CHICAGO ¬óMichigan car dealers may act as loan agents for national banks despite state restrictions on such relationships, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said Wednesday.

The agency published an opinion in the Federal Register that federal law preempts a January 2000 ruling by the Michigan Financial Institutions Bureau.

The bureau had ruled that arrangements by several banks would be subject to the Michigan Motor Vehicle Sales Act. To comply with the state law, the banks could not use the dealers as loan agents, but would have had to buy loans made by the dealers themselves.

The banks argued, and the OCC agreed, that banks are allowed to lend either directly or through agents, and that the Michigan law would improperly prevent them from doing so.

The opinion also allows banks to charge their home-state interest rates. If the dealer originates the loan and the credit decision is made in another state, the bank may use the rate in that state.

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