Beatty v. Guggenheim Exploration Co.

Decision Date28 January 1919
Citation225 N.Y. 380,122 N.E. 378
PartiesBEATTY v. GUGGENHEIM EXPLORATION CO. et al.
CourtNew York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

On reargument of appeal from a judgment of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for the First Department reversing judgment of the Special Term for defendants and granting judgment absolute for plaintiff. Judgment of the Appellate Division modified, and as modified affirmed.

For former opinion, see 233 N. Y. 294,119 N. E. 575; and see, also, 121 N. E. 855.

Cuddeback and Hogan, JJ., dissenting.Nathan L. Miller, of Syracuse, and Louis Marshall, of New York City, for appellants.

Charles F. Brown, Henry Wollman, and Robert C. Beatty, all of New York City, for respondent.

CARDOZO, J.

This case is here upon reargument. We need not rehearse the facts. They are concisely stated in Judge Cuddeback's opinion (223 N. Y. 294, 119 N. E. 575). We held then that there could be no recovery by the plaintiff of compensation paid to Perry under the Perry-Guggenheim contract. That question is no longer open. We did not pass upon the Perry-Treadgold contract, but left the plaintiff's rights under that contract for adjudication on a second trial. The reargument thereafter ordered was restricted to a single question. The question is whether plaintiff's rights under the Perry-Treadgold contract may be finally determined now.

[1] The defendants argue that the two contracts are inseparably united in scheme and execution. They say, therefore, that misconduct in respect of one defeats recovery under the other. But we think there is no such union as the argument assumes. The two transactions are clearly severable. The plaintiff had an interest with Perry in claims ‘89 to 104 below discovery at Bonanza creek.’ Those claims were the subject of the Perry-Treadgold contract. The plaintiff had another interest in compensation paid to Perry for services in the Yukon district. That compensation was the subject of the Perry-Guggenheim contract. Perry had done work, and was entitled to pay. The plaintiff persuaded him to ask for more pay than would otherwise have satisfied him, in order that plaintiff might get a share of it. We held that this was a breach of the plaintiff's duty to his employer. The payment, thus unlawfully swollen, was subject to a constructive trust. Our decision went no farther. But the payment for Perry's services is quite distinct from the payment of Perry's profits in the sale of Treadgold's claims. The amount due under each head is stated in the findings. Increase of the one had no tendency to swell the measure of the other. Subsequent misconduct in another and distinct transaction does not work a forfeiture of rights already lawfully accrued.

There remains, however a question at once more important and more difficult. It is whether the plaintiff ever lawfully acquired a share in the profits of the Perry-Treadgold contract, considered by itself. He had agreed with his employer that he would not become directly or indirectly interested in, or connected with, any person, partnership, or corporation engaged in any similar business. He had also agreed that none of the covenants or conditions of the contract should be ‘waived, modified, altered, or annulled’ except by writing subscribed by the parties, who further covenanted that they would not ‘urge or claim any such waiver, alteration, modification, or amendment unless the same be evidenced by such writing.’ The finding is that the president and the general manager of the employer knew that plaintiff was interested in the Perry-Treadgold contract and consented thereto, but no written consent was found or proved. The question, therefore, subdivides itself into two branches. One is whether the plaintiff, if he had purchased an interest in the claims without the consent of his employer, would be chargeable as a trustee; the other is whether consent not evidenced by a writing has varied the employer's rights.

[2][3][4] (1) We think the situation is one where an employer, not consenting to the investment, would have the privilege, if he so elected, to hold the plaintiff as trustee.

