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BOSTON – A ruling by the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts has closed the book on an almost five-year old case that has concluded with the court finding that federal law preempts state laws and allows national banks to offer insurance products in the state. The case stems from a request filed in May 2000 by the Massachusetts Bankers Association for an opinion of the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, on whether the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 preempted certain provisions of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act Relative to the Sale of Insurance by Banks. In 2002, the OCC issued its opinion stating the provisions were preempted by federal law. According to the Memorandum of Decision, January 10, 2005, issued by the court, the Massachusetts Commissioners of Insurance and Banks and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts subsequently asked the First Circuit Court of Appeals to review the “regulatory conflict” resulting from the OCC’s opinion. The First Circuit opined the case lacked jurisdiction because there was no “regulatory conflict” and dismissed the case. The MBA, along with area banks, then filed a complaint with the court against Massachusetts Commissioner of Insurance Julianne Bowler and then-Massachusetts Commissioner of Bankers Thomas Curry, that challenged certain Massachusetts laws prohibited them from selling, soliciting, and marketing insurance products. When Curry stepped down from his position to serve on the FDIC Board, he was succeeded by Steven Antonakes. The MBA and banks later amended their complaint to replace Curry with Antonakes. In handing down its ruling, the Massachusetts District Court upheld the OCC’s decision, stating the preemption applied because the state laws significantly restricted the ability of banks to sell insurance products in Massachusetts. In addition, the court said its ruling did not interfere with the state’s ability to regulate insurance. -

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