First National Bank of Fairbanks v. Camp

Decision Date14 May 1971
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. CA 3702-70.
PartiesFIRST NATIONAL BANK OF FAIRBANKS, Plaintiff, v. William B. CAMP, Comptroller of the Currency of the United States, Defendant, v. FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF ANCHORAGE, Intervening Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Max Barash, McCarty & Noone, Washington, D. C., Charles J. Clasby, Fairbanks, Alaska, for plaintiff.

John Austin, James F. Rutherford, Asst. U. S. Attys., Washington, D. C., for defendant.

John D. Hawke, Jr., Arnold & Porter, Washington, D. C., for intervening defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN LEWIS SMITH, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiff, a national bank headquartered in Fairbanks, Alaska, brings this suit for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief contending that the defendant Comptroller of the Currency abused his discretion and violated his own procedural requirements by approving the application of intervenor, a national bank having its main office in Anchorage, Alaska, to open a branch in downtown Fairbanks. The parties have submitted the case on cross-motions for summary judgment.

On September 17, 1969 intervenor First National Bank of Anchorage (FNB Anchorage) filed an application with the Comptroller to establish a branch bank in the business district of Fairbanks, Alaska. The Comptroller notified plaintiff and every other bank conducting business in Fairbanks and the Director of the Division of Banking and Securities for the State of Alaska that the application had been filed and solicited their comments. A field investigation by a bank examiner was also undertaken.

On March 31, 1970 a hearing on the application was held in the Regional Comptroller's office in Portland, Oregon. Testimony of various protesting banks and the Director of the State Division of Banking and Securities was offered in opposition to the application. On June 30, 1970 the Comptroller denied the application of FNB Anchorage to open the branch.

On September 4, 1970 FNB Anchorage requested the Comptroller to reconsider its application. Objections to the reconsideration request were filed with the Comptroller by several banks and the State Division of Banking and Securities. The Comptroller made an investigation of the then current economic condition of Fairbanks and relevant events occurring after the filing of the original application.

On November 10, 1970, after reconsideration and in accord with the unanimous recommendations of his subordinate officials, the Comptroller notified FNB Anchorage that its application for permission to establish a branch in the business district of Fairbanks had been approved.

Plaintiff First National Bank of Fairbanks, whose main banking office has been located in the Fairbanks business district for many years, filed the complaint herein on December 18, 1970. Plaintiff contends that in granting the branch charter to FNB Anchorage the Comptroller abused his discretion and acted arbitrarily, capriciously and unreasonably. Plaintiff bases his contention on the grounds (1) that the Comptroller failed to consider Alaska bank branching law and policy, as required by the National Bank Act (12 U.S.C. § 36), and (2) that the Comptroller violated plaintiff's administrative due process.

Plaintiff alleges that it will lose substantial banking business if FNB Anchorage is permitted to operate the proposed branch and has submitted the affidavit of its president in support thereof. The plaintiff has standing to maintain this suit. Association of Data Processing Service Organizations, Inc. v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 90 S.Ct. 827, 23 L. Ed.2d 184 (1970).

I

Plaintiff contends that the Comptroller must follow the binding and conclusive authority of both the Alaska statute and the interpretation of that statute by the State Banking Director that he would deny a state branch application in these same circumstances.

Congress has authorized the Comptroller of the Currency to approve the establishment and operation of branch offices by national banks "if such establishment and operation are at the time authorized to State banks by the statute law of the State in question by language specifically granting such authority affirmatively and not merely by implication or recognition, and subject to the restrictions as to location imposed by the law of the State on State banks." (12 U.S.C. § 36(c) (2)). The Director of the Division of Banking and Securities of the State of Alaska is, in authorizing State banks to operate a branch, subject to the provisions of § 06.05.415 Alaska Statutes, which provide in pertinent part that

"* * * The department shall issue a certificate of authority to operate a branch bank * * * if (1) the department determines that the addition of the proposed facilities in the community is not detrimental to a sound banking system;
* * * * * *
(3) the name is not deceptively similar to that of another bank in the proposed community or otherwise misleading;
* * * * * *"

It is evident from the foregoing that Congress sought to maintain competitive equality between State and national banks. First National Bank of Logan, Utah v. Walker Bank & Trust Co., 385 U.S. 252, 87 S.Ct. 492, 17 L.Ed. 2d 343 (1966). The Comptroller argues that he is bound only by restrictions on capital and location imposed by State law. It is noted that the Alaska statute contains no restriction on location. In light of Walker Bank, however, which held that all provisions of the branching law of the State involved were absorbed into 12 U.S.C. § 36, that argument is no longer tenable.

