Goldmann, Freund and Foley. The opinion of the court was delivered by Foley, J.A.D.
The First National Iron Bank of Morristown (Iron Bank) and The First National Bank of Whippany (Whippany Bank) appeal from an order of Charles R. Howell, Commissioner of Banking and Insurance (Commissioner), granting respondent Trust Company of Morris County (Trust Company) permission to establish a branch bank in Morris Township.
On February 4, 1957 Trust Company filed with the Department of Banking and Insurance an application for
permission to establish such branch. Supporting data and information accompanied the application, and supplemental materials to establish compliance with N.J.S.A. 17:9A-20 were filed on May 1, 1957.
Other banks in the area were notified of the proposal and appellants Iron Bank and Whippany Bank filed protests to the application, and later briefs in objection thereto. Basically the objections disputed Trust Company's analysis of the supporting information which it had filed and asserted that the branch would invade territory adequately serviced by the objectors.
In July 1958 Trust Company amended its application to designate a different site for the proposed Morris Township branch. Appellants again filed objections as well as additional information in support of their positions. Subsequently Assistant Deputy Commissioner Wesner conducted a study and survey of the new site and the surrounding area.
A formal hearing was held on January 8, 1959 at which all parties were represented. No formal adjudication was made by the Commissioner, but after another hearing and an interchange of a series of letters an agreement was reached by the three banks in February 1959, whereby for a period of two years Trust Company consented to forego the processing of its application, and Whippany Bank and Iron Bank agreed to refrain from making any application to the Comptroller of Currency for permission to establish a branch bank in Morris Township.
In August 1959 Whippany Bank applied to the Comptroller of the Currency for permission to establish a branch bank in Hanover Township, at a location approximately 1 1/2 miles from the site proposed in Trust Company's application. Although objections alleging a breach of the spirit and intent of the moratorium agreement were promptly asserted by Trust Company and the Commissioner, the application was approved by the Comptroller in January 1961.
On September 25, 1959 Trust Company reactivated its branch bank application, and thereafter renewed that application at intervals of approximately three months through June of 1961. On September 7, 1961 the Commissioner notified Trust Company that the application would be processed and requested additional data, mainly concerned with the public need for the branch, and the economic potential of the institution, present and future. Notification of the proposed action was sent to the appellant banks. The requested information was furnished by Trust Company on questionnaires filed with the Commissioner on February 16, 1961, and July 17, 1961, and by supplementary data contained in a letter of transmittal of the first noted questionnaire.
Both objectors requested another public hearing. The Commissioner declined the request, but agreed to hold an informal conference with counsel. At the conference, which was held on August 7, 1961, the objectors were advised that the Commissioner had in his possession all data necessary to a determination. However, they were given the opportunity to examine all information on file and were permitted to furnish in writing specific reasons why a formal hearing was necessary or desirable. No such reasons were submitted.
On September 1, 1961 the Commissioner filed a decision in which he evaluated at some length, and in considerable detail, the arguments contained in the briefs of the parties as they related to the information on file, and made specific factual findings in support of his conclusions that the establishment of a branch bank would serve the public interest, ...