I am not a lawyer, I am a judgment broker. This article is my opinion, based on my experience in California. If you ever need legal advice, please contact a lawyer.
Of the articles I have written so far, this (originally written in 2011) one is most likely to become stale, (updated only here) because banks merge and change policies often. Always verify bank policies before you levy a bank account. In 2012, laws changed in California that let banks choose a centralized service location. If they do not, they must accept service at any branch. And of course, internet-only banks, such as Ally Financial, must be served at their corporate serve-to address. Woo Hoo, this article is mostly be obsolete now! See: http://www.dbo.ca.gov/Laws_&_Regs/legislation/ >service_of_legal_process/default.asp >
If a bank is not on this list in California, judgment owners can levy on any branch of any bank not on this list. Now you can levy any branch if the bank does not have a central location. Always check that link above for the latest info on where banks should be served. In most California counties, you can have a registered process server serve the branch the account was first opened at or if the bank has some other centralized service location. All Sheriff’s offices require opening a levy file in the county where the levy will be served. If you want to levy 2 banks in the same county, the Sheriff will charge another $35.
Financial institutions with 9 locations or more not designating a “central location” with the DFI must accept levies at any branch. If they have designated a “central location” then all levies must be served at the “central location” regardless of where the account is located. It is nice that California has finally changed their antiquated laws about levies. Allowing them to designate a central location is somewhat of a drag, but still much better than the old way of having to hit the branch where the account was maintained.
In California, it the bank has a central levy location, serve your levy there. Be sure to have your process server notice the representative at the bank branch in writing, that as of the time of the levy, which is the time noted on the proof of services, the levy has commenced. And if any money is removed after the levy is served, or other items like a safety deposit box, then the bank will be liable – although a new lawsuit may be required.
Also, sometimes when you levy the debtor’s bank account in one state, it will reach the debtor’s money in all states.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you see an error here or have an update for this article.
Historically, the laws covering California bank levies were drafted in the days of typewriters, when a person had to go to the branch where they opened their bank account at, to withdraw funds.
Such laws are obsolete now, because one can withdraw funds at thousands of locations, including some grocery stores. Around 2009, California CCP 704.140 specified that a bank may choose where they will accept a levy – at one, some, or all branches.
Beware of laws that might protect debtor’s income. If the debtor can show the money in their account came only from wages, they might be able to get an exemption for 75%, as a wage garnishment would only get 25%.
If a bank or a brokerage account (cash only) is registered, and has an agent for service of process in California, you can serve a levy on the California address and reach debtor cash bank assets in several states, thanks to long-arm statutes. If you cannot take advantage of long-arm statutes, you must domesticate the judgment to where the debtor’s assets are.
If your judgment debtor’s bank has a branch in New York, you can domesticate the judgment to New York, and serving the bank with the levy will reach the judgment debtor’s money anywhere in the US! The drawback is domesticating default judgments to New York requires a new trial.
Many California banks require you to levy the branch where the debtor opened or maintains an account. Every California bank has its own policy on how levies may be served on them. Outside of California, generally, any bank branch in the state, is ok to levy. (To find out where to send subpoenas, see http://subhq.wordpress.com.)
When the stakes are high, it might be best to serve the branch where the account was opened, even if the bank’s policy is serve any branch. Credit Unions are notorius for protecting their customers from levies. If you ever suspect a bank or credit union is saying “account not found” or “no funds”, and is lying, you might subpoena the debtor and their bank. The goal might be to have them produce records showing the daily bank balances, deposits, and withdrawals; a month before and a two weeks after your levy attempt. Such documented information might prove there were funds in their account at the time of the levy, and the bank/credit union can be warned they can be sued if they do not make good on the levy for the amount that should have been deducted.
If the bank is not listed on the www.dbo.ca.gov website, and they have more than 9 branches, then they are an “any branch” serve. Now that California has central locations, consider using the LA County Sheriff, whether using a process server or not. If you get a Writ Of Execution issued to LA County, it is good for all the big banks, Chase, Wells, BofA, Citibank, and a handful of others. Plus, the LA County Sheriff has a website so you can look up status and more importantly, if you get a hit, you can see when your check is coming. It also helps to look up pending levies and see if any claims have been filed. LA County Sheriff has many branches so finding a small one that has good service is important, and if you do, you can develop a relationship with them, it is a big help. Like anything else, they have good branches and horrible ones. For now, the positives outweigh the negatives on LA County.
For the “any branch” banks, also consider using some of the smaller Sheriffs in the state. I have heard good things about Imperial County. They are fast. Another trick for these “any branch” banks is to pick a branch very close to the sheriffs office address. It seems to help if it is very close for them.
This is a summary of some California bank levy information:
Ameriprise – (cash funds only without a court order) Serve any branch.
Ameritrade – (cash funds only without a court order) Serve any branch.
Arrowhead Credit Union – Serve any branch.
