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Sec. 229.21 - Civil liability.*


Amendments to this section will be effective July 1, 2020. They are shown in this color text.


(a) Civil liability. A bank that fails to comply with any requirement imposed under subpart B, and in connection therewith, subpart A, of this part or any provision of state law that supersedes any provision of subpart B, and in connection therewith, subpart A, with respect to any person is liable to that person in an amount equal to the sum of--

(1) Any actual damage sustained by that person as a result of the failure;

(2) Such additional amount as the court may allow, except that--

(i) In the case of an individual action, liability under this paragraph shall not be less than $100 nor greater than $1,000 [effective 7/1/2020, $1,100]; and

(ii) In the case of a class action--

(A) No minimum recovery shall be applicable to each member of the class; and

(B) The total recovery under this paragraph in any class action or series of class actions arising out of the same failure to comply by the same depositary bank shall not be more than the lesser of $500,000 [effective 7/1/2020, $552,500] or 1 percent of the net worth of the bank involved; and

(3) In the case of a successful action to enforce the foregoing liability, the costs of the action, together with a reasonable attorney's fee as determined by the court.

Official Interpretation

XV. Section 229.21 Civil Liability

A. 229.21(a) Civil Liability

1. This paragraph sets forth the statutory penalties for failure to comply with the requirements of this subpart. These penalties apply to provisions of state law that supersede provisions of this regulation, such as requirements that funds deposited in accounts at banks be made available more promptly than required by this regulation, but they do not apply to other provisions of state law. (See Commentary to §229.20.)

Editor's Note: Effective 7/1/2020, paragraph 2 is added, to read:

2. Dollar Amount Adjustment—See section 229.11 for the rules regarding adjustments for inflation every five years to the dollar amounts in this section.

(b) Class action awards. In determining the amount of any award in any class action, the court shall consider, among other relevant factors--

(1) The amount of any damages awarded;

(2) The frequency and persistence of failures of compliance;

(3) The resources of the bank;

(4) The number of persons adversely affected; and

(5) The extent to which the failure of compliance was intentional.

Official Interpretation

B. 229.21(b) Class Action Awards

1. This paragraph sets forth the provision in the EFA Act concerning the factors that should be considered by the court in establishing the amount of a class action award.

(c) Bona fide errors--

(1) General rule. A bank is not liable in any action brought under this section for a violation of this subpart if the bank demonstrates by a preponderance of the evidence that the violation was not intentional and resulted from a bona fide error, notwithstanding the maintenance of procedures reasonably adapted to avoid any such error.

(2) Examples. Examples of a bona fide error include clerical, calculation, computer malfunction and programming, and printing errors, except that an error of legal judgment with respect to the bank's obligation under this subpart is not a bona fide error.

Official Interpretation

C. 229.21(c) Bona Fide Errors

1. A bank is shielded from liability under this section for a violation of a requirement of this subpart if it can demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the violation resulted from a bona fide error and that it maintains procedures designed to avoid such errors. For example, a bank may make a bona fide error if it fails to give next-day availability on a check drawn on the Treasury because the bank's computer system malfunctions in a way that prevents the bank from updating its customer's account; or if it fails to identify whether a payable-through check is a local or nonlocal check despite procedures designed to make this determination accurately.

(d) Jurisdiction. Any action under this section may be brought in any United States district court or in any other court of competent jurisdiction, and shall be brought within one year after the date of the occurrence of the violation involved.

Official Interpretation

D. 229.21(d) Jurisdiction

1. The EFA Act confers subject matter jurisdiction on courts of competent jurisdiction and provides a time limit for civil actions for violations of this subpart.

(e) Reliance on Board rulings. No provision of this subpart imposing any liability shall apply to any act done or omitted in good faith in conformity with any rule, regulation, or interpretation thereof by the Board, regardless of whether such rule, regulation, or interpretation is amended, rescinded, or determined by judicial or other authority to be invalid for any reason after the EFA Act or omission has occurred.

Official Interpretation

E. 229.21(e) Reliance on Board Rulings

1. This provision shields banks from civil liability if they act in good faith in reliance on any rule, regulation, model form, notice, or clause (if the disclosure actually corresponds to the bank's availability policy), or interpretation of the Board, even if it were subsequently determined to be invalid. Banks may rely on this Commentary, which is issued as an official Board interpretation, as well as on the regulation itself.

(f) Exclusions. This section does not apply to claims that arise under subpart C of this part or to actions for wrongful dishonor.

Official Interpretation

F. 229.21(f) Exclusions

1. This provision clarifies that liability under this section does not apply to violations of the requirements of Subpart C of this regulation, or to actions for wrongful dishonor of a check by a paying bank's customer.

(g) Record retention.

(1) A bank shall retain evidence of compliance with the requirements imposed by this subpart for not less than two years. Records may be stored by use of microfiche, microfilm, magnetic tape, or other methods capable of accurately retaining and reproducing information.

(2) If a bank has actual notice that it is being investigated, or is subject to an enforcement proceeding by an agency charged with monitoring that bank's compliance with the EFA Act and this subpart, or has been served with notice of an action filed under this section, it shall retain the records pertaining to the action or proceeding pending final disposition of the matter, unless an earlier time is allowed by order of the agency or court.

Official Interpretation

G. 229.21(g) Record Retention

1. Banks must keep records to show compliance with the requirements of this subpart for at least two years. This record retention period is extended in the case of civil actions and enforcement proceedings. Generally, a bank is not required to retain records showing that it actually has given disclosures or notices required by this subpart to each customer, but it must retain evidence demonstrating that its procedures reasonably ensure the customers' receipt of the required disclosures and notices. A bank must, however, retain a copy of each notice provided pursuant to its use of the reasonable cause exception under §229.13(g) as well as a brief description of the facts giving rise to the availability of that exception.

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