The National Association of Realtors trade group has filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging the court to overturn a decision by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency that relates to the operations of national bank operating subsidiaries.

NAR expressed worries in the announcement that the OCC decision allows bank subsidiaries to operate in violation of some state laws, “including licensing or registration obligations and some state consumer protection statutes.”

The brief states that if the OCC decision stands, these subsidiaries would be given an unfair advantage over competing firms not owned by national banks. The Realtor association and the attorneys general for all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico “contend that the OCC decision tilts the competitive balance steeply in favor of national bank operating subsidiaries,” according to the announcement.

While Congress limited the bank regulatory agency’s authority to national banks, the Realtor group argues that the OCC decision improperly extends its authority to national banks’ subsidiaries.

NAR has aggressively lobbied for several years to block the entry of national financial services companies into the business of real estate brokerage, and has supported limits on the authority of banking entities and bank regulators.

“Realtors believe in fair and balanced competition, and the benefits that competition provides to the consumer,” said Thomas M. Stevens, NAR president, in a statement. “To uphold the National Bank Act and ensure the maintenance of a level playing field among state-chartered corporations with respect to all permitted banking activities, NAR is asking the court to reverse the decision of the OCC.”

The NAR brief states, “If permitted to stand, the comptroller’s decision (in the Michigan Office of Insurance and Financial Services v. Wachovia Bank and Wachovia Mortgage Corp. case) would vastly expand the preemption of state law, as that decision is not limited to the mortgage industry, but instead extends to every activity in which a national bank — now or in the future — is permitted to engage directly.”

NAR has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to find that the plain language of the National Bank Act precludes the OCC from creating a type of entity that is not a national bank but that has the advantages of limiting the liability of its parent bank and preempting state laws.

“This is just another case where the OCC has overstepped its boundaries in favor of expanding banks’ authority while limiting state oversight and injuring the competitive landscape,” Stevens said in a statement.

“For nearly one and a half years, NAR has written letters and held meetings with members of the OCC and other interested parties to voice its concern over this ruling. When these actions were unsuccessful and the matter was accepted for review by the Supreme Court, NAR continued its efforts by filing its friend-of-the-court brief,” the association stated.

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