Garnishing your judgment debtor’s bank account should not be your principal reason for finding it. I personally consider it gravy when we find an account with money to garnish. While the funds are important, they aren’t the most important reason for finding it.
A good forensic research firm will treat that bank account like the bloody fingerprint it is. Just like a CSI team, we’re looking for the DNA to solve the case, and a bank account is just that. Hidden within are the clues that can lead hard working, inquisitive experts to the otherwise elusive details. Some cases have a plethora of clues, others have fewer, but they are always there, whether we can see them or not—just waiting to show us the hidden path to solving the crime and collecting on your judgment.
Always remember, you have the power of the court behind you to effectuate the discovery needed to locate and recover the assets you need to satisfy your client’s judgment. If the judgment debtor does not have the assets to satisfy the judgment, substantially or entirely, the sooner you learn that, the sooner you can get your clients out of the chase and back to their lives. In most states, the judgment is good for 7 to 20 years and can be renewed prior to expiring. In this sense, time may actually benefit your client as the debtor accumulates assets.
Based on my 50 years of experience, you WILL NOT find your debtors assets via deposition or interrogatories. The first thing most attorneys want to do is a debtor’s exam as allowed by law. That is often followed by interrogatories of the debtor. I have attended hundreds of depositions and have never seen a debtor appear for the deposition with all the subpoenaed documents or tell the truth when questioned about their assets.
Not only is this nonproductive, but usually it’s counterproductive because you merely tell the debtors what you already know through questioning. This gives debtors ample time to really hide assets, costing the client even more money and time to continue the chase. Even subpoenas to the debtor for bank records, tax returns, financial statements, phone bills, and credit card records generally fail to deliver truthful or complete information. To get complete accurate bank records, you must get them directly from the vendor source, not
Let’s look at the DNA of bank accounts to see how it can lead you to the documents that will reveal the various sources and assets to satisfy a judgment. To get started—you or someone on your judgment enforcement team has located one or more of your judgment debtor’s bank accounts. You will go through the following process with each account.
First of all, serve the bank with a garnishment for the funds from any and all the debtor’s accounts simultaneously. Serve each bank with a subpoena for copies of all safe deposit box documents; including signature card(s); box entry records; applications; all loan applications and support documents including tax returns; financial statements; copies of corporate resolutions and all other business records on file; all trust documents; all correspondence and notes in loan files relating to the judgment debtor or any business entity related in any way to the debtor; copy of all payment instruments relating to every payment made to the bank by or on behalf of the judgment debtor, directly or indirectly, or any entity related to him or her in any way.
The first subpoena to the bank should also require the production of every bank statement for each account upon which the debtor is a signatory along within, at least, the last 24 months of credits and debits [front and back] for each account. That subpoena should include all authorization documents including who is authorized to send wire transfers plus all actual authorizations for outgoing wires including both paper and voice recordings.
If the bank or a mortgage company is financing the judgment debtor’s home, subpoena the lender for the name and address of the insurance company, and the policy number, for which they are escrowing and paying the premium. Then subpoena the insurance company for a copy of the policy including a copy of all scheduled personal property which can include; artwork, jewelry, furs, antiques, collectibles, guns, silver, and all kinds of valuable personal property. You will not find these valuable assets in public record anywhere. With this evidence, sometimes even in the debtor’s own handwriting, I have never seen a court deny a Writ of Execution or a Turnover order—no one is going to pay a premium on a Rolex they do not own.