Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after the House successfully passed H.R. 766, the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act, which included the Congressman’s amendment to increase transparency by requiring that financial institutions provide notice to customers if their account is ordered to be terminated by federal banking regulators:
“One of the many ways the federal government has abused its power under the Obama Administration is through unconstitutional programs like Operation Choke Point. Appallingly, President Obama and the Attorney General have put unwarranted pressure on banks and payment processors to shut down gun stores, pawn shops and other businesses they don’t support. This administration has been staunch in its assault on the Second Amendment, and this horrific program is another tool utilized by the president and the Department of Justice to infringe upon the rights of lawful gun owners and businesses.
“Operation Choke Point is a shameful example of the Obama Administration weaponizing federal agencies in order to hand pick winners and losers by intimidating financial institutions into implementing its political agenda. American citizens do not want big government to have the power to arbitrarily terminate their accounts at financial institutions based solely on ideological opposition to individuals or certain organizations. My amendment will increase transparency and protect consumers throughout the nation from lawless executive overreach.”
Prior to passage of the Gosar amendment, Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning stated, “ALG strongly supports Representative Gosar’s common sense amendment to the H.R. 766 protecting customers of financial institutions by increasing transparency between them and the federal government. The federal government has no constitutional power to take actions against individuals without due process, and Gosar’s amendment will ensure that if a financial institution does take any action against an individual or business terminating their account at the behest of the feds, it must notify the customer why it is doing so.”
The Gosar amendment was endorsed by: Americans for Limited Government, the National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, and Eagle Forum. Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) also supported this commonsense amendment. Congressman Gosar’s amendment does not affect the national security exception in the base bill and the Congressional Budget Office stated that the amendment would not have a score to taxpayers.
Congressman Gosar is also a cosponsor of the bill that passed today, H.R. 766, the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act of 2015.
Several Arizona businesses were victims of Operation Choke Point including a gun manufacturer in Phoenix, American Spirit Arms in Scottsdale and Secure Account Services in Lake Havasu City.
(Courtesy of the NRA)
Several years ago, the Obama administration created a program called Operation Choke Point (OCP), which utilizes federal financial services regulators to harass and intimidate banks and financial service providers who maintain relationships with legal but so-called “high risk” merchants or businesses. By leaning on the banks, the regulators hope to cause them to sever relationships with these legitimate businesses, thereby choking off their cash flow and forcing them out of the market.
These “high risk” businesses include retailers of firearms and ammunition, a number of which have found their banking relationships abruptly severed with little or no explanation and without reference to anything the individual businesses did or did not do. A congressional investigation found that the OCP’s adverse effect on legitimate businesses was not merely an unintended side-effect, but the outcome of a deliberate attempt to target entire business sectors that, while legal, were deemed objectionable by regulators.
H.R. 766 would institute numerous reforms to bring more transparency and accountability to federal oversight of banks, all aimed at preventing the sort of unchecked abuse 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 material reasoning, with reference to any specific laws or regulations the enforcement agency believed were 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. Finally, the bill would make important changes 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 conclusively to preempt this dubious justification.