Missouri District Court Holds State Funds Transfer Act Preempts Certain Customer Indemnity Agreements
On August 20, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri dismissed a bank’s counterclaims that its customer’s agreement to indemnify the bank for any losses, costs, or expenses covers the customer’s losses from an allegedly fraudulent transfer of funds. Choice Escrow & Title, LLC v. BancorpSouth Bank, No. 10-03531, slip op. (W.D.Mo. Aug. 20, 2012). The customer sued the bank claiming that a $440,000 wire transfer from its account through the bank’s internet wire transfer system was fraudulently initiated by a third-party. The bank filed four counterclaims for the same amount based on indemnity agreements signed by the customer. The customer moved to dismiss the counterclaims, arguing that the state Funds Transfer Act, part of the Uniform Commercial Code, displaces the counterclaims. Describing its decision as a “very close call,” the court held that the Funds Transfer Act preempts the types of indemnity agreements relied upon by the bank in its counterclaims and dismissed those claims. The court reasoned that while the Funds Transfer Act generally was not intended to preempt or displace all causes of action between a bank and its customers, the Act does provide that common law causes of action based on allegedly fraudulent transfers are preempted where the common law claims would create rights, duties, or liabilities inconsistent with the Act or where the circumstances giving rise to the claims are specifically covered by the Act. The court held the indemnity agreements could require the customer to pay back to the bank the very losses the bank might owe if the customer proves a fraudulent transfer, a result that is inconsistent with the Act.