Siding with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis decided on Thursday that states may not regulate automated teller machines operated by national banks.

The ruling was sought by Bank One Corp., which sued the state of Iowa after being ordered to remove its ATMs from Sears, Roebuck and Co. stores in late 1997. The state's Electronic Funds Transfer Act bars out-of-state banks' ATMs. A U.S. district court judge in Des Moines ruled last year against Bank One, which then appealed.

"Once again giving deference to the OCC's interpretation of the national banking laws, we conclude that this provision of Iowa law must be held invalid as against national bank ATMs," stated the majority opinion, written by Roger L. Wollman, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth District.

However, Judge Myron H. Bright dissented, citing concerns that consumer protections afforded in the state's ATM laws would no longer apply to national banks. "Protection of the consumer is well within the power of the states to render and is not preempted by federal law," he wrote. -- Katharine Fraser

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