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California Law Requires Banks To Disregard Notice of Adverse Claims To Accounts

In an all too familiar story, an insurance company's managing agent was tricked into transferring nearly $2 million into the fraudster's account at Wells Fargo Bank.  The plaintiffs then sued the bank alleging that after receiving actual knowledge of fraud on one of its customers, Wells Fargo had a duty to cooperate with Plaintiffs in correcting the fraud.  Magistrate Judge Thomas S. Hixson, however, dismissed the complaint finding "Wells Fargo owed no duty to Plaintiffs vis-à-vis the third-party account in this case, or to cooperate with Plaintiffs to remedy the fraud, or to disclose to Plaintiffs information related to the third-party account."  Venture General Agency, LLC v. Wells Fargo Bank, Case No. 19-cv-02778-TSH (N.D. Cal. Oct. 16, 2019) (footnote omitted).

I found the decision interesting because the ruling cited a California statute that I had first encountered several decades ago:

Notice to any bank of an adverse claim (the person making the adverse claim being hereafter called "adverse claimant") to a deposit standing on its books to the credit of or to personal property held for the account of any person shall be disregarded, and the bank, notwithstanding the notice, shall honor the checks, notes, or other instruments requiring payment of money by or for the account of the person to whose credit the account stands and on demand shall deliver that property to, or on the order of, the person for whose account the property is held, without any liability on the part of the bank[.]

Cal. Fin. Code § 1450 (emphasis added).  It should be noted that the statute does have some exceptions not quoted here.  

Judge Hixson does not explain why he believes a California statute applies to a national bank.  However, Section 1003 of the Financial Code provides that except when explicitly stated or the context provides otherwise, the banking law applies to "[a]ll national banking associations authorized to transact business in this state to the extent that the provisions of this division are not inconsistent with and do not infringe paramount federal laws governing national banking associations".

 

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