Is the Obama Administration now targeting lawful businesses?
Mike Hawkins, owner of Hawkins Guns, LLC, received a notice from his bank on November 13, telling him his business account was going to be closed because he was a gun dealer. Upon visiting the bank, he was able to record a conversation with the bank official who said: “We don’t do firearms, ammunition, Uhm, (unintelligible), (unintelligible), auctioneers and check cashing companies.”
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Hawkins also owns a private investigative business and, as a result, was able to look deeper into the matter and was shocked by what he found. He said:
There are many Americans across the country that have been affected by this. They may not have come forward yet, but the US Consumer Federation is getting numerous calls since my story broke and hopefully more people will come to the table with what has happened to them.
The Department of Justice released the following statement: “We do not target businesses operating within the bounds of the law and we have no interest in pursuing/discouraging lawful conduct.”
The Wall Street Journal published an article saying:
When you become a banker, no one issues you a badge, nor are you fitted for a judicial robe. So why is the Justice Department telling bankers to behave like policemen and judges? Justice’s new probe, known as “Operation Choke Point,” is asking banks to identify customers who may be breaking the law or simply doing something government officials don’t like. Banks must then “choke off” those customers’ access to financial services, shutting down their accounts.
The industries that seem to be targeted include 22 categories of business including, but not limited to: firework sales, tobacco sales, coin dealers, pawn brokers, pharmaceutical sales, and home-based charities and even “As Seen on TV” businesses.
It is true that some businesses within these categories can have questionable ethics and practices, which is true in any business. However, should banks be the judge in determining whether a business is operating within the law? Can the Obama Administration and the Department of Justice force the closing of businesses with which they disagree by shutting off their access to credit and banking services, without giving them their day in court?
Also, says the Wall Street Journal:
Unfortunately, the strategy is legally dubious. Justice is pressuring banks to shut down accounts without pressing charges against a merchant or even establishing that the merchant broke the law. It’s clear enough that there’s fraud to shut down the account, Justice asserts, but apparently not clear enough for the highest law-enforcement agency in the land to prosecute.
Alden Abbott of the Heritage Foundation describes Operation Choke Point:
Banks receive notifications from federal regulators, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the agency responsible for insuring bank deposits), that the government considers certain types of businesses “high risk.” Banks then are pressured, though the implied threat of government investigations, to sever ties with customers engaged in those enterprises.
In the past, banks have always worked hand in hand with law enforcement by reporting suspicious banking behavior to combat identity fraud, counterfeit debt and credit cards, and tax evasion and wire transfer fraud. However, law enforcement agencies are responsible for deciding whether suspicious activity represents actual criminal violations, not the banks. When these suspicions are realized, those accused have their day in court, as mandated by our Constitution. Now, the Justice department is punishing banks that refuse to shut down unpopular but legal industries–by threatening penalties.
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Despite your political leanings, or your opinions about the businesses allegedly targeted by the Administration, we should all be concerned that a President or one political party can make decisions that affect the constitutional rights of all Americans without our input or the input of our elected officials. One day, you or your business could be targeted as well, regardless of which political party you support. Is this the United State of America, or Obama’s Nation?
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.