Is a state law that is preempted from enforcement against national banks also preempted from enforcement against out-of-State, State banks? That was the question in Baptista v. PNC Bank, 91 So. 3d 230 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012).
RBC Bank was a North Carolina bank. One of its account holders wrote a check to Ms. Baptista. Ms. Baptista went to one of RBC’s branches in Florida, and presented the check for payment. Ms. Baptista did not have an account at RBC. The teller charged Ms. Baptista a $5.00 check-cashing fee.
However, Florida Statutes, section 655.85 provides that “an institution may not settle any check drawn on it otherwise than at par.” Accordingly, we filed a class action suit against RBC. After some preliminary discovery, RBC moved for summary judgment. It claimed that because section 655.85 is preempted from enforcement against national banks, it was also preempted from enforcement against out-of-State State banks, pursuant to title 12 U.S.C. § 1831a(j)(1). Section 1831a(j)(1) provides in part:
(1)Application of host State law. The laws of a host State, including laws regarding community reinvestment, consumer protection, fair lending, and establishment of intrastate branches, shall apply to any branch in the host State of an out-of-State State bank to the same extent as such State laws apply to a branch in the host State of an out-of-State national bank.
At the time of RBC’s motion, every court that had addressed the issue had interpreted section 1831 to mean that statutes that are preempted from enforcement against national banks are also preempted from enforcement against out-of-State State banks. The trial court granted RBC’s motion for summary judgment, and we appealed.
On appeal, we pointed out that section 1831 does not refer to the “enforceability” of State laws; only to the “applicability” of State laws. We argued that although section 655.85 is “unenforceable” against national banks it is “applicable” to them. We noted that section 655.85 is only preempted from enforcement against national banks because enforcement against national banks would conflict with 12 C.F.R. § 7.4002. However, enforcement of section 655.85 against State banks would not conflict with section 7.4002, because section 7.4002 does not apply to State banks. We argued that section 1831 only prevents States from discriminating against out-of-State State banks. In other words, if a State law provides that it does not apply to national banks, section 1831 prevents that law from applying to out-of-State State banks. Section 655.85 does not discriminate against out-of-State State banks because section 655.85 applies to all banks.
RBC argued that section 1831 was enacted to place State banks on par with national banks, and to preserve competitive equality between national banks and State banks. It said that Congress’ intent was to remove incentives for banks to charter at the federal level rather than the State level, and vice-versa, in order to insure the health and stability of our dual banking system. It argued that having to adjust to bank policies and procedures on a State-by-State basis, and having to stay current on the changes in each State’s laws would be virtually impossible for State banks, and that they would be forced to either abandon banking in foreign States or increase fees to depositors.
The court said that RBC’s arguments contorted the express language of section 1831. It said that the statute simply prohibits States from discriminating against out-of-State State banks. It concluded that section 1831 was not applicable because section 655.85 applies to all banks. Accordingly, the court reversed, and remanded the case for further proceedings.
RBC subsequently filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States, but the petition was denied.