Chamber says state AGs must leave national banks alone

John O'Brien Apr. 1, 2009, 3:58pm


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the latest group to get involved with a U.S. Supreme Court case that will determine if state attorneys general may enforce state lending laws against national banks.

The Chamber, owner of Legal Newsline, filed an amicus brief Wednesday in Cuomo v. The Clearinghouse Association. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is claiming his office should have the authority despite a 2004 rule from the federal Office of Controller of Currency that keeps states from filing consumer protection suits against national banks.

"The circuit court relied on well-settled legal principles to hold that the (OCC), not state attorneys general, have the exclusive authority to regulate federally chartered banks," said Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the Chamber's public policy law firm.

"Now, Attorney General Cuomo wants a special rule that would give him the regulatory authority Congress reserved for the OCC."

Cuomo has already received several amicus briefs in support of his cause, including one from every state attorney general and another from members of Congress.

Linda Singer, a former District of Columbia attorney general who now works at Zuckerman Spaeder, authored the brief on behalf of U.S. Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Melvin Watt (D-N.C.), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.).

The state attorneys general have also written President Barack Obama asking for the power.

"In protecting consumers, federal authorities should lead, follow or get out of the way," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said.

"The Bush administration flagrantly favored national banks over consumers, exempting them from state regulation and helping set the stage for the ongoing economic meltdown."

Last year, a federal judge said West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw's suit against Capital One was "hijacked" because Capital One switched to national bank status during it. Only the OCC can regulate its practices now.

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