Of course, it’s hard to know if Judge Rakoff’s ruling will become a new precedent. The judge wrote that former Jones Group directors made “no investigation whatsoever into the propriety” of either the huge debt Sycamore had piled onto the company or its squirrelly deal to split two of its most valuable divisions, Stuart Weitzman and Kurt Geiger, into a different Sycamore affiliate at a valuation significantly below their fair market value. Judge Rakoff called the Jones board “reckless” and said it could not take cover behind the business judgment rule, which usually protects directors from being held accountable for past business decisions so long as they were made in “good faith.”

The ruling has the potential to hold accountable those responsible for allowing otherwise solvent companies to be sold into circumstances that would soon enough cause their bankruptcy. There’s still a trial in the offing, but many law firms that specialize in bankruptcies immediately understood the ruling for what it is: a shot across the bow of the buyout juggernaut. In a message to its clients, Ropes & Gray wrote that the Nine West decision “should be viewed as a serious warning for corporate decision makers” and that even though the directors of the selling company were no longer involved, they “cannot ignore” what a company’s balance sheet looks like after it is sold to a new buyer “without also risking their protections under business judgment rule.”

In the wake of Judge Rakoff’s ruling, Big Law quickly sought to warn clients that officers and directors of companies needed to be more vigilant about who they agree to sell a company to and what the buyer plans to do with it. The days of just selling a company to the highest bidder regardless of the consequences — the legal standard on Wall Street since the Delaware Supreme Court decided the so-called Revlon case in 1986 — might just be over.

At least in public, private-equity practitioners seem to be unmoved by Judge Rakoff’s ruling. A spokesman for Steve Schwarzman at Blackstone told me the buyout billionaire did not have a “point of view” on the Nine West decision. John Finley, Blackstone’s general counsel, declined to comment after reading it.

And Judge Rakoff’s bombshell hasn’t put a damper on the private-equity industry — yet. In January, BC Partners, a British buyout firm that has raised more than $30 billion of equity capital, borrowed $480 million in bank debt and took out another $70 million line of credit to complete the buyout of Women’s Care Enterprises, a Florida health care provider. The borrowings represented “adjusted” debt equal to nine times the company’s EBITDA, according to the S&P Global ratings agency.

But the directors of companies being sold to buyout firms would be foolish not to take Judge Rakoff’s ruling to heart. In its note to clients, Ropes & Gray may have said it best: “Caveat Venditor: Sellers (and their Directors) Beware.”

William D. Cohan (@WilliamCohan) is a former investment banker, a special correspondent for Vanity Fair and the author of several books about Wall Street.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: [email protected].

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.