For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
(208) 334-4112

Date: March 17, 2004

Wasden Opposes Federal Preemption of State Consumer Protection Laws

(Washington, D.C.) - Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden joined with other state attorneys general, members of the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, and state financial regulators in seeking Congressional action to void rules recently enacted by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The rules seek to preempt state attorneys general and financial regulators from enforcing state consumer protection laws against national banks and their subsidiaries.

"Idaho urges Congress to carefully review the actions of the OCC, reestablish a balance of power between state and federal laws in a way that benefits consumers, all financial institutions and our economy, restore the dual banking system, and reassert its authority over federal banking policy" Attorney General Wasden said during a news conference hosted by the National Association of Attorneys General today in Washington, D.C..

OCC rules that took effect February 12, 2004, prohibit state attorneys general and regulatory agencies from investigating and prosecuting national banks and their subsidiaries, even when they may have violated state consumer protection laws. According to officials at the OCC, only public safety standards and criminal laws of general application are considered exceptions to the OCC's exclusive enforcement authority.

The OCC has no office in Idaho, is not listed in Idaho telephone books, and has no other local presence in Idaho. Under OCC rules, however, Idaho consumers with complaints regarding national banks and their subsidiaries must make their complaints to the OCC office in Houston, Texas.

"State financial regulators and Attorneys General have a long history of protecting consumers from deceptive marketing practices, and predatory lending and other lending abuses," Wasden said. "Idaho is committed to maintaining the role of the states in enforcement of consumer protection laws and in dual regulation of financial institutions, and it opposes any federal rule that undermines this state authority."

Attorney General Wasden and other state attorneys general have raised concerns about the OCC's efforts to preempt state enforcement of consumer protection laws against national banks and their subsidiaries. State laws that may be affected by the OCC rules include false and deceptive advertising statutes, predatory lending laws, state do-not-call laws, and other general consumer credit statutes.

Idaho has consistently joined other states in opposing the OCC's efforts to preempt traditional state consumer lending and consumer protection laws as applied to national banks and their credit card and mortgage lending entities. Last year, Wasden joined 50 other state attorneys general in opposing preemption during the recent OCC rule-making proceedings, and submitted comments challenging the OCC's rules.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller also spoke during the press event. "The series of rules issued by the OCC is the broadest and most sweeping preemption I've seen in 22 years as the Attorney General of Iowa. It is sweeping, sweeping language, "Attorney General Miller said. "When we know something works at the state level, the federal government shouldn't be prohibiting it."

The Idaho House of Representatives has approved a memorial urging Congress to reverse the OCC rules. The matter is awaiting action in the Idaho Senate.

In February, Idaho Department of Finance Director Gavin Gee testified in opposition to the OCC rules during a hearing before the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

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