Слике страница

Opinion of the Court.

pose only of securing the payment of that debt without incurring the responsibility of a shareholder — he, the creditor, will not, although the real owner may, be treated as a shareholder within the meaning of section 5151; and,

That the pledgee of personal property occupies towards the pledgor somewhat of a fiduciary relation, by virtue of which, he being a trustee to sell, it becomes his duty to exercise his right of sale for the benefit of the pledgor.

The present case differs from those cited in the important particular that the stock list of the bank gave information to all who examined it that the State Loan and Trust Company was not the real or absolute owner of the shares in question, but held them only as “ pledgee"; that there was no “out and out” transfer of the stock, whereby the transferrer, as between him and the transferee, parted with his interest; and that the real ownership remained with the pledgor, the pledgee acquiring only a lien upon the stock to secure its debt.

In the case of Finn v. Brown, 112 U. S. 56, 71, the question was as to the liability as a shareholder of a director of a bank who appeared upon its books to be the owner of a given number of shares of stock. The court said: “It appears by the evidence that the bank had a stock register and a book of certificates of shares, and that a list of stockholders and of transfers was kept in one of its books, although it had no regular stock book. The jury would not have been justified in holding the defendant not liable for the assessment on the 50 shares or for the $1750 dividend. The dividend was undoubtedly fraudulent, and the records of the bank were falsified in showing that the defendant was present at the meeting at which the dividend was declared. It was declared, probably, by De Walt himself alone, for the purpose of showing a fictitious prosperity and of concealing from the public and the director's the real condition of the affairs of the bank. The defendant had had no previous connection with a banking business, and was deceived by De Walt. But all this cannot relieve him from liability. The statutes of the United States are explicit as to the necessary ownership of stock in a national bank by a director thereof, and as to his taking

Opinion of the Court.

an oath to that effect, and as to the keeping by the cashier of a correct list of the shareholders and of the number of shares each of them holds; and it cannot be held, with any safety to the interests of the public and those who deal with national banks, that a director, who also is vice president and acts as cashier, can shield himself from liability by alleging ignorance of what appears by the books of which he has charge."

Does the statute, in letter or spirit, require that the word “pledgee,” appended to the name of the party to whom certificates 308 and 309 were issued, should be entirely ignored ? Is the holder of such certificates in no better condition, in respect of liability as a shareholder, than if such list had imported absolute ownership in the transferee? The statute requires that there shall be kept, at all times, in the office where the business of a national banking association is transacted, and subject, during business hours, to the inspection of shareholders and creditors of the association, as well as of officers authorized to assess taxes under state authority, a full and correct list of the names and residences of all the shareholders of the association, and of the number of shares held by each. Section 5210. Manifestly, one, if not the principal, object of this requirement, was to give creditors of the association, as well as state authorities, information as to the shareholders upon whom, if the association becomes insolvent, will rest the individual liability for its contracts, debts and engagements. Referring to this provision this court said, in Waite v. Dowley, 94 U. S. 527, 534, that the act of Congress was merely designed to furnish to the public dealing with the bank a knowledge of the naines of its corporators, and to what extent they might be relied on as giving safety to dealing with the bank.” And, let it be observed, the liability upon shareholders is to the extent of the amount of their stock at the par value thereof, "in addition to the amount invested in such shares.” The word “invested" plainly has reference to those who originally or by subsequent purchase become the real owners of the stock, and cannot refer to those who never invested money in the shares, but only received the certificates of stock, or it may be the legal title thereto, as

Opinion of the Court.

collateral security for debts or obligations already or to be contracted.

It is true that one who does not in fact invest his money in such shares, but who, although receiving them simply as collateral security for debts or obligations, holds himself out on the books of the association as true owner, may be treated as the owner, and therefore liable to assessment, when the association becomes insolvent and goes into the hands of a receiver. But this is upon the ground that by allowing his name to appear upon the stock list as owner he represents that he is such owner; and he will not be permitted, after the bank fails and when an assessment is made, to assume any other position as against creditors. If, as between creditors and the person assessed, the latter is not held bound by that representation, the list of shareholders required to be kept for the inspection . of creditors and others would lose most of its value.

