Justia Banking Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Commercial Law
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This case involves Commerzbank AG, a German bank, and U.S. Bank, N.A., an American bank. Commerzbank sued U.S. Bank, alleging that it had failed to fulfill its duties as a trustee for residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) that Commerzbank had purchased. The case revolved around three main issues: whether Commerzbank could bring claims related to trusts with "No Action Clauses"; whether Commerzbank's claims related to certificates held through German entities were timely; and whether Commerzbank could bring claims related to certificates it had sold to third parties.The district court had previously dismissed Commerzbank's claims related to trusts with No Action Clauses, granted judgment in favor of U.S. Bank on the timeliness of Commerzbank's claims related to the German certificates, and denied Commerzbank's claims related to the sold certificates. Commerzbank appealed these decisions.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decisions on the timeliness of the German certificate claims and the denial of the sold certificate claims. However, it vacated the district court's dismissal of Commerzbank's claims related to trusts with No Action Clauses and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court found that Commerzbank's failure to make pre-suit demands on parties other than trustees could be excused in certain circumstances where these parties are sufficiently conflicted. View "Commerzbank AG v. U.S. Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Consolidated suits claimed that many firms in the broiler-chicken business formed a cartel. Third-party discovery in that ongoing suit turned up evidence that Rabobank, a lender to several broiler-chicken producers, urged at least two of them to cut production. Some plaintiffs added Rabobank as an additional defendant.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of those claims. The Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, bans combinations and conspiracies in restraint of trade and does not reach unilateral action. Here, all the plaintiffs allege is that Rabobank tried to protect its interests through unilateral action. The complaint does not allege that Rabobank served as a conduit for the producers’ agreement, helped them coordinate their production and catch cheaters, or even knew that the producers were coordinating among themselves. A flurry of emails among managers and other employees at Rabobank observing that lower output and higher prices in the broiler-chicken market would improve the bank’s chance of collecting its loans and a pair of emails from the head of Rabobank’s poultry-lending section, to executives at two producers indicated nothing but unilateral action. The intra-Rabobank emails could not have promoted or facilitated cooperation among producers and the two messages only reminded the producers that as long as demand curves slope downward, lower output implies higher prices. Advice differs from agreement. View "Amory Investments LLC v. Utrecht-America Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Goodman dealt with Martinek of Southern Risk to obtain crop insurance and later discovered that portions of his property could not be farmed. Southern denied his claim. Goodman accused Martinek and Southern of failing to obtain proper coverage. Based on a perceived moral obligation, Martinek provided Goodman with checks drawn from Southern’s Commercial Bank account–for $100,000 and $200,000. Southern’s account had insufficient funds to cover the draws. Goodman gave Martinek nothing in consideration for the checks; they never discussed a lawsuit. Goodman twice unsuccessfully attempted to cash the checks. Months later, after exchanging text messages with Martinek, Goodman was heading to Commercial Bank when Martinek sent an “everything stopped” message. Goodman asked for cashier’s checks in exchange for the Southern checks, without mentioning his past attempts to negotiate the checks. The teller did not check the balance in Southern’s account but printed “teller’s checks” payable to Goodman for $100,000 and $200,000. When the teller realized the account lacked sufficient funds, the Bank issued a stop payment order.Goodman sued to enforce the checks. The Bank counterclaimed for restitution. Under Tennessee’s Commercial Code, if Commercial Bank paid the checks by “mistake” and Goodman had taken those checks in “good faith” and “for value,” the Bank was not entitled to restitution. The district court held that Commercial Bank paid the checks by mistake and that Goodman did not give value. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Commercial Bank. View "Goodman v. Commercial Bank & Trust Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Roy Elizondo and dismissing this action brought by Cadence Bank, N.A. for breach of a deposit agreement, breach of warranty under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), and common-law torts, holding that the lower courts erred.In response to a stranger's email for legal assistance, Elizondo, an attorney, deposited a cashier's check in his bank account then wired most of the funds to an overseas account. The check was dishonored, and the bank charged the transfer back to Elizondo, as allowed by the UCC and the parties' deposit agreement. When Elizondo refused to pay the overdrawn funds Cadence brought this action. The trial court granted summary judgment for Elizondo, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the wire-transfer form failed to create the contractual duty urged by Elizondo. View "Cadence Bank, N.A. v. Elizondo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that Plaintiff lacked standing to enforce the "midnight deadline" rule set forth in section 4-302 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), as adopted by Va. Code 8.4-302 and W. Va. Code 46-4-302, holding that there was no error.In her second amended complaint, Plaintiff alleged that MCNB Bank and Trust Company (MCNB) violated the midnight deadline rule adopted from the UCC and, therefore, MCNB was strictly liable for the payment of a check in the amount of $245,271.25. The circuit court granted summary judgment for MCNB, concluding that Plaintiff lacked standing to pursue her claim because she did not have any right to rely on the prompt payment of the check at issue. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err when it granted MCNB’s motion for summary judgment based on Plaintiff's alleged lack of standing to enforce the midnight deadline rule. View "Stahl v. Stitt" on Justia Law