Bank Of America (BOA) – Although a phone call to BOA might say otherwise, generally in California all bank levies must be served at their central location, which is Los Angeles. So, get a writ for Los Angeles and contact the Their levy service of process in now: CT Corp, located at 818 w. 7th St. 2nd floor. Los Angeles, CA 90017. (They are no longer to be served at 1000 Temple Stree). The question is, will CT Systems freeze the funds immmeditely like the BOA used to instantly? See http://ct.wolterskluwer.com/ctcorporation/locator
For serving general subpoena and other documents: B of A ORDER PROCESSING – SUBPOENAS/SUMMONS SERVICE – 800 Samoset DR – Newark DE. 19713 – DE5-024-02-08,
CERT MAIL – P O BOX 15047 – WILMINGTON, DE. 19580-5047
SERVICE IN CA – C T CORP SYSTEM – 818 WEST 7TH ST – LOS ANGELES, CA. 90017
Best to use a RPS.
If you know the judgment 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 four digits of the account number. Their California legal department was at: 45 Fremont Street, San Francisco, 94105, 800-283-4262, now it is by telephone: 213-580-0702 or 213-580-0701. Bank of America is the only bank that will write “account not found” if the address of the judgment debtor on the writ of execution is different than the address they have in their records. There is no law to support this. Even if there is no confusion as to who the debtor is, and the debtor has an account at BOA, they write “account not found”, BOA looks for any excuse not to honor a levy, this is outrageous! They sometimes seem to protect important customers from bank levies. They often “lose” or “forget” things.
To Subpoena Bank Accounts at Bank of America: (Personal Service)
Care of: CT Corp, 818 W. 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017.
When calling the Bank Of America, do not ask about the judgment debtor or their specific account. Only ask where the account is maintained. The first four or five digits of the account number(s) usually contain the number of the branch where it is maintained. Any bank branch manager can tell you that. If the account number is 22435-99999, then you can ask, “where is branch #2235?”. If they know, they will look it up and tell you because it’s a general question, and not a question about one of their account holders. If they say, “I can’t tell you that,” then you can say, “Of course you can. This isn’t about any specific account. It’s about the branch number.” If they will not tell you, ask to speak to their supervisor. With Bank of America, the branch is embedded in the account number. This is not always true for other banks.
For all Bank of America Credit Card Services, serve:
FIA Card Services, N.A. (they accept certified mail service here) AZ1-200-20-37, P.O. Box 29961, Phoenix, AZ 85038.
Bank of America Tower (by personal service only at this location) Collier Center, 201 East Washington Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004.
BBCN Bank (Nara bank and Center Bank, Asian) – levy any branch, Levy department, Jenny Mclane 213-401-2306.
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 California subsidiary of Zion’s National Bank) Their levy department # is 858-514-2592.
Charles Schwab – (cash funds only without a court order) – Serve 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. Another Chase levy department number is 866-578-7022 x 3. Chase bank has to been known to honor levies where the money is in one of their branches in any other state – wow! Recently in Orange county, a Chase bank employee was fired for throwing levy paperwork away! Chase Court Orders & Levies Dept – PO Box 183164 – Columbus, OH 43218 – Phone: 866-578-7022 – Fax: 866-699-0618.
For some reason it seems that JPMorganChase Bank always charges w way more for producing way less documents than any other bank. Most of the bills you will receive from banks are pretty fairly priced (as compared to many other banks you will eventually end up subpoenaing docs from). Some will even allow you to negotiate the bill down if you feel the amount they are charging you is excessive (always do this with Chase!).
Here’s some helpful information which can help keep the final amount you are billed by a bank as low as possible: in your SDT if you are requesting picture copies of all checks, front and back, you can specifically tailor your request for document production to something like: all checks in the amount of $100.00 or greater (or $500.00, or $1,000.00, or $2,500.00, etc.). You can further specify in your SDT that the bank *not* include duplicate copies whenever possible – otherwise they will often include duplicate copies of some records. Also, the length of the time frame you are requesting docs for plays a part in the final bill you receive from the bank (i.e. 5-7 years vs. 1-2 years worth of docs). Of course, how you limit the scope of document production depends entirely upon what you are looking for.
CitiBank – Serve any branch – to reach judgment debtor accounts in any state (wow). They are slower because they forward levies to New York, then to Texas. To speed things up, some enforcers make deals to fax their Texas office immediately after the levy is served, to freeze the judgment 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. The Citibank levy department is 866-582-6249. For best results, if you levy Citibank, you must fax a copy of the levy to their levy department in Texas [Fax # (210) 547-9177)]. Otherwise, they will not freeze or apply the levy for 3-7 days, and the judgment debtor’s money could be gone.
City National Bank – Serve any branch.
Comerica – Currently, you must serve the branch where the account was opened or where it is now maintained. 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 remove funds. Their levy department in California is 408-556-5479 or 408-573-2111.
Community Bank – Currently, 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 levy the wrong branch, the bank writes down the correct branch on the memorandum of garnishee form.
