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U.S. Supreme Court

Third National Bank v. Buffalo German Ins. Co., 193 U.S. 581 (1904)

Third National Bank of Buffalo v.

Buffalo German Insurance Company

No. 146

Argued January 27-28, 1904

Decided April 4, 1904

193 U.S. 581


The mere statement by a borrower from a national bank, made to the president when the loan is obtained, that his stock in the bank is security for the loan, there being no delivery of the certificates, does not amount to a pledge of the stock, nor does it give the bank any lien thereon as against one subsequently loaning on the stock in good faith and receiving the certificates as collateral.

The provisions of § 36 of the National Banking Act of 1863, empowering the withholding of transfer of the stock of a shareholder indebted to the bank, were not only omitted from the National Banking Act of 1864, but were expressly repealed thereby.

A provision in the charter and bylaws and a condition in a certificate of stock of a national bank forbidding the transfer of stock where the stockholder is indebted to the bank is void as repugnant to the National Banking Act and in conflict with the public policy embodied in that act, and creates no lien which the bank can enforce by refusing to transfer the stock to a holder for value in good faith.

A condition in a certificate of stock of a national bank which is void under

Page 193 U. S. 582

the National Banking Act will not operate as a notice to one loaning on the stock as collateral, that it is subject to a lien of the bank which will affect the right of the pledgee of having the stock transferred to him.

The Third National Bank of Buffalo, spoken of hereafter as the bank, was organized on the ninth of February, 1865, and its articles of association contained the following:

"That the board of directors shall have power to make all bylaws that may be proper and convenient for them to make under said act for the general regulation of the business of the association and the management and administration of its affairs, which bylaws may prohibit, if the directors shall so determine, the transfer of stock owned by any stockholder who may be liable to the association either as principal debtor or otherwise, without the consent of the board."

In virtue of the authority assumed to be conferred by the foregoing provision, the board of directors adopted in February, 1865, a bylaw as follows:

"Transfers of Stock. -- Sec. 15. The stock of this bank shall be assignable only on the books of this bank, subject to the restrictions and provisions of the act, and a transfer book shall be kept in which all assignments and transfers of stock shall be made. No transfers of the stock of this association shall be made, without the consent of the board of directors, by any stockholder who shall be liable to the association either as principal debtor or otherwise, which liability shall be a lien upon the said stock and all the profits thereof, and dividends and certificates of stock shall contain upon them notice of this provision."

Pursuant to this bylaw, the stock certificates of the bank were thus framed:

"This is to certify that _____ is the owner of _____ shares of one hundred dollars each of the capital stock of the Third National Bank of Buffalo, subject to the lien or liens referred to in section 15 of the bylaws of said bank, in the following words:"

"No transfer of the stock of this association shall be made without the consent of the board of directors by any

Page 193 U. S. 583

stockholder who shall be liable to the association either as principal debtor or otherwise, which liability shall be a lien upon the said stock and all profits thereof and dividends."

"And the said stock is transferable only on the books of the bank by him or his attorney on the surrender and cancellation of this certificate and compliance with the said bylaws."

Emmanuel Levi became the registered holder and owner of 450 shares of the capital stock, evidenced by certificates in the form just stated. Levi borrowed money from the bank upon his promissory notes, secured by various collaterals. On the first day of October, 1890, he applied for a further loan, which the bank agreed to make, provided the new loan was indorsed by Louis Levi, a son of Emmanuel. At that time, in a conversation between the president of the bank and Levi, it was understood that all the stock held by Levi in the bank should be considered as additional security for his entire loan. When this conversation took place, however, the certificates evidencing Levi's stock were in his possession, and no formal pledge or subsequent delivery of the certificates of stock to the bank took place.

A few months after (on December 3, 1890), Emmanuel Levi borrowed $25,000 from the Buffalo German Insurance Company, hereafter spoken of as the insurance company, and secured this loan by pledging, delivering, and assigning to the insurance company his certificates of stock in the bank. The written contract of pledge gave the insurance company power, in default of payment of the loan at its maturity, to sell the stock at public or private sale after notice and apply the proceeds to the debt. On August 13, 1891, and on May 5, 1892, Levi borrowed additional sums from the insurance company and secured these loans by a pledge and assignment of his remaining stock in the bank. These contracts of pledge also contained a power of sale similar to that conferred by the first contract. In June, 1893, Emmanuel Levi died, and Louis and Rosa Levi were appointed and qualified as his executors. On the fifth of June, 1896, there was due to the insurance

Page 193 U. S. 584

company on the notes of Levi, secured by the pledge of his stock as above stated, the sum of $55,000 of principal, with certain unpaid interest. On that date, the insurance company served upon the executors of the estate of Levi a demand for the payment of the debt, accompanied with a notice that, if payment were not made the stock would be sold and the proceeds applied to the debt. Payment not having been made, after adequate notice, the attorneys for the bank, the attorneys of the executors of Levi, and one of the executors being present, the stock was sold at public auction, and was bought by the insurance company for the sum of $44,000, that being the highest bid offered. The insurance company thereupon presented to the bank the certificates of stock, the assignment thereof, and the evidence of the purchase at auction, and demanded a transfer to its name. This the bank refused on the ground of Levi's indebtedness to it. Subsequently the insurance company filed its bill, praying that the bank be decreed to transfer the stock and pay the dividends which had accrued thereon since the date of the demand to transfer. The bank, by its answer, set up the debt due by Levi to it, asserting that, under the provision of its articles of association and bylaws, as well as under the terms of the certificates of stock and the agreement with Levi, it had the right to apply the dividends on the stock, accrued since the purchase by the insurance company, to its debt, and, indeed, having a prior lien upon the stock for its debt, had the right to withhold the transfer of the stock until the debt due it by Levi or his estate was paid. There was a decree in the trial court in favor of the bank. The case was appealed by the insurance company to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, Fourth Department, in which court the judgment of the trial court was affirmed. 29 App.Div. 137. The insurance company prosecuted its appeal to the Court of Appeals of the State of New York, and in that court the judgments below were reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings. 162 N.Y. 168. The cause was again tried and resulted in a decree in favor of the insurance

Page 193 U. S. 585

company in both the trial court and the appellate division of the supreme court, and these judgments were affirmed by the Court of Appeals on the authority of its previous opinion. It is to review such decree of affirmance that this writ of error is prosecuted.

Page 193 U. S. 587

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