Anderson v. Philadelphia Warehouse Company

In Anderson v. Philadelphia Warehouse Co., 111 U.S. 479 (1884), the law as laid down in the prior case was somewhat relaxed, and a tendency manifested to look more closely at the equities. In that case Blumer & Co. borrowed a sum of money from the defendant, and as security for the loan transferred 450 shares of stock of the First National Bank of Allentown standing in the name of one Kern, a partner in the firm of Blumer & Co., on the books of the bank, and had a new certificate issued in the name of one Henry, president of the defendant warehouse company. The fact of the transfer of this stock to its president was brought to the attention of the directors of the warehouse company, who deemed it inadvisable to have the stock stand in the name of the president, and it was therefore transferred to one McCloskey, a porter in the employ of the company, and irresponsible. McCloskey never had possession of the certificate, and at the request of the warehouse company, gave a power of attorney for the sale and transfer of the stock, and shortly thereafter died. The stock was subsequently transferred to one Ferris, another employe, also irresponsible. Dividends were regularly paid on this stock to Kern, and the warehouse company never acted as a shareholder. It was held that, as there was no evidence of fraud or bad faith; as the warehouse company was never the owner of the stock, and never held itself out as such; never consented to a transfer of stock on the books; never claimed dividends, or acted as a shareholder, or ever pretended to be anything but a mere pledgee, it was not liable. Said the court: "The creditors were put in no worse position by the transfers that were made than they would have been if the stock had remained in the name of Kern or Blumer & Co. who were always the real owners." It was held that, as the defendant promptly declined to allow itself to stand as a registered shareholder, because it was unwilling to incur the liability such a registry would impose, and asked that the transfer be made to McCloskey, from that time the case stood precisely as it would, if the transfer had been originally made to him instead of to Henry, the president of the company. "All this was done in good faith, when the bank was in good credit and paying large dividends, and years before its failure or even its embarrassment." In Anderson v. Philadelphia Warehouse Company, 111 U.S. 479 (1884), it was held that the mere pledgee who had never acted as a shareholder would not be liable as such, notwithstanding the stock was transferred on the books of the bank and the certificate issued to an irresponsible person, in that instance a porter in the employment of the company, and this although the transfer had been thus made for the purpose of avoiding liability which might be incurred by the shareholders of the bank, in case of insolvency. In the course of the opinion, Mr. Chief Justice Waite, speaking for the court, recognized that the real owner might be held liable as a shareholder, but in that case the facts showed the warehouse company, sought to be held as a shareholder, was never other than a pledgee, and that notwithstanding the transfer to the irresponsible person, the real ownership of the stock remained in the original holder.