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decided: May 29, 1911.




Author: Day

[ 221 U.S. Page 515]

 MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the court.

These cases are practically alike. No. 132 is a writ of error to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit; No. 133 is a writ of error to the Superior Court of Massachusetts. The suits were originally brought by Albert S. Apsey, receiver of the First National Bank of Chelsea, Massachusetts, against George E. Kimball and Anna G. Whittemore, respectively, under § 5151 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, making the shareholders of a national banking association individually responsible in a sum equal to the amount of their stock therein at the par value thereof, in addition to the amount invested in such shares.

In each of the cases the courts whose judgments are here for review reached the conclusion that the shareholder sued was not liable to the receiver on account of such statutory obligation. In the case from Massachusetts, while the final judgment was entered in the Superior Court of that State, the decision was in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, and is reported in 199 Massachusetts, 65.

As originally organized, national banks had a corporate existence of twenty years. By the act of July 12, 1882, 22 Stat. 162, c. 290, such banks were authorized to continue their corporate existence for another twenty years. As pointed out in § 2 of the act, such extension must be authorized by consent in writing of shareholders owning not less than two-thirds of the capital stock of the association. Before granting a certificate of approval of such extension the Comptroller of the Currency is required to cause a special examination of the bank to be made, and

[ 221 U.S. Page 516]

     if after such examination, or otherwise, it appears to him that the association is in a satisfactory condition, he is required to grant his certificate of approval, or if it appear that the condition of the association is not satisfactory, he shall withhold the same.

Section 5, which is the important one in this case, provides:

"That when any national banking association has amended its articles of association as provided in this act, and the Comptroller has granted his certificate of approval, any shareholder not assenting to such amendment may give notice in writing to the directors within thirty days from the date of the certificate of approval, of his desire to withdraw from said association, in which case he shall be entitled to receive from said banking association the value of the shares so held by him, to be ascertained by an appraisal made by a committee of three persons, one to be selected by such shareholder, one by the directors, and the third by the first two; and in case the value so fixed shall not be satisfactory to any such shareholder, he may appeal to the Comptroller of the Currency, who shall cause a reappraisal to be made, which shall be final and binding; and if said reappraisal shall exceed the value fixed by said committee, the bank shall pay the expenses of said reappraisal, and otherwise the appellant shall pay said expenses; and the value so ascertained and determined shall be deemed to be a debt due, and be forthwith paid, to said shareholder from said bank; and the shares so surrendered and appraised shall, after due notice, be sold at public sale, within thirty days after the final appraisal provided in this section."

Except as to the number of shares held by the shareholders sued in the two cases, and the times at which the same were acquired, the facts in both cases are essentially the same. Case No. 132 was tried upon an agreed statement of facts, as follows:

[ 221 U.S. Page 517]

     "The First National Bank of Chelsea was, prior to August 16, 1906, a banking association duly organized and existing under the provisions of the National Banking Act and amendments, with a capital of $300,000 divided into 3000 shares of the par value of $100 each; that on said August 16, 1906, the said bank closed its doors and suspended business; that on August 25, 1906, the plaintiff was duly appointed by the Comptroller of the Currency, receiver of said bank; that on September 25, 1906, the Comptroller of the Currency ordered an assessment of $100 per share on each share of stock in said bank, payable by the stockholders, according to their respective holdings, on or before October 25, 1906, and ordered the plaintiff to collect and recover the same by proper proceedings; that the defendant received from said receiver a copy of said order of assessment and a separate notice and demand for payment, all of which were in the following form:

"The defendant, on November 18, 1901, became the owner of twenty (20) shares of the capital stock of said bank, and on said date received two certificates, each for ten (10) shares; on November 20, 1901, he became the owner of fifteen (15) shares and received a certificate therefor; and on August 31, 1904, he became the owner of five (5) shares, and received a certificate therefor. Said four certificates were each and all in the following form, mutatis mutandis, and their numbers were respectively 1235, 1236, 1237 and 1238.


The First National Bank of Chelsea.

No. ...

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