United States v. Wells, 519 U.S. 482, 15 (1997)

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496

UNITED STATES v. WELLS

Opinion of the Court

ever touching the original phraseology criminalizing "false statement[s]" made "for the purpose of influencing" the actions of the enumerated institutions. We thus have at most legislative silence on the crucial statutory language, and we have "frequently cautioned that '[i]t is at best treacherous to find in congressional silence alone the adoption of a controlling rule of law,' " NLRB v. Plasterers, 404 U. S. 116, 129-130 (1971) (quoting Girouard v. United States, 328 U. S. 61, 69 (1946)). But even if silence could speak, it could not speak unequivocally to the issue here, since over the years judicial opinion has divided on whether 1014 includes a materiality element, see n. 3, supra, and we have previously described the elements of 1014 without any mention of materiality, see Williams v. United States, 458 U. S., at 284. It would thus be impossible to say which view Congress might have endorsed. See Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc., 510 U. S. 517, 527- 532 (1994).18

Respondents also rely on the 1948 Reviser's Note to 1014, which discussed the consolidation of the 13 provisions into one, and explained that, apart from two changes not relevant here,19 the consolidation "was without change of substance,"

Pub. L. 101-647, 2504(g), 104 Stat. 4861 (increasing the maximum prison term to 30 years).

18 If we were to rely on legislative history, the reports would be of no help to respondents. See H. R. Rep. No. 91-1556, pp. 70-71 (1970) (addressing the amendment adding FDIC-insured institutions, describing the statute as "provid[ing] penalties for making false statements or reports in connection with loans or similar transactions"); H. R. Rep. No. 101-54, pt. 1, p. 400 (1989) (on the amendment increasing the maximum prison term to 20 years and a $1,000,000 fine, describing 1014 as "deal[ing] with false statements in loan and credit applications"); H. R. Rep. No. 101-681, pt. 1, p. 175 (1990) (on the amendment increasing the maximum prison term to 30 years, describing 1014 as "relating to fraudulent loan or credit applications").

19 The two substantive changes were: the adoption of a single punishment, which was identical to the punishment set forth in the majority of the predecessor statutes; and the enumeration of a uniform definition of the types of transactions covered by the statute, which was a newly

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