I am not a lawyer, I am a Judgment and Collection Agency Broker. This article is my opinion, from my experience in California. If you want legal advice, please contact a lawyer.
Of all of my articles, this late 2011 article is very likely to get stale, because banks change policies and merge procedures often. Make sure you check bank policies prior to levying a bank account.
Historically, the California laws covering bank levies were drafted in the days of typewriters, when people had to go to the branch where they opened their banking account at, to withdraw funds.
Such laws became obsolete, because one may withdraw funds at thousands of locations, including certain grocery chains. Around 2009, California CCP 704.140 specified that banks may choose where they will allow a garnishment – at some, one, or every branch.
When a brokerage account (cash only) or a bank has an agent for service of process, and is registered in California, one may serve a levy on the California address and reach debtor bank cash funds in any state, thanks to long-arm statutes. If one can’t take advantage of long-arm statutes, you need to domesticate the judgment to where the debtor’s assets are.
Many California banks require one to levy the branch where the debtor opened or maintains an account. Each California bank has their own policies on how levies may be served on them. Outside of California, usually, you can levy on any branch in the state. (To find out where to send subpoenas, check out http://subhq.wordpress.com.)
Here is a summary of some California bank levy information:
Ameriprise – (cash funds only without a court order) Serve any branch.
Ameritrade – (cash funds only unless you have a court order) Serve on any branch.
Arrowhead Credit Union – Serve on any branch.
Bank Of America (BOA) – Currently, you must serve the branch where the account was opened or where it is now maintained. If you know the debtor’s account number, the first four digits of the account number shows the branch number. Call, and ask the bank “what is the address for the branch?” and the first 4 digits of the account number. Their California legal department is at: 45 Fremont St., San Francisco, 94105, 800-283-4262.
Bank Of The West – Serve any branch.
Cal-Fed Bank – policy changing, their legal processing department # is 916-374-5945.
California Bank and Trust (California Bank and Trust) – Serve any branch. (They are a subsidiary of California Zion’s National Bank) Their levy department # is 858-514-2592. Charles Schwab – (cash funds only unless you have a court order) – Serve on any branch. Their California legal department is: Office Of Corporate Counsel, 101 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94104, # 877-243-9263.
Chase (JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.) – Serve any branch. Their levy department is at 800-869-3557, extension 818.
CitiBank – Serve on any branch – to levy judgment judgment debtor accounts in any state (wow). They are slower because they forward levies to NY, then to Texas. To speed things up, some recovery specialists make deals to fax their Texas office immediately after the levy is served, to freeze the debtor’s account faster. Litigation Support, 866-582-6249, their levy department is: 916-374-6100 (Option 8), 830 Stillwater Road/D-1, West Sacramento, CA 95605.
Comerica – Currently, you need to serve the branch where the account is now maintained or where it was opened. However, if you levy the wrong branch, the bank writes down the correct branch on the memorandum of garnishee form. This is good, however they notice the judgment debtor, giving them a chance to move funds. Their levy department in California is 408-556-5479 or 408-573-2111.
Community Bank – For Now, you must serve the branch where the account was opened or where it is now maintained. Their levy department # is 800-788-9999 x 1256. If you garnish the wrong branch, the bank writes down the correct branch on the memorandum of garnishee form.
ETrade (cash funds only unless you have a court order) – cash accounts are held by Discover Bank. Customer service is at 800-717-9833, PO Box 30416, Salt Lake City, UT 84130.
Merrill Lynch (cash funds only unless you have a court order) – Serve any branch. Their custodian of records is: Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner, and Smith, Inc, care of CT Corporation System, 818 West 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017.
Navy Federal Credit Union – Serve on any branch. Their legal/levy contact number is 888-503-7105, option 4.
Schoolsfirst Credit Union – Serve any branch.
Scottrade – (cash funds only without a court order) Serve any branch.
Umpqua Bank – Serve on any branch. Their levy department # is 866-486-7782.
Union Bank – Currently, you need to serve the branch where the was opened or where it is now maintained. However, if you levy the wrong branch, they write down the correct branch on the memorandum of garnishee form.
USAA Federal Savings Bank – based in Texas. They have 2 offices in California: Oceanside and San Diego. They accept levies by mail.
US Bank Calif – Serve any branch.
Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) – Serve on any branch.
Washington Mutual (Now Chase) – Serve any branch.
WestAmerica – Serve on any branch.
Wells Fargo – Serve any branch. Their levy department is at 480-724-2000 (press 9, then 1) PO BOX 29779 – Phoenix, AZ 85038. World Savings (Now Wachovia/Wells Fargo) – Serve on any branch.
Hard to believe, however there is a strong suspicion that many banks, particularly Chase, are quietly offering “levy proof” accounts to some customers. They name them “client trust accounts”. The banks write “no funds” on the memo of garnishee. This is immoral and illegal. Yet, I hear reports of this at least a few times a month.
When a bank writes “no funds” and you know there were funds, you may subpoena their records (with a debtor exam) or sue them. In small claims court, they will probably pay you instead of showing up in court. On larger amounts, they will probably respond.
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