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The exclusive federal power of visitation, as used in 12 U.S.C.S. § 484(A), does not prevent States from enforcing their law.
In 2005, Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General for the State of New York, sent letters to several national banks making a request “in lieu of subpoena” that they provide certain non-public information about their lending practices. He sought this information to determine whether the banks had violated the State's fair-lending laws. Spitzer’s successor-in-office, Andrew Cuomo, was the petitioner in the present case. Respondents, the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Clearing House Association, a banking trade group, brought suit to enjoin the information request, claiming that the Comptroller's regulation promulgated under the National Bank Act prohibited that form of state law enforcement against national banks. The district court entered an injunction in favor of respondents, prohibiting the Attorney General from enforcing state fair-lending laws through demands for records or judicial proceedings. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Certiorari was granted.
Was the Comptroller’s regulation, purporting to pre-empt state law enforcement, a reasonable interpretation of the National Bank Act?
The Court held that the Comptroller's regulation purporting to pre-empt state law enforcement was not a reasonable interpretation of the National Bank Act. Evidence from the time of the Act’s enactment, jurisprudence, and application of normal construction principles made clear that the Act did not prohibit ordinary enforcement of state law. According to the Court, when a state attorney general sued to enforce state law against a national bank, he was acting as a sovereign-as-law-enforcer, which was not an exercise of "visitorial powers," thus, § 7.4000 erred by extending "visitorial powers" to include prosecuting enforcement actions in state courts.