October 31, 2019 Practice Points

Barter Internet Sites May Be Hiding Assets Subject to Judgments

When that writ of execution comes back without satisfaction, you may want to inquire whether an ongoing business is transacting business somewhere on the internet where actual currency is not involved.

By John Austin

Having obtained a sizeable judgment for a client recently, I regrettably had to inform him that our attempts to execute had been unsuccessful. As a matter of course, I generally obtain an ex parte order in supplement of execution which requires local banks to cooperate with the sheriff’s office to seize funds in bank accounts. Despite the order, the sheriff returned the writ of execution empty handed.

My client informed me that the judgment debtor was still in business as a painting contractor and still provided services at various work sites. Then he informed me of a local barter system that he and the judgment debtor both used: ITEX.com. ITEX is just one of many bartering platforms available to businesses that want to trade goods and services using the site’s own currency. ITEX, like most barter sites, trade on a “dollar” system in which the dollars are traded among users of the site, but the dollars cannot be converted to actual legal tender.

Through sources of his own, my client understood that the judgment debtor had over $30,000 ITEX dollars on account that he wished to obtain. Because the ITEX dollars have value to my client, I have moved the court to issue an ex parte order to have the account frozen, seized, and then conveyed to my client after a properly noticed hearing to provide the judgment debtor with due process.

When that writ of execution comes back without satisfaction, you may want to inquire whether an ongoing business is transacting business somewhere on the internet where actual currency is not involved. Such assets may have value and may help satisfy an outstanding judgment.

John Austin is with Austin Law Firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. He also serves as a cochair of the Section of Litigation's Trial Practice Committee.

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