Bank v. Lanier - 78 U.S. 369 (1870)


U.S. Supreme Court

Bank v. Lanier, 78 U.S. 11 Wall. 369 369 (1870)

Bank v. Lanier

78 U.S. (11 Wall.) 369

Syllabus

1. National banks as governed by the National Currency Act of June 3, 1864, which act repeals the National Currency Act of 1863, can make no valid loan or discount on the security of their own stock unless necessary to prevent loss on a debt previously contracted in good faith.

2. The placing by one bank of its funds on permanent deposit with another bank is a loan within the spirit of this enactment.

3. Loans by national banks to their stockholders do not give a lien to the bank on the stock of such stockholders.

4. A bank whose certificates of stock declare the stockholder entitled to so many shares of stock, which can be transferred on the books of the corporation, in person or by attorney, when the certificates are surrendered but not otherwise and which suffers a stockholder to transfer to anybody on the books of the bank his stock, without producing and surrendering the certificates thereof, is liable to a bona fide transferee for value of the same stock who produces the certificates with properly executed power of attorney to transfer, and this is so although no notice have been given to the bank of the latter transfer.

Page 78 U. S. 370

The 36th section of the National Currency Act of 1863, [Footnote 1] under which the national banks were organized and which provides for the distribution of the stock into shares and for its being assignable, contained this restriction, to-wit, than no shareholder should have power to sell or assign his shares so long as he should be liable to the association either as principal, debtor, or surety, or otherwise, for any debt that should have become due, while it remained unpaid.

The 12th section of the National Currency Act of June 3d, 1864, which expressly repealed this act of 1863, [Footnote 2] gives to the banks the right, either by laws or in their articles of association, to prescribe the manner in which stock shall be transferable on their books.

The 35th section of the same act of 1864 prohibits "any loan or discount on the security of the shares of a bank's own capital stock," also the purchasing or holding such shares unless necessary to prevent loss on a debt previously contracted in good faith, and directs that stock so purchased or acquired shall be sold or disposed of in six months, in default of which a receiver shall be appointed. [Footnote 3] And it omits the restriction upon the transfer of shares contained in the above quoted 36th section of the act of 1863.

By the section in the act of 1864, repealing the act of 1863, it is

"provided that such repeal shall not affect any act done or proceedings had, or any organization, acts or proceedings of any association organized or in process of organization under the act aforesaid."

The 37th section of the act of 1863 had contained a provision similar to this 35th section of the act of 1864, though its prohibition against the holding by a bank of its own stock was less stringent. [Footnote 4]

This act of 1864 being in force, Lanier and Handy brought suit in the court below against the First National Bank of South Bend to obtain pecuniary satisfaction for the refusal by the bank to permit the transfer of certain shares of stock

Page 78 U. S. 371

on its books to them on the ground that the law imposed the duty on the corporation to allow the transfer, and raised an implied promise in their favor that the duty should be performed. The case made by their declaration was this:

On the 8th of July, 1865, the bank issued two certificates of stock to one Culver, which declared that he was entitled to 150 shares in the capital stock of the institution and that these shares were transferable on the books of the bank, in person or by attorney, only on the surrender of the certificates. This limitation on the power of transfer was in conformity with the terms of a bylaw on the subject. On the 29th of January, 1866, Lanier and Handy purchased 138 shares of this stock from Culver for value, and obtained from him the stock certificates regularly assigned, with the usual powers of attorney to transfer the stock, of which transaction the bank was notified on the 31st day of the same month of January. This purchase was not followed up by an immediate request for the transfer of the stock, but in the month of January, 1868, this request was regularly made and refused.

The bank, in justification of its conduct, interposed three pleas in bar, which set up two distinct defenses.

The first and third pleas justified the refusal on the ground that at the time the stock was taken by Culver, he had pledged it as a security for such deposits as the bank might from time to time make with the house of Culver, Penn & Co., of New York, of which he was a member, and that to make the pledge more effectual, by power of attorney regularly executed, he authorized his attorney in fact to sell and transfer the stock in case the bank conceived it to be necessary, and to apply the proceeds to liquidate any balance due the bank from Culver, Penn & Co., and that 50 shares had actually been sold in pursuance of this agreement, and the proceeds applied before Culver assigned the stock certificates to the plaintiffs, and the remaining shares had been sold before the bank had notice that they were assigned.

The second plea alleged the organization of the bank under the act of 1863, and that being so organized it established certain bylaws for conducting its business and for

Page 78 U. S. 372

its protection, and to regulate the transfers of stock which were in pursuance of the authority vested in the bank by the act of Congress aforesaid, and that the same had been from the time of their adoption, and still were in force, unrepealed and unchanged; that by virtue of the 15th section of these bylaws it was provided that the stock of the bank should be assignable only on its books, subject to the provisions and restrictions of the act of Congress; that among the provisions and restrictions of the act was one contained in the 36th section, providing that the stock should be assignable on the books in such manner as the bylaws of the bank should prescribe, but that no shareholder should have power to sell or transfer any share so long as he should be liable to the bank for any debt. And the plea averred that the provisions of the said section thirty-six, by the force of the bylaws of the said bank and by virtue of the said 15th section of them, became and was a part of the bylaws of the bank, and regulated the transfers of the shares of stock held and owned in the same, and was still a part thereof, in full force and unrepealed by any act of the bank. And it averred further that Culver was indebted &c.

To each of these pleas the plaintiffs filed general demurrers, which, on joinder, were sustained by the court, and the bank declining to answer further, judgment was rendered against her. She now brought the case here on error. The errors complained of being upon the rulings of the court in sustaining the demurrers to these pleas.

Page 78 U. S. 374



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