Beneficial National Bank v. Anderson, 539 U.S. 1, 9 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 1 (2003)

Opinion of the Court


Count IV of respondents' complaint sought relief for "usury violations" and claimed that petitioners "charged . . . excessive interest in violation of the common law usury doctrine" and violated "Alabama Code 8-8-1, et seq. by charging excessive interest." App. 28. Respondents' complaint thus expressly charged petitioners with usury. Metropolitan Life, Avco, and Franchise Tax Board provide the framework for answering the dispositive question in this case: Does the National Bank Act provide the exclusive cause of action for usury claims against national banks? If so, then the cause of action necessarily arises under federal law and the case is removable. If not, then the complaint does not arise under federal law and is not removable.

Sections 85 and 86 serve distinct purposes. The former sets forth the substantive limits on the rates of interest that national banks may charge. The latter sets forth the elements of a usury claim against a national bank, provides for a 2-year statute of limitations for such a claim, and prescribes the remedies available to borrowers who are charged higher rates and the procedures governing such a claim. If, as petitioners asserted in their notice of removal, the interest that the bank charged to respondents did not violate 85 limits, the statute unquestionably pre-empts any common-law or Alabama statutory rule that would treat those rates as usurious. The section would therefore provide the petitioners with a complete federal defense. Such a federal defense, however, would not justify removal. Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U. S. 386, 393 (1987). Only if Congress intended 86 to provide the exclusive cause of action for usury claims against national banks would the statute be comparable to the provisions that we construed in the Avco and Metropolitan Life cases.5

5 Because the proper inquiry focuses on whether Congress intended the federal cause of action to be exclusive rather than on whether Congress intended that the cause of action be removable, the fact that these sections


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