A-81829, JANUARY 28, 1937, 16 COMP. GEN. 692

A-81829: Jan 28, 1937

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WHETHER YOU ARE AUTHORIZED TO ABANDON RECLAMATION ON 18 OTHER CHECKS IN FAVOR OF THE SAME PAYEE. THE PAYEE REMARRIED AND THE ENDORSING BANKS ARE RESISTING RECLAMATION ON THE BASIS THAT SAID BANKS WERE NOT REQUIRED TO ASCERTAIN WHETHER OR NOT THE PAYEE WAS UNREMARRIED. THE CHECKS INVOLVED ARE OTHERWISE DESCRIBED AS FOLLOWS: CHART CHECK NO. THE VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION REPORTED THE CIRCUMSTANCES INVOLVED IN THE NEGOTIATION OF THE CHECKS AS FOLLOWS: A DEATH COMPENSATION AWARD WAS APPROVED IN FAVOR OF MRS. PAYMENTS WERE MADE IN ACCORDANCE THEREWITH TO INCLUDE APRIL 30. THE AWARD WAS CANCELLED FOR THE REASON THAT THE PAYEE REMARRIED MARCH 11. ALL OF THE CHECKS WERE ENDORSED IN THE NAME OF THE PAYEE WITHOUT THE LEGEND "AS UNREMARRIED WIDOW OF ALFONSO E.

A-81829, JANUARY 28, 1937, 16 COMP. GEN. 692

CHECKS - LEGENDS - "UNREMARRIED WIDOW" - CASHING INDORSER'S LIABILITY RECLAMATION PROCEEDINGS MAY BE ABANDONED ON CHECKS, BEARING THE LEGEND "AS UNREMARRIED WIDOW" AND NEGOTIATED BY THE PAYEE WHO HAD PREVIOUSLY REMARRIED, ISSUED SEVERAL YEARS AFTER THE REMARRIAGE OF THE PAYEE, THE ERROR AS TO THE STATUS OF THE PAYEE IN SUCH CASE BEING PRIMARILY ADMINISTRATIVE AND NOT REASONABLY IMPUTABLE TO THE ENDORSING BANKS.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL ELLIOTT TO THE TREASURER OF THE UNITED STATES, JANUARY 28, 1937:

YOUR LETTER OF NOVEMBER 7, 1936, REQUESTS TO BE ADVISED RELATIVE TO THE DISPOSITION OF THE AMOUNT OF $270, REPORTED RECLAIMED FROM THE ENDORSERS OF 9 CHECKS DRAWN IN FAVOR OF MRS. BESSIE MAY WARNER, AS UNREMARRIED WIDOW OF ALFONSO E. WARNER, AND AS UNREMARRIED WIDOW OF ALPHONSO E. WARNER, AND WHETHER YOU ARE AUTHORIZED TO ABANDON RECLAMATION ON 18 OTHER CHECKS IN FAVOR OF THE SAME PAYEE, IT APPEARING THAT ON MARCH 11, 1929, OR PRIOR TO THE ISSUANCE OF THE CHECKS, THE PAYEE REMARRIED AND THE ENDORSING BANKS ARE RESISTING RECLAMATION ON THE BASIS THAT SAID BANKS WERE NOT REQUIRED TO ASCERTAIN WHETHER OR NOT THE PAYEE WAS UNREMARRIED.

THE CHECKS INVOLVED ARE OTHERWISE DESCRIBED AS FOLLOWS:

CHART CHECK NO. DATE AMOUNT DRAWN BY--- SYMBOL

192173 MAR. 2, 1933 $381.72 J. B. SCHOMMER ----------- 11 666 29079855 MAR. 31, 1933 30.00 ----- DO ------------------ 11-666 29228360 APR. 30, 1933 30.00 ----- DO ------------------ 11-666 29376717 MAY 31, 1933 30.00 ----- DO ---------------- - 11-666 29525066 JUNE 30, 1933 30.00 ----- DO - -------------- -- 11-666 12695024 JULY 31, 1933 30.00 ----- DO ----------- --- --- 11-532 13215890 AUG. 31, 1933 30.00 ----- DO ------------- ---- 11 -532 13720682 SEPT. 30, 1933 30.00 ----- DO ----------- ------ 11-532 14231250 OCT. 31, 1933 30.00 ----- DO ----------- ------ 11-532 14760093 NOV. 30, 1933 30.00 ----- DO ---------- ------- 11-532 15220357DEC. 31, 1933 30.00 ----- DO ------------ ----- 11-532 15695290 JAN. 31, 1934 30.00 ----- DO ----------- ------ 11-532 16164990 FEB. 28, 1934 30.00 ----- DO - ---------- ------ 11-532 16633643 MAR. 31, 1934 30.00 ----- DO ---------- ------- 11-532 17101206 APR. 30, 1934 30.00 ----- DO ----------- ------ 11 -532 17566913 MAY 31, 1934 30.00 ----- DO --------- -------- 11-532 17978530 JUNE 30, 1934 30.00 ----- DO -------- --------- 11-532

