Oklahoma Banking Commissioner Mick Thompson is charging that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is giving national banks an unfair advantage by violating intrastate branching laws.
Mr. Thompson said he is unhappy with a recent decision by the OCC giving conditional approval to Yukon National Bank to branch into the nearby town of Mustang as soon as a locally based bank, First Mustang State Bank, moves out.
First Mustang is moving its home office to Oklahoma City, but plans to retain its original office as a branch.
Oklahoma law prohibits banks from branching into towns where another bank already has headquarters. Although the OCC won't allow Yukon to open the branch until First Mustang has actually moved, Mr. Thompson claims that the agency's action has already given Yukon a jump on state banks that might also wish to branch into Mustang.
That's because state banks can't even file for a branch until the town is actually without a local bank. Likewise, he argued, Yukon shouldn't be allowed to file until First Mustang's move is complete.
"You can't approve something on the contention that when it happens it will be legal," he said. "The site for Mustang Bank's proposed office is just a pile of dirt right now, so how can they have any main location other than the one they're at?"
"My contention is that under Oklahoma law the banking commissioner establishes where a bank's main location is situated. It's a states' rights issue."
But OCC officials say that the McFadden Act, which requires adherence to state intrastate branching laws, doesn't govern agency procedures. By barring Yukon from opening until after First Mustang moves, they argue, the action still complies with state branching laws.
Roger M. Beverage, president of the Oklahoma Bankers Association, said he understands the concerns of both sides.
"It's a fairness issue and it's one we need to address," he said. "But I think the OCC was concerned with focusing on banking services in Mustang and the fact that those services might not be available if an application couldn't be filed until First Mustang had actually pulled out."
Banking attorneys say there is precedent for the OCC's action.
"It's one thing having the application approved. It's another thing opening the facility," said Richard Garabedian, an attorney with Silver Freedman & Taff in Washington. "If there's nothing in the national bank act that would prohibit the filing, I can't blame the national bank for doing it. Why not get the jump on the competitor? That's life."
First Mustang is about to begin construction of a new building in Oklahoma City. Officials say they would like to be in the new building by the end of the summer.
Jonathan D. Epstein contributed to this article