Monday, June 18, 2012

Garnishing A California Bank Account

I am not an attorney, I am a Judgment and Collection Agency Broker. This article is my opinion, based on my experience in California. If you need legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.

Of the articles I have written so far, this late 2011 article is most likely to become outdated, because banks merge and change policies often. Make sure you verify the policy of the bank before you levy a bank account.

Historically, the laws covering California bank levies were drafted in the days of typewriters, when people had to visit the branch where they opened their bank account at, to withdraw funds.

Such laws became obsolete, as one may withdraw funds at countless of locations, including certain grocery stores. Around 2009, California Code of Civil Procedure 704.140 specified that banks can decide where they will allow a levy - at some, one, or all branches.

When a bank or a brokerage account (cash only) has an agent for service of process, and is registered in California, one may serve a garnishment on the California address and levy debtor cash bank funds in any state, thanks to long-arm statutes. If you can't take advantage of long-arm statutes, you must domesticate judgments to where the debtor's assets reside.

Some California banks require you to levy the branch where the debtor opened or maintains an account. Each California bank has its own policies on the way levies can be served on them. Outside of California, generally, any bank branch in the state, is ok to levy. (To determine where to serve subpoenas, check out .)

This is a synopsis of a few California bank levy information:

Ameriprise - (cash funds only without a court order) Serve any branch.

Ameritrade - (cash funds only without a court order) Serve on any branch.

Arrowhead Credit Union - Serve any branch.

Bank Of America (BOA) - For Now, you must serve the branch where the account was opened or where it is now maintained. If you know the judgment debtor's account number, the first four digits of the account number indicates the branch number. Call, and ask the bank "what is the address for the branch?" and the first 4 digits of the account number. Their California legal department is at: 45 Fremont Street, SF, 94105, 800-283-4262.

Bank Of The West - Serve any branch.

Cal-Fed Bank - policy changing, their legal processing department # is 916-374-5945.

California Bank and Trust (California Bank and Trust) - Serve any branch. (They are a California subsidiary of Zion's National Bank) Their levy department # is 858-514-2592. Charles Schwab - (cash funds only without a court order) - Serve on any branch. Their California legal department is: Office Of Corporate Counsel, 101 Montgomery St., San Francisco, CA 94104, # 877-243-9263.

Chase (JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.) - Serve on any branch. Their levy department is at 800-869-3557, extension 818.

CitiBank - Serve on any branch - to reach judgment debtor accounts in any state (wow). They are slower because they forward levies to New York, then to Texas. To speed things up, some enforcers arrange to fax their Texas office immediately after the levy is served, to freeze the judgment debtor's account faster. Litigation Support, 866-582-6249, their levy department is: 916-374-6100 (Option 8), 830 Stillwater Road/D-1, West Sacramento, CA 95605.

Comerica - Currently, you must serve the branch where the was opened or where it is now maintained. However, if you garnish the wrong branch, the bank writes down the correct branch on the memorandum of garnishee form. This is good, however they notice the judgment debtor, giving them a chance to move funds. Their levy department in California is 408-556-5479 or 408-573-2111.

Community Bank - For Now, you must serve the branch where the account was opened or where it is now maintained. Their levy department # is 800-788-9999 x 1256. If you garnish the wrong branch, the bank writes down the correct branch on the memorandum of garnishee form.

ETrade (cash funds only without a court order) - cash accounts are held at Discover Bank. Customer service is at 800-717-9833, PO Box 30416, Salt Lake City, UT 84130.

Merrill Lynch (cash funds only without a court order) - Serve any branch. Their custodian of records is: Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner, and Smith, Inc, care of CT Corporation System, 818 West 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017.

Navy Federal Credit Union - Serve on any branch. Their levy/legal contact number is 888-503-7105, option 4.

Schoolsfirst Credit Union - Serve on any branch.

Scottrade - (cash funds only without a court order) Serve on any branch.

Umpqua Bank - Serve on any branch. Their levy department # is 866-486-7782.

Union Bank - Currently, you must serve the branch where the was opened or where it is now maintained. However, if you levy the wrong branch, they write down the correct branch on the memorandum of garnishee form.

USAA Federal Savings Bank - based in Texas. They have two offices in California: Oceanside and San Diego. They accept levies by mail.

US Bank Calif - Serve on any branch.

Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) - Serve any branch.

Washington Mutual (Now Chase) - Serve any branch.

WestAmerica - Serve any branch.

Wells Fargo - Serve any branch. Their levy department is at 480-724-2000 (press 9, then 1) PO BOX 29779 - Phoenix, AZ 85038. World Savings (Now Wells Fargo/Wachovia) - Serve any branch.

Hard to believe, however there is a strong suspicion that many banks, particularly Chase, are quietly offering "levy proof" accounts to some customers. They call them "client trust accounts". The bank writes "no funds" on the memo of garnishee. This is illegal and immoral. However, I see reports of this at least once a week.

When a bank writes "no funds" and you know there was money in the account, you may subpoena their records (with a debtor exam) or sue them. In small claims court, they will probably pay you rather than show up in court. On larger amounts, they will probably respond.

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