United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REMAND; DENYING MOTION TO
DISMISS Re: Dkt. Nos. 8, 12
A. Westmore United States Magistrate Judge.
Stephen Tonelli filed the instant case against Defendants
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (“Wells Fargo Bank”),
Wells Fargo Clearing Services LLC dba Wells Fargo
Advisors, LLC (“Wells Fargo Advisors”), and
Shehzad Bhatti. (Compl., Dkt. No. 20-1.) On August 15, 2019,
Defendant Wells Fargo Bank removed the case to federal court,
asserting diversity jurisdiction. (Not. of Removal at 1, Dkt.
No. 1.) While Defendants concede that Defendants Wells Fargo
Advisors and Bhatti are California citizens, they assert that
both Defendants were fraudulently joined. (Id.
before the Court are: (1) Defendant Wells Fargo Bank's
motion to dismiss, and (2) Plaintiff's motion to remand.
(Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Dkt. No. 8; Pl.'s Mot. to
Remand, Dkt. No. 12.) Having considered the parties'
filings, the relevant legal authorities, and the arguments
presented at the October 17, 2019 hearing, the Court GRANTS
Plaintiff's motion to remand and DENIES Defendant Wells
Fargo Bank's motion to dismiss as moot.
8, 2015, Plaintiff's brother - Kevin Tonelli - executed
the Tonelli Trust - 2005 (“Trust”). (Compl.
¶ 7.) In 2018, Mr. Tonelli executed a Second Amendment
which identified Mr. Tonelli's Wells Fargo checking and
savings account (“Bank Accounts”) as property of
the Trust. (Compl. ¶ 10.)
December 18, 2017, Mr. Tonelli executed a special power of
attorney giving Plaintiff authority to conduct business with
Defendant Wells Fargo Bank. (Compl. ¶ 12.) Using the
special power of attorney, Plaintiff deposited funds into the
Bank Accounts. (Compl. ¶ 13.) As of April 30, 2018, the
balance in the Bank Accounts exceeded $497, 000. (Compl.
November 2018, Defendant Bank of America ceased sending any
communications, including bank statements, to Plaintiff or
Mr. Tonelli. (Compl. ¶ 15.) On February 21, 2019, Mr.
Tonelli passed away, making Plaintiff the successor trustee
of the Tonelli Trust - 2005. (Compl. ¶¶ 16-17.)
1, 2019, Plaintiff notified Defendant Bank of America that
Mr. Tonelli had passed away. (Compl. ¶ 18.) On July 1,
2019, Defendant Bhatti, allegedly acting on behalf of
Defendants, informed Plaintiff that he could not provide
Plaintiff any information concerning the Bank Accounts except
that the balances in the Bank Accounts was sixty cents.
(Compl. ¶ 19.) On July 2, 2019, Plaintiff provided
Defendants a “Certificate of the Trust.” (Compl.
¶ 20.) Nevertheless, Defendants refused to provide
Plaintiff any other information about the Bank Accounts, and
have continued to refuse to provide any further information
or documentation about the Bank Accounts. (Compl. ¶ 21.)
12, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant action against
Defendants, asserting claims for: (1) conversion, (2)
accounting, and (3) violation of California's Unfair
Competition Law (“UCL”). With respect to the
conversion claim, Plaintiff alleged that “Defendants
have failed and refused to turn over funds from the Bank
Accounts to Plaintiff, ” and asserted that
“Defendants withdrew funds from the Bank Accounts
without authorization, and converted these funds for their
own use.” (Compl. ¶¶ 26-27.) Plaintiff's
UCL claim is also based on Defendants' alleged
“conver[sion of] funds from the Tonelli Trust -
2005.” (Compl. ¶ 37.)
August 15, 2019, Defendant Wells Fargo Bank removed the
instant case based on diversity jurisdiction. (Not. of
Removal at 1.) Defendant Wells Fargo Bank asserted that the
citizenship of Defendants Wells Fargo Advisors and Bhatti
should be disregarded because “Plaintiff has alleged no
concrete facts that any Defendant committed any wrongdoing .
. . .” (Id. ¶ 18.)
also provided a declaration by Defendant Bhatti, who is a
Personal Banker 2 at Defendant Wells Fargo Bank and a
Brokerage Associate for Defendant Wells Fargo Advisors.
(Bhatti Decl. ¶ 3, Dkt. No. 3.) Defendant Bhatti states
that he has never interacted with anyone regarding the Bank
Accounts, except for his interactions with Plaintiff in early
July 2019. (Bhatti Decl. ¶ 7.) Specifically, on July 2,
2019, Defendant Bhatti informed Plaintiff that he was not in
a position to provide Mr. Tonelli's personal account
information to Plaintiff. (Bhatti Decl. ¶ 8.) On July 5,
2019, Plaintiff provided documents relating to a trust in Mr.
Tonelli's name. (Bhatti Decl. ¶ 9.) Defendant Bhatti
informed Plaintiff that because the Bank Accounts were not
set up as trust accounts, he could not provide Mr.
Tonelli's personal account information to Plaintiff.
(Bhatti Decl. ¶ 10.) Defendant Bhatti states that he did
not discuss Defendant Wells Fargo Advisors with Plaintiff at
any time, nor did he say or do anything on behalf of
Defendant Wells Fargo Advisors as to Plaintiff. (Decl. ¶
6.) Defendant Bhatti further denies that he withdrew any
funds from Mr. Tonelli's account for his personal use or
any other purpose. (Decl. ¶ 11.)
August 22, 2019, Defendant Wells Fargo Bank filed a motion to
dismiss. Plaintiff filed his opposition on September 16,
2019, and Defendant Wells Fargo Bank filed its reply on
September 23, 2019. (Pl.'s Opp'n, Dkt. No. 14;
Def.'s Reply, Dkt. No. 16.) On September 6, 2019,
Plaintiff filed a motion to remand. Defendant Wells Fargo
Bank, N.A. filed its opposition on September 19, 2019, and
Plaintiff filed his reply on September 23, 2019. (Def.'s
Opp'n, Dkt. No. 15; Pl.'s Reply, Dkt. No. 17.)