The Supreme Court session just concluded didn't contain any blockbuster banking cases, but the industry racked up several modest victories.
"Compared to last year it was an uneventful season," said Michael F. Crotty, deputy general counsel at the American Bankers Association. "Last year we had a dozen important cases. This year we have four."
The Supreme Court action that will have the biggest effect on the industry didn't even involve a ruling; the justices simply agreed in February to hear the so-called AT&T Family Federal Credit Union case this October. The case should resolve whether occupation-based credit unions may add employees from multiple companies to their memberships.
"Clearly this is one of the most significant issues in the market," said Brenda S. Furlow, deputy general counsel to the Credit Union National Association. "We have a major dispute here among financial services providers."
A decision in the common bond case is expected in January.
As for this term's opinions, the industry's biggest coup was Atherton v. FDIC, which involved the burden of proof the government must meet in director and officer liability suits.
The justices held in January that the government must allege gross negligence unless the law in the state where a bank is located permits simple negligence suits. Gross negligence means the officers and directors made decisions they should have known were wrong, while simple negligence only requires proof that the officials erred.
The government had sought the right to bring simple negligence suits regardless of state law.
"This is a nice decision to have on the books in case there is another rash of failures involving banks, savings and loans, or credit unions," Mr. Crotty said.
Lenders also scored in Associates Commercial Credit v. Rash, a bankruptcy case involving so-called cram downs. This process lets a debtor eliminate the portion of a loan that exceeds the value of the collateral. It often involves loans for tractors and other types of farm equipment.
Some lower courts had determined the value of the cram down by using the wholesale price, which is the amount the collateral would bring at auction.
But the Supreme Court said in June that the court should use the property's retail value, which is the amount the borrower would have to pay to replace the equipment.
Finally, the justices decided two cases involving nonprofit financial institutions.
In Arkansas v. Farm Credit Services of Central Arkansas, the justices ruled in June that state courts should decide whether Farm Credit System banks are subject to local taxes. The federal courts only would have jurisdiction to hear a dispute if the federal government joined the case on behalf of the farm credit bank.
Also, in California Credit Union League v. City of Anaheim, the justices in June reversed a lower court ruling exempting credit union officials attending conventions from state hotel taxes. The case is expected to be relitigated in state court.
Industry lawyers had hoped the justices would have resolved the tax status of nonprofit financial institutions rather than throwing the issue back to the state courts.
"These were ancillary decisions," Ms. Furlow said. "The issues we care about most were not addressed."