The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Friedman, determined the defendant Signature Bank was not liable under the Uniform Commercial Code or under a money had and received theory for the misappropriation of an “official check” for $292,000:
According to the affidavit of Patrick Manzi, Signature’s senior vice president and director of bank operations, “[a]t the time in question, Signature did not issue its own official checks.” … [U]nder an agreement between Signature and Integrated Payment Systems Inc. (IPS), Signature customers were provided by IPS with computer software and check forms that gave them the capability, upon Signature’s approval, to print out a Signature “Official Check” at their own offices. Although such a check bore Signature’s logo and the signatures of Signature officers, and designated Signature as the “Drawer,” the check also indicated in the lower left corner that it was “Issued by Integrated Payment Systems Inc., Englewood, Colorado” through “JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., Denver, Colorado.” In addition, the check bore Chase’s ABA routing number.
In sum, when a Signature customer requested the issuance of an official check, Signature would debit the customer’s account in the requested amount, wire the same amount to the IPS account at Chase, and notify the customer that it had permission to print out the check. In essence, official checks of this kind were drawn by Signature, not on its own account, but on the IPS account at Chase.
Using the above-described procedure, R & L [the Signature customer] procured the issuance of a Signature “Official Check” in the amount of $292,000, payable to … settlement agent, Steven J. Baum P.C.. The check identified R & L as the “Remitter.”… According to a principal of R & L, R & L “forwarded the $292,000 bank check to Kim Saunders, the title closer, who undertook on behalf of the title company . . . to forward this check to Steven J. Baum, P.C. to pay off the seller’s [sic] mortgage.”
It is undisputed that Steven J. Baum P.C., the payee of the check, never received it. The check was, through some unknown chain of events, misappropriated, improperly endorsed, and deposited into the joint account that the sellers of the underlying real property (defendants Richards and Massias) maintained at defendant TD Bank, N.A. The check was subsequently presented for payment to Chase, the drawee bank, which paid it … . OneWest Bank, FSB v Deutsche Bank Natl. Trust Co., 2020 NY Slip Op 03483, First Dept 6-18-20