Schmidt v. Farm Credit Services

Decision Date13 October 1992
Docket NumberNo. 90-3199,90-3199
Citation977 F.2d 511
PartiesFrank S. SCHMIDT, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. FARM CREDIT SERVICES, formerly d/b/a Federal Land Bank of Wichita; and Schmidt C & R Co., Inc., Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit

Kent E. Oleen of Vogel & Oleen, Manhattan, Kan., for plaintiff-appellant.

B. Keith Kocher of Shaw, Hergenreter, Quarnstrom & Kocher, Topeka, Kan., for defendants-appellees.

Before SETH and HOLLOWAY, * Circuit Judges, and DUMBAULD, District Judge. **

HOLLOWAY, Circuit Judge.

This appeal arises from a shareholder derivative suit instituted by the appellant Frank Schmidt against Schmidt C & R Co., Inc. (the Corporation) and Farm Credit Services (Farm Credit). Frank Schmidt claims that his nephew John Schmidt, the president of the Corporation, fraudulently gave himself authority to mortgage corporate property and receive the proceeds in the Corporation's name from Farm Credit. Frank Schmidt seeks to have the court set aside the mortgage and its accompanying obligation. On cross motions for summary judgment, the district court granted judgment in Farm Credit's favor. Frank Schmidt timely appealed. 1


Schmidt C & R Co. is a family farm corporation. Half of its stock is owned by John and Pamela Schmidt, husband and wife, who are also two of the three directors of the Corporation as well as being its principal officers. A meeting of the board of directors was held in February 1980 at which only John and Pamela Schmidt were present. At the meeting John Schmidt received the authority to borrow $400,000 in the Corporation's name from the Federal Land Bank of Wichita, Farm Credit's predecessor. There exist two conflicting sets of minutes describing the report of this action to the stockholders meeting the same day; one reports the approval, the other does not.

The following month a promissory note and mortgage in the amount of $320,000 were executed by Farm Credit and the Corporation. Alan Jaax, the agent of Farm Credit who handled the transaction, was aware that the proceeds of the loan were to be loaned in turn by the Corporation to John and Pamela Schmidt. The fact of the loan was not included in the Corporation's annual profit and loss statement sent to shareholders, although it was noted in the annual report filed with the Kansas Secretary of State in 1980.

Plaintiff Frank Schmidt, a shareholder, commenced his derivative shareholder's action seeking to void the mortgage in May 1988 after he learned of the loan. 2 After a period of discovery Frank Schmidt filed a motion for summary judgment. Shortly thereafter Farm Credit filed its own summary judgment motion. In a Memorandum and Order of May 31, 1990 the district court found in favor of Farm Credit on its motion for summary judgment. Schmidt v. Farm Credit Services, 738 F.Supp. 1372 (D.Kan.1990). In the district judge's view two factors distinguish the instant case from In re Branding Iron Motel, Inc., 798 F.2d 396 (10th Cir.1986), which was relied on by plaintiff Frank Schmidt. First, the judge found that John Schmidt, as President of Schmidt C & R Co., had express actual authority to execute the note and mortgage. Secondly, the judge said that the board of directors had expressly sanctioned and approved the actions of the Corporation's President in negotiating the loan transaction. The district judge accordingly granted summary judgment to Farm Credit. The instant appeal followed. 3


We review de novo the district court's summary judgment rulings. We thus apply the same legal standard used by the trial court. Applied Genetics Int'l, Inc. v. First Affiliated Securities, Inc., 912 F.2d 1238, 1241 (10th Cir.1990). Summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence indicates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In examining the record we review the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion for summary judgment. Deepwater Investments, Ltd., v. Jackson Hole Ski Corp., 938 F.2d 1105, 1110 (10th Cir.1991). Moreover, "a court of appeals should review de novo a district court's determination of state law." Salve Regina College v. Russell, --- U.S. ----, ----, 111 S.Ct. 1217, 1221, 113 L.Ed.2d 190 (1991).

The relationship between a corporation and its president is that of principal and agent. Herald Co. v. Seawell, 472 F.2d 1081, 1094 (10th Cir.1972). An agent may bind its principal as to a third party when the agent acts under actual authority or when the actions of the principal lead the third party to reasonably believe that such authority exists. Bucher & Willis Consulting Engineers, Planners, and Architects v. Smith, 7 Kan.App.2d 467, 643 P.2d 1156, 1159 (1982). In this instance, then, the mortgage on the corporate property was valid if Schmidt had actual, express authority to mortgage the property or if Farm Credit was lead by the corporation to believe reasonably that authority to enter into the transaction existed.


