decided: April 11, 1898.
ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MONTANA.
[ 170 U.S. Page 39]
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER delivered the opinion of the court.
The Supreme Court of Montana held that as between donor and donee a valid gift of the stock was made by the delivery thereof, without a transfer of the shares on the books of the bank or endorsement on the back of the certificates themselves, which carried the equitable title and entitled the donee to call for the legal title as against the representative of the donor's estate. This conclusion was arrived at solely on principles of general law, and in itself involved the disposition of no Federal question.
It is true that by section 5139 of the Revised Statutes shares of the capital stock of national banks are declared to be personal property, "transferable on the books of the association in such manner as may be prescribed in the by-laws or articles of association," and it is conceded by defendant in error that by one of the by-laws of defendant bank it was prescribed that its stock should be "assignable and transferable only on the books of this bank, subject to the restrictions and provisions of the banking laws, and transfer books shall be provided, in which all assignments and transfers of stock shall be made. No transfer of stock shall be made without the consent of the board of directors by any stockholder who shall be liable, either as principal debtor or otherwise;" and that the certificates in question contained the provision: "Transferable only by him or his attorney on the books of this bank on the surrender of this certificate."
But these matters raised no Federal question. The rights of third parties, or of creditors, or of the bank, were not in issue or determined here, but simply the equities as between the particular parties. The representative of the donor was manifestly bound by the donor's valid acts, and could assert no right superior to his. His right to make the gift was the right to dispose of his own property, and whether as between him and his donee the equitable title passed was a question of general or local law. The administrator's claim that he was entitled to receive the stock as representing the estate or for
[ 170 U.S. Page 40]
the benefit of the next of kin rested on that law as administered by the courts of the State.
So far as the act of Congress is concerned, we understand the doctrine to be, as stated in Johnston v. Laflin, 103 U.S. 800, 804, that: "The transferability of shares in the national banks is not governed by different rules from those which are ordinarily applied to the transfer of shares in other corporate bodies."
In Black v. Zacharie, 3 How. 483, 513, it was said: "It is true that the charters of the Carrollton Bank and of the Gaslight and Banking Company provide that no transfer of the stock of these corporations shall be valid or effectual until such transfers shall be entered or registered in a book or books to be kept for that purpose by the corporation. But this is manifestly a regulation designed for the security of the bank itself, and of third persons taking transfers of the stock without notice of any prior equitable transfer. It relates to the transfer of the legal title, and not of any equitable interest in the stock subordinate to that title. In the case of the Union Bank of Georgetown v. Laird, 2 Wheat. 390, this court took notice of the distinction between the legal and equitable title in cases of bank stock, where the charter of the bank had provided for the mode of transfer. The general construction which has been put upon the charters of other banks containing similar provisions as to the transfer of their stock, is, that the provisions are designed solely for the safety and security of the bank itself, and of purchasers without notice; and that as between vendor and vendee a transfer, not in conformity to such provisions, is good to pass the equitable title and divest the vendor of all interest in the stock. Such are the decisions in the cases of the Bank of Utica v. Smalley, 2 Cowen, 770, 777, 778; Gilbert v. Manchester Iron Co., 11 Wend. 628; Commercial Bank of Buffalo v. Kortright, 22 Wend. 348, 362; Quiner v. Marblehead Insurance Co., 10 Mass. 476, and Sergeant v. Franklin Ins. Co., 8 Pick. 90."
We cannot perceive that any title, right, privilege or immunity was specially set up or claimed by the administrator under a law of the United States and denied by the highest
[ 170 U.S. Page 41]
tribunal of the State, which is the ground of jurisdiction relied on. The controversy was merely as to which of the claimants had the superior equity to these shares of stock, and the national banking act was only collaterally involved. Conde v. York, 168 U.S. 642; Union National Bank v. Louisville &c. Railway, 163 U.S. 325; Eustis v. Bolles, 150 U.S. 361.
Writ of error dismissed.
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN was of opinion that this court had jurisdiction and that the judgment should be affirmed.
© 1998 VersusLaw Inc.