DOJ Morality Police May Be Behind Chase Closing Bank Accounts Of Adult Film Actors

from the choke-on-this-point dept

The Techdirt comments section is to thank for this one. After we just talked about Chase Bank appearing to close the personal bank accounts of a bunch of employees in the adult performing business, a few of you pointed us to reports that this may just be Chase Bank dancing to a federal piper. That report has expanded upon Teagan Presley, a former porn star, and her comments upon finding out she was suddenly no longer a Chase customer.

When Presley went to the bank in person to ask why, she was told it’s because she’s considered “high risk.”

“And then they told me that they canceled my husband’s account too, because our social security numbers are linked,” Presley told VICE News. “They told him that it was because I’m a notorious adult star. Which is funny, because I’m kind of a goody-goody in the business, and I’m not even doing porn anymore.”

So, the obvious question to ask next is what makes her “high risk”? After all, Chase Bank really likes money, even when it is generated by doing some pretty crappy things, so what’s the deal? Well, the latest is that this may be a part of the US Department of Justice’s “Operation Choke Point” program, in which the government has apparently decided that some extremely legal businesses don’t get to exist anymore, but since they can’t just disappear companies and industries in good standing, they’ve decided to route around the whole “freedom” thing and get the financial industry to act as contract hitmen.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Thursday, American Bankers Association CEO Frank Keating wrote that the Justice Department is “telling bankers to behave like policemen and judges.”

“Operation Choke Point is asking banks to identify customers who may be breaking the law or simply doing something government officials don’t like,” Keating wrote. “Banks must then “choke off” those customers’ access to financial services, shutting down their accounts.”

Keating said the highly secretive operation was launched in early 2013. That’s when porn stars started to complain to the media that their bank accounts were being shut down without explanation.

Let’s not mince words: a program that was built upon the goals of stopping financial fraud has devolved into a massive government overreach into private businesses that are operating within the law. The way it works is that the DOJ informs financial institutions that certain industries are more likely than others to be involved in unauthorized charges of consumer credit and bank cards. They likewise inform the banks that the DOJ is going to keep a special super-awesome close-eye on these industries, with the implication being that there will be a great deal of prosecutorial action, subpoenas, and scrutiny on those industries, not mention penalties on the institutions that work with them. The intention of the government, it would seem, is to make the banks unwilling to deal with the government harassment and simply cut anyone in those industries off from the financial institutions. Nobody is happy about this.

Even the former chairman of the FDIC, William Isaac, wrote in American Banker magazine this week that Operation Choke Point is “way out of control,” adding that 23 bipartisan members of Congress wrote a letter to the DOJ stating that the operation is driving legal business into the ground. That includes banks themselves.

Camden Fine, president of the Independent Community Bankers of America, wrote a letter to the Justice Department in early April, saying that Operation Choke Point makes it too tough for small community banks to compete with the big chains.

It’s worse than that. The federal government is lording over legal industries operating within their respective states’ laws and single-handedly directing banking institutions to cut their legs out from beneath them. It would be bad enough if we were just talking about business accounts, but personal accounts are getting swept up in this as well. That’s how you end up with individual performers in the adult film industry suddenly finding themselves unable to open up a bank account. This is done, by the way, in the name of morality. It represents a violation of a free and legal marketplace by a government that has as much moral authority as can fit in a thimble.

And, no, it isn’t just the porn industry we’re talking about.

In 2011, the FDIC listed 30 “merchant categories that have been associated with high-risk activity,” likening pornography to Ponzi schemes, racist materials, “lifetime guarantees,” and sales of fireworks and tobacco. At a March hearing before a Senate Banking subcommittee, the Washington Post reported, Senator David Vitter (R-La.) said “there is a determined effort, from [the Justice Department] to the regulators… to cut off credit and use other tactics to force [payday lenders] out of business. I find that deeply troubling because it has no statutory basis, no statutory authority.”

This should be terrifying to business owners in every industry. Sure, this time they’re going after some companies that you may not like, be they porn, or payday lenders, or people making racist materials, tobacco, or fireworks. But if those industries are operating within the law, they have the right to exist. The law is the only measure by which the DOJ should be invoking banking policy. The federal government doesn’t get to pick and choose which businesses exist outside of their legality. If the federal government wants to make porn illegal, they should try to do so. They won’t get very far, but they should try. This underhanded attack on free enterprise is simply un-American.