The resolution to borrow upon which Farm Credit relies as the basis of John Schmidt's authority to mortgage the corporate property was purportedly made at a meeting of the board of directors on January 31, 1980. Resolution to Borrow, Doc. 26, Exh. 8. 4 Under the articles of incorporation of Schmidt C & R Co., all members of the board of directors must be given notice of the time and place of the board's meetings. Art. I § 1, Doc. 28, Exh. 3. Ordinarily, a directors' meeting to be binding must be a regular one of which the directors have general notice, or a special one upon due notice to each. Gorrill v. Greenlees, 104 Kan. 693, 180 P. 798, 800 (1919); Schroder v. Scotten, Dillon Co., 299 A.2d 431, 435 (Del.Ch.1972); Rapoport v. Schneider, 29 N.Y.2d 396, 328 N.Y.S.2d 431, 434, 278 N.E.2d 642, 645 (1972); Charles R.P. Keating, et al., 2 Fletcher Cyclopedia of Corporations § 405 (1990).

The Articles of Incorporation of Schmidt C & R Corporation do not fix specific dates for regular meetings of the board of directors. Art. II § 2, Doc. 28, Exh. 3. Rather the meetings can be held at any time, provided that the directors are given proper notice. At the time of the mortgage the only director of the Corporation other than Schmidt and his wife was Susan Ensign. Ms. Ensign's affidavit states that she never received notice of any special meeting concerning a loan from the Corporation, Schmidt C & R Co., to John Schmidt for his personal use, or of any special meeting concerning the transaction between the Corporation and the Federal Land Bank. Ensign Affidavit at 2, Doc. 26, Exh. D. Respecting this statement, John Schmidt testified that he does not recall whether or not notice of the special meeting that authorized Schmidt to enter into a loan for the corporation was given to Ms. Ensign. Memorandum of Farm Credit in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. Doc. 30 at 4. Thus we agree with Frank Schmidt's contention that the district court erred in holding on this record that there was actual authority to so mortgage corporate property.

The validity of the authority allegedly expressly granted to Schmidt is further impugned by the character of the transaction itself. The Corporation's property was mortgaged for the purpose of freeing up cash which could, in turn, be loaned to Schmidt. When Schmidt applied for the mortgage he was acting as agent of the Corporation. However, "unless otherwise agreed, authority to act as agent includes only authority to act for the benefit of the principal." Restatement (Second) of the Law of Agency § 39. See also Siedhoff v. Campbell, 141 Kan. 255, 40 P.2d 404, 407 (1935) (citing with approval identical provision in First Restatement). An agent's actions which are beyond the scope of his authority do not bind the principal. See Osborn v. Grego, 226 Kan. 212, 596 P.2d 1233, 1237 (1979). Evidence has been produced to show that the loan from the Corporation to Schmidt was not for the benefit of the Corporation. Thus there is some evidence that the transaction between Farm Credit and the Corporation was also not for the benefit of the Corporation. Under the Restatement 's view, then, there was a genuine question of whether the mortgage was authorized.

The general common law duty to act only for the benefit of the principal is supplemented in Kansas by a specific statutory provision. K.S.A. 17-6304 provides that no contract or transaction between a corporation and a director or officer shall be void or voidable solely for that reason if, inter alia, the contract or transaction is fair as to the corporation as of the time it is authorized, approved or ratified by the board of directors, a committee thereof, or the shareholders. Farm Credit argues that, in this case, the provision applies only to the second transaction, the loan to Schmidt, and not the first transaction, the mortgaging of the property. There is some support for this argument in the language of the statute which specifically refers only to transactions "between a corporation and one of its directors or officers." The mortgage was clearly not such a transaction. On the other hand, there is also authority for the proposition that such a preliminary transaction may properly be considered part of the over-all proscribed self-dealing transaction. See Minnesota Valley Country Club, Inc. v. Gill, 356 N.W.2d 356, 360, 362 (Minn.App.1984). We need not in any event resolve this issue here because we have already found that the lack of notice to Susan Ensign meant that the mortgage transaction was not properly authorized by the board of directors and was outside the scope of authority granted to Schmidt as president.


Although the uncontroverted evidence shows that John Schmidt did not have actual authority to mortgage the property, summary judgment might still be proper for Farm Credit if it showed that the Corporation by its actions created a situation in which...

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1 books & journal articles
  • Preserving the Record for Appeal
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 28-11, November 1999
    • Invalid date a post-trial motion. See DeMott v. Smith, 4486 P.2d 451, 454 (Colo.App. 1971). 55. C.A.R. 4(a). 56. Schmidt v. Farm Credit Services, 977 F.2d 511, 513 (10th Cir. 1992) ("[R]edress [of a denial] can only be achieved through subsequent motions for judgment as a matter of law and appellate ......

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