The opinion of the court was delivered by: June L. Green, District Judge.
Before the Court are two dispositive motions: Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure, and Plaintiffs' corresponding Motion for
Summary Judgment pursuant to Rule 56. For the reasons that
follow, the Plaintiffs' motion is granted and the Defendants'
motion is denied.
This case was brought following the issuance of an interpretive
letter by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency ("OCC")
(Letter of Julie L. Williams, 12/24/97 ("OCC Letter")). The OCC
Letter purported to resolve a question regarding whether, under
the National Bank Act ("NBA"), 12 U.S.C. § 1 et seq.,
National Banks are permitted to sell "crop insurance" to farmers
in connection with farming loans (without regard to the
population size of the locale). The Comptroller, finding that the
sale of such insurance was part of, or incidental to, the
business of banking, concluded that it was within the range of
permissible banking activities covered under 12 U.S.C. § 24
(Seventh). Id. Taking exception with this ruling, the Plaintiffs
filed suit here and these motions followed.
As an initial matter, the Court notes that the two motions
cover the exact legal issues, yet are brought pursuant to two
different Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: Rules 12(b)(6) (Def.
— Motion to Dismiss on the Pleadings) and 56 (P1. —
Motion for Summary Judgment). Insofar as the parties rely on
documentation outside of the Pleadings (and the same result would
be reached under either analysis), the Court finds that the
issues are more appropriately analyzed under the Rule 56
Summary Judgment Standard
A motion for summary judgment is appropriate when "the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show
that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986), Here, the
essential facts are not in dispute and the Court therefore
focuses its analysis on the correct interpretation of the
relevant statutes and applicable legal principles.
The parties seek a ruling from this Court regarding whether
12 U.S.C. § 24 (Seventh) of the NBA may be interpreted to permit
national banks to sell "crop insurance" to farmers, or whether
such activity is impliedly prohibited by other sections of the
NBA. Essentially, this is an appeal of the Comptroller's
that section 24 allows national banks to engage in such activity.
It is well settled that an interpretive ruling by an agency,
charged with enforcing a law, is to be given controlling weight
if it is reasonable and not "arbitrary, capricious or manifestly
contrary to the statute." Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural
Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 844, 104 S.Ct.
2778, 81 L.Ed.2d 694 (1984). Such deference is secondary,
however, to the threshold query of whether Congress has spoken
directly to the issue. If "`the intent of Congress is clear,
[t]hat is the end of the matter.'" Nations-Bank of N.C., N.A. v.
Variable Annuity Life Ins. Co., 513 U.S. 251, 115 S.Ct. 810, 130
L.Ed.2d 740 (1995) (quoting Chevron, 467 U.S. at 842, 104 S.Ct.
2778). The deferential portion of the analysis is triggered only
when the statute is "silent or ambiguous with respect to the
specific issue." Chevron at 843, 104 S.Ct. 2778. It is under this
framework that the Court undertakes to reconcile the issues at
At issue are two potentially conflicting statutes:
12 U.S.C. § 24 (Seventh) and 12 U.S.C. § 92. The
Plaintiffs argue that the statutes are not ambiguous and the
Comptroller's decision, therefore, is not entitled to deference.
The Court agrees.
Title 12 U.S.C. § 24 (Seventh) of the National Bank Act of
1864 states in relevant part:
[national banks shall have the power] to
exercise . . . all such incidental powers
as shall be necessary to carry on the
business of banking; by discounting
and negotiating promissory notes, drafts,
bills of exchange, and other evidences
of debt; by receiving deposits; by buying
and selling exchange, coin, and bullion;
by loaning ...