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Companies: chase bank, jpmorgan chase

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Comments on “DOJ Morality Police May Be Behind Chase Closing Bank Accounts Of Adult Film Actors”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Usury (/juri/[1][2]) is the practice of making unethical or immoral monetary loans intended to unfairly enrich the lender. A loan may be considered usurious because of excessive or abusive interest rates or other factors, but according to some dictionaries, simply charging any interest at all can be considered usury.[3][4][5] Someone who charges usury can be called an usurer, but the more common term in English is loan shark.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Why would anyone persecute Christians except for being dickwads? The exact same goes for Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, PETA, abortion-clinic bombers and Bundy-suckers.

If Christians want someone like Pat Robertson, Rick Frothy or Fred Phelps to represent them, then you’ll get all the ‘persecution’ you want (assuming you spell persecution as c-r-i-t-i-c-i-s-m). If you’d rather go the Mother Theresa/Pope Francis route, you will get less persecution than you do to the Muslims.

btr1701 says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If Christians want someone like Pat Robertson,
> Rick Frothy or Fred Phelps to represent them, then
> you’ll get all the ‘persecution’ you want

Just curious how you think this actually works. It’s not like Christians hold elections and decide who gets to be a pastor/minister/revered, etc.

If I’m a perfectly normal non-hateful person who attends a mainstream Methodist church in, say, Boise, how the hell am I supposed to do something about Pat Robertson or Fred Phelps?

btr1701 says:

Re: Re: Re:

Because the banks own the government. You don’t go after your
> master, you go after everyone else at his behest.

That doesn’t make sense. The article says the government is forcing the banks to do this under threat and coercion. If the banks own the government and are its master, how can that be?

Loki says:

Re: Re:

Camden Fine, president of the Independent Community Bankers of America, wrote a letter to the Justice Department in early April, saying that Operation Choke Point makes it too tough for small community banks to compete with the big chains.

Done. Get rid of industries you don’t like AND drive out possible competition for “too big to fail bank”. Nice little system they set up there.

John Nemesh says:

Re: Communist? No, it's fascist.

“The liberty of democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in essence, is fascism – ownership of the government by an individual, by a group.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s actually the opposite of any ‘progressive’ I’ve known. They aren’t the control freaks that the reactionary conservatives are. I know, go too far left and your into control-freaky Stalinism/Putinism, but all of that is really oligarchy gone mad.

True centrist progressives (real centre, not your right-wing flavour) want to help the most people and actually improve people’s lives, but are not so wedded to ideology that they would rather let people starve, die of preventable sickness, or be left begging if it breaks some obscure St Ronnie Raygun diktat.

Anonymous Coward says:

The banks hate regulation – any regulation. By characterizing this as “the government is making us,” they get small business owners upset who go to their representatives asking them to roll back the regulation.

The selective enforcement of a regulation requiring them to not facilitate crime, wherein they only target legal vice at the business or contractor level gives them maximum return on their grassroots lobbying with minimal damages.

The government may be incompetent, but make no mistake that the executives at Chase are scum. Stories that point to this being the result of government interference just give them ammunition to peel back the minimal regulation they have been “burdened” with so they can continue to work financially with the really lucrative criminals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

My point is that the bank(s) are selectively enforcing the regulation for their own purposes to avoid harming their actual business. I don’t see any headlines that the banks are closing the bank accounts of any actual criminals.

The banks aren’t right or correct in this as the government does have a legitimate interest in regulating that the banks not facilitate criminal activity. The banks are enforcing the rule in a way that causes them minimal damage but causes the most chance of public intervention on their behalf.

