Barnett Bank of Marion Cty., N. A. v. Nelson, 517 U.S. 25, 16 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

The circumstances surrounding enactment of the McCarran-Ferguson Act suggest the same. Just prior to the law's enactment, this Court, in United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Assn., 322 U. S. 533 (1944), held that a federal antitrust law, the Sherman Act, applied to the business of insurance. The Sherman Act's highly general language said nothing specifically about insurance. See 15 U. S. C. 1 (forbidding every "contract, combination . . . or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States"). The Sherman Act applied only to activities in or affecting interstate commerce. Hopkins v. United States, 171 U. S. 578, 586 (1898). Many lawyers and insurance professionals had previously thought (relying, in part, on this Court's opinion in Paul v. Virginia, 8 Wall. 168, 183 (1869), and other cases) that the issuance of an insurance policy was not a "transaction of commerce," and therefore fell outside the Sherman Act's scope. South-Eastern Underwriters told those professionals that they were wrong about interstate commerce, and that the Sherman Act did apply. And South-Eastern Underwriters' principle meant, consequently, that other generally phrased congressional statutes might also apply to the issuance of insurance policies, thereby interfering with state regulation of insurance in similarly unanticipated ways.

In reaction to South-Eastern Underwriters, Congress "moved quickly," enacting the McCarran-Ferguson Act "to restore the supremacy of the States in the realm of insurance regulation." Fabe, supra, at 500. But the circumstances we have just described mean that "restor[ation]" of "supremacy" basically required setting aside the unanticipated effects of South-Eastern Underwriters, and cautiously avoiding similar unanticipated interference with state regulation in the future. It did not require avoiding federal preemption by future federal statutes that indicate, through their "specific relat[ion]" to insurance, that Congress had focused upon the insurance industry, and therefore, in all

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