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U.S. Supreme Court

Whitney Nat'l Bank v. New Orleans Bank, 379 U.S. 411 (1965)

Whitney National Bank in Jefferson Parish

v. Bank of New Orleans & Trust Co.

No. 26

Argued November 12, 1964

Decided January 18, 1965*

379 U.S. 411


A New Orleans-based national bank, desiring to expand but prohibited from operating branches beyond its home parish, formed a holding company which in turn organized a new national bank to operate in an adjoining parish. Pursuant to the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, the Federal Reserve Board (FRB), after receiving favorable advice from the Comptroller of the Currency (Comptroller), held hearings on the application by the holding company. The FRB approved the plan on May 3,1962. The sole remaining action needed to enable the new bank to operate was a certificate of authority from the Comptroller acting under the National Bank Act. On June 9, 1962, three state banks brought this action in federal district court to restrain the Comptroller from issuing the certificate. On June 13, 1962, two respondent banks filed a petition with the FRB for reconsideration, which was denied as untimely and without substantial merit. Thereafter, on June 30, 1962, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit was asked to review the FRB action under the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, which suit is still pending. On July 10, 1962, a Louisiana law was passed making it unlawful for any bank owned or controlled by a bank holding company to open, whether or not it had a charter or certificate to engage in banking. The District Court in this suit held that the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 reserved to the States final authority to bar subsidiaries of bank holding companies, and that the Louisiana statute prevented the Comptroller from issuing the certificate. Accordingly, it issued a permanent injunction against the Comptroller. On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the new bank would be but a branch of the old one, which was prohibited by the Banking Act chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 379 U. S. 412

of 1933, and therefore found it unnecessary to rule on the effect of the new Louisiana law.

Held: since the issues here concern essentially the organization and relationship of the holding company and the new national bank, matters within the cognizance of the FRB, rather than the Comptroller, upon whom the FRB's approval of a holding company plan is binding, the statutory scheme set forth in the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 -- FRB determination, subject to review by a court of appeals -- should be followed. The FRB should have an opportunity to consider the effect of the supervening Louisiana statute, and the parties are given 60 days to proceed before the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to secure a remand to the FRB. That court has ample power to protect its jurisdiction and prevent the opening of the new bank pending resolution of the issues. Pp. 379 U. S. 417-426.

116 U.S.App.D.C. 285, 323 F.2d 290, reversed and remanded.

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