Capital One Legal Department: Direct Number 804-284-2424, Email address: email@example.com
Edward Jones – headquarters is in Saint Louis, 800-515-0200.
East West Bank- reach any branch by serving their headquarters, 135 North Los Robles Ave 7th Floor, Pasadena, CA 91101. 626-768-6000.
ETrade (cash funds only without 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.
Hanmi (AKA Hamm AKA Piggi Bank) based in Los Angeles – serve any branch.
Key Bank – has 9 offices in California, and an office in San Francisco, see phone directory for which officer to serve levies on. Rumor is they lie to protect their best customers. Often you must retain a lawyer to get then to comply with the writ, some have had to put the bank into receivership to get paid.
Not a Bank, but Kaiser Medical is a giant employer, they can be served at: 2101 Webster st, 14th Floor, Oakland, Ca 94612.
Merrill Lynch (cash funds only without 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. They will also accept a Fedex to the Custodian Of Records to Merrill Lynch, 4695 McArthur Court, Suite 1600, Newport Beach, CA 92660, 800-937-0283.
Navy Federal Credit Union – Serve any branch. Their levy/legal contact number is 888-503-7105, option 4.
OneWest Bank – Currently, you must serve the branch where the account was opened or where it is now maintained. Their HQ is OneWest Bank 888 East Walnut Street, Pasadena, CA 91101.
Opus Bank (Formerly Fullerton Community Bank) – Serve any branch.
Pacific Western Bank – Serve any branch.
Schools First Credit Union – Serve any branch.
Scottrade – (cash funds only without a court order) Serve any branch.
Umpqua Bank – Serve any branch. Their levy department # is 866-486-7782.
Union Bank – Currently, you must serve the branch where the account 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. Any cashier or assistant cashier can be served a levy. See CCP 416.10(c). 2013 update – serve any branch. What is you need to serve the bank for a wage levy of one of their employees or document request on one of their customers?
Union Bank – is Koreon-owned. (Without being racist, some small Asian banks seem to protect their best customers. Serve any branch, they are a subsidiary of Unionbancal Corporation. www.unionbank.com, There is a rumor that Union bank tries to protect their best customers.
The California Secretary of State has their agent for service as:
c/o REGISTERED AGENT SOLUTIONS, INC.
1220 S ST STE 150
SACRAMENTO CA 95811
USAA Federal Savings Bank – based in Texas. They serve people in the armed forces and the US government workers. They (used to have?) have two offices in California: Oceanside and San Diego. They accept levies by mail at 2178 Vista Way, Suite E5, Oceanside, CA 92056. Recently they have told an enforcer to use the Sheriff in Bexar county, Texas at 200 North Comal Street, the Sheriff’s phone is 210-335-6010, their fax is 800-531-5717.
Bexar County Sheriff’s Office
200 North Comal Street
San Antonio, Texas 78207
US Bank Calif – Serve any branch. Their headquarters are in Seattle, WA, 877-247-9468 or 866-516-5568.
Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) – Serve any branch.
Washington Mutual (Now Chase) – Serve any branch.
WestAmerica – Serve any branch – except Marin county at least!
Wells Fargo – Serve any branch. Their levy department is at 480-724-2000 (press 9, then 1) PO BOX 29779 – Phoenix, AZ 85038. (Wells Fargo has levied bank accounts across state lines.) Wells Fargo is almost on the creditor’s side, probably because they bought out so many banks that they can’t keep track of where the account was opened. I have heard of a levy on a Wells Fargo bank reaching safety deposit boxes in all their branches. I have also heard they protect their favorite customers from bank levies. Sometimes they charge the creditor $100 for doing a bank levy. Sometimes Wells Fargo will not comply with a Subpoena Duces Tecum (SUBP-002), served for a third-party ORAP because duces tecum and CCP 1985 are only for pre-trail purposes and not for post-judgment hearings. Even when you explain you do this all the time, they might say just because you got away with stuff does not make it legal. If that happens, share this case with them:
FIRST CITY PROPERTIES, INC., Plaintiff and Respondent, v. DONAL J. MacADAM, Defendant; CATHERINE P. MacADAM, Claimant and Appellant 49 Cal. App. 4th 507; 56 Cal. Rptr. 2d 680; 1996 Cal. App. LEXIS 872; 96 Cal. Daily Op. Service 7024; 96 Daily Journal DAR 11445. In that case, the third-parties trying to quash the subpoenas almost got sanctioned.
World Savings (Now Wachovia/Wells Fargo) – Serve any branch.
It may be hard to believe, however there is a strong suspicion that many banks, especially Chase, are quietly offering “levy proof” accounts to some customers. They call them “client trust accounts”. The bank writes “no funds” on the memorandum of garnishee. This is illegal and immoral. However, I hear reports of this at least once a week.
If 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. Two cases on this topic are:
Grayson Services, Inc. v. Wells Fargo Bank, 199 Cal. App. 4th 563 (Cal. App. 5th Dist. 2011)
Grover v. Bay View Bank, 87 Cal. App. 4th 452 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 2001)