Back in March 2013, the Obama Administration unveiled Operation Choke Point, a collaborative effort between the Department of Justice, the FDIC, and the Federal Trade Commission aimed at rooting out bad money; think con artists, drug traffickers, and money launderers who have checking accounts. According to a report filed by the Washington Times, however, it appears that Operation Choke Point is now being used to target legitimate gun retailers.
Take for instance the case of Top Gun Firearms Training & Supply, a Miami retailer that just got dropped by BankUnited N.A. last month. Then there’s the case of McMillan Group International, a successful 12-year-old firearms manufacturer from Phoenix that got dropped by Bank of America in 2012. This despite the fact that the company never missed a single payment or bounced a check.
So why is this occurring? The original goal of Operation Choke Point was to closely monitor “high risk” clients. It basically gives the government permission to use a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) to request that a bank give up all the info it has on a particular client. Well, it just so happens that the mammoth regulation that is Operation Choke Point is a huge burden. As a result, bankers allegedly feel the need to choke off “high risk” clients to save themselves from any potential hassle.
Hunton & Williams LLP lawyer Peter Weinstock explained it like this:
“This administration has very clearly told the banking industry which customers they feel represent ‘reputational risk’ to do business with. So financial institutions are reacting to this extraordinary enforcement arsenal by being ultra-conservative in who they do business with: Any companies that engage in any margin of risk as defined by this administration are being dropped.”
The Justice Department responded in a May 7 blog post by stating that its goal with Operation Choke Point is merely to put in check (and hold accountable) those financial institutions “who are knowingly assisting fraudulent merchants who harm consumers.”
However, the Independent Community Bankers of America vehemently disagrees. CEO Camden Fine argues that Operation Choke Point should be focused on targeting businesses that actually violate the law versus “targeting banks providing payment services.” His point is that this regulation isn’t stopping illegal activity. Rather, it’s having the inadvertent side effect of infringing on the operations of legitimate businesses like Top Gun Firearms Training & Supply and McMillan Group International, to name a very few.
The belief among Republicans, who tend to be much more favorable to gun organizations than their liberal peers, is that all this is being done on purpose. They believe that Attorney General Eric Holder is slyly using Operation Choke Point, which some liken to a stop-and-frisk for banks, to wage an assault on Second Amendment rights.
Regardless, what do you think about this? Is Operation Choke Point just a slick attempt to regulate firearms? Or are gun retailers freaking out for no reason?
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