State v. Evans

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Citation154 Minn. 95,191 N.W. 425
Docket NumberNo. 23120.,23120.
PartiesSTATE v. EVANS et al.
Decision Date29 December 1922


Appeal from District Court, Hennepin County; E. F. Waite, Judge.

E. H. Evans and another were indicted for selling an investment contract without a license. The trial court overruled a demurrer to the indictment and certified questions to the Supreme Court. Questions answered, and order affirmed.

Dibell, J., dissenting.

Syllabus by the Court

An investment contract, under the state ‘Blue Sky Law’ (Gen. St. Supp. 1917, §§ 3782-1 to 3782-19), is a contract providing for the investment of capital in a way intended to secure income or profit from its employment. The contract set out in the opinion is an investment contract within the rule.

An indictment charging the sale of an investment contract to C. on June 6, charging that said contract had been issued by an investment company, setting out the contract, which bears date June 6, with C. as grantee, charges a sale to C. of a contract issued to him on its sale, and is not void as a charge of a sale to C. of a contract he already owned.

Under the state Constitution, a statute may only include legislation which by fair intendment is germane to the subject expressed in its title. What is necessary is that the title shall apprise members of the Legislature of the contents of the act. A title to a legislative act as ‘an act to prevent fraud in the sale and disposition of stocks, bonds or other securities' is broad enough to cover legislation affecting investment contracts.

Before a man can be punished, his case must be plainly within the statute which is invoked to make his act a crime. The term ‘investment contract’ is not so vague as to be insufficient to apprise citizens of what acts it is their duty to avoid. Powell, Carman & Cain and Burnquist & Jackman, all of Minneapolis, for appellants.

C. L. Hilton, Atty. Gen., F. B. Olson, Co. Atty., of Minneapolis, and Montreville J. Brown, Asst. Atty. Gen., for the State.


Defendants were indicted for selling an investment contract without a license from the State Securities Commission, contrary to the provisions of the so-called ‘Blue Sky Law.’ Chapter 429, Laws 1917 (Gen. St. Supp. 1917, §§ 3782-1 to 3782-19), as amended by chapter 105, Laws of 1919. Defendants demurred to the indictment. The court overruled the demurrer and certified these questions to this court:

1. Does the indictment in this case state facts sufficient to constitute a public offense?

2. Is the written instrument set out in the indictment to be construed as an investment contract within the meaning of chapter 429 of the General Laws of Minnesota, 1917, as amended?3. Is the title of the said act constituting chapter 429 of the General Laws of Minnesota, 1917, as amended by chapter 105 of the General Laws of Minnesota, 1919, sufficiently comprehensive to include and constitutionally to bring within the scope of the act the written instrument set out in the indictment?

The allegations of the indictment are that the U. S. I. Realty Company was a Minnesota corporation engaged in the business of selling investment contracts issued by it, and that on the 6th day of June, 1921, defendant without such license sold to Homer L. Clary ‘an investment contract, which said investment contract had been issued by said U. S. I. Realty Company, and which said investment contract is and was in words and figures as follows': The contract is then set out in full. It is dated June 6, 1921. By its terms, the company, in consideration of the payment of the contract fee of $25, and of ‘the covenants and agreements herein contained,’ agreed to sell to Clary the ‘west one-half (W. 1/2) of tract one (1), block nine (9) Live Bee Land Subdivision No. 2 in the county of Live Oak, state of Texas, for $2,500, payable in monthly installments of $25 each. The quantity of land is not stated. There is no express obligation on the part of Clary to pay, nor to buy. There are none of the usual provisions for furnishing an abstract of title or for examination of title. So far, it is a short form of option for the sale of land. The contract provides that it is made ‘subject to the options, privileges, terms and conditions printed hereon and made a part hereof.’ These are many times longer than the main contract itself. In substance the essential sections provide:

1. If the purchaser shall make no payment for three consecutive months, the company may, by notice, terminate the interest of the purchaser in the real estate described, but the purchaser shall have the right to resume payment and be reinstated in his interest in the land, if not sold, or to select other land owned and for sale by the company, at its regular list price.

3. At any time after six months, by mutual consent, the purchaser may surrender all interest in the land decribed, and the company will purchase other real estate for him.

4. The company agrees that as long as the purchaser has the right to surrender the real estate purchased and to demand that the company purchase other real estate, as provided in section 12, it will expend and use for the benefit of the purchaser, money in an amount equal to all money paid to it, less certain deductions, and with accrued interest, which amount shall be considered as payments on the principal on options contained in sections 3, 6, and 11.

5. Provision is made for extension of time in case of sickness, loss of employment, or other misfortune.

6. Provision is made for the option to surrender the contract and return of full amount paid, in event of death of purchaser within three years from date of contract.

7. Should the purchaser not desire to retain the land described, or to have the company purchase other real estate as provided in section 12, he may surrender his contract and receive the amount paid in with a bonus of $70 for each $1,000, from the profits obtained on sale of contracts on which the company is prepared to purchase other real estate as provided in section 12.

11. The company guarantees that when fifty regular monthly payments have been made on the contract, it will, upon surrender thereof, purchase real estate as provided in section 12 for the face value thereof upon receiving a mortgage for the balance, if in the meantime the company has not offered to purchase other real estate, and the purchaser has not availed himself of any other privilege herein contained.

12. If the purchaser shall exercise his right and option contained in sections 3 or 11, the company hereby agrees that an amount equal to the face value hereof, in accordance with the terms of this contract will be used for the purchaser for either of the following purposes, viz.: To buy a home; to build a home; to buy a farm; to improve a farm; to buy business property; to improve business property; to pay off a mortgage. Or the company will loan said sum for any other purpose, upon improved, satisfactory, unincumbered, real estate security. Then follows provision for a mortgage, indemnity against liens, insurance, abstract, examination thereof, and recording.

[1] 1. The statute (section 3) makes it an offense for any person to ‘sell or offer for sale any of the stocks, bonds, investment contracts or other securities * * * issued by an investment company,’ except certain securities specifically exempted from the provisions of the act without a license from the State Securities Commission. Defendant contends this contract does not come under ‘stocks, bonds, investment contracts or other securities.’ The state contends that it is an investment contract. The term ‘investment contract’ is nowhere defined in the act. In State v. Gopher Tire & Rubber Co., 146 Minn. 52, 177 N. W. 937, the court said:

‘The placing of capital or...

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