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Bob has $100,000 in an account at First Example Bank. Bob robs the bank, taking $50,000, and he escapes. He is never caught, but the bank is 100% sure that he is the one who robbed the bank. Can they deduct $50,000 from his account to cover the loss, effectively turning the robbery into a withdrawal? Obviously, this doesn't make the robbery any less illegal, but it does offset the bank's loss.

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    In what sense does it offset the bank's loss. They still don't have the money. And if Bob is never heard from again, then he cant have withdrawn the $50k he had in the bank.
    – Brondahl
    Aug 11, 2023 at 10:54
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    @Brondahl As Franklin said, $50K saved is $50K earned. If you have a loan and it's forgiven (like Biden tried to do with student loans), you've effectively received the amount of the loan (plus any future interest you would have owed).
    – Barmar
    Aug 11, 2023 at 13:44
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    @Barmar Banks typically don't actually have the money you deposit anyway. It's all digital and most of the money people deposit to a bank immediately leaves the bank for investments and etc. That said; if I hand you 100 and then steal 50 from you, you saying "well, I'll keep 50 of the 100 you gave me!" doesn't really do anything if I never attempt to retrieve the 100 from you.
    – Doc
    Aug 11, 2023 at 16:42
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    Am wondering why someone with $100,000 (or any significant sum that the bank might care about claiming part of) in ready cash needs to rob the bank. Aug 11, 2023 at 18:22
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    @jeffronicus This is a real phenomenon in Lebanon, where withdrawals are restricted due to an ongoing financial crisis.
    – nanoman
    Aug 13, 2023 at 0:57

3 Answers 3

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If there has been no trial establishing Bob's guilt, the bank does not know that it was Bob who did rob the bank.

Even if the bank has Bob on the security video feed, claiming that, "As my name is Bob, I will shoot anyone who does not follow my instructions", and Bob left behind his driver's licence at the heist, the bank does not know that it was Bob.

The bank could sue Bob in a civil action in order to get the money back. It would have to follow some procedures to notify Bob of the lawsuit and, if he did not appear, it would win by default. If Bob were to appear, he could make his case about why the bank should not be entitled to that money ("It was not me" / "I only took $1,000" / whatever).

After the trial had happened, the bank still could not take the money right away. Maybe Bob would offer some other assets worth $50,000 to pay the bank.

After it had become evident that Bob was unwilling or unable to comply with the payments, then the bank could ask the court to seize Bob's assets. The court would decide which assets could be seized, would order to have them seized, and then would provide them to the bank.

That does not mean that Bob would be free to use his $100,000 during this time. Before the trial is over, the bank could request the judge to freeze Bob's account, as a way of ensuring that he does not withdraw the money from it. The judge would evaluate the likelihood of Bob losing the trial and refusing to honour it (and whatever Bob's lawyer's objections to this are) and decide on the issue. But that would only affect Bob's ability to use the money, not his ownership.

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    Most customer agreements with banks would contractually permit the bank to at least freeze, if not seize permanently, a suspected robber or thief's account funds without a court order in these circumstances. The usual fact pattern where this is invoked (been there, done that) would be suspect check kiting or embezzlement or fraud directed at a customer or the bank, but the agreements are usually expansive enough to cover bank robbery too.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 10, 2023 at 22:48
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    @ohwilleke You almost got me to pull out my binder for bank stuff, get the terms of service and look for a clause that says what happens in the event that I rob the bank.
    – Philipp
    Aug 11, 2023 at 10:35
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    In England (and many other systems) bankers would have a right of set-off. They would not need to sue for a debt, they can just set it off. If they were reasonably confident, they would not worry about having to go to court. Aug 11, 2023 at 11:31
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    "The bank could sue Bob in a civil action in order to get the money back." or the Bank could take the money and wait for Bob to sue them, that's a much more likely course IMO.
    – deep64blue
    Aug 11, 2023 at 12:08
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    @Someone: Mine does. At any time and without notice we may suspend or terminate your Account or remove you from any Account on which you are an Authorized Signer or a Joint Account Holder or may require you to close your Account if... You cause a loss to BECU... Suspensions may take the form of a temporary or permanent “hold” or “freeze” on your Account at our discretion without prior notice to you. becu.org/-/media/Files/PDF/6514.pdf Aug 11, 2023 at 17:49
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I don't know if it's normal or not, but my Credit Union's membership agreement says that they can permanently freeze the account without warning to members who "cause a loss". They can also seize money for "obligations" though I don't know if that requires a trial or not.

At any time and without notice we may suspend or terminate your Account or remove you from any Account on which you are an Authorized Signer or a Joint Account Holder or may require you to close your Account if...

g. You cause a loss to BECU...

...Suspensions may take the form of a temporary or permanent “hold” or “freeze” on your Account at our discretion without prior notice to you...

... If we terminate or close your Account, we will mail to the Primary Account Holder all funds in the Account, less any obligations owed to BECU by any Account Holder...

https://www.becu.org/-/media/Files/PDF/6514.pdf

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Bob has made a withdrawal from his bank.

The fact that he failed to complete a withdrawal-form may be relevant in some future civil case, but is unlikely to have any force. The fact that he was committing a crime at the time may also be relevant in some future civil case, but not in his favor.

The fact that he was withdrawing his own money may be a factor in his eventual criminal trial and sentencing, but is unlikely to have much effect: normally the conviction and sentencing is not reduced even when the bank robber gets away with zero cash.

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  • Bob didn't intend for the bank to make a withdrawal. He intended to take money from the bank, while still having his original balance, but he didn't realize the bank would be able to identify him.
    – Someone
    Aug 14, 2023 at 22:27
  • @Someone Bobs intentions are interesting,, and may influence his criminal trial. He can argue the import of his intentions in his civil case against the bank: he is unlikely to win.
    – david
    Aug 14, 2023 at 22:41
  • Yeah, saying "This was a robbery; I didn't intend for them to make it a withdrawal" sounds like a very convincing argument in court. :)
    – Someone
    Aug 15, 2023 at 1:54

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