Congress never gave states the power to block national bank insurance sales. "The federal law contemplated state regulation of insurance, not a prohibition against the sale of insurance by otherwise qualified agents," wrote Nathan Lewin, Barnett's lawyer, who is a partner at Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin. Mr. Lewin also said the state of Florida cannot rely on the McCarran- Ferguson Act - a federal law giving states the right to regulate insurance - to prevent Barnett from selling policies in small towns. He said McCarran-Ferguson protects only those state laws that cover all aspects of insurance, not those that simply address which entities are allowed to sell it. A host of Barnett's supporters also filed briefs yesterday. They want the justices to overturn a decision by the federal appeals court in Atlanta, which found that the McCarran-Ferguson Act gives states the right to ban bank insurance sales. The American Bankers Association said the justices should not be duped into believing this is a states' rights issue. The only question is whether states can subvert federal law and restrict a bank power, the ABA said. David Roderer, a partner at Winston & Strawn in Washington, filed a brief on behalf of the Consumer Bankers Association and 11 other trade groups and six banks. He told the justices that the courts historically have held that the comptroller is the final arbitrator of what banks can and cannot do. The insurance industry has until Dec. 8 to file its briefs. The court will hear the case on Jan. 16, with a decision likely in early spring.
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