Lawmakers Demand Plan for Action to End Operation Choke Point


8/11/2017 4:31:00 PM

Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives are calling on the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Reserve Board and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to end an Obama-era program that has limited access to banking for legitimate businesses.

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The latest effort to halt Operation Choke Point has surfaced in a letter from several Republican members of Congress who are calling for Trump administration leaders to develop policy statements rejecting the program by the end of August.

Under Operation Choke Point, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reportedly applied pressure to financial institutions in order to cut off financial services to certain licensed, legally operating industries, including debt collection.

The letter states the program has “destroyed legitimate businesses to which [the Obama] administration was ideologically opposed (e.g. firearms dealers) by intimidating financial institutions into denying banking services to those businesses. The damage from this initiative lingers, and we request that you take immediate corrective action.”

U.S. Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Tom Marino, R-Pa., chairman of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law,  Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, and Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, authored the letter demanding policy statements this month to repudiate Operation Choke Point.

Luetkemeyer has been a consistent opponent of Operation Choke Point and introduced H.R. 2706, the Financial Institution Consumer Protection Act, in the 115th Congress.

A markup hearing on Luetkemeyer’s legislation is expected after the August recess, but the letter’s authors are demanding action on their request from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Federal Reserve Board of Governors Chair Janet Yellen and Acting Comptroller from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Keith Noreika by Aug. 31.

“Oversight by our committees concluded that DOJ exceeded its legal authority to run Operation Choke Point and that the program inflicted an unacceptable level of damage on legitimate business categories,” the letter states.  

It explicitly requests the DOJ, Federal Reserve Board and Comptroller of the Currency offices “issue clear and public formal policy statements repudiating Operation Choke Point and the abuses by financial regulators of the ‘reputation risk’ guidance they developed and promulgated under Operation Choke Point’s auspices. Financial institutions should be given explicit assurance that they may serve these unfairly targeted industries just like any other legitimate businesses.”

ACA will continue to monitor this story for responses to the lawmakers’ request this month. 

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