A $1.2 Million Bank Error Buys a House, and an Arrest, Officials Say

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Recipients of cash wired in error are typically required to return it.

James J. Angel, an associate professor of finance at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, said those were examples that generally involve a recipient who does not have a “natural claim” to the funds.

“In general, if it’s not yours, you’ve got to give it back,” he said, emphasizing that he was speaking generally, and not commenting specifically on the Spadoni case. “Somebody who is not expecting it, hasn’t requested it, and it suddenly shows up? It was obviously an error.”

But a federal judge’s ruling this year offers a prominent exception. In 2020, Citigroup accidentally wired $900 million to a group of lenders, intending to make a small interest payment on behalf of the beauty company Revlon, but instead repaying them in full.

Some of the lenders, who had sued Revlon and Citi seeking repayment of the loan, refused to return about $500 million. In February, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan ruled that the recipients did not have to return the cash because they had reasonable grounds to believe the payment was intentional.

The “Citigroup case is definitely an outlier because they had made a previous claim on the money,” Dr. Angel said.

John C. Coffee Jr., a Columbia Law School professor, said someone who finds money has a legal obligation to try to make restoration.

“Even if Schwab was negligent, that doesn’t give her a right to hold on to this found property,” he said. “These cases come up now and then. Bank delivery trucks do get into car crashes, and money does come out behind them, and the police and others want you to give it back.”

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