At the Comptroller's public hearing in this case and in an affidavit filed with this Court, the State Banking Director has declared that based on his analysis of the general economic condition and the banking situation in the Fairbanks area, he would not now permit a State bank to open a new branch in Fairbanks and that he would not approve an application involving names so similar as "First National Bank of Anchorage" and "First National Bank of Fairbanks." Plaintiff suggests that the doctrine of competitive equality as enunciated in Walker Bank requires that the Comptroller is bound by the official State policy as expressed by its Banking Director.

The authority of Congress to act in the field of national banking was settled in McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 4 L.Ed. 579 (1819). In the National Bank Act Congress delegated to the Comptroller the authority to approve "outside" branches of national banks, i. e. outside the city, town or village in which the main office is located if such banks could be established under the statute law of the state. 12 U.S.C. § 36 (c) (2).

In Union Savings Bank of Patchoque v. Saxon, 118 U.S.App.D.C. 296, 335 F.2d 718 (1964) it was contended that because the Comptroller's interpretation of the New York branching statute accorded with the interpretations of that statute by the New York banking authorities it met the requirements of 12 U.S.C. § 36(c). The Court held, however, that the clear and specific language of § 36(c) absorbs legislative enactments of the State, not administrative interpretations of those enactments. The interpretive declarations of the State Banking Director regarding § 06.05.415, Alaska Statutes, are not "statute law" which the Comptroller is required to follow in considering national bank branch applications under 12 U.S.C. § 36(c) (2).

Where Congress has committed a wide area of discretion calling for expert judgment to an administrative agency, judicial review of that expertise is necessarily limited. Securities and Exchange Commission v. New England Electric System, 390 U.S. 207, 88 S.Ct. 916, 19 L.Ed.2d 1042 (1968). The function of the court is not to conduct a hearing de novo on the evidence before the Comptroller but to determine...

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4 cases
  • First National Bank of Fairbanks v. Camp
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit
    • June 7, 1972
    ...and the motions of the defendant Comptroller and intervenor FNB Anchorage were granted. We affirm the judgment of the District Court, 326 F.Supp. 541. I. BACKGROUND AND FNB Anchorage applied to the Comptroller on September 17, 1969 for permission to establish a branch office in the downtown......
  • Guaranty Savings & Loan Ass'n v. Federal Home Loan Bank Bd.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • August 2, 1971
    ...19 L.Ed.2d 1042 (1968). The Court believes that the same rationale applied by Judge Smith of this Court in First National Bank of Fairbanks v. Camp, 326 F.Supp. 541 (D.D.C.1971) should apply here. Judge Smith held: The clear weight of authority holds that the Comptroller in considering bran......
  • CITY FED. SAV. & L. ASS'N v. FED. HOME L. BANK BD.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Wisconsin
    • October 28, 1977
    ...Federal S. & L. of Fayetteville v. Federal Home Loan Bank Board, 426 F.Supp. 454, 458 (W.D. Ark.1977); First National Bank of Fairbanks v. Camp, 326 F.Supp. 541, 544 (D.D.C. 1971), aff'd 151 U.S.App.D.C. 1, 465 F.2d 586 (D.C.Cir. 1972), cert. denied, 409 U.S. 1124, 93 S.Ct. 936, 35 L.Ed.2d ......
  • First National Bank of Southaven v. Camp, 72-1555.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • January 17, 1973
    ...of this principle with respect to his deliberative conclusions as to the meaning of these laws." See also First National Bank of Fairbanks v. Camp, D.D.C. 1971, 326 F.Supp. 541.7 We are satisfied that the Comptroller made such a reasonable construction of the regulatory statute here, for we......

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