Columns

Blaine's Bulletin: An End to Operation Choke Point

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Washington, August 25, 2017 | comments
For several years, I have discussed an Obama Administration program called Operation Choke Point in this bulletin. Today, I am incredibly pleased to report that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has informed me that this program will come to an end once and for all.
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For several years, I have discussed an Obama Administration program called Operation Choke Point in this bulletin. Today, I am incredibly pleased to report that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has informed me that this program will come to an end once and for all.

You may recall that Operation Choke Point was an attempt by the former administration, specifically the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the DOJ, to intimidate financial institutions from offering services to certain licensed, legally-operating industries the Obama Administration did not ideologically like in an attempt to choke off those industries from our country’s banking system and run them out of business.

After learning of this unprecedented program, I sprang into action. The last four years, I have sent letters to and held meetings with FDIC and DOJ officials, engaged in conversations with other federal financial regulators and my colleagues in Congress, introduced legislation to end the program, and continuously kept the pressure on the Obama Administration here in the House of Representatives.

In early August, I joined several of my House colleagues, including House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, in sending a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Federal Reserve Board of Governors Chair Janet Yellen, and Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith Noreika calling on the Department of Justice to abandon this program. Days later, my colleagues and I received a response stating that the DOJ will end this ill-advised program.

I am incredibly pleased the DOJ finally made the right decision in terminating this unconscionable program, and it is my hope the federal banking regulators will immediately follow suit. Additionally, while this administration has made the right decision, it does not mean future administrations will continue to do so. Therefore, I will continue my efforts to ensure my legislation, the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act, is signed into law. My legislation dictates that agencies such as the FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, among others, could not request or order a financial institution to terminate a banking relationship unless the regulator has material reason.

Operation Choke Point, while devastating to too many businesses, does demonstrate the importance of working together. Several years ago, I established an email address so people could share their stories of Operation Choke Point. Without input from consumers, small businesses and financial institutions, we would not have uncovered this initiative nor shut it down. This announcement is a true victory. It is reassuring to see that the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice understands its job is to pursue lawbreakers, not legally-operating businesses.

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