OCC ADDRESSES APPLICABILITY AND ENFORCEMENT OF STATE LAWS
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued an advisory letter describing the general principles that apply when determining if a state law applies to a national bank and the exclusive enforcement authority of the OCC in regard to national banks.
The letter provides that Congress vested in the OCC broad authority to regulate the conduct of national banks except where the authority to issue such regulations has been “expressly and exclusively” given to another federal regulatory agency. The letter recognizes that state law could be applicable to national banks, however, in limited circumstances when it does not conflict or interfere with the national bank’s exercise of its powers. The letter quotes from Bank of America v. City and County of San Francisco, 309 F.3d 551 (9th Cir. 2002), stating that, for instance, one federal court recently noted that states retain some power to regulate national banks in areas such as “contracts, debt collection, acquisition and transfer of property, and taxation, zoning, criminal, and tort law.” The quote would indicate that the OCC believes that state laws governing the areas referred to by the court in the quoted material would apply to national banks if the law does not conflict or interfere with the national bank’s exercise of its power. In the letter the OCC advises national banks to consult with the OCC regarding the application and enforcement of state law in a particular instance due to the often complex nature of such determinations.
The letter also states that it is the OCC that has the authority to enforce applicable state laws as to national banks and that state officials should contact the OCC if state officials have information or concerns regarding a national bank’s potential violation of state or federal law.