Out of simple curiousity, I Googled a few names the other day and got some interesting results.
Last summer I recieved a contract for a book. Checking out the publisher on 'Absolute Write/water-cooler' I found some negative remarks about the company, and nowhere what I would call positive remarks. Yet, remaining objective, it occured to me that a disgruntled former author/disappointed partner might not accept their own failures and end up disparaging someone who was actually quite good.
For my own reasons, I felt unable to sign that contract. There was no advance, and at that time, a $1,000 or $2,000 advance might have gone a long way to convincing me!
Even then, the decision not to sign was a tough one. Then, just before Christmas, this very same publisher approached me again, via e-mail, and again they had a lot of positive things to say about my work.
Again, that tough internal debate, that tough decision. The decision not to sign was made a little easier by the lack of response to certain questions I had about the contract, and again no budging on the advance or lack thereof.
Six months later, with no characterization or value judgements offered or implied, that company is gone. They are just gone. Nowhere in that contract, (and at the time, I didn't know enough to ask,) did it clearly state what would happen to the parties, or who would own the rights, or when the rights to the product might revert back to the author, in the event of company closure.
Speaking purely objectively, if my company was in trouble, and things were not going too well in the cash-flow department, as an officer of the company, I would have little choice but to continue day-to-day operations as if nothing was wrong, and to continue to do everything within the realm of my sole fiduciary responsibility, which would be to the company and its shareholders, and not necessarily to newbie authors, especially ones we haven't signed yet and who ask a lot of questions...to try and save the company and to make it work.
In another similar instance, the company is still going. The company is smaller, and has fewer staff. Again with no characterizations or value judgements, we can only 'objectively' assume that tough times called for tough decisions, and it is entirely possible that I will someday regret not signing with them either.
It's just a really tough call either way sometimes, and especially now.