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Elliott v. Guardian Trust Co. of New York

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

June 2, 1911

SAMUEL ELLIOTT, on Behalf of Himself and of All Others Having a Like Interest Touching the Subject-Matter of This Litigation, Respondent,
v.
GUARDIAN TRUST COMPANY OF NEW YORK, Appellant.

Page 167

APPEAL by the defendant, the Guardian Trust Company of New York, from an interlocutory judgment of the Supreme Court in favor of the plaintiff, entered in the office of the clerk of the county of New York on the 27th day of October, 1910, upon the report of a referee.

COUNSEL

Henry D. Hotchkiss, for the appellant.

Henry L. Sprague, for the respondent.

MILLER, J.:

This is a suit by the plaintiff, one of the bondholders of the La Dicha and Pacific Railroad Company, in behalf of himself and of all others having like interest, to compel the defendant, the trustee named in the mortgage, to account for the moneys received upon the subscriptions for the said bonds. The interlocutory judgment directs an accounting as prayed for in the complaint. The complaint asks that the defendant account for the moneys of the plaintiff and others received by it and paid over to the said railroad company. The appellant challenges the judgment as not supported by the findings.

In order to present the point involved it is necessary to set forth somewhat at length the facts as found by the referee. The La Dicha and Pacific Railroad Company was a corporation of the State of Maine, having a concession from the Mexican government to build a railroad from the port of Marques in the State of Guerrero to La Dicha, where the mines and works

Page 168

of the La Dicha Mining and Smelting Company, a Mexican corporation, were located. The Mitchell Mining Company, an Arizona corporation, owned all of the stock of the La Dicha Mining and Smelting Company, except enough to qualify directors, and a majority of the stock of the La Dicha and Pacific Railroad Company, which was evidently organized to construct and operate a railroad in aid of the mining and smelting undertaking. For the purpose of doing that, in July, 1906, the railroad company offered for subscription $1,000,000 of an authorized issue of $1,500,000 of bonds. The subscription agreement provided that the bonds were to be secured by a mortgage on 'a railroad approximately 80 miles long, to be constructed from the Pacific coast, State of Guerrero, Mexico, to the mines and works of the La Dicha Mining & Smelting Company at La Dicha, State of Guerrero, Mexico.' They were to be guaranteed by the La Dicha Mining and Smelting Company and were to be convertible within three years for the stock of the Mitchell Mining Company on the basis of one hundred and fifty per cent of their par value. They were to be subscribed for at eighty per cent of their par value, the subscriptions to be paid in installments, ten per cent upon ten days' notice from the company after the subscription agreement was accepted, and the balance in five payments, thirty, sixty, ninety, one hundred and twenty and one hundred and fifty days respectively thereafter. The agreement further provided that 'all said payments shall be paid to the La Dicha & Pacific Railroad Company at the office of the Trust Company, which shall be named as trustee under the mortgage securing said bonds,' and at the time of each payment the trustee was to deliver a receipt or certificate therefor. On November 14, 1906, the plaintiff subscribed for some of the shares of the said Mitchell Mining Company and for $10,000 of the bonds of the La Dicha and Pacific Railroad Company. Prior to that time the defendant had been selected and had consented to act as trustee and all the subscription agreements were deposited with it. The plaintiff made his payments as follows: November 27, 1906, $800; December 27, 1906, $1,440; January 16, 1907, $1,760; February 27, 1907, $1,500; March 28, 1907, $1,060. The defendant gave a receipt for each payment, which provided that it was received

Page 169

in part payment of subscription for La Dicha and Pacific Railroad Company gold bonds 'in accordance with the terms of subscription agreement with said Company,' and that the bonds were to be delivered when the full purchase price was paid and when the bonds were engraved and issued; when final payment was made another like receipt was given, which provided that bonds were to be delivered by defendant upon surrender of the subscription agreements and receipts, 'when the said bonds shall have been engraved and issued.' Four hundred and ninety-seven thousand, eight hundred and sixty dollars and ninety cents was received by the defendant on subscriptions for bonds and was credited to the La Dicha and Pacific Railroad Company, and paid out to or on the order of the said railroad company at various times between October 22, 1906, and October 22, 1907. On February 27, 1907, an instrument in form a mortgage covering the franchises and property of the said railroad company to secure said $1,500,000 of bonds was executed and acknowledged by the railroad company and by the defendant, and was sent to the attorney of the railroad company in Mexico to be executed by the secretary of the mining and smelting company, as was necessary and then to be translated and registered. While still in the hands of said attorney it was recalled by the president of the railroad company, pursuant to a resolution of its directors, and a new mortgage was executed by the railroad company, the mining and smelting company and the defendant on June 4, 1907, and that mortgage was sent to Mexico and recorded on August 12, 1907. On September 3, 1907, a resolution of the directors of the railroad company was adopted according to the terms of the mortgage of June fourth authorizing the defendant to certify and deliver to subscribers named, including the plaintiff, $348,600 of bonds, and thereafter, upon the certificate of the president and the chief engineer of the railroad company to the effect that $348,600 of bonds had been sold and that the proceeds were being used solely for the construction of said railroad and were necessary and required for the purchase of materials or to pay for labor expended or to be expended in the construction of said railroad, the defendant certified and delivered to the subscribers, pursuant to the authority contained

Page 170

in the mortgage of June 4, 1907, the said amount of bonds. The plaintiff accepted his bonds on November 27, 1907. At that time he knew that the railroad company was insolvent and that the construction work was suspended on August 7, 1907, and not resumed.

It is unnecessary to analyze, for the purpose of comparison, the two instruments of February 27, 1907, and of June 4, 1907, as the parties substantially agree upon their construction. According to the instrument of February 27, 1907, the trustee could certify bonds at the rate of $15,000 per kilometer of constructed railroad, upon proof of such construction, or if the bonds were issued in advance of construction the proceeds were to be held by it and paid over to the railroad company only upon like proof; according to the instrument of June 4, 1907, the trustee could certify bonds and pay over the proceeds upon proof that they were 'necessary and are required for the purchase of materials or to pay for labor or services expended or to be expended in the construction of said line of railroad,' and the written statement of the president of the railroad company, accompanied by the ...


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