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Sec. 229.35 - Indorsements.


(a) Indorsement standards. A bank (other than a paying bank) that handles a check during forward collection or a returned check shall indorse the check in a manner that permits a person to interpret the indorsement, in accordance with American National Standard (ANS) Specifications for Physical Check Endorsements, X9.100-111 (ANS X9.100-111), for a paper check other than a substitute check; ANS Specifications for an Image Replacement Document, X9.100-140 (ANS X9.100-140), for a substitute check; and ANS Specifications for Electronic Exchange of Check and Image Data – Domestic, X9.100-187 (ANS X9.100-187), for an electronic check; unless the Board by rule or order determines that different standards apply or the parties otherwise agree.

Official Interpretation

XXI. Section 229.35 Indorsements

A. 229.35(a) Indorsement Standards

1. This section requires banks to use a standard form of indorsement when indorsing checks during the forward collection and return process. It is designed to facilitate the identification of the depositary bank and the prompt return of checks. The indorsement standard a bank must use depends on the type of check being indorsed. Paper checks must be indorsed in accordance with ANS X9.100-111. Substitute checks must be indorsed in accordance with ANS X9.100-140. Electronic checks must be indorsed in accordance ANS X9.100-187. The Board, however, may by rule or order determine that different standards apply.

2. The parties sending and receiving a check may agree that different indorsement standards will apply to such checks. For example, although ANS X9.100-187 is an industry standard for banks' exchange of electronic checks, the parties may agree to send and receive electronic checks that conform to a different standard.

3. Banks generally apply indorsements to a paper check in one of two ways: (1) In accordance with ANS X9.100-111, banks print or “spray” indorsements onto a paper check when the check is processed through the banks' automated check sorters (regardless of whether the checks are original checks or substitute checks), and (2) in accordance with ANS X9.100-140, reconverting banks print or “overlay” previously applied electronic indorsements and their own indorsements and identifications onto a substitute check at the time that the substitute check is created. If a subsequent substitute check is created in the course of collection or return, that substitute check will contain, in its image of the back of the previous substitute check, reproductions of indorsements that were sprayed or overlaid onto the previous item.

4. A bank might use check-processing equipment that captures an image of a check prior to spraying an indorsement onto that item. If the bank truncates that item, it should ensure that it also applies an indorsement to the item electronically. A reconverting bank satisfies its obligation to preserve all previously applied indorsements by overlaying a bank's indorsement that previously was applied electronically onto a substitute check that the reconverting bank creates. (See commentary to §229.51(b)).

5. A depositary bank may want to include an address in its indorsement in order to limit the number of locations at which it must receive paper returned checks and paper notices of nonpayment. Banks should note, however, that §229.33(c) requires a depositary bank to receive paper returned checks at the location(s) at which it receives paper forward-collection checks, as well as the other locations enumerated in §229.33(c). (See §229.33(c) and commentary thereto).

6. Under the UCC, a specific guarantee of prior indorsement is not necessary. (See UCC 4-207(a) and 4-208(a)). Use of guarantee language in indorsements of paper checks, such as “P.E.G.” (“prior endorsements guaranteed”), may result in reducing the type size used in bank indorsements, thereby making them more difficult to read. Use of this language may make it more difficult for other banks to identify the depositary bank.

7. If the bank maintaining the account into which a check is deposited agrees with another bank (a correspondent, ATM operator, or lock box operator) to have the other bank accept returns and notices of nonpayment for the bank of account, the indorsement placed on the check as the depositary bank indorsement may be the indorsement of the bank that acts as correspondent, ATM operator, or lock box operator as provided in paragraph (d) of §229.35.

8. In general, paper checks will be handled more efficiently if depositary banks place their indorsement so that the nine-digit routing number is not obscured by pre-existing matter on the back of the check. Indorsing parties other than banks, e.g., corporations, will benefit from the faster return of checks if they protect the identifiability and legibility of the depositary bank indorsement by staying clear of the area on the back of the paper check reserved for the depositary bank indorsement.

9. A paying bank is not required to indorse the check; however, if a paying bank does indorse a check that is returned, it should follow the indorsement standards for collecting banks and returning banks. Collecting banks and returning banks are required to indorse the check for tracing purposes. With respect to the identification of a paying bank that is also a reconverting bank, see commentary to §229.51(b)(2).

(b) Liability of bank handling check. A bank that handles a check for forward collection or return is liable to any bank that subsequently handles the check to the extent that the subsequent bank does not receive payment for the check because of suspension of payments by another bank or otherwise. This paragraph applies whether or not a bank has placed its indorsement on the check. This liability is not affected by the failure of any bank to exercise ordinary care, but any bank failing to do so remains liable. A bank seeking recovery against a prior bank shall send notice to that prior bank reasonably promptly after it learns the facts entitling it to recover. A bank may recover from the bank with which it settled for the check by revoking the settlement, charging back any credit given to an account, or obtaining a refund. A bank may have the rights of a holder with respect to each check it handles.

Official Interpretation

B. 229.35(b) Liability of Bank Handling Check

1. When a check is sent for forward collection, the collection process results in a chain of indorsements extending from the depositary bank through any subsequent collecting banks to the paying bank. This paragraph extends the indorsement chain through the paying bank to the returning banks, and would permit each bank to recover from any prior indorser if the claimant bank does not receive payment for the check from a subsequent bank in the collection or return chain. For example, if a returning bank returned a check to an insolvent depositary bank, and did not receive the full amount of the check from the failed bank, the returning bank could obtain the unrecovered amount of the check from any bank prior to it in the collection and return chain including the paying bank. Because each bank in the collection and return chain could recover from a prior bank, any loss would fall on the first intermediary collecting bank that received the check from the depositary bank. To avoid circuity of actions, the returning bank could recover directly from the first collecting bank. Under the UCC, the first collecting bank might ultimately recover from the depositary bank's customer or from the other parties on the check.

