A Congressional Research Service study has found potential legal problems with the District's new interstate banking bill, approved by the District in February and set to go into effect on Friday.
It is too late for Congress to pass a resolution disapproving the legislation, which it has the authority to do during a 30-day congressional review period under the city's home rule act. But perceived legal flaws in the measure could result in a court challenge from any opponents affected by the law, according to a House District Committee staff aide.
The legislation enables out-of-state bank holding companies to acquire District banks or bank holding companies, as long as they agree to make loans and extend credit to targeted economically depressed areas, employ a certain number of District residents and meet other conditions. Citicorp of New York has lobbied heavily for the right to acquire District banks and has indicated that it intends to do so when the law goes into effect.
The Congressional Research Service study questioned whether the District has the authority to authorize interstate acquisitions because federal law allowing this refers to "states" and not to the District of Columbia. The analysis also said that the law may give the newly created superintendent of banking more authority than is permitted under the city's home rule act, such as the right to require reports from national banks.
D.C. City Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), who heads the council's Committee on Housing and Economic Development, said yesterday that Congress is trying to find a way to impose banking restrictions on the District that do not apply anywhere else in the country. Jarvis said she is confident that the law can stand as written.
Last month the chairman and the second-ranking Republican of the House Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee raised concerns about what they said were loopholes in the bill, expressing fears that some of its provisions inadvertently might enable some large banking firms to operate insurance businesses across state lines.
Congress has been unable to resolve an ongoing debate about the extent to which banks should be allowed to engage in insurance activities.
Meanwhile, at a council committee hearing yesterday, no opposition was expressed to the proposed acquisition of the District-based Security National Corp. and Security National Bank by Bank of Virginia Co. This would be the fourth acquisition of a District bank since the city passed a law last year allowing bank holding companies in an 11-state region to make such acquisitions.
Jarvis said that the Bank of Virginia has made the largest commitment to the city in special projects, having promised to put $10 million into loans for underserved areas of the city and $10 million into student loans for District residents.