Commercial Banking Co of Sydney Ltd v Mann: PC 1961

The respondent Mann practiced as a solicitor in partnership with Richardson. They kept a ‘trust account’ in the partnership name with the Australian and New Zealand Bank in Sydney (‘ANZ’). Under the partnership agreement, all assets belonged to Mann, but cheques might be drawn on the partnership bank account by either. Mann gave the necessary authority to ANZ. Richardson used that authority to draw cheques, inserting on each after the printed word ‘Pay’, the words ‘Bank cheque favour H. Ward’ or ‘Bank cheque H. Ward;’. He also filed application forms for bank cheques in favour of H. Ward to a like amount, purporting to sign them on behalf of the firm. He took the documents to ANZ, which in each case debited the firm’s account and issued a bank draft of an equal amount in the form ‘Pay H. Ward or bearer.’ He took the cheques to the appellant bank, and cashed them over the counter. The bank paid the cheques. He was fraudulent throughout; Ward was not a client of the partnership, nor had any client authorised the payment to him of any money held in the trust account. Mann sued the appellant bank for conversion of the bank cheques, or alternatively to recover the sums received by it from ANZ bank as money had and received to his use. He succeeded before the trial judge, whose decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeal of New South Wales.
Held: The bank’s appeal succeeded. Mann never obtained any title to the cheques, and he could not obtain title by ratifying the conduct of Richardson in obtaining the cheques from ANZ bank, without at the same time ratifying the dealings in the cheques by Ward and the appellant bank. Mann’s claim for damages for conversion failed, and that his alternative claim for money had and received also failed. Where a partner in a firm wrongfully draws a cheque on the partnership account, the proceeds of the cheque are legally his.
Viscount Simonds said: ‘It is important to distinguish between what was Richardson’s authority in relation on the one hand to the A.N.Z. bank and on the other to Mann. No question arises in these proceedings between Mann and the A.N.Z. bank. It is clear that Mann could not as between himself and the bank question Richardson’s authority to draw cheques on the trust account. The position as between Mann and Richardson was different. Richardson had no authority, express or implied, from Mann either to draw cheques on the trust account or to obtain bank cheques in exchange for them except for the proper purposes of the partnership. If he exceeded those purposes, his act was unauthorised and open to challenge by Mann. It is in these circumstances that the question must be asked whether, as the judge held, the bank cheques were throughout the property of Mann. It is irrelevant to this question what was the relation between Richardson and Ward and whether the latter gave any consideration for the bank cheques that he received and at what stage Mann learned of the fraud that had been practised upon him. The proposition upon which the respondent founds his claim is simple enough: Richardson was his partner and in that capacity was able to draw upon the trust account and so to obtain from the bank its promissory notes: therefore the notes were the property of the partnership and belonged to Mann, and Richardson could not give a better title to a third party than he himself had.’


Viscount Simonds, Lord Reid, Lord Radcliffe, Lord Tucker and Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest


[1961] AC 1, [1960] 3 All ER 482


England and Wales


AppliedUnion Bank of Australia Ltd v McClintock PC 1922
Where a partner obtains money by drawing on a partnership bank account without authority, he alone and not the partnership obtains legal title to the money so obtained. . .

Cited by:

CitedLipkin Gorman (a Firm) v Karpnale Ltd HL 6-Jun-1991
The plaintiff firm of solicitors sought to recover money which had been stolen from them by a partner, and then gambled away with the defendant. He had purchased their gaming chips, and the plaintiff argued that these, being gambling debts, were . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Commonwealth, Company, Banking, Torts – Other

Updated: 07 May 2022; Ref: scu.259437