In 2013, the Department of Justice introduced Operation Choke Point, a program that targets banks and other business who are “believed to be at high risk of money laundering and fraud.” Since the programs disclosure, those in the financial sector having been throwing a tantrum, and an investigation into the DoJ’s activities in Operation Choke Point has been called for.
The program has been criticized for forcing banks to terminate services with certain businesses without proving the firms targeted have violated the law. It is also being said that the program is targeting industries the Obama administration doesn’t agree with, like gun sellers and coal producers. Other businesses whose bank accounts have been closed include: pawn shops, sporting goods stores, payday lenders, check cashing services, and even porn stars.
On the one hand, businesses such as payday lenders are known to be slippery. Most of them charge triple-digit interest rates and are thereby feeding off the poor. Some states have banned payday lenders outright, while others are tightening their rules.
Check cashing services and pawn shops, which are constantly expanding in poorer areas, have also been criticized for taking advantage of those with no other options. Like payday lenders, they most often charge high interest rates, and in the case of pawn shops, citizens in some states are complaining that they increase crime.
The problem is, the DoJ has been conducting their investigations under the Operation Choke Point program in their typical, shady-government fashion. In a report from The Blaze:
To date, Operation Choke Point has worked largely through regulators by issuing veiled threats or verbal comments suggesting that a banking institution should stop doing business with a given client. As a result, there has been no paper trail directly linking the closure of bank accounts with Operation Choke Point.
Until now, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) had been the DoJ’s main partner in the program, however, following pressure from Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), a former banking examiner, the FDIC has since restricted some of the methods used to advance Operation Choke Point. Luetkemeyer, in collaboration with a coalition of congressional representatives, was the one who initially requested an investigation into the program.
While it seems all businesses that have been effected by the program believe they are the specific target, those who advocate for gun rights appear to be in the biggest uproar. Florida republican, Sen. Marco Rubio, is attempting to put an end to Operation Choke Point once and for all.
“It has become clear that the FDIC and the Department of Justice can no longer be trusted to carry out Operation Choke Point without targeting the Second Amendment and firearms dealers and manufacturers,” Rubio stated in a press release. “We must stop this administration’s effort to target private industries and the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Gun rights aside, considering this feud is between the banks and the government, one might be asking themselves, “Who cares?” And to that, this Anon says, “good point.”
Chancellor, Ron Jensen. Argus Leader. Jan 11, 2015. (http://www.argusleader.com/story/opinion/readers/2015/01/11/letter-sioux-falls-enough-pawn-shops/21602747/?from=global&sessionKey=&autologin=)
Guo, Jeff. The Washington Post. Feb 9, 2015. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2015/02/09/many-states-have-cracked-down-on-payday-loans-heres-how-lenders-still-get-away-with-it/)
Harkness, Kelsey. The Daily Signal. Feb 13, 2015. (http://dailysignal.com/2015/02/13/marco-rubio-attempting-end-operation-choke-point/)
Hu, Winnie. The New York Times. Aug 5, 2012. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/06/nyregion/as-check-cashers-expand-services-in-poorer-areas-criticism-grows.html?_r=0)
Murray, Iain. The Blaze. Feb 10, 2015. (http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/operation-choke-point-consumer-protection-bureau-can-act-as-judge-jury-and-executioner-to-targeted-businesses/)
Pickard, Gabrielle. Top Secret Writers. Jan 28, 2015. (http://www.topsecretwriters.com/2015/01/operation-choke-point-us-government-attacks-potential-illegal-activities-business/?utm_content=buffer1cf8e&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer)