ELMO B. HUNTER, Senior District Judge.
The First National Bank in Sioux Falls (FNB Sioux Falls) appeals from the summary judgment entered by the district court
On appeal from the district court, the appellate court "must render an independent decision on the basis of the same administrative record as that before the district court; the identical standard of review is employed at both levels; and once appealed, the district court decision is accorded no particular deference." First National Bank of Fayetteville v. Smith, 508 F.2d 1371, 1374 (8th Cir. 1974), cert. den. 421 U.S. 930, 95 S.Ct. 1655, 44 L.Ed.2d 86 (1975). The appropriate record on review is not that made by the district court, but the administrative record already in existence. Id.; Camp v. Pitts, 411 U.S. 138, 142, 93 S.Ct. 1241, 36 L.Ed.2d 106 (1973). Therefore, we look solely to the administrative record.
Appellee National Bank applied to the United States Comptroller of the Currency (Comptroller) for permission to change its name pursuant to 12 U.S.C. § 30. National Bank has eighteen branches in South Dakota, including branches in Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
In response to the published notice of the application, two competing banks objected to the name change, The First National Bank in Sioux Falls (FNB Sioux Falls), appellant, and First National Bank of the Black Hills
At the hearing, both the applicant and the two protestants presented witnesses. National Bank's witnesses explained the business justification for the proposed change and stated that they believed there would be no substantial confusion resulting from the name change. Protestants' witnesses relied on the results of similar name changes and concluded that substantial confusion would result.
Post-hearing statements were submitted by all parties. Following this submission, the Regional Administrator and the Regional Director for Corporate Activities reviewed the entire record and provided analysis
Standard of Review
In reviewing the district court's decision affirming the Comptroller's action, there are three standards of review which must be considered. The first is the one used in reviewing an agency's decision on fact questions. We addressed this standard in First National Bank of Fayetteville v. Smith, 508 F.2d 1371, 1379 (8th Cir. 1974).
The scope of the "arbitrary and capricious" standard of review is more restrictive than the "substantial evidence" test,
508 F.2d at 1376. (Citations omitted.)
In determining whether the Comptroller's action is arbitrary and capricious, the court is required to look at all of the evidence before the Comptroller, and not just the evidence that supports the agency decision. Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB, 340 U.S. 474, 71 S.Ct. 456, 95 L.Ed. 456 (1951).
The second standard of review is that used for questions of law, e.g., interpretation of the statutes or the Constitution. The reviewing court is not limited to the arbitrary and capricious standard and it can determine such questions de novo. Dakota National Bank & Trust Co. v. First National Bank, 554 F.2d 345, 350-51 (8th Cir. 1977), cert. den. 434 U.S. 877, 98 S.Ct. 229, 54 L.Ed.2d 157 (1977). However, when it is a question of the interpretation of an agency's own regulation, a third standard is used. In such event, the agency interpretation is entitled to deference by the court and is "of controlling weight unless it is plainly erroneous or inconsistent with the regulation." United States v. Larionoff, 431 U.S. 864, 873, 97 S.Ct. 2150, 53 L.Ed.2d 48 (1977); Cohen v. Civil Aeronautics, 657 F.2d 999 (8th Cir. 1981). In addition, the
The Statute and Regulation
Title 12, section 30, United States Code, states "[a]ny national banking association, with the approval of the Comptroller of the Currency, may change its name...." In requiring the "approval" of the Comptroller, "Congress intended to confer discretionary authority on the Comptroller," and the Comptroller has implied authority to state publicly, e.g., by rule-making, the manner in which he will exercise that discretion. North Dakota v. Merchant's National Bank & Trust Co., 634 F.2d 368, 380-81 (8th Cir. 1981).
Pursuant to this authority, the Comptroller has promulgated his policy statement on change of corporate title as follows:
12 C.F.R. § 5.42(b) (1981).
The record shows that the reason for the business decision to change the name of the bank was to more closely identify the bank with its parent bank and the other ninety member banks of the First Bank System.
The Comptroller found that this was a "legitimate business purpose and [would] benefit the bank, holding company and bank customers." Although FNB Sioux Falls argues that the name change is unnecessary in that National Bank was already sufficiently identified with its holding company, we do not find the Comptroller's finding to be arbitrary and capricious.
The more vital dispute is with the Comptroller's finding that the name change will not substantially confuse or mislead the public in the relevant market. Both applicant and protestants presented evidence at the hearing on this issue.
Applicant National Bank presented seven witnesses, including prominent bank officials from various banks. These bank officials outlined the extensive educational and advertisement program they had planned to inform the public of the name change. Officials from other banks testified as to their experiences with similar name changes. These witnesses included a bank official from First Bank of North Dakota-Grand Forks and one from First Bank of North Dakota-Fargo. In both of these cities there had been an existing First National Bank and then a competing bank changed its name to First Bank. Another official was from First National Bank in Miles City, Montana, where the other three banks in town also begin with "first." In Miles City, the First National Bank was the original "First" and the others had come into the area later. Although some of these witnesses acknowledged that there had been some confusion with the name changes, these problems involved the post office, where mail properly addressed was misdelivered, and the Federal Reserve Bank, where wire transfers were misdirected.
The protestants produced four witnesses to substantiate their claim that the name change was confusing. These witnesses relied heavily on their knowledge of the experiences in Fargo and Aberdeen where similar name changes had occurred.
The record further discloses that protestant FNB Sioux Falls had developed the shortened name First Sioux Falls in its advertising and publicity. The officers of FNB Sioux Falls fear that if the name change is allowed, National Bank may shorten its name to First Bank-Sioux Falls, and thereby increase the risk of confusion. The possibility of National Bank using a shortened name or alteration of the approved name is not an issue for us to decide. This appeal is to review the approval of the official name.
There was evidence presented to the Comptroller to the effect that the change of name would actually lessen confusion because it would cause closer connection between National Bank and its parent company.
In his Supplemental Opinion, the Comptroller concluded that the proposed title was permissible under the policy statement and might even decrease public confusion within the market. He further concluded the name change was in the best interest of the bank and its customers, and that the public would not be substantially confused or misled as a result of the change. In light of all the evidence, we are unable to find the Comptroller's decision was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.
Appellant also claims the Comptroller erred in not applying the analogous trademark law or the law of unfair competition as guidelines in interpreting the standard for confusion. The short answer is that the subject of name changes for national banks has been preempted. First National Bank of Aberdeen v. Aberdeen National Bank, 627 F.2d 843 (8th Cir. 1980); North Dakota v. Merchant's National Bank & Trust Co., 634 F.2d 368, 382 (8th Cir. 1980). The Comptroller has no duty to do more than he did.
All contentions have been reviewed, including those discussed, and, in summary, our review of the record convinces us that the finding of no substantial confusion was not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law; that the statement that the bank had no proprietary right to the word "first" was not erroneous; and that the Comptroller's interpretation of his agency's regulation was not plainly erroneous or inconsistent with the statute or regulation. The judgment below is