Barnett Bank of Marion Cty., N. A. v. Nelson, 517 U.S. 25, 14 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

State. 15 U. S. C. 1012(b). By its terms, however, the Act does not apply when the conflicting federal statute "specifically relates to the business of insurance." Ibid. (emphasis added). In our view, the Federal Statute in this case "specifically relates to the business of insurance"—therefore the McCarran-Ferguson Act's special anti-pre-emption rule does not apply.

Our conclusion rests upon the McCarran-Ferguson Act's language and purpose, taken together. Consider the language—"specifically relates to the business of insurance." In ordinary English, a statute that says that banks may act as insurance agents, and that the Comptroller of the Currency may regulate their insurance-related activities, "relates" to the insurance business. The word "relates" is highly general, and this Court has interpreted it broadly in other pre-emption contexts. See, e. g., Pilot Life Ins. Co. v. Dedeaux, 481 U. S. 41, 47 (1987) (words " 'relate to' " have " 'broad common-sense meaning, such that a state law "relate[s] to" a benefit plan ". . . if it has a connection with or reference to such a plan" ' ") (quoting Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Massachusetts, 471 U. S. 724, 739 (1985), in turn quoting Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 463 U. S. 85, 97 (1983)); Morales v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 504 U. S. 374, 383-384 (1992) (interpreting similarly the words " 'relating to' " in the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978).

More importantly, in ordinary English, this statute "specifically" relates to the insurance business. "Specifically" can mean "explicitly, particularly, [or] definitely," Black's Law Dictionary 1398 (6th ed. 1990), thereby contrasting a specific reference with an implicit reference made by more general language to a broader topic. The general words "business activity," for example, will sometimes include, and thereby implicitly refer, to insurance; the particular words "finance, banking, and insurance" make that reference explicitly and specifically.

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