Barnett Bank of Marion Cty., N. A. v. Nelson, 517 U.S. 25, 13 (1996)

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Cite as: 517 U. S. 25 (1996)

Opinion of the Court

an objective met by a broad insurance-selling authority that is not limited by state law. The letter refers to limitations that federal regulation might impose, but it says nothing about limitations imposed by state regulation or state law. The letter makes clear that authority to sell insurance in small towns is an added "incidental power" of a national bank—a term that, in light of this Court's then-existing cases, suggested freedom from conflicting state regulation. See Easton, 188 U. S., at 229-230; First Nat. Bank of San Jose, 262 U. S., at 368-369. The letter sets forth as potential objections to the proposal (or to its extension to larger national banks) concerns about distracting banking management or inhibiting the development of banking expertise— not concerns related to state regulatory control.

We have found nothing elsewhere in the Federal Statute's background or history that significantly supports the State's arguments. And as far as we are aware, the Comptroller's subsequent interpretation of the Federal Statute does not suggest that the statute provides only a limited authority subject to similar state approval. Cf. 12 CFR 7.7100 (1995); OCC Interpretive Letter No. 366, CCH Fed. Banking L. Rep. ¶ 85,536, p. 77,833 (1986).

In light of these considerations, we conclude that the Federal Statute means to grant small town national banks authority to sell insurance, whether or not a State grants its own state banks or national banks similar approval. Were we to apply ordinary legal principles of pre-emption, the federal law would pre-empt that of the State.


We now must decide whether ordinary legal principles of pre-emption, or the special McCarran-Ferguson Act anti-pre-emption rule, governs this case. The lower courts held that the McCarran-Ferguson Act's special anti-pre-emption rule applies, and instructs courts not to "construe" the Federal Statute to "invalidate, impair, or supersede" that of the


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