« ForrigeFortsett »
Opinion of the Court.
are usually made and entered into in the months of June, July and August." In other words, on the termination of one grinding season, in the months of June or July, it is usual in the ensuing August to make new contracts for the cane to be delivered in the following grinding season, which, as we have said, commences in December. The contract transferring the lease to the Central Altagracia, incorporated, was made in July, 1905, at the end, therefore, of the grinding season of that year. To what extent the corporation contracted for cane to be delivered to it for grinding during the season of 1905-6, which began in December, 1905, does not appear. It is inferable, however, that the corporation began the work of installing new machinery to give the plant a larger capacity within the year stipulated in the lease from Sanchez to Castello. We say this because it is certain that in the fall of 1906 (October) the corporation borrowed from the commercial firm of Nevers & Callaghan in New York city the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) to enable the corporation to pay for new and enlarged machinery which it had ordered and which was placed in the factory in time to be used in the grinding season of 1906-7, which began in December, 1906. While such grinding season was progressing, on April 11, 1907, the corporation, through its president, under the authority of its board of directors, sold to one Ramon Valdes all its rights acquired under the lease transferred by Castello. This transfer expressly included all the machinery previously placed by the corporation in the sugar house, as well as machinery which might be thereafter installed during the term of redemption hereafter to be referred to and which, it was declared, conformably to the original lease "shall be a part of said factory for the manufacture of sugar." The consideration for the sale was stated in the contract to be "thirty-five thousand dollars ($35,000) received by the corporation, twenty-five thousand four hundred dol
lars ($25,400) whereof had been paid prior to this act (of sale) and to its entire satisfaction, and the balance of nine thousand six hundred dollars ($9,600) shall be turned over to the vendor corporation by Senor Valdes immediately upon being required to do so by the former." This sale was made subject to a right to redeem the property within a year on paying Valdes the entire amount of his debt. There was a stipulation that Valdes assumed all the obligations of the lease transferred by Castello to the company.
The undoubted purpose was not to interfere with the operation of the plant by the corporation, since there was a provision in the contract binding Valdes to lease the property to the corporation pending the period of redemption. This sale was passed in Porto Rico before a notary public, but was never put upon the public records. At the time it was made there was a very considerable sum unpaid on the debt of Nevers & Callaghan. This fact, joined with the period when the sale with the right to redeem was made, that is, the approaching end of the sugar-making season of 1906 and 1907, coupled with other facts to which we shall hereafter make reference, all tend to establish that at that time, either because insufficient capital had been put into the venture or because the business had been carried on at a loss, the affairs of the corporation were embarrassed, if it was not insolvent. A short while before the commencement of the grinding season of 1907-1908, in October, 1907, in the city of New York, the corporation, through its president, declaring himself to be authorized by the board of directors, sanctioned by a vote of the stockholders, apparently made an absolute sale of all the rights of the corporation under the lease and all its title to the machinery which the corporation had put into the plant. This sale was declared to be for a consideration of sixty-five thousand ($65,000) dollars which the company acknowledged to have received from Valdes, first, by the payment of the thirty
five thousand dollars cash, as stated in the previous sale made, subject to the equity of redemption, and thirty thousand ($30,000) dollars which "the company has received afterwards in cash from Valdes." There was a provision in the contract to the effect that as the purpose of the previous contract of sale, which had been made subject to the equity of redemption, was accomplished by the new sale, the previous sale was declared to be no longer operative.
A few days afterwards, likewise in the city of New York (on November 2, 1907), Valdes sold to the company all the rights which he had acquired from it by the previous sale, the price being sixty-five thousand ($65,000) dollars, payable in installments falling due in the years 1908, 1909, 1910 and 1911 respectively. This transfer was put in the form of a conditional sale which reserved the title in Valdes until the payment of the deferred price and upon the stipulation that any default by the corporation entitled Valdes ipso facto to take possession of the property. Neither this act of sale from Valdes to the corporation nor the one made by the corporation to Valdes were ever put upon the public records.
Prior to the making of the sales just stated, or about that time, the corporation defaulted in the payment of a note held by Nevers & Callaghan for a portion of the money which they had loaned the corporation under the circumstances which we have previously stated, and that firm sued in the court below the corporation to recover the debt.
The grinding season of 1907-1908 commenced in December, 1907, and was obviously not a successful one, for the debt of Nevers & Callaghan was not paid, and in May, 1908, a judgment was recovered by them against the corporation for about seventeen thousand dollars with interest, and in the same month execution was issued and levied upon the machinery in the sugar house. Previous to or not long subsequent to the time Nevers & Cal
laghan commenced their suit, the precise date not being stated in the record, the heirs of Sanchez, the original lessor, brought a suit in the court below against the corporation. The nature of the suit and the relief sought is not disclosed, but it is inferable from the facts stated that the suit either sought to recover the property on the ground that there was no power in Castello to transfer the lease, or upon the ground of default in the conditions as to payment of profits as rental which the lease stipulated. It would seem also at about the same time either one or both of the Castellos brought a suit against the company, presumably upon the theory that there had been a default in the obligations assumed in their favor by the corporation at the time it took the transfer of the lease. In the meanwhile also, probably as the result of the want of success of the corporation, discord arose between its stockholders and a suit growing out of that state of things was brought in the lower court.
This litigation was commenced in June, 1908, by the bringing by Valdes of an action at law in the court below to recover the plant on the ground that by the default in paying one of the installments of the price stated in the conditional sale, the right to the relief prayed had arisen. On the same day Valdes commenced a suit in equity against the corporation in aid of the suit at law. The bill alleged the default of the corporation, the bringing of the suit at law, the confusion in the affairs of the corporation, the judgment and levy of the execution by Nevers & Callaghan, and the threat to sell the machinery under such execution; the refusal of the corporation to deliver possession of the property, the waste and destruction of the value of the property which would result if there was no one representing the corporation having power to contract for cane to be delivered during the next grinding season, etc., etc. The prayer was for the appointment of a receiver to take charge of the property with auVOL. CCXXV-5
Opinion of the Court.
thority to carry on the same, make the necessary contracts for cane for the future, it being prayed that the receiver should be empowered to issue receiver's certificates to the extent necessary to the accomplishment of the purposes which the bill had in view.
On the same day a bill was filed on behalf of the corporation against Valdes. This bill attacked the sale made to Valdes and by him to the corporation. It was charged that the price stated to have been paid by Valdes as a consideration of the conditional sale was fictitious, and that the only sum he had advanced at that time was the thirty-five thousand dollars which it was the purpose to secure by means of the sale with the equity of redemption. That at that time Valdes exacted as a consideration for his loan that he be made a director and vicepresident of the company. The bill then stated that it having become evident in the following autumn that the corporation would require more money to increase its plant, to pay off the sum due Nevers & Callaghan, and for the operation of the plant, Valdes agreed to advance the money if he were made president of the company at a stipulated salary, given a bonus in the stock of the company and upon the condition that the papers be executed embodying the so-called sale of the company to Valdes and the practically simultaneous conditional sale by Valdes to the company. The bill then alleged that Valdes, having thus become the president of the company, failed to carry out his agreement to advance the money, failed to provide for the debt of Nevers & Callaghan, mismanaged the affairs of the property in many alleged particulars, and did various acts to the prejudice of the company and to his own wrongful enrichment, which it is unnecessary to recapitulate. The necessity of contracting for cane during the contract season, in order that the plant might continue during the next operating season to be a going concern and the waste and loss which would otherwise