1068369 JULY 31, 1934 30.00 G. F. ALLEN -------------11-561

1594109 AUG. 31, 1934 30.00 ----- DO ------------------ 11 561

2110865 SEPT. 30, 1934 30.00 ----- DO ------------------ 11 561

2634623 OCT. 31, 1934 30.00 ----- DO ------------------ 11 561

5482450 NOV. 30, 1934 30.00 ----- DO ------------------ 11 561

5995388 DEC. 31, 1934 30.00 ----- DO ------------------ 11 561

6508952 JAN. 31, 1935 30.00 ----- DO ------------------ 11 561

7028829 FEB. 28, 1935 30.00 ----- DO ------------------ 11 561

7547606 MAR. 31, 1935 30.00 ----- DO ------------------ 11 561

8065504 APR. 30, 193530.00 ----- DO ------------------ 11-561

YOU STATE THAT RECLAMATION HAS BEEN COMPLETED ON THE LAST NINE CHECKS LISTED ABOVE.

BY LETTER DATED DECEMBER 13, 1935, THE VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION REPORTED THE CIRCUMSTANCES INVOLVED IN THE NEGOTIATION OF THE CHECKS AS FOLLOWS:

A DEATH COMPENSATION AWARD WAS APPROVED IN FAVOR OF MRS. BESSIE MAY WARNER, AS UNREMARRIED WIDOW OF ALFONSO E. WARNER, AUTHORIZING PAYMENTS AT THE MONTHLY RATE OF $30.00, EFFECTIVE FEBRUARY 9, 1932, AND PAYMENTS WERE MADE IN ACCORDANCE THEREWITH TO INCLUDE APRIL 30, 1935, A TOTAL OF $1,161.72. THE AWARD WAS CANCELLED FOR THE REASON THAT THE PAYEE REMARRIED MARCH 11, 1929, PRIOR TO DATE OF FILING CLAIM, AND THE ENTIRE AMOUNT PAID REPRESENTS AN OVERPAYMENT ON THE ACCOUNT.

ALL OF THE CHECKS WERE ENDORSED IN THE NAME OF THE PAYEE WITHOUT THE LEGEND "AS UNREMARRIED WIDOW OF ALFONSO E. WARNER" AND IT APPEARS THAT LEGEND "AS UNREMARRIED WIDOW OF ALFONSO E. WARNER" AND IT APPEARS THAT THEY WERE NEGOTIATED BY THE PAYEE IN THE STATES OF NEW YORK, PENNSYLVANIA, AND CONNECTICUT AFTER IDENTIFICATION, EXCEPT CHECK NO. 1068369, WHICH APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN ENDORSED AND NEGOTIATED BY THE PAYEE'S SISTER, MRS. EVELYN WILLIAMS, WITH THE PROBABLE APPROVAL AND CONSENT OF THE PAYEE. THE SECRET SERVICE OPERATIVE INVESTIGATING THE NEGOTIATION OF CHECK NO. 1068369 HAS REPORTED THAT---

THE PAYEE IN THIS CASE IS A COLORED WOMAN WITH LITTLE EDUCATION AND VERY ILLITERATE. IT APPEARED TO ME THAT IF PROSECUTION WERE BROUGHT AGAINST HER SISTER, MRS. EVELYN WILLIAMS, IT WOULD BE A VERY DIFFICULT MATTER TO OBTAIN A CONVICTION IN THIS CASE BECAUSE OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE NEGOTIATION OF SUBJECT CHECK AND BECAUSE OF THE DEMEANOR WHICH THE PAYEE WOULD DISPLAY IF CALLED AS A WITNESS AGAINST HER SISTER.

