CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.
Hughes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Cardozo
MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The First National Bank, Boswell, Pennsylvania, was declared insolvent January 26, 1932. Shortly thereafter a receiver took charge.
January 21, 1932, the bank's cashier, without her consent, sold four Liberty Bonds ($100.00 each), belonging to Mrs. Rauch and held by it for safekeeping, to the Lohrs. The purchase price was charged to their deposit account.
Mrs. Rauch died June 2, 1932. Claiming a preference, respondent, her administrator, refused the receiver's offer of a general claim against the estate and brought suit. Upon a directed verdict the administrator obtained judgment as a preferred creditor. The court was of opinion "that the assets of the bank were augmented when the bank received from its customer the price agreed upon for said bonds and, therefore, that the plaintiff is entitled to participate in the distribution of the assets of the defendant bank as a preferred creditor." The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed with an opinion which states: "With the District Judge, we think that the proceeds of these bonds augmented the assets of the bank. They certainly reduced its liability to others."
Petitioner maintains that the bank's assets were not increased through sale of the bonds; that nothing arose therefrom which in original or changed form can be traced into the hands of the receiver.
Respondent submits that since the bank used the bonds in discharge of a liability it "was thereby saved the use of its own funds for that purpose and the assets of the bank at the time of closing were therefore larger in amount than they otherwise would have been. A discharge or reduction of a liability produces a corresponding increase in assets. For every debit there must be a credit."
Obviously, nothing of value was added to the bank's property. Nothing new came into its treasury. A credit entry against an outstanding obligation represented the only possible benefit. Its total liabilities were not reduced since a new obligation arose to pay to the owner the value of the bonds.
Here it is accepted doctrine that when a claim is made for preference against funds held by the receiver of a national bank the burden is upon the claimant to establish his title; he must definitely trace something of value which belonged to him, or the avails therefrom, into the receiver's possession. Schuyler v. Littlefield, 232 U.S. 707, 713; Texas & Pacific Ry. Co. v. Pottorff, 291 U.S. 245, 261. Also, a mere showing that the bank wrongly used ...