The plaintiff was sent to the Yukon to investigate mining claims which were the subject of an option. He found certain other claims which were not included in the option, but which he believed to be essential to the successful operation of those that were included. In conjunction with Perry, he purchased rights in the new claims. The two were partners in the venture. Later his employer, appreciating the importance of the claims, determined to buy them for itself. We think it had the right to say to the agent that he must renounce the profits of the transaction and transfer the claims at cost. A different situation would be presented if the claims had no relation to those which the plaintiff was under a duty to investigate. But they had an intimate relation. One could not profitably be operated without the other. Let us suppose that the plaintiff, instead of buying the claims as a partner with Perry, had bought them alone. No one, we think, would say that he could have retained them against his employer, and held out for an extravagant price, as, of course, he could have done if the purchase was not affected by a trust. It is not an answer to say that he was not bound to risk his money as he did, or to go into the enterprise at all. Rose v. Hayden, 35 Kan. 106, 118, 10 Pac. 554,57 Am. Rep. 145. He might have kept out of it altogether, but if he went in he could not withold from his employer the benefit of the bargain. Trice v. Comstock, 121 Fed. 620, 57 C. C. A. 646, 61 L. R. A. 176;Felix v. Patrick, 145 U. S. 317, 327, 12 Sup. Ct. 862, 36 L. Ed. 719;Massie v. Watts, 6 Cranch, 148, 3 L. Ed. 181;Ringo v. Binns, 10 Pet. 269, 9 L. Ed. 420;Gardner v. Ogden, 22 N. Y. 327, 78 Am. Dec. 192; Sea Coast R. R. Co. v. Wood, 65 N. J. Eq. 530, 56 Atl. 337; Fox v. Mackreth, 1 Wh. & T. Lead. Cases in Eq. 92; Perry on Trusts (6th Ed.) § 206.

We think therefore, that aside from the special provisions of this contract, the agent became a trustee at the election of the principal. But the contract re-enforces that conclusion. It is true that an agent or a partner who breaks a covenant not to engage in some other business does not, as a matter of course, become chargeable as a trustee for the profits of the forbidden venture. Dean v. McDowell, L. R. 8 Ch. Div. 345; Trimble v. Goldberg, 1906, A. C. 494, 500; Aas v. Benham, 1891, 2 Ch. Div. 244; Latta v. Kilbourn, 150 U. S. 524, 547, 548, 14 Sup. Ct. 201, 37 L. Ed. 1169. The agent may be discharged; the partnership may be dissolved; there may be an action for damages. But to raise a trust there must be more. It is sometimes said that the profits of the forbidden venture must have been diverted from the business of the principal or the partnership. See cases supra. We think it may fairly be found that there was a diversion of profits here. But the test of diversion is not exhaustive. For most cases it may supply a working rule, but the rule is a phase or illustration of a principle still larger. A constructive trust is the formula through which the conscience of equity finds expression. When property has been acquired in such circumstances that the holder of the legal title may not in good conscience retain the beneficial interest equity converts him into a trustee. Moore v. Crawford, 130 U. S. 122, 128, 9 Sup. Ct. 447, 32 L. Ed. 878; Pomeroy, Eq. Jur. § 1053. We think it would be against good conscience for the plaintiff to retain these profits unless his employer has consented. The tie was close between the employer's business and the forbidden venture. The profits which the agent claims have come from the employer's coffers. If the agent must account as a trustee, the price which the employer pays is to that extent diminished. If the agent retains the profit, the price is to that extent increased. Of course it is true that if Perry had made the purchase alone, without the aid of plaintiff, the employer might be no better off. That is true whenever an agent goes into some competing venture. His associates might have succeeded in diverting equal profits without him. The disability is personal to him. Others may divert profits from the business of the principal. He may not. If he does, he must account for them.

[5] (2) We conclude, therefore, that the plaintiff was chargeable as a trustee if the employer so elected. But the Appellate Division has found upon sufficient evidence that the employer consented to the investment. 167 App. Div. 864,153 N. Y. Supp. 757. The plaintiff, when he associated himself with Perry, reserved the privilege of withdrawal. The contract was that if the president or the general manager disapproved of his investment, then the payment which he had made, instead of being a purchase of a share in a joint enterprise, should be a loan to Perry personally. This is found by the trial judge as well as by the Appellate Division. The testimony is that, in...

