Representative reintroduces legislation to end Operation Choke Point

Gives it a second try in 115th Congress

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., reintroduced the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act to the 115th Congress in attempts to end Operation Choke Point.

Luetkemeyer explained in his announcement that the bill would restore the balance between financial institutions and regulators and protect private industry from the organized bureaucratic intimidation that originated under the Obama Administration.

According to the bill’s summery, it would prohibit a federal banking agency from formally or informally suggesting, requesting, or ordering a depository institution to terminate either a specific customer account, or group of customer accounts, or otherwise restrict or discourage it from entering into or maintaining a banking relationship with a specific customer or group of customers.

The only exceptions are if:

  1. The agency has a material reason to do so
  2. The reason is not based solely on reputation risk.

The bill also broke down that a “material reason” is satisfied when an agency believes that a specific customer or group of customers poses a threat to national security, including any belief that they are involved in terrorist financing.

Here are some examples the bill gives:

  • Poses a threat to national security
  • Is involved in terrorist financing
  • Is an agency of the government of Iran, North Korea, Syria, or any country listed from time to time on the state sponsors of terrorism list
  • Is either located in, or subject to the jurisdiction of, any of such countries; or
  • Does business with any entity located in such countries.

“Last Congress, the House of Representatives took the first step in putting an end, once and for all, to Operation Choke Point by passing my legislation,” Luetkemeyer said.

“Although there is a new Administration and Department of Justice in place, this legislation is necessary to ensure that no future Administration will have the opportunity to negatively impact individuals and legal businesses through this unprecedented initiative,” he said. “We must continue to demand greater transparency and end the practice of allowing government bureaucrats to use personal and political motivations to block financial services to licensed, legally-operating businesses.”

Luetkemeyer’s announcement added that the bill would ensure that the Department of Justice’s once broad interpretation of the law is limited and the original intent of the statute is restored.

Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, has voiced opposition to the bill in the past.

In supporting the Financial CHOICE, the leading bill to replace Dodd-Frank, Hensarling stated, ““Liberal elites in Washington want to keep the Bureau unaccountable to hardworking taxpayers so they can continue to wield it as a political war machine.  We’ve already seen the abuses that occurred when Democrats used the IRS as their attack dog and unleashed financial regulators to go after legally operating businesses with ‘Operation Choke Point.’  The Financial CHOICE Act holds financial regulators and the CFPB accountable so it can be the consumer protection ‘cop on the beat’ that Americans need.”

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