The opinion of the court was delivered by: WARD
Plaintiffs, Colonial Securities, Inc. ("Colonial") and Pasquale Catizone ("Catizone") bring this action to recover damages resulting from two transactions involving stock delivered to defendant Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated ("Merrill Lynch") on January 21, 1977 ("the Amdahl transaction") and on February 24, 1977 ("the Kirby transaction"). Defendant Merrill Lynch has asserted a counterclaim against plaintiffs and additional defendants Carl Hornung and Joseph Ward ("Ward") d/b/a J&S Farms, to recover damages resulting from a third transaction ("the Polaroid transaction"). The action was tried before the Court without a jury. For the reasons hereinafter stated, plaintiffs' claims are dismissed and defendant Merrill Lynch is awarded judgment on its counterclaim.
Plaintiff Colonial, a New Jersey corporation, with its principal place of business at One Exchange Place, Jersey City, New Jersey, is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("Commission") and the National Association of Securities Dealers ("N.A.S.D.") as a broker and dealer of securities. Plaintiff Catizone, a New Jersey resident, is present of Colonial. Intervenor-plaintiff Neuberger Securities Corp. ("Neuberger") is registered with the Commission and the N.A.S.D. as a broker and dealer of securities. Neuberger has purportedly assigned its claim against Merrill Lynch in the present action to Colonial.
Defendant Merrill Lynch, a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business at One Liberty Plaza, New York, New York, is also registered with the Commission and the N.A.S.D. as a broker and dealer of securities. Additional defendant Carl Hornung, a New York resident, managed accounts at Colonial and Merrill Lynch in the name of J&S Farms. Additional defendant Ward, a New York resident, contributed the capital for the J&S Farms accounts managed by Carl Hornung. Additional defendant Paul Hornung, a New York resident and brother of Carl Hornung, was at all relevant times a partner in New Hampshire Capital Co. ("New Hampshire") and the principal shareholder of Exeter Capital Fund, Inc. ("Exeter"), which had accounts at both Colonial and Merrill Lynch.
Prior to January 21, 1977, defendant Paul Hornung, acting through New Hampshire and Exeter, sold short a total of 10,200 shares of Kirby Exploration Co. ("Kirby") common stock in two special cash accounts at Merrill Lynch for settlement on or before January 21, 1977. Although the New Hampshire and Exeter accounts were nominally separate, Paul Hornung commingled funds between the two accounts and treated them as one. By February 23, 1977, more than a month after the settlement date, none of the 10,200 shares of Kirby had been delivered to Merrill Lynch. On that date, Merrill Lynch bought in 6,200 shares of Kirby for the account of Exeter. As a result of this purchase, and the buy-in of other stock, a debit balance was created in the Exeter account.
On February 24, 1977 Colonial delivered to Merrill Lynch certificates for 1,500 shares of Kirby which it had obtained from Neuberger earlier that day. The delivery bills accompanying the certificates stated that 1,100 of the shares were being delivered "for the account of: Exeter Capital Fund against the amount of: $ 38,198.96" and that 400 of the shares were being delivered "for the account of: New Hampshire Cap. Fund against the amount of: $ 13,740.53 vs. trade of 1/21/77." In delivering the Kirby stock to Merrill Lynch, Colonial acted at the request of Paul Hornung and as agent for the New Hampshire and Exeter accounts. Neither Colonial nor Catizone had any beneficial interest in either of the accounts.
The 1,500 shares of Kirby which were delivered to Merrill Lynch had been purchased by Paul Hornung in a special cash account maintained in the name of New Hampshire at Colonial. Prior to making payment for the Kirby shares, Paul Hornung instructed Colonial to deliver the stock to Merrill Lynch against payment of the price at which the stock had previously been sold at Merrill Lynch. Colonial was therefore aware that Paul Hornung was planning to sell the stock before payment and that it would be paid for the Kirby stock only from the proceeds of the sale of that stock at Merrill Lynch.
Merrill Lynch, however, upon accepting delivery of the Kirby certificates did not pay cash to Colonial for New Hampshire's account. Instead, it credited the New Hampshire account with the full price at which the 1,500 shares of Kirby stock had been sold.
During the course of these dealings in Kirby stock, Merrill Lynch made no representations to Colonial or Catizone that it would make a cash payment to Colonial for Colonial's own account, nor did it ever suggest to Colonial that it would pay out any more than the credit balance which existed in the New Hampshire and Exeter accounts. Nor did Catizone ever inform Merrill Lynch that New Hampshire and Exeter had accounts at Colonial, that Colonial had any transactions with Paul Hornung in Kirby stock, or that Colonial was ever acting as other than delivery agent for its principals.
After crediting New Hampshire for the 1,500 shares of Kirby received in the New Hampshire account, Merrill Lynch bought in, at a loss, on February 24, 1977, the remaining 2,500 shares of Kirby which were overdue in that account.
As a result of these transactions, there existed on February 24, 1977, a net debit balance in the Exeter account of $ 4,168.76, a net credit balance in the New Hampshire account of $ 17,643.55, or an overall net credit balance between the two accounts of $ 13,474.79. If Merrill Lynch had paid out $ 51,939.49 in cash for the 1,500 shares of Kirby it received on February 24, 1977, instead of crediting the New Hampshire account in that amount, there would have been an unsecured debit of $ 38,464.70 in the New Hampshire and Exeter accounts.
Defendant Ward doing business as J&S Farms maintained special cash accounts at the Syracuse and One Liberty Plaza, New York City offices of Merrill Lynch, as well as at other brokerage firms. The capital for the J&S Farms brokerage accounts was contributed by Ward. Carl Hornung was authorized by Ward to manage the accounts and to enter orders for the purchase and sale of securities. However, Merrill Lynch sent account statements directly to Ward.
In December 1976, Ward d/b/a J&S Farms sold short 2,700 shares, 5,400 after a split, of Rovac stock in the Syracuse account. Upon his failure to deliver that stock, Merrill Lynch bought in 5,400 shares for the account of J&S Farms for settlement on January 24 and 26, 1977 at a total cost of $ 91,960. This buy-in resulted in a debit balance of $ 36,221.73. On January 21, 1977, Colonial, acting as agent for Ward d/b/a J&S Farms, delivered 1,000 shares of Amdahl stock to Merrill Lynch's New York office against payment of $ 34,057.50. The delivery was in partial ...