For the last several days, rumors have been circulating about the use of 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. These businesses are said to include, among others, payday lenders, escort services, producers of pornography, gaming interests, and purveyors of drug paraphernalia. By leaning on the banks, so the theory goes, the regulators will cause them to sever relationships with these businesses, thereby choking off their cash flow and forcing them out of the market. While the early phase of the operation has reportedly focused on payday lenders and pornography interests, eventual targets are said to include sellers of firearms and ammunition.
We have been aware of this story for some time. NRA News, for example, originally reported on it last January. Breitbart news also noted in January that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Chairman of the Economic Growth Subcommittee, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding further information on the program. In a follow up story on NRA News in April, Andrew Langer from the Institute for Liberty reiterated the allegations and reported that the program is expanding. The House Committee on Financial Services additionally held a hearing on April 8 entitled, “Who’s in Your Wallet: Examining How Washington Red Tape Impairs Economic Freedom,” at which concerns over Operation Choke Point were expressed by both sides of the aisle.
In addition to these concerns, NRA is aware of episodes in which banks have severed their relationships with customers in the firearm industry, as well as the policies of various online services – such as Google Shopping,eBay, Craigslist, and PayPal–to refuse to host listings for, or process sales of, firearms or ammunition.