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FIRST NATL. BANK OF FAIRBANKS v. CAMP

May 14, 1971

FIRST 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


John Lewis Smith, Jr., District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SMITH, JR.

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, 25 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 ...

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