Under Florida law, a financial institution "may not settle any check drawn on it otherwise than at par." Fla. Stat. § 655.85.
The facts in this case are straightforward. In July 2012, Derek Pereira and Camila De Freitas each presented a check at a Regions Bank ("Regions") branch. The checks were drawn on Regions, for which Regions charged Pereira and De Freitas a fee. Now, Pereira and De Freitas claim that they received "less than par value" because they received less than the full amount of their checks.
Pereira and De Freitas brought this lawsuit as a class-action on August 7, 2012. Their complaint raised four counts. Counts I and II alleged that Regions settled a check presented by Pereira and De Freitas, respectively, at less than par, in violation of Florida Statute § 655.85. Counts III and IV claimed that Regions was unjustly enriched when it settled their check at less than par. The complaint sought compensatory damages, or, in the alternative, an order disgorging the money alleged to be wrongfully withheld from the plaintiffs.
Regions moved to dismiss the complaint. With respect to Counts I and II, Regions argued that § 655.85 does not apply to in-person check-cashing transactions, is preempted by federal law, would violate the Dormant Commerce Clause if applied against Regions, and does not provide a private right of action. As to Counts III and IV, Regions claimed that Pereira and De Freitas failed to state a claim for relief.
The District Court dismissed the complaint, concluding that federal law preempts § 655.85 and, because the unjust enrichment claims were premised on the same facts, also preempted those claims.
Pereira and De Freitas now appeal.
12 U.S.C. § 1831a(j), which is titled "Activities of branches of out-of-State banks," provides, in pertinent part:
12 U.S.C. § 1831a(j)(1). We conclude that this statute and our precedent, Baptista v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 640 F.3d 1194 (11th Cir.2011), squarely foreclose Pereira's and De Freitas's causes of action.
Assuming for the sake of argument that Florida Statute § 655.85 would prohibit Florida branches of out-of-state state banks from charging a fee to cash a check presented in person,
Although unnecessary to resolve the question at hand, we note that the legislative history surrounding § 1831a(j)(1) supports our reading that Florida Statute § 655.85 is preempted. When § 1831a(j)(1) first became law in 1994, it read, "The laws of a host State ... shall apply to any branch in the host State of an out-of-State State bank to the same extent as such State laws apply to a branch of a bank chartered by that State." 12 U.S.C. § 1831a(j)(1) (1994) (emphasis added). When Congress amended this subsection in 1997, the language was altered to read, "The laws of a host State ... shall apply to any branch in the host State of an out-of-State State bank to the same extent as such State laws apply to a branch in the host State of an out-of-State national bank." 12 U.S.C. § 1831a(j)(1) (2012) (emphasis added). The emphasized language clearly indicates that Congress sought to alter how states regulate out-of-state state banks; from treating them the same as in-state state banks to treating them as out-of-state national banks are treated. Floor statements from Congress as it considered the amendment in 1997 support this reading.
The plain language of § 1831a(j)(1) along with its legislative history, combined with binding circuit precedent, convince us that § 655.85 is preempted as to out-of-state state banks. Therefore, Pereira and De Freitas have failed to state a claim in Counts I and II of their complaint.
Because federal law preempts Florida Statute § 655.85 with respect to national banks, by operation of 12 U.S.C. § 1831a(j)(1), so too does it preempt § 655.85 with respect to Regions. And because Pereira and De Freitas have premised their unjust enrichment claims on the same facts as they lay out in Counts I and II, Counts III and IV are similarly preempted.
Accordingly, the District Court is AFFIRMED.
Therefore, when a state statute conflicts with a federal law, the state statute must yield.
Baptista, 640 F.3d at 1198 n. 3.