Barnett Bank of Marion Cty., N. A. v. Nelson, 517 U.S. 25, 15 (1996)

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

Opinion of the Court

Finally, using ordinary English, one would say that this statute specifically relates to the "business of insurance." The statute explicitly grants national banks permission to "act as the agent for any fire, life, or other insurance company," to "solici[t] and sel[l] insurance," to "collec[t] premiums," and to "receive for services so rendered . . . fees or commissions," subject to Comptroller regulation. 12 U. S. C. 92. It also sets forth certain specific rules prohibiting banks from guaranteeing the "payment of any premium on insurance policies issued through its agency . . ." and the "truth of any statement made by an assured in filing his application for insurance." Ibid. The statute thereby not only focuses directly upon industry-specific selling practices, but also affects the relation of insured to insurer and the spreading of risk—matters that this Court, in other contexts, has placed at the core of the McCarran-Ferguson Act's concern. See Union Labor Life Ins. Co. v. Pireno, 458 U. S. 119, 129 (1982) (citing Group Life & Health Ins. Co. v. Royal Drug Co., 440 U. S. 205 (1979); see also Department of Treasury v. Fabe, 508 U. S. 491, 502-504 (1993).

Consider, too, the McCarran-Ferguson Act's basic purposes. The Act sets forth two mutually reinforcing purposes in its first section, namely, that "continued regulation and taxation by the several States of the business of insurance is in the public interest," and that "silence on the part of the Congress shall not be construed to impose any barrier to the regulation or taxation of such business by the several States." 15 U. S. C. 1011 (emphasis added). The latter phrase, particularly the word "silence," indicates that the Act does not seek to insulate state insurance regulation from the reach of all federal law. Rather, it seeks to protect state regulation primarily against inadvertent federal intrusion— say, through enactment of a federal statute that describes an affected activity in broad, general terms, of which the insurance business happens to constitute one part.


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