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NATIONAL CITY BANK NEW YORK v. HOTCHKISS

November 3, 1913

NATIONAL CITY BANK OF NEW YORK
v.
HOTCHKISS, AS TRUSTEE IN BANKRUPTCY OF HASKINS

HOTCHKISS, AS TRUSTEE IN BANKRUPTCY OF HASKINS
v.
NATIONAL CITY BANK OF NEW YORK



APPEALS FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Lurton, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney

Author: Holmes

[ 231 U.S. Page 54]

 MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a suit by a trustee in bankruptcy to recover certain securities alleged to have been transferred to the

[ 231 U.S. Page 55]

     defendant bank by way of preference. The plaintiff had a judgment in the District Court, 200 Fed. Rep. 287, id. 299, and in the Circuit Court of Appeals, 201 Fed. Rep. 664; 120 C.C.A. 92. Both parties appeal; the plaintiff upon a subordinate question as to its right to elect damages instead of a return of the securities.

The case arose upon what is known in New York as a clearance loan. Brokers need large sums to clear or pay for the stocks that they receive in the course of the day, and as the stocks must be paid for before they are received and can be pledged to raise the necessary funds, these sums are advanced by the banks. They are returned later on the same day by making deposits to the borrower's account and drawing a check to the order of the bank. Perhaps such a general course of dealing might be arranged so as to give a lien on the loan or its proceeds until payment, but the question whether such a lien has been created rarely, if ever, has arisen, the whole business being finished in a few hours. It is, however, the main issue in this case.

The bankrupts were brokers in partnership and at ten o'clock on January 19, 1910, had assets exceeding their liabilities by nearly half a million dollars. These assets consisted largely in the stock of a coal and iron company in which there was a pool. Before twelve, there was a break in the market, the stock went down and at about noon the suspension of the firm was announced. A petition in involuntary bankruptcy was filed at ten minutes after four on the same day. At about ten, the bank made a clearance loan to the bankrupts of $500,000 in the usual way to enable them to meet their current obligations and to get the stocks deliverable on that day, the bank receiving demand notes and both parties acting in good faith. The sum was credited in the deposit account of the firm, in addition to $54,319.98 already there, and soon after the bank certified and subsequently paid checks amounting

[ 231 U.S. Page 56]

     to $535,920.74. During the day the firm made deposits which are not in question, but there remained due upon the loan $166,166.69. Officers of the bank noticing the drop in the stock went to the firm, demanded payment or securities to make good the obligations to the bank, and were told of the suspension and that a petition in bankruptcy would be filed. After two hours discussion the securities in question were delivered between 2 and 3 p.m., but the officers were told that the delivery was a preference. Some of the securities bore no relation to the loan; others and, it may be assumed for purposes of argument, most, had been released by the money thus obtained.

In dealing with transactions of this kind we may go far in giving them any form that will carry out the mutually understood intent. Sexton v. Kessler, 225 U.S. 90, 96, 97. But if the intent was doubtful or inconsistent with the legal effect of dominant facts, it must fail. For instance, apart from possible exceptions, a man cannot retain a domicil in one place when he has moved to another and intends to reside there for the rest of his life, by any wish, declaration or intent inconsistent with the dominant facts of where he actually lives and what he actually means to do. Dickinson v. Brookline, 181 Massachusetts, 195. In the present case it is agreed that it was expected and understood that no portion of the clearance loan was to be used for any purpose other than to clear securities. But on the other hand, by consent of the bank as it seems, the loan was put into the general deposit account, which was drawn upon for general purposes, at least to the extent of the balance above the loan; the securities released were not kept separate but were used like any others; and no separate account was kept of money received from deliveries of stock so released. What happened as between these parties was simply that all monies received in the course of the day from whatever source went into the firm's

[ 231 U.S. Page 57]

     deposit account with the bank. So that, even if we take it, as a corollary of what was understood, that the use of the clearance loan was expected to enable the firm to repay the loan, it does not appear to have been expected that the proceeds should be appropriated specifically to that end, but simply that the addition of such proceeds to the general funds of the firm would enable the latter to pay within the time allowed. This is the view of the facts taken by the master and both of the courts below. They also found that ...


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