The Department of Justice decided to end Operation Choke Point, an initiative introduced during the Obama administration, following requests from House Republicans to formally end the program.
The Obama administration introduced Operation Choke Point in order to try and cut funding from financial institutions to fraudsters.
As explained previously by the DOJ back in 2015, “Just as bad actors continuously adapt to modern technology, law enforcement must adapt to protect consumers. Recognizing this new and serious consumer fraud problem, in 2012, career prosecutors at the department proposed a focused effort to disrupt these illegal third-party payment processor schemes. The new approach was informally dubbed ‘Operation Chokepoint’—a recognition that choking off access to consumers’ bank accounts could stop numerous fraud schemes at one time and protect more people from being victimized.”
But now, two years later and under a new administration, the DOJ flipped sides. According to a letter from the DOJ to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., “All of the Department’s bank investigations conducted as part of Operation Chokepoint are now over, the initiative is no longer in effect, and it will not be undertaken again. Some of the responses to those subpoenas led to the discovery of other criminal activity involving certain individuals and non-bank entities. To the extent the Department continues to pursue those ancillary investigations, none relates to or seeks to deter lawful conduct.”
The news finally resolves attempts from Republicans to get rid of the rule over the last few years. Earlier this year, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., reintroduced the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act to the 115th Congress 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. However, ultimately, the rule came in to an end through the DOJ.
In response to the news, Goodlatte said, “We applaud the Trump Justice Department for decisively ending Operation Choke Point. The Obama Administration created this ill-advised program to suffocate legitimate businesses to which it was ideologically opposed by intimidating financial institutions into denying banking services to those businesses.”