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TitleMax provides vehicle loans at interest rates as high as 180%. The entire process occurs at a TitleMax brick-and-mortar location. The borrower receives “a check drawn on a bank outside of Pennsylvania,” The borrower grants TitleMax a security interest in the vehicle. TitleMax records its lien with the appropriate state authority. Borrowers can make payments from their home states. TitleMax does not have any offices, employees, agents, or brick-and-mortar stores and is not licensed as a lender in Pennsylvania. TitleMax claims that it never solicited Pennsylvania business and does not run television ads within Pennsylvania.Pursuant to the Consumer Discount Company Act and the Loan Interest and Protection Law, Pennsylvania’s Department of Banking and Securities issued a subpoena requesting documents regarding TitleMax’s interactions with Pennsylvania residents. TitleMax then stopped making loans to Pennsylvania residents and asserts that it has lost revenue.The district court held that Younger abstention did not apply and that the Department’s subpoena’s effect was to apply Pennsylvania’s usury laws extraterritorially in violation of the Commerce Clause.The Third Circuit reversed. Applying the Pennsylvania statutes to TitleMax does not violate the extraterritoriality principle. TitleMax receives payments from within Pennsylvania and maintains an actionable security interest in vehicles located in Pennsylvania; its conduct is not “wholly outside” of Pennsylvania. The laws do not discriminate between in-staters and out-of-staters. Pennsylvania has a strong interest in prohibiting usury. Applying Pennsylvania’s usury laws to TitleMax’s loans furthers that interest and any resulting burden on interstate commerce is, at most, incidental. View "TitleMax of Delaware Inc v. Weissmann" on Justia Law

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In this dispute between a secured lender (Bank) and a grain elevator (Elevator) the Supreme Court reversed in part the district court's judgment in favor of the Bank, holding that the district court erred by applying the discovery rule but otherwise did not err.The Bank filed this civil action alleging damages for drying and storage charges withheld in a three-year period. The Bank asserted that the Elevator had a junior interest to the Bank's prior perfected security interests. The Elevator asserted affirmative defenses of, among other things, failure to state a claim and unjust enrichment. The district court granted the Bank's motion for summary judgment and denied the Elevator's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the district court (1) correctly applied the two-year limitation period in Iowa Code 614.1(10), which barred the Bank's claims filed more than two years from the date of sale of goods subject to its perfected security interest; (2) erred by applying the discovery rule allowing the Bank to recover on transactions that occurred more than two years before it filed its civil action; and (3) correctly ruled that the Bank's prior perfected security interest trumped the Elevator's claim for storage and drying costs. View "MidWestOne Bank v. Heartland Co-op" on Justia Law

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In 1987, Whitaker opened commodity futures trading accounts that eventually were assigned to Wedbush. Whitaker did not enter into a new customer or security agreement with Wedbush. Wedbush held Whitaker’s funds in customer segregated accounts at BMO Harris, which provided an online portal for Wedbush to process its customers' wire transfers. In December 2014, Wedbush received emailed wire transfer requests purporting to be from Whitaker but actually sent by a hacker. Wedbush completed transfers to a bank in Poland totaling $374,960. Each time, Wedbush sent an acknowledgment to Whitaker’s e-mail account; the hacker apparently intercepted all email communications. Whitaker contacted Wedbush after receiving an account statement containing an incorrect balance. After Wedbush refused Whitaker’s demand for the return of the transferred funds, Whitaker filed suit seeking a refund under the UCC (810 ILCS 5/4A-101). The circuit court rejected the UCC counts, stating that Wedbush had not operated as a “bank” under the UCC definition. The appellate court affirmed.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, rejecting an argument that an entity may not qualify as a bank if it does not offer checking services. Courts construe the term “bank” in article 4A liberally to promote the purposes and policies of the UCC. The term “includes some institutions that are not commercial banks” and that “[t]he definition reflects the fact that many financial institutions now perform functions previously restricted to commercial banks, including acting on behalf of customers in funds transfers.” View "Whitaker v. Wedbush Securities, Inc." on Justia Law

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The debtor obtained a commercial loan from Bank. The agreement dated March 9, 2015, granted Bank a security interest in substantially all of the debtor’s assets, described in 26 categories of collateral, such as accounts, cash, equipment, instruments, goods, inventory, and all proceeds of any assets. Bank filed a financing statement with the Illinois Secretary of State, to cover “[a]ll Collateral described in First Amended and Restated Security Agreement dated March 9, 2015.” Two years later, the debtor defaulted and filed a voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. Bank sought to recover $7.6 million on the loan and filed a declaration that its security interest was properly perfected and senior to the interests of all other claimants. The trustee countered that the security interest was not properly perfected because its financing statement did not independently describe the underlying collateral, but instead incorporated the list of assets by reference, and cited 11 U.S.C. 544(a), which empowers a trustee to avoid interests in the debtor’s property that are unperfected as of the petition date. The bankruptcy court ruled that ”[a] financing statement that fails to contain any description of collateral fails to give the particularized kind of notice” required by UCC Article 9. The trustee sold the assets for $1.9 million and holds the proceeds pending resolution of this dispute. The Seventh Circuit reversed, citing the plain and ordinary meaning of the Illinois UCC statute, and how courts typically treat financing statements. View "First Midwest Bank v. Reinbold" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Plaintiff, rather than his Bank, must suffer the financial consequences of the complete draining of Plaintiff’s bank account by an identity theft through a series of fraudulent transactions.At issue was Tex. Bus. & Com. Code 4.406(c), which limits the liability of a bank when the customer fails to comply with his or her duties to examine the statement of account and notify the bank of any unauthorized payment. Rather than monitor his account as contemplated by the statute, for more than a year Plaintiff failed to look for missing bank statements or inquire about the status of his account. The court of appeals rendered judgment for Plaintiff, holding that the Bank neither sent the statements to Plaintiff nor made them available to him, and therefore, his statutory duties to examine the statements and report unauthorized transactions never arose. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Bank made the statements “available” to Plaintiff for purposes of section 4.406; and (2) under the circumstances, section 4.406 precluded Plaintiff’s attempt to hold the Bank liable for the losses. View "Compass Bank v. Calleja-Ahedo" on Justia Law