The U.S. Comptroller of the Currency Thursday said he has no intention of expanding his agency’s “limited authority” to breach the separation of banking and commerce.

John C. Dugan, Comptroller of the Currency, made the statement following a meeting with representatives from the National Association of Realtors to discuss three recent interpretive letters from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

The three December OCC rulings allowed three of the largest national banks in the nation to invest in the development of office buildings, hotels, residential condominiums and a windmill farm.

Expressing concern over the OCC rulings, Thomas Stevens, the president of the National Association of Realtors, on Feb. 7 asked for a meeting with Treasury Secretary John Snow to discuss them. In a letter to Snow, Stevens said Realtors were “extremely concerned.”

Stevens also asked the OCC to reconsider the rulings.

After Thursday’s meeting with NAR representatives, Dugan said, “First, none of our interpretative letters has anything to do with real estate brokerage – nothing at all – even though this is the issue of most direct interest to NAR’s members.”

Secondly, Dugan said, “there is only limited legal authority for national banks to engage in real estate and investment activities. These approvals fell within that limited authority.”

Finally, Dugan said, “[W]e fully recognize the limits of this authority and have heard and understood the concerns raised by members of Congress about the separation of banking and commerce. I have no intention of expanding our limited authority to breach this separation. The limits in the three interpretations preclude this result and the OCC will apply these limits consistently to all national banks.”

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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