IT DOES NOT APPEAR THAT EITHER OF THE TWO COURT CASES CITED IN YOUR LETTER IN SUPPORT OF THE THEORY THAT RECLAMATION ON THE 18 CHECKS SHOULD BE ABANDONED HAVE ANY SPECIFIC APPLICATION TO THE PRESENT CASE. THE CASE OF REARDON'S ESTATE, 307 PENNSYLVANIA STATE REPORTS 350, RELATED TO THE ENDORSEMENT OF A NONNEGOTIABLE NOTE, AND THE CONTENTION OF THE ENDORSING BANKS APPARENTLY IS THAT THE LEGEND "AS UNREMARRIED WIDOW OF ALFONSO E. WARNER" RENDERS THE CHECKS NONNEGOTIABLE. THIS THEORY WOULD APPEAR TO BE THE OPPOSITE OF THE HOLDING IN THE OTHER CASE CITED, UNITED STATES V. THE HAMILTON NATIONAL BANK OF CHATTANOOGA, IN WHICH IN A MEMORANDUM OPINION FILED APRIL 11, 1936, THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT AT CHATTANOOGA HELD IN EFFECT THAT THE LEGEND "AS UNREMARRIED WIDOW" OF A NAMED INDIVIDUAL APPEARING ON A GOVERNMENT CHECK IS NOTHING MORE THAN DESCRIPTIO PERSONAE, OR AT MOST IS INEFFECTIVE TO BRING NOTICE TO A CASHING ENDORSER THAT IT WILL NOT HONOR THE CHECK IF THE PAYEE IS NOT BOTH THE IDENTICAL PERSON AND OF THE IDENTICAL STATUS OF ,UNREMARRIED WIDOW.' THE COURT ALSO STATED IN PART:

IF THE DRAWER MEANT MORE THAN DESCRIPTIO PERSONAE WHY DID IT NOT INSERT EITHER IN THE FACE OF THE DRAFT OR ON ITS BACK WHERE IT CAREFULLY DIRECTED AS TO THE PRECISION REQUIRED OF DORSERS,"THE DRAWER IS NOT LIABLE AND WILL NOT PAY THIS DRAFT UNLESS THE PAYEE IS THE UNREMARRIED WIDOW," ETC., OR SOME SIMILAR STIPULATION OUT OF THE TERMS OF WHICH NO QUESTION COULD ARISE? UNITED STATES. V. LIBERTY INS. BANK, 26 FED. (2ND) 493.

IT HAS BEEN HELD BY THIS OFFICE THAT THIS DECISION IS NOT NECESSARILY CONTROLLING IN ALL CASES OF THIS CLASS, BUT IS FOR CONSIDERATION ONLY WHEN CASHING ENDORSERS INVOKE IT IN RECLAMATION PROCEEDINGS AND WHERE THE NEGOTIATION OF ANY SUCH CHECK MAY TAKE PLACE IN THE TERRITORY EMBRACED IN THAT COURT'S JURISDICTION.

IN THE PRESENT CASE, HOWEVER, IT APPEARS THAT THE REMARRIAGE OF THE PAYEE OCCURRED IN MARCH 1929 AND THAT THE AWARD UNDER WHICH THE CHECKS HERE IN QUESTION WERE ISSUED WAS NOT MADE UNTIL 1932. THE ERROR AS TO THE STATUS OF THE PAYEE, THEREFORE, WAS PRIMARILY ADMINISTRATIVE AND NOT REASONABLY IMPUTABLE TO THE ENDORSING BANKS. IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES YOU ARE ADVISED THAT RECLAMATION PROCEEDINGS ON THE FIRST 18 CHECKS MAY BE ABANDONED AND THAT CREDIT WILL NOW BE ALLOWED IN YOUR GENERAL ACCOUNT FOR PAYMENT MADE ON SUCH CHECKS. A DEBT CHARGE, HOWEVER, WILL BE RAISED ON THE BOOKS OF THIS OFFICE AGAINST THE PAYEE FOR THE AMOUNT INVOLVED AND COLLECTION ATTEMPTED AS IN OTHER CASES OF INDEBTEDNESS TO THE UNITED STATES. WITH RESPECT TO AMOUNT RECLAIMED ON THE LAST NINE CHECKS LISTED ABOVE YOU ARE ADVISED THAT THE AMOUNT RECLAIMED SHOULD BE DEPOSITED AND COVERED INTO THE TREASURY TO THE CREDIT OF THE APPROPRIATION "04/5840 ARMY AND NAVY PENSIONS, 1934 AND 1935.'

THE FILE IN THE CASE IS RETURNED FOR YOUR FURTHER ACTION ACCORDINGLY.