2. Where a check is returned through the same banks used for the forward collection of the check, priority during the forward collection process controls over priority in the return process for the purpose of determining prior and subsequent banks under this regulation.

3. Where a returning bank is insolvent and fails to pay the paying bank or a prior returning bank for a returned check, §229.39(a) requires the receiver of the failed bank to return the check to the bank that transferred the check to the failed bank. That bank then either could continue the return to the depositary bank or recover based on this paragraph. Where the paying bank is insolvent, and fails to pay the collecting bank, the collecting bank also could recover from a prior collecting bank under this paragraph, and the bank from which it recovered could in turn recover from its prior collecting bank until the loss settled on the depositary bank (which could recover from its customer).

4. A bank is not required to make a claim against an insolvent bank before exercising its right to recovery under this paragraph. Recovery may be made by charge-back or by other means. This right of recovery also is permitted even where nonpayment of the check is the result of the claiming bank's negligence such as failure to make expeditious return, but the claiming bank remains liable for its negligence under §229.38.

5. This liability to a bank that subsequently handles the check and does not receive payment for the check is imposed on a bank handling a check for collection or return regardless of whether the bank's indorsement appears on the check. Notice must be sent under this paragraph to a prior bank from which recovery is sought reasonably promptly after a bank learns that it did not receive payment from another bank, and learns the identity of the prior bank. Written notice reasonably identifying the check and the basis for recovery is sufficient if the check is not available. Receipt of notice by the bank against which the claim is made is not a precondition to recovery by charge-back or other means; however, a bank may be liable for negligence for failure to provide timely notice. A paying bank or returning bank also may recover from a prior collecting bank as provided in §§229.31(a) and 229.32(b) (in those cases where the paying bank is unable to identify the depositary bank). This paragraph does not affect a paying bank's accountability for a check under UCC 4-215(a) and 4-302. Nor does this paragraph affect a collecting bank's accountability under UCC 4-214 and 4-215(d). A collecting bank becomes accountable upon receipt of final settlement as provided in the foregoing UCC sections. Final settlement in §§229.32(e), 229.33(e), and 229.36(c) is intended to be consistent with final settlement in the UCC (e.g., UCC 4-213, 4-214, and 4-215). (See also §229.2(cc) (definition of returning bank) and commentary thereto).

6. This paragraph also provides that a bank may have the rights of a holder based on the handling of a check for collection or return. A bank may become a holder or a holder in due course regardless of whether prior banks have complied with the indorsement standard in §229.35(a).

7. This paragraph affects the following provisions of the UCC, and may affect other provisions depending on circumstance:

a. Section 4-214(a), in that the right to recovery is not based on provisional settlement, and recovery may be had from any prior bank. Section 4-214(a) would continue to permit a depositary bank to recover a provisional settlement from its customer. (See §229.33(h)).

b. Section 3-415 and related provisions (such as section 3-503), in that such provisions would not apply as between banks, or as between the depositary bank and its customer.

(c) Indorsement by a bank. After a check has been indorsed by a bank, only a bank may acquire the rights of a holder--

(1) Until the check has been returned to the person initiating collection; or

(2) Until the check has been specially indorsed by a bank to a person who is not a bank.

Official Interpretation

C. 229.35(c) Indorsement by Bank

1. This section protects the rights of a customer depositing a check in a bank without requiring the words “pay any bank,” as required by the UCC (See UCC 4-201(b)). Use of this language in a depositary bank's indorsement will make it more difficult for other banks to identify the depositary bank. The applicable industry standard prohibits such material in subsequent collecting bank indorsements. The existence of a bank indorsement provides notice of the restrictive indorsement without any additional words.

(d) Indorsement for depositary bank. A depositary bank may arrange with another bank to apply the other bank’s indorsement as the depositary bank indorsement, provided that any indorsement of the depositary bank on the check avoids the area reserved for the depositary bank indorsement as specified in the indorsement standard applicable to the check under paragraph (a) of this section. The other bank indorsing as depositary bank is considered the depositary bank for purposes of subpart C of this part.

Official Interpretation

D. 229.35(d) Indorsement for Depositary Bank

1. This section permits a depositary bank to arrange with another bank to indorse checks. This practice may occur when a correspondent indorses for a respondent, or when the bank servicing an ATM or lock box indorses for the bank maintaining the account in which the check is deposited—i.e., the depositary bank. If the indorsing bank applies the depositary bank's indorsement, checks will be returned to the depositary bank. An indorsing bank may by agreement with the depositary bank apply its own indorsement as the depositary bank indorsement. In that case, the actual depositary bank's own indorsement on the check (if any) should avoid the location reserved for the depositary bank. The actual depositary bank remains responsible for the availability and other requirements of subpart B, but the bank indorsing as depositary bank is considered the depositary bank for purposes of subpart C (e.g., for purposes of determining the right to assert a claim under §229.33(a) for failure to return a check expeditiously and accepting paper checks under §229.33(c)). The check will be returned, and notice of nonpayment will be given, to the bank indorsing as depositary bank.

2. Because the depositary bank for subpart B purposes will desire prompt notice of nonpayment, its arrangement with the indorsing bank should provide for prompt notice of nonpayment. The bank indorsing as depositary bank may require the depositary bank to agree to take up the check if the check is not paid even if the depositary bank's indorsement does not appear on the check and it did not handle the check. The arrangement between the banks may constitute an agreement varying the effect of provisions of subpart C under §229.37.

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