person promising to repay the funds over time.
The two agreed that Pavinski would repay the loan in $400 installments each month.
Just one problem: LaNunziata said Pavinski broke his promise.
Even though a promissory note is a binding legal document and LaNunziata currently has a lawyer working in her favor, she told me Pavinski doesn’t have any money for her to go after.
A search of court documents lends an indication why.
Pavinski, of West Wyoming, was hit with charges in 2013 that he stole thousands of dollars from his partner while in business together at the Auto Lodge in Plains Township. He was sentenced on Nov. 17, 2014, in Luzerne County Court to five years probation and was ordered to pay back $31,928, according to the Times Leader archives.
LaNunziata, who was beginning to form the partnership with Pavinski before his charges had become public, told me Pavinski brushed off questions about the incident and fooled her into believing he wasn’t to blame.
“I thought there were problems and maybe a misunderstanding on the other side,” she told me. “I didn’t know exactly what was going on.”
LaNunziata was forthcoming in acknowledging she should have been more careful.
“I blame myself for believing him and the things that he said,” she told me.
Enforcing promissory notes can be as simple as hiring an attorney, like LaNunziata did. They tend to have a high rate of success despite charging fees for their services.
Unfortunately in some cases, the borrower doesn’t have any assets to claim, which makes knowing what you’re getting into ahead of time a major part of starting a business with another person. Make a concerted effort to vet your prospective partner and make sure they’re on the straight and narrow.
If she had it to do over again, LaNunziata said she’d say no the first time Pavinski asked for money.
“I should have known better,” she told me. “That’s the bottom line.”