A federal appeals court in New Orleans upheld the so- called 30-mile rule Tuesday, saying national banks may branch into Texas while retaining offices in adjoining states.

"Because the comptroller's interpretation of the statute he administers is reasonable, we defer to it," wrote E. Grady Jolly, a judge at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The case pitted the Texas Banking Department against the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Sun World, a subsidiary of NationsBank Corp. The OCC in August approved an application by the $134 million-asset unit to move its main office from El Paso to Santa Teresa, N.M., while retaining its two Texas offices as branches.

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