Barnett Bank of Marion Cty., N. A. v. Nelson, 517 U.S. 25, 8 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

That is what the State of Florida and its supporting amici argue. They say that the Federal Statute grants national banks a permission that is limited to circumstances where state law is not to the contrary. In their view, the Federal Statute removes only federal legal obstacles, not state legal obstacles, to the sale of insurance by national banks. But we do not find this, or the State's related, ordinary preemption arguments, convincing.

For one thing, the Federal Statute's language suggests a broad, not a limited, permission. That language says, without relevant qualification, that national banks "may . . . act as the agent" for insurance sales. 12 U. S. C. 92. It specifically refers to "rules and regulations" that will govern such sales, while citing as their source not state law, but the federal Comptroller of the Currency. Ibid. It also specifically refers to state regulation, while limiting that reference to licensing—not of banks or insurance agents, but of the insurance companies whose policies the bank, as insurance agent, will sell. Ibid.

For another thing, the Federal Statute says that its grant of authority to sell insurance is in "addition to the powers now vested by law in national [banks]." Ibid. (emphasis added). In using the word "powers," the statute chooses a legal concept that, in the context of national bank legislation, has a history. That history is one of interpreting grants of both enumerated and incidental "powers" to national banks as grants of authority not normally limited by, but rather ordinarily pre-empting, contrary state law. See, e. g., First Nat. Bank of San Jose v. California, 262 U. S. 366, 368-369 (1923) (national banks' "power" to receive deposits pre-empts contrary state escheat law); Easton v. Iowa, 188 U. S. 220, 229-230 (1903) (national banking system normally "independent, so far as powers conferred are concerned, of state legislation"); cf. Waite v. Dowley, 94 U. S. 527, 533 (1877) ("[W]here there exists a concurrent right of legislation in the States and in Congress, and the latter has exercised its

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