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Banks and Banking

Bank Duties

The powers and duties of a bank are determined by the terms of its charter and the legislation under which it was created (either federal or state regulations). A bank can, through its governing board, enact reasonable rules and regulations for the efficient operation of its business.

Deposits A deposit is a sum of money placed in an account to be held by a bank for the depositor. A customer can deposit money by cash or by a check or other document that represents cash. Deposits are how banks survive. The deposited money establishes a debtor and creditor relationship between the bank and the depositor. Most often, the bank pays the depositing customer interest for its use of the money until the customer withdraws the funds. The bank has the right to impose rules and regulations managing the deposit, such as restrictions governing the rate of interest the deposited money will earn and guidelines for its withdrawal.

Collections A primary function of a bank is to make collections of items such as checks and drafts deposited by customers. The bank acts as an agent for the customer. Collection occurs when the drawee bank (the bank ordered by the check to make payment) takes funds from the account of the drawer (its customer who has written the check) and presents it to the collecting bank.

Checks A check is a written order made by a drawer to her or his bank to pay a designated person or organization (the payee) the amount specified on the check. Payment pursuant to the check must be made in strict compliance with its terms. The drawer's account must be reduced by the amount specified on the check. A check is a demand instrument, which means it must be paid by the drawee bank on the demand of, or when presented by, the payee or the agent of the payee, the collecting bank.

A payee usually receives payment of a check upon endorsing it and presenting it to a bank in which the payee has an account. The bank can require the payee to present identification to prove a relationship with the bank, before cashing the check. It has no obligation to cash a check for a person who is not a depositor, since it can refuse payment to a stranger. However, it must honor (pay) a check if the payee has sufficient funds on deposit with the bank to cover the amount paid if the drawer of the check does not have adequate funds in his or her account to pay it.

A certified check is guaranteed by a bank, at the request of its drawer or endorser, to be cashable by the payee or succeeding holder. A bank is not obligated to certify a check, but it usually will do so for a customer who has sufficient funds to pay it, in exchange for a nominal fee. A certified check is considered the same as cash because any bank must honor it when the payee presents it for payment.

A drawer can revoke a check unless it has been certified or has been paid to the payee. The notice of revocation is often called a stop payment order. A check is automatically revoked if the drawer dies before it is paid or certified, since the drawer's bank has no authority to complete the transaction under that circumstance. However, if the drawer's bank does not receive notice of the drawer's death, it is not held liable for the payment or certification of that drawer's checks.

Upon request, a bank must return to the drawer all the checks it has paid, so that the drawer can inspect the canceled checks to ensure that no forgeries or errors have occurred, in adjusting the balance of her or his checking account. This review of checks is usually completed through the monthly statement. If the drawer finds an error or forgery, it is her or his obligation to notify the bank promptly or to accept full responsibility for whatever loss has been incurred.

Bank liabilities A bank has a duty to know a customer's signature and therefore is generally liable for charging the customer's account with a forged check. A bank can recover the loss from the forger but not from the person who in good faith and without knowledge of the crime gave something in exchange for the forged check. If the depositor's NEGLIGENCE was a factor in the forgery, the bank can be excused from the liability.

A bank is also responsible for determining the genuineness of the endorsement when a depositor presents a check for payment. A bank is liable if it pays a check that has been materially altered, unless the alteration was due to the drawer's fault or negligence. If a bank pays a check that has a forged endorsement, it is liable for the loss if it is promptly notified by the customer. In both cases, the bank is entitled to recover the amount of its loss from the thief or forger.

A drawee bank that is ordered to pay a check drawn on it is usually not entitled to recover payment it has made on a forged check. If, however, the drawee bank can demonstrate that the collecting bank was negligent in its collection duties, the drawee bank may be able to establish a right of recovery.

A bank can also be liable for the wrongful dishonor or refusal to pay of a check that it has certified, since by definition of certification it has agreed to become absolutely liable to the payee or holder of the check.

If a bank has paid a check that has been properly revoked by its drawer, it must reimburse the drawer for the loss.

Drawer liabilities A drawer who writes a check for an amount greater than the funds on deposit in his or her checking account is liable to the bank. Such a check, called an overdraft, sometimes results in a loan from the bank to the drawer's account for the amount by which the account is deficient, depending on the terms of the account. In this case, the drawer must repay the bank the amount lent plus interest. The bank can also decide not to provide the deficient funds and can refuse to pay the check, in which case the check is considered "bounced." The drawer then becomes liable to the bank for a handling fee for the check, as well as remaining liable to the payee or subsequent holder of the check for the amount due. Many times, the holder of a returned, or bounced, check will impose another fee on the drawer.

Loans and Discounts A major function of a bank is the issuance of loans to applicants who meet certain qualifications. In a loan transaction, the bank and the debtor execute a promissory note and a separate agreement in which the terms and conditions of the loan are detailed. The interest charged on the amount lent can differ based on many variables. One variable is a benchmark interest rate established by the Federal Reserve Bank Board of Governors, also known as the prime rate, at the time the loan is made. Another variable is the length of repayment. The collateral provided to secure the loan, in case the borrower defaults, can also affect the interest rate. In any case, the interest rate must not exceed that permitted by law. The loan must be repaid according to the terms specified in the loan agreement. In case of default, the agreement determines the procedures to be followed.

Banks also purchase commercial papers, which are commercial loans, at a discount from creditors who have entered into long-term contracts with debtors. A creditor sells a commercial paper to a bank for less than its face value because it seeks immediate payment. The bank profits from the difference between the discount price it paid and the face value of the bond, which it will receive when the debtor has finished repaying the loan. Types of commercial paper are educational loans and home mortgages.

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