This week, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) reintroduced the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act, a bill aimed at permanently dismantling Operation Choke Point (OCP).
This Obama era “enforcement” program billed itself as an effort to shut down fraudulent businesses by choking off their access to financial services. But the “high risk” business sectors targeted by the program were not only those that are illegal or exploitative; they also included categories the Obama administration simply found distasteful or immoral. These included businesses within the firearm and ammunition industry. As a result, many lawful businesses operating in good standing suddenly found themselves scrambling to find or keep the banking relationships they need to survive.
Rep. Luetkemeyer’s legislation would institute numerous reforms to bring more transparency and accountability to federal oversight of banks, all aimed at preventing the sort of unchecked enforcement discretion and twisting of legislative language at the heart of OCP.
For example, the bill would require regulators that suggest or order a bank to terminate a customer’s account to have a “material reason” for doing so and to put the directive in writing, with reference to any specific laws or regulations the enforcement agency believes are being violated. Moreover, no such reason could be based solely on “reputational risk,” the supposed basis for including firearm and ammunition businesses within the scope of OCP’s “high risk” target list.
Regulating agencies would also have to submit annual reports to Congress documenting any such requests or orders.
The Act would additionally make important amendments to the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 – which agencies have cited as authorization for OCP – to clarify the law’s scope so as to conclusively preempt this dubious justification.
An identical bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2016, before stalling in the Senate.
While gun owners no longer have to fear animosity emanating from the White House and the highest reaches of the U.S. Department of Justice, effects of OCP linger in the financial services sector. Financially sound firearm-related businesses still report difficulty obtaining ordinary services, with banks having abandoned the entire sector after threats of intense regulatory scrutiny for serving these customers. Rep. Luetkemeyer’s bill would put Congress’ full stamp of authority on the premise that the era of OCP’s targeting of lawful businesses is well and truly over for good.
We thank Rep. Luetkemeyer for his longstanding effort to deal with these abuses and look forward to the day when Obama-era politics no longer hinder the success of America’s firearm industry.
Please contact your U.S. Representative and ask him or her to cosponsor and support the "Financial Institution Customer Protection Act." You can call your U.S. Representative at 202-225-3121, or click here to Take Action now.