United States v. Wells, 519 U.S. 482, 14 (1997)

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Cite as: 519 U. S. 482 (1997)

Opinion of the Court

favorably on the loan is not a matter which concerns one seeking to deceive by false information. The case is not one of an action for damages but of criminal liability and actual damage is not an ingredient of the offense." Id., at 5-6.16

Although some courts have read Kay as holding only that there is no need for the Government to prove that false statements actually influenced the decisionmaker, see, e. g., United States v. Goberman, 458 F. 2d 226, 229 (CA3 1972), the opinion speaks of the importance of the statements as well as their efficacy, and no one reading Kay could reasonably have assumed that criminal falsity presupposed materiality. Since we presume that Congress expects its statutes to be read in conformity with this Court's precedents, see, e. g., North Star Steel Co. v. Thomas, 515 U. S. 29, 34 (1995), and since the relevant language of the statute in Kay was substantially like that in 1014, Kay stands in the way of any assumption that Congress might have understood an express materiality provision to be redundant.

Respondents' remaining arguments for affirmance are unavailing. They contend that Congress has ratified holdings of some of the Courts of Appeals that materiality is an element of 1014 by repeatedly amending the statute without rejecting those decisions. But the significance of subsequent congressional action or inaction necessarily varies with the circumstances, and finding any interpretive help in congressional behavior here is impossible. Since 1948, Congress has amended 1014 to modify the list of covered institutions and to increase the maximum penalty,17 but without

16 We ultimately did not uphold the conviction in Kay, 303 U. S., at 9-10, but vacated the lower court's judgment so that it would be free to address a separate issue relating to the indictment.

17 See Pub. L. 91-609, 915, 84 Stat. 1815 (adding FDIC-insured banks to the list of covered institutions); Pub. L. 101-73, 961(h), 103 Stat. 500 (increasing the maximum punishment from its 1948 level of a $5,000 fine and two years' imprisonment to $1,000,000 and 20 years' imprisonment);


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