But this rule can have no just application when, as in this case, the creditors were informed by that list that the party to whom certificates were issued was not in fact, and did not assume to be, the owner of the shares represented by them, but was and assumed to be only a pledgee having no general property in the thing pledged, but only a right, upon default, to sell in satisfaction of the pledgor's obligation. Upon inspecting the stock registry or any list of shareholders or of transfers kept by the bank, creditors will know that they cannot regard a pledgee as the actual owner. If the certificates in question had been extended so as to give the name of the pledgor, it would not be supposed that, upon any principle of justice, or upon grounds of public policy, the pledgee could have been held to the liability imposed by section 5151 upon shareholders. But the liability being purely statutory, the result ought not to be different because of the circumstance that the name of the pledgor was omitted from the certificates, since that which did appear in them was sufficient to inform creditors that the State Loan and Trust Company was only a pledgee, and by slight diligence they could have ascertained the name of the pledgor.

It may be suggested that if the pledgee is not held liable

Opinion of the Court.

as a shareholder, in respect of the shares of stock standing in its name as pledgee, then no one is liable to assessment as the owner of such stock. But it is a mistake to suppose that Havermale and Collins ceased to be shareholders for the purposes of the liability imposed by section 5151. They remained, notwithstanding the pledge, the actual owners of the stock, a right which they would have promptly asserted if the pledgee had assumed to be the owner and had sold the stock, appropriating to itself all the proceeds of sale. The object of the statute is not to be defeated by the mere forms of transactions between shareholders and their creditors. The courts will look at the relations of parties as they actually are, or as, by reason of their conduct, they must be assumed to be for the protection of creditors. Congress did not say that those only should be regarded as shareholders, liable for the contracts, debts and engagements of the banking association, whose names appear on the stock list distinctly as shareholders. A mistake or error in keeping the official list of shareholders would not prevent creditors from holding liable all who were, in fact, the real owners of the stock, and as such had invested money in the shares of the association. As already indicated, those may be treated as shareholders, within the meaning of section 5151, who are the real owners of the stock, or who hold themselves out, or allow themselves to be held out, as owners in such way and under such circumstances as, upon principles of fair dealing, will estop them, as against creditors, from claiming that they were not, in fact, owners.

It was under this construction of the statute that one was held liable as a shareholder who, in the belief that the bank was about to fail, and whose liability as a shareholder had equitably attached, collusively transferred his stock to an irresponsible person, in order to escape responsibility as a shareholder. This was held to be a fraud upon the statute, and the transferrer was held, as between him and the creditors, as the real owner of the stock, and, therefore, liable, although the transferee appeared on the stock registry as the shareholder. Bowden v. Johnson, above cited. Under the

Statement of the Case.

same interpretation a corporation was treated as a shareholder who held shares of stock only as collateral security, but who allowed its name to appear and remain on the stock registry of the insolvent national bank association as owner, without anything indicating that it held such stock as collateral security. National Bank v. Case, above cited. So, in another case, it was held that the transferrers "remained the owners of the stock, though registered in the name of others, and pledged as collateral security for their debt.” Anderson v. Philadelphia Warehouse Co., above cited.

Our conclusion is that the defendant in error cannot be regarded otherwise than as a pledgee of the stock in question, is not a shareholder within the meaning of section 5151 of the Revised Statutes, and is not, therefore, subject to the liability imposed upon the shareholders of national banking associations by that section.

This view of the case makes it unnecessary to consider whether the State Loan and Trust Company, being a pledgee of the stock, was a “trustee” within the meaning of section 5152, providing that “persons holding stock as executors, administrators, guardians or trustees shall not be personally subject to any liabilities as stockholders." The judgment is




No. 172. Argued January 26, 1997. – Decided March 1, 1897.

Where a suit is brought on a contract of which a patent is the subject-mat

ter, either to enforce such contract, or to annul it, the case arises on the contract, or out of the contract, and not under the patent laws; and, if brought in a state court, this court is without appellate jurisdiction to review the judgment unless it appears that a right under the laws of the United States was properly set up and claimed which was denied by the state court.

This was a bill in equity brought by Charles Wade against

« ПретходнаНастави »