1. The rules specifying whether adverse claims can be asserted against persons who acquire securities or security entitlements, sections 8-303, 8-502, and 8-510, provide that one is protected against an adverse claim only if one takes without notice of the claim. This section defines notice of an adverse claim.
The general article 1 definition of "notice" in section 1-201(25) — which provides that a person has notice of a fact if "from all the facts and circumstances known to him or her at the time in question he or she has reason to know that it exists" — does not apply to the interpretation of "notice of adverse claims". The section 1-201(25) definition of "notice" does, however, apply to usages of that term and its cognates in article 8 in contexts other than notice of adverse claims.
2. This section must be interpreted in light of the definition of "adverse claim" in section 8-102(a)(1). "Adverse claim" does not include all circumstances in which a third party has a property interest in securities, but only those situations where a security is transferred in violation of the claimant's property interest. Therefor, awareness that someone other than the transferor has a property interest is not notice of an adverse claim. The transferee must be aware that the transfer violates the other party's property interest. If A holds securities in which B has some form of property interest, and A transfers the securities to C, C may know that B has an interest, but infer that A is acting in accordance with A's obligations to B. The mere fact that C knew that B had a property interest does not mean that C had notice of an adverse claim. Whether C had notice of an adverse claim depends on whether C had sufficient awareness that A was acting in violation of B's property rights. The rule in subsection (b) is a particularization of this general principle.
3. Paragraph (a)(1) provides that a person has notice of an adverse claim if the person has knowledge of the adverse claim. Knowledge is defined in section 1-201(25) as actual knowledge.
4. Paragraph (a)(2) provides that a person has notice of an adverse claim if the person is aware of a significant probability that an adverse claim exists and deliberately avoids information that might establish the existence of the adverse claim. This is intended to codify the "willful blindness" test that has been applied in such cases. See May v. Chapman, 16 M. & W. 355, 153 Eng. Rep. 1225 (1847); Goodman v. Simonds, 61 U.S. 343 (1857).
The first prong of the willful blindness test of paragraph (a)(2) turns on whether the person is aware of facts sufficient to indicate that there is a significant probability that an adverse claim exists. The "awareness" aspect necessarily turns on the actor's state of mind. Whether facts known to a person make the person aware of a "significant probability" that an adverse claim exists turns on facts about the world and the conclusions that would be drawn from those facts, taking account of the experience and position of the person in question. A particular set of facts might indicate a significant probability of an adverse claim to a professional with considerable experience in the usual methods and procedures by which securities transactions are conducted, even though the same facts would not indicate a significant probability of an adverse claim to a nonprofessional.
The second prong of the willful blindness test of paragraph (a)(2) turns on whether the person "deliberately avoids information" that would establish the existence of the adverse claim. The test is the character of the person's response to the information the person has. The question is whether the person deliberately failed to seek further information because of concern that suspicions would be confirmed.
Application of the "deliberate avoidance" test to a transaction by an organization focuses on the knowledge and the actions of the individual or individuals conducting the transaction on behalf of the organization. Thus, an organization that purchases a security is not willfully blind to an adverse claim unless the officers or agents who conducted that purchase transaction are willfully blind to the adverse claim. Under the two prongs of the willful blindness test, the individual or individuals conducting a transaction must know of facts indicating a substantial probability that the adverse claim exists and deliberately fail to seek further information that might confirm or refute the indication. For this purpose, information known to individuals within an organization who are not conducting or aware of a transaction, but not forwarded to the individuals conducting the transaction, is not pertinent in determining whether the individuals conducting the transaction had knowledge of a substantial probability of the existence of the adverse claim. Cf. section 1-201(27). An organization may also "deliberately avoid information" if it acts to preclude or inhibit transmission of pertinent information to those individuals responsible for the conduct of purchase transactions.
5. Paragraph (a)(3) provides that a person has notice of an adverse claim if the person would have learned of the adverse claim by conducting an investigation that is required by other statute or regulation. This rule applies only if there is some other statute or regulation that explicitly requires persons dealing with securities to conduct some investigation. The federal securities laws require that brokers and banks, in certain specified circumstances, check with a stolen securities registry to determine whether securities offered for sale or pledge have been reported as stolen. If securities that were listed as stolen in the registry are taken by an institution that failed to comply with the requirement to check the registry, the institution would be held to have notice of the fact that they were stolen under paragraph (a)(3). Accordingly, the institution could not qualify as a protected purchaser under section 8-303. The same result has been reached under the prior version of article 8. See First Nat'l Bank of Cicero v. Lewco Securities, 860 F.2d 1407 (7th Cir. 1988).
6. Subsection (b) provides explicitly for some situations involving purchase from one described or identifiable as a representative. Knowledge of the existence of the representative relation is not enough in itself to constitute "notice of an adverse claim" that would disqualify the purchaser from protected purchaser status. A purchaser may take a security on the inference that the representative is acting properly. Knowledge that a security is being transferred to an individual account of the representative or that the proceeds of the transaction will be paid into that account is not sufficient to constitute "notice of an adverse claim", but knowledge that the proceeds will be applied to the personal indebtedness of the representative is. See State Bank of Binghamton v. Bache, 162 Misc. 128, 293 N.Y.S. 667 (1937).
7. Subsection (c) specifies whether a purchaser of a "stale" security is charged with notice of adverse claims, and therefor disqualified from protected purchaser status under section 8-303. The fact of "staleness" is viewed as notice of certain defects after the lapse of stated periods, but the maturity of the security does not operate automatically to affect holders' rights. The periods of time here stated are shorter than those appearing in the provisions of this article on staleness as notice of defects or defenses of an issuer (section 8-203) since a purchaser who takes a security after funds or other securities are available for its redemption has more reason to suspect claims of ownership than issuer's defenses. An owner will normally turn in a security rather than transfer it at such a time. Of itself, a default never constitutes notice of a possible adverse claim. To provide otherwise would not tend to drive defaulted securities home and would serve only to disrupt current financial markets where many defaulted securities are actively traded. Unpaid or overdue coupons attached to a bond do not bring it within the operation of this subsection, though they may be relevant under the general test of notice of adverse claims in subsection (a).
8. Subsection (d) provides the owner of a certificated security with a means of protection while a security certificate is being sent in for redemption or exchange. The owner may endorse it "for collection" or "for surrender", and this constitutes notice of the owner's claims, under subsection (d).
Definitional Cross References:
"Adverse claim". Section 8-102(a)(1).
"Bearer form". Section 8-102(a)(2).
"Certificated security". Section 8-102(a)(4).
"Financial asset". Section 8-102(a)(9).
"Knowledge". Section 1-201(25).
"Person". Section 1-201(30).
"Purchaser". Sections 1-201(33), 8-116.
"Registered form". Section 8-102(a)(13).
"Representative". Section 1-201(35).
"Security certificate". Section 8-102(a)(16).