To continue reading

Request your trial
624 cases
  • In re Independent Clearing House Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of Utah
    • August 6, 1984
    ...defined a constructive trust as "the formula through which the conscience of equity finds expression." Beatty v. Guggenheim Exploration Co., 225 N.Y. 380, 386, 122 N.E. 378, 380 (1919). The Restatement provides that "where a person holding title to property is subject to an equitable duty t......
  • Buchanan v. Brentwood Federal Sav. and Loan Ass'n
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • April 23, 1974
    ...title may not in good conscience retain the beneficial interest, equity converts him into a trustee.' Beatty v. Guggenheim Exploration Co., 225 N.Y. 380, 386, 122 N.E. 378, 380--331 (1919). See, e.g., Truver v. Kennedy, 425 Pa. 294, 305, 229 A.2d 468, 474 (1967); Chambers v. Chambers, 406 P......
  • S.S. Silberblatt, Inc. v. East Harlem Pilot Block-Bldg. 1 Housing Development Fund Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • October 23, 1979
    ...In the words of Judge Cardozo the "equity of the transaction must shape the measure of the relief," Beatty v. Guggenheim Exploration Co., 225 N.Y. 380, 389, 122 N.E. 378, 381 (1919); see Palmer, Supra, §§ 1.4, 20. Indeed, restitution may even be awarded to a party even though he is in defau......
  • In re Commodore Business Machines, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Southern District of New York
    • April 11, 1995
    ...title may not in good conscience retain the beneficial interest, equity converts him into a trustee." Beatty v. Guggenheim Exploration Co., 225 N.Y. 380, 386, 122 N.E. 378 (1919); see also Buchanan v. Brentwood Federal Savings & Loan Assn., 457 Pa. 135, 320 A.2d 117, 127 (1974) (quoting Bea......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 books & journal articles
  • IndeX.
    • United States
    • New York State Bar Association NY Contract Law: a Guide for Non-NY Attorneys Index
    • Invalid date
    ...N.Y.2d 158 (1993). 823. GOL § 15-301(1). 824. Rose v. Spa Realty Assocs., 42 N.Y.2d 338 (1977). 825. Beatty v. Guggenheim Exploration Co., 225 N.Y. 380 (1919). 826. See supra Chapter IX.A.2. 827. Cives Corp. v. Hunt Constr. Grp., 91 A.D.3d 1178 (3d Dep’t 2012). Nonetheless, until the Court ......
  • THE LAW WANTS TO BE FORMAL.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 96 No. 3, January 2021
    • January 1, 2021
    ...277-84 (1998); Emily L. Sherwin, Constructive Trusts in Bankruptcy, 1989 U. III. L. REV. 297, 313. (48) Beatty v. Guggenheim Expl. Co., 122 N.E. 378, 380-81 (N.Y. 1919); see also H.Jefferson Powell, "Cardozo's Foot": The Chancellor's Conscience and Constructive Trusts, LAW & CONTEMP. PR......
  • Chapter 55 - § 55.5 • CONSTRUCTIVE TRUSTS
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Orange Book Handbook: Colorado Estate Planning Handbook (2022 ed.) (CBA) Chapter 55 Equitable Remedies
    • Invalid date
    ...legal title may not in good conscience retain the beneficial interest, equity converts him into a trustee." Beatty v. Guggenheim Exp. Co., 122 N.E. 378, 380 (N.Y. 1919). As with resulting trusts, a constructive trust is a remedy and not a cause of action. Bryant, 160 P.3d at 276. Neverthele......
  • Chapter 55 - § 55.5 • CONSTRUCTIVE TRUSTS
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Orange Book Handbook: Colorado Estate Planning Handbook (2020 ed.) (CBA) Chapter 55 Equitable Remedies
    • Invalid date
    ...legal title may not in good conscience retain the beneficial interest, equity converts him into a trustee." Beatty v. Guggenheim Exp. Co., 122 N.E. 378, 380 (N.Y. 1919). As with resulting trusts, a constructive trust is a remedy and not a cause of action. Bryant, 160 P.3d at 276. Neverthele......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT