July 08, 2016

Second Circuit Holds a National Bank’s Citizenship Is Determined Exclusively by Location of Main Office, Not Principal Place of Business

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For purposes of assessing the existence of federal subject matter jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship, national banking associations—i.e., corporate entities chartered not by any State, but by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an independent bureau of the US Treasury—are deemed to be citizens of the State in which they are “located.” In 2006, in Wachovia Bank v. Schmidt, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a national bank is “located” in, and thus a citizen of, the State designated in its articles of association as the locus of its designated “main office,” but is not additionally “located” in, and thus a citizen of, every State in which it has established a branch. The Supreme Court, however, left open whether a national bank might also be considered a citizen of the State of its principal place of business, if its principal place of business were located in a different State than its main office, observing that such treatment would be necessary to achieve jurisdictional parity between national and state-chartered banks. In OneWest Bank, N.A. v. Melina, No. 15-3063, 2016 WL 3548346 (2d Cir. June 29, 2016), the Second Circuit agreed with the other Circuit Courts to have considered that question post-Wachovia and held that a national bank is a citizen only of the State listed in its articles of association as its main office, and not also of any other State where it may have its principal place of business. In so holding, the OneWest Court rejected the notion that the concept of jurisdictional parity should be read into the relevant statutes.  As a result, insofar as national banks can be deemed to be a citizen of one and only one State, they will be in a preferred position vis-à-vis state-chartered banks, which can be deemed to be citizens of more than one State, for purposes of invoking diversity jurisdiction within the Second Circuit.

View full memo, Second Circuit Holds a National Bank’s Citizenship Is Determined Exclusively by Location of Main Office, Not Principal Place of Business

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