Dec. 30, 1963, 77 Stat. 674, Pub. L. 88-243, § 1; Mar. 23, 1995, D.C. Law 10-249, § 2(d), 42 DCR 467; Apr. 27, 2013, D.C. Law 19-299, § 5(c), 60 DCR 2634.)
1981 Ed., § 28:3-106.
1973 Ed., § 28:3-105.
This section is referenced in
§ 28:3-302. Effect of Amendments
The 2013 amendment by
D.C. Law 19-299 substituted “record” for “writing” throughout (a) and (b). Uniform Commercial Code Comment
1. This provision replaces former Section 3-105. Its purpose is to define when a promise or order fulfills the requirement in Section 3-104(a) that it be an “unconditional” promise or order to pay. Under Section 3-106(a) a promise or order is deemed to be unconditional unless one of the two tests of the subsection make the promise or order conditional. If the promise or order states an express condition to payment, the promise or order is not an instrument. For example, a promise states, “I promise to pay $100,000 to the order of John Doe if he conveys title to Blackacre to me.“ The promise is not an instrument because there is an express condition to payment. However, suppose a promise states, “In consideration of John Doe’s promise to convey title to Blackacre I promise to pay $100,000 to the order of John Doe.“ That promise can be an instrument if Section 3-104 is otherwise satisfied. Although the recital of the executory promise of Doe to convey Blackacre might be read as an implied condition that the promise be performed, the condition is not an express condition as required by Section 3-106(a)(i). This result is consistent with former Section 3-105(1)(a) and (b). Former Section 3-105(1)(b) is not repeated in Section 3-106 because it is not necessary. It is an example of an implied condition. Former Section 3-105(1)(d), (e), and (f) and the first clause of former Section 3-105(1)(c) are other examples of implied conditions. They are not repeated in Section 3-106 because they are not necessary. The law is not changed.
Section 3-106(a)(ii) and (iii) carry forward the substance of former Section 3-105(2)(a). The only change is the use of “writing” instead of “agreement” and a broadening of the language that can result in conditionality. For example, a promissory note is not an instrument defined by Section 3-104 if it contains any of the following statements: 1. “This note is subject to a contract of sale dated April 1, 1990 between the payee and maker of this note.“ 2. ‘’This note is subject to a loan and security agreement dated April 1, 1990 between the payee and maker of this note.“ 3. ‘’Rights and obligations of the parties with respect to this note are stated in an agreement dated April 1, 1990 between the payee and maker of this note.“ It is not relevant whether any condition to payment is or is not stated in the writing to which reference is made. The rationale is that the holder of a negotiable instrument should not be required to examine another document to determine rights with respect to payment. But subsection (b)(i) permits reference to a separate writing for information with respect to collateral, prepayment, or acceleration.
Many notes issued in commercial transactions are secured by collateral, are subject to acceleration in the event of default, or are subject to prepayment, or acceleration does not prevent the note from being an instrument if the statement is in the note itself. See Section 3-104(a)(3) and Section 3-108(b). In some cases it may be convenient not to include a statement concerning collateral, prepayment, or acceleration in the note, but rather to refer to an accompanying loan agreement, security agreement or mortgage for that statement. Subsection (b)(i) allows a reference to the appropriate writing for a statement of these rights. For example, a note would not be made conditional by the following statement: “This note is secured by a security interest in collateral described in a security agreement dated April 1, 1990 between the payee and maker of this note. Rights and obligations with respect to the collateral are [stated in] [governed by] the security agreement.“ The bracketed words are alternatives, either of which complies.
Subsection (b)(ii) addresses the issues covered by former Section 3-105(1)(f), (g), and (h) and Section 3-105(2)(b). Under Section 3-106(a) a promise or order is not made conditional because payment is limited to payment from a particular source or fund.
This reverses the result of former Section 3-105(2)(b). There is no cogent reason why the general credit of a legal entity must be pledged to have a negotiable instrument. Market forces determine the marketability of instruments of this kind. If potential buyers don’t want promises or orders that are payable only from a particular source or fund, they won’t take them, but Article 3 should apply.
2. Subsection (c) applies to traveler’s checks or other instruments that may require a countersignature. Although the requirement of a countersignature is a condition to the obligation to pay, traveler’s checks are treated in the commercial world as money substitutes and therefore should be governed by Article 3. The first sentence of subsection (c) allows a traveler’s check to meet the definition of instrument by stating that the countersignature condition does not make it conditional for the purposes of Section 3-104. The second sentence states the effect of a failure to meet the condition. Suppose a thief steals a traveler’s check and cashes it by skillfully imitating the specimen signature so that the countersignature appears to be authentic. The countersignature is for the purpose of identification of the owner of the instrument. It is not an indorsement. Subsection (c) provides that the failure of the owner to countersign does not prevent a transferee from becoming a holder. Thus, the merchant or bank that cashed the traveler’s check becomes a holder when the traveler’s check is taken. The forged countersignature is a defense to the obligation of the issuer to pay the instrument, and is included in defenses under Section 3-305(a)(2). These defenses may not be asserted against a holder in due course. Whether a holder has notice of the defense is a factual question. If the countersignature is a very bad forgery, there may be notice. But if the merchant or bank cashed a traveler’s check and the countersignature appeared to be similar to the specimen signature, there might not be notice that the countersignature was forged. Thus, the merchant or bank could be a holder in due course.
3. Subsection (d) concerns the effect of a statement to the effect that the rights of a holder or transferee are subject to claims and defenses that the issuer could assert against the original payee. The subsection applies only if the statement is required by Statutory or administrative law. The prime example is the Federal Trade Commission Rule ( 16 C.F.R. Part 433) preserving consumers’ claims and defenses in consumer credit sales. The intent of the FTC rule is to make it impossible for there to be a holder in due course of a note bearing the FTC legend and undoubtedly that is the result. But, under former Article 3, the legend may also have had the unintended effect of making the note conditional, thus excluding the note from former Article 3 altogether. Subsection (d) is designed to make it possible to preclude the possibility of a holder in due course without excluding the instrument from Article 3. Most of the provisions of Article 3 are not affected by the holder-in-due-course doctrine and there is no reason why Article 3 should not apply to a note bearing the FTC legend if holder-in-due-course rights are not involved. Under subsection (d) the statement does not make the note conditional. If the note otherwise meets the requirements of Section 3-104(a) it is a negotiable instrument for all purposes except that there cannot be a holder in due course of the note. No particular form of legend or statement is required by subsection (d). The form of a particular legend or statement may be determined by the other statute or administrative law. For example, the FTC legend required in a note taken by the seller in a consumer sale of goods or services is tailored to that particular transaction and therefore uses language that is somewhat different from that stated in subsection (d), but the difference in expression does not affect the essential similarity of the message conveyed. The effect of the FTC legend is to make the rights of a holder or transferee subject to claims or defenses that the issuer could assert against the original payee of the note.