With the exception of the credit union case, the Supreme Court term that wrapped up last month was largely a bust for the banking industry.
For the second consecutive year, few cases involving banks, securities firms, and insurers made it to the high court, and those that did involved peripheral issues that have little effect on the industry's day-to-day operations.
"This term was just one huge, huge case and then not much else," said Michael F. Crotty, deputy general counsel for litigation at the American Bankers Association. "Next year doesn't look much better."
"Things were rather mundane," said Richard M. Whiting, general counsel at the Bankers Roundtable. "There were not any really significant banking cases."
This is a dramatic change from the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the Supreme Court was often the final arbiter of whether banks could enter new businesses. Key decisions, including the Valic and Barnett Banks rulings, opened the doors for banks to sell annuities and insurance.
The most significant ruling of the term was clearly the so-called AT&T Family Federal Credit Union case, in which the ABA challenged the authority of the National Credit Union Administration to let occupation-based credit unions serve employees at unrelated companies.
The credit union industry charged that the ABA lacked a legal right to challenge NCUA decisions and said the regulator correctly interpreted the law to allow multiple common bonds. The justices rejected both arguments, ruling 5 to 4 on standing and 5 to 0 on the NCUA's interpretation of the law. (The four who concluded that the banks lacked standing did not vote on the interpretation.)
The banks' victory, however, looks short-lived. The House approved a bill in April that would overturn the ruling and permit multiple common bonds. The Senate is on the verge of approving a similar measure.
Mr. Crotty said the fight was worth it, regardless of what Congress does. "We have put a crimp in their otherwise unbridled expansion plans for two years now," he said.
Four other cases involving the banking industry also were decided this term:
Beach v. Ocwen. The Supreme Court struck down a mortgage foreclosure defense, ruling that borrowers may not use the Truth-in-Lending Act to rescind a loan after the deadline for raising such claims has expired. "If this had turned out the other way, it would have been a big deal," Mr. Crotty said.
Hudson v. U.S. The government may impose civil money penalties and criminally prosecute bankers who commit fraud without violating their constitutional right against double jeopardy, the justices ruled.
Phillips v. Washington Legal Foundation. Interest earned on trust accounts held by lawyers for their clients belongs to the clients, the courts said. Many states use interest from these accounts to finance legal services for the poor.
Clinton v. City of New York. Use of line-item veto is unconstitutional, the justices ruled. As a result, a tax break for financial companies with overseas operations will be restored.
The justices declined to hear Motor City of Jacksonville v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which involved the ability of the FDIC to void oral contracts made by banks that subsequently fail. The appeals courts are split on whether the FDIC may use this power, which is known as the D'Oench Duhme doctrine.
Next term, which starts Oct. 5, could be more exciting. The justices have agreed to hear an employment law case and a bankrutpcy case, both involving Bank of America.