Senate Committee Chairman Mike Crapo: End Operation Choke Point ‘Once and For All’
Members of the Senate Banking Committee request FDIC review of program to ensure lawful businesses can operate without fear of financial consequences.
11/13/2018 12:30 PM
Several Republican members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs are joining congressional efforts to ensure there is no continued activity under the Operation Choke Point program impacting banking services to businesses in multiple industries, including debt collection.
“During the Obama administration, we fought against Operation Choke Point, an initiative in which federal agencies devised and relied upon a list of politically disfavored merchant categories with the intent of ‘choking-off’ these merchants’ access to payment systems and banking services. Operation Choke Point is deeply concerning because law-abiding businesses are targeted strictly for operating in the industry that some in the government disfavored,” according to the letter from U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, chairman of the committee, and 12 other GOP members to FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams.
The letter is in reference to Operation Choke Point, the controversial Obama-era program in which the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reportedly applied pressure to financial institutions to cut off financial services to certain licensed, legally operating industries.
U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., originally initiated the call for a continued investigation into the program in early October to McWilliams and Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting after new details revealed actions restricting banking services under the program, ACA International previously reported.
The first investigative letters released in October by Luetkemeyer reference a case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia involving access to banking for payday lenders.
Crapo’s letter to McWilliams also addresses “disturbing” FDIC documents, for example, that state “FDIC staff should use ‘available means, including verbal recommendations,’ to encourage banks not to do business with a certain disfavored, but legal, industry.’”
As a remedy, the committee requests “that the FDIC review all options available to ensure lawful businesses are able to continue to operate without fear of significant financial consequences. Without such action, banks many believe FDIC staff expects them to continue to deny financial services to legitimate and profitable businesses. In addition we request the FDIC review how policy is communicated from the FDIC to its regulated institutions more broadly.”
ACA International supports continued efforts to end Operation Choke Point. In April 2015, ACA International’s Board of Directors unanimously voted to support legislation and policy changes that would bring an end to Operation Choke Point. ACA members have also reported that banking relationships have continued to be unfairly terminated in certain instances despite the DOJ’s commitment to end the program.
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