Launched in 2013 as its answer to the mortgage crisis, Operation Choke Point chokes off credit to high-risk businesses such as payday loan operators and their financial intermediaries to ”protect the American public from the often devastating effects of financial fraud.”
Now Operation Choke Point has broadened its high-risk criteria to include the sale of firearms.
Of the three-tiered objectives of Operation Choke Point, it is the third that is most contentious.
The first of its objectives is to “protect [the federal government’s] interests and ensure that it does business only with ethical and responsible parties.” The financial fraud enforcement arm of the task force excludes “businesses or individuals who are not behaving in an ethical and lawful manner from receiving contracts.” Understandable.
Second, the task force is commissioned to audit red flags indicative of discriminatory lending policies; ensuring that “minorities are not charged more than similarly qualified white borrowers.” Rightfully so.
Third, Operation Choke Point is commissioned to choke off access to the U.S. financial system, to “starve” high-risk businesses that have “harmed so many American consumers.” Sounds good – until one considers this administration’s record on executive overreach and punitive retribution of social injustice.
Under pressure by the FDIC, financial institutions must comply with their obligations to prevent illegal use of the banking system by high-risk clients.
“Bank regulatory guidance exhorts banks to collect information sufficient to determine whether a client poses a threat of criminal or other unlawful conduct…Failure to do so can result in significant civil, or even criminal, penalties under the Bank Secrecy Act, FIRREA, and other statutes,” says the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force Executive Director Michael J. Bresnick.
The targeted include legal business owners who are in compliance with regulatory statutes, who are in good standing with their financial institutions and have impeccable credit ratings. They just so happen to sell guns.
Mark Cohen, owner of Powderhorn Outfitters, a sporting goods store located in Hyannis, Massachusetts, was rejected by TD Bank for a new line of credit.
He was told by his bank manager of 20 years that he was turned down because he sold guns. Now the DOJ is going after vendors who sell products they don’t like to the big sporting goods stores like WalMart and Bass Pro Shops.
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., has proposed a bill to “rein in the abusive misuse of DOJ subpoena authority.” Luetkemeyer says his proposal would “restore the balance between financial institutions and regulators and protect private industry from the organized bureaucratic intimidation and regulation under way by the Obama Administration.”
Democrats say this Luetkemeyer’s proposal is nothing short of ‘political theatre’. (Political theatre being the next incarnation of the phrase phony scandal.)
“I think Choke Point is an affront to the American way of life,” Cohen says, “and I’m very disappointed in our government for doing this to us.”
Perhaps the high-risk behavior we are truly witnessing is the bitter clinging to executive power in the final days of this administration’s tenure.
To learn more about Operation Choke Point, go to www.stopthechoke.com.