Six Oklahoma state banks are poised to use a wild-card provision to overcome a strict branching law and obtain regulatory approval to open offices anywhere in the state.

Regulators are expected to decide the issue this week, said Pat Mayes, chairman of First American Bank and Trust of Purcell, Okla., one of the petitioners.

Before July, Oklahoma law prevented any bank or thrift from operating more than a main office and two branches. Even then, the branches had to be within a 25-mile radius and in a community lacking a local bank.

Earlier this year, state banks helped defeat a bill that would have renewed limits on thrift branching. That opened the door for national bank branching because of a separate law that gives national banks the same rights as any other Oklahoma financial institution.

Four national banks thereby gained regulatory approval to open branches throughout the state.

Because of an Oklahoma law that gives state banks the same powers as national banks, state banks were thereby given a wild-card provision entitling them to the same branching power. A decision in the state banks' favor would end a long fight over branching.

Besides First American, the banks seeking to expand are Chickasha Bank and Trust Co. of Chickasha, Farmers and Merchants Bank of Crescent, First State Bank of Keyes, People First Bank of Hennessey, and Farmers State Bank of Quinton.

-- Craig Woker

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