G.R. No. 121413, 29 January 2001, 350 SCRA 446
These consolidated petitions involve several fraudulently negotiated checks. The original actions a quo were instituted by Ford Philippines to recover from the drawee bank, CITIBANK, N.A. (Citibank) and collecting bank, Philippine Commercial International Bank (PCIBank) [formerly Insular Bank of Asia and America], the value of several checks payable to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, which were embezzled allegedly by an organized syndicate.
The plaintiff Ford drew and issued its Citibank check in favor of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue as payment of plaintiff’s percentage or manufacturer’s sales taxes. The aforesaid check was deposited with the defendant IBAA (now PCIBank) and was subsequently cleared at the Central Bank. Upon presentment with the defendant Citibank, the proceeds of the check was paid to IBAA as collecting or depository bank. The proceeds of the same Citibank check of the plaintiff was never paid to or received by the payee thereof, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.
In a letter by the acting CIR, Ford was informed that its check was not paid to the government or its authorized agent but was encashed by unauthorized persons. An investigation revealed that Ford’s general ledger accountant had recalled the check purportedly because of an error in the computation of tax due. With his instruction, PCIBank replaced the check with two of its own Manager’s Checks which were subsequently deposited with another bank.
Whether PCIB is liable to reimburse Ford for the payment of the crossed check.
Yes. Indeed, the crossing of the check with the phrase “Payee’s Account Only,” is a warning that the check should be deposited only in the account of the CIR. Thus, it is the duty of the collecting bank PCIBank to ascertain that the check be deposited in payee’s account only. Therefore, it is the collecting bank (PCIBank) which is bound to scruninize the check and to know its depositors before it could make the clearing indorsement “all prior indorsements and/or lack of indorsement guaranteed”.
The mere fact that the forgery was committed by a drawer-payors confidential employee or agent, who by virtue of his position had unusual facilities for perpetrating the fraud and imposing the forged paper upon the bank, does NOT entitle the bank to shift the loss to the drawer-payor, in the absence of some circumstance raising estoppel against the drawer. This rule likewise applies to the checks fraudulently negotiated or diverted by the confidential employees who hold them in their possession.
In this case, there was no evidence presented confirming the conscious participation of PCIBank in the embezzlement. As a general rule, however, a banking corporation is liable for the wrongful or tortuous acts and declarations of its officers or agents within the course and scope of their employment. A bank will be held liable for the negligence of its officers or agents when acting within the course and scope of their employment. It may be liable for the tortuous acts of its officers even as regards that species of tort of which malice is an essential element. In this case, we find a situation where the PCIBank appears also to be the victim of the scheme hatched by a syndicate in which its own management employees had participated.
A bank holding out its officers and agents as worthy of confidence will not be permitted to profit by the frauds these officers or agents were enabled to perpetrate in the apparent course of their employment; nor will it be permitted to shirk its responsibility for such frauds, even though no benefit may accrue to the bank therefrom. For the general rule is that a bank is liable for the fraudulent acts or representations of an officer or agent acting within the course and apparent scope of his employment or authority. And if an officer or employee of a bank, in his official capacity, receives money to satisfy an evidence of indebtedness lodged with his bank for collection, the bank is liable for his misappropriation of such sum.
Lastly, banking business requires that the one who first cashes and negotiates the check must take some precautions to learn whether or not it is genuine. And if the one cashing the check through indifference or other circumstance assists the forger in committing the fraud, he should not be permitted to retain the proceeds of the check from the drawee whose sole fault was that it did not discover the forgery or the defect in the title of the person negotiating the instrument before paying the check. For this reason, a bank which cashes a check drawn upon another bank, without requiring proof as to the identity of persons presenting it, or making inquiries with regard to them, cannot hold the proceeds against the drawee when the proceeds of the checks were afterwards diverted to the hands of a third party. In such cases the drawee bank has a right to believe that the cashing bank (or the collecting bank) had, by the usual proper investigation, satisfied itself of the authenticity of the negotiation of the checks. Thus, one who encashed a check which had been forged or diverted and in turn received payment thereon from the drawee, is guilty of negligence which proximately contributed to the success of the fraud practiced on the drawee bank. The latter may recover from the holder the money paid on the check.
*Case digest by Nikki P. Ebillo, JD-4, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2019-2020