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ExperiMetal, Inc. v. Comerica Bank, 09-Cv-14890 (E.D. Mich.; June 13, 2011)

ExperiMetal, Inc. v. Comerica Bank, 09-Cv-14890 (E.D. Mich.; June 13, 2011)

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Court rules, following a bench trial, that bank did not act in a commercially reasonable manner in response to a phishing incident, and holds the bank liable for unauthorized transfers that occurred through a customer's account.
Court rules, following a bench trial, that bank did not act in a commercially reasonable manner in response to a phishing incident, and holds the bank liable for unauthorized transfers that occurred through a customer's account.

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Published by: Venkat Balasubramani on Jun 15, 2011
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05/21/2013

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“Phishing” has been described as:The act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an establishedlegitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering privateinformation that will be used for identity theft. The e-mail directs the user to visita Web site where they are asked to update personal information, such aspasswords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers, that thelegitimate organization already has. The Web site, however, is bogus and set uponly to steal the user’s information.http://www.webopedia.com/term/p/phishing.html.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTEASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGANSOUTHERN DIVISIONEXPERI-METAL, INC.,Plaintiff,v.Case No. 09-14890Honorable Patrick J. DugganCOMERICA BANK,Defendant.____________________________/ 
BENCH OPINION
This matter arises from a “phishing”
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attack on January 22, 2009, that resulted in acriminal hijacking the bank accounts Plaintiff Experi-Metal, Inc. (“Experi-Metal”)maintained with Defendant Comerica Bank (“Comerica” or “bank”) and wire transferringmore than $1.9 million from those accounts to destinations around the globe. Experi-Metal filed this action against Comerica on November 17, 2009, seeking to holdComerica liable for the approximately $560,000 in stolen funds that were not recovered.In its Complaint, Experi-Metal alleges that the risk of loss for the unauthorized wire
Case 2:09-cv-14890-PJD-PJK Document 66 Filed 06/13/11 Page 1 of 27
 
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Experi-Metal filed its Complaint in the Circuit Court for Macomb County, Michigan.On December 17, 2009, Comerica removed the Complaint to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1441.2
transfers falls upon Comerica pursuant to Michigan Compiled Laws sections 440.4601-4957.
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This decision follows a bench trial with respect to Experi-Metal’s claim, held onJanuary 19-26, 2011.
I.Applicable Law and Resolved and Remaining Issues
Comerica previously moved for summary judgment with respect to Experi-Metal’sclaim that the bank, pursuant to Michigan Compiled Laws sections 440.4702 and .4703,bears the risk of loss for the unauthorized wire transfer orders the criminal executed onJanuary 22, 2009. Michigan adopted these provisions from sections 4A-202 and 4A-203of the Uniform Commercial Code (“U.C.C.”). This Court summarized the application of these sections in its opinion and order denying Comerica’s motion:Pursuant to Section 440.4702, wire transfer orders are effective as orders of the customer, even though the customer did not authorize the paymentorders, if: (1) the bank and customer agreed that the authenticity of paymentorders would be verified pursuant to a security procedure; (2) the securityprocedure is commercially reasonable; and (3) the bank proves that itaccepted the orders in good faith and in compliance with the securityprocedure and any written agreement or instruction of the customer. Mich.Comp. Laws § 440.4702(2).Even if these conditions are satisfied, the risk of loss nevertheless may shiftto the bank if “the person committing the fraud did not obtain theconfidential information [facilitating the breach of the security procedure]from an agent or former agent of the customer or from a source controlledby the customer . . ..” U.C.C. § 4A-203(1)(b), cmt. 5; Mich. Comp. Laws§ 440.4703(1)(b).
Case 2:09-cv-14890-PJD-PJK Document 66 Filed 06/13/11 Page 2 of 27
 
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(7/8/10 Op. and Order at 7-8.)In that opinion and order, this Court found that the person(s) who committed thefraud against Experi-Metal on January 22, 2009, obtained Experi-Metal’s confidentialinformation that enabled the breach from an agent of Experi-Metal and that “[s]ection440.4702, therefore is determinative of which party is responsible for the loss at issue inthis case . . ..” (
 Id 
. at 8.) As to the criteria that must be satisfied under section 440.4702to hold wire transfer orders effective as orders of the customer, the Court found nogenuine issue of material fact that Comerica and Experi-Metal agreed that the authenticityof payment orders would be verified pursuant to a security procedure and that Comerica’ssecurity procedure was commercially reasonable. (
 Id 
. at 12.) The Court deniedComerica’s motion, however, because it found genuine issues of material fact related totwo issues:(1)whether Experi-Metal’s employee, whose confidential informationenabled the criminals to facilitate the fraudulent wire transfer orders,was authorized to initiate electronic wire transfer orders on behalf of the company and, therefore, whether Comerica complied with itssecurity procedure when it accepted wire transfer orders executedwith the employee’s confidential information; and(2)whether Comerica acted in “good faith” when it accepted the orders.(
 Id 
. at 3 n.2, 13, 15-16.)The parties therefore presented evidence relevant to these issues during the six-daybench trial in this matter.On February 2 and 3, 2011, after the bench trial concluded, the parties submitted
Case 2:09-cv-14890-PJD-PJK Document 66 Filed 06/13/11 Page 3 of 27

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