I don’t care who the banks choose to conduct business with. But allowing them to characterize this as government intervention allows them to set the conversation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Thats because they break laws first then pass laws after………which begs the question, is it legal or not

The only law that binds me is natures law, not manufactured laws with agendas, that is too close to that road of tyrrany….not guaranteed tyrrany, mind you, just more fucking highly more likely….ahem……tyrrany

Dont let my attempted jest remove how vigourously the current path our respective nations are going down, is pissing me off…….this is not going away, why do they argue and continue as if it even has a slight chance of it, which entail, pisses me off further………..I DONT LIKE THE THINGS YOU ARE DOING(respective gover), i dont give a shit that you dont give a shit that i give a shit, ill still not fucking like it……so.what you gonna do, prove our points, and then PR the shit out of it, oh wait, too late……..oh, your not done…….well, thats kinda fucking obvious

To community
Forgive my agrevated language, if i may

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“minimal regulation”? Banks are among the most heavily regulated business entities in the nation.

The problem is the regulations are directed toward maximizing government control for the benefit of favored cronies, financial institutions and of course, politicians.

Many if not most large banks are effectively corrupt, but is not due to lack of regulations, but to the corruption of the government regulatory system itself.

Kenneth Michaels (profile) says:

Financial Cutoff

Don’t forget that the FBI is a racketeering organization –
Article: “Is the FBI a Racketeering Organization” (Forbes)

And, creating financial difficulty is also part of a larger scheme to target those the feds don’t like –

Article: “How the Feds Disable Criminal Defense” (Forbes)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

the real symbol for the real face in this time

Feels like that flag needs a’making……..probabably means theres a law against it, you know, because of the terrorism and the children, we cant have folks creating whatever the hell they like, that doesnt HARM anyone in a free country, what kinda country do folks think we live in? A free country?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Extremely legal: you sell hammers. Hammers could be used in a crime, but are generally legal for everyone to possess (barring unusual court orders, etc.)
Regular legal: you sell firearms pursuant to all the rules and restrictions of the various gun control acts. The gun could be used in a crime, and there exist people who are prohibited from buying the gun, but most people can buy it legally.
Sorta-kinda legal: you sell tightly regulated explosives. Demolition workers have a legitimate need to buy from you, so your business is legally permitted to exist, but the state considers the explosives too dangerous to let arbitrary non-criminal citizens walk in and buy explosives.

Easily Amused (profile) says:

Re: Bitcoin

If your money is ‘in bitcoins’ you aren’t earning any interest. The value may appreciate according to the market, but that is no different than any currency including cash stuffed in a mattress. If you want to put those BTC in a financial account that does earn interest, guess who has those? The banks.

zip says:

Enough about PORN, please!

Here is the complete “Dirty thirty” list of US-government banned businesses, from

* Ammunition Sales
* Cable Box De-scramblers
* Coin Dealers
* Credit Card Schemes
* Credit Repair Services
* Dating Services
* Debt Consolidation Scams
* Drug Paraphernalia
* Escort Services
* Firearms Sales
* Fireworks Sales
* Get Rich Products
* Government Grants
* Home-Based Charities
* Life-Time Guarantees

* Life-Time Memberships
* Lottery Sales
* Mailing Lists/Personal Info
* Money Transfer Networks
* On-line Gambling
* PayDay Loans
* Pharmaceutical Sales
* Ponzi Schemes
* Pornography
* Pyramid-Type Sales
* Racist Materials
* Surveillance Equipment
* Telemarketing
* Tobacco Sales
* Travel Clubs

(not mentioned: NZB and Torrent sites, which starting in 2012 were cut off from all US-based bank and payment processors due to pressure from Hollywood. This is despite the fact that the vast majority of these sites strictly adhere to all US laws, particularly the DMCA, despite being foreign-based sites that have no connection to the USA.)

zip says:

Re: Re: Enough about PORN, please!

Most of the things on the banned list could be considered scams to at least some degree. Some promote an inherently illegal activity. But others, like firearm and tobacco sales, are presumably thrown in by virtue of being politically-incorrect.

And we just can’t allow people to donate money to racist, FBI-infiltrated websites like Stormfront.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Enough about PORN, please!

“Most of the things on the banned list could be considered scams to at least some degree”

No. There are scams that operate under the color of all of the things on that list (just as there are operating in literally every other type of business). But all of hte things on that list are legal activities that are engaged in by 100% legitimate businesses.

If the intent is to crack down on scams, then do that — target the businesses that are engaging in fraud. But to declare broad types of legal business activity “off limits” is wrong and, in my opinion, a type of fraud in and of itself.

zip says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Enough about PORN, please!

“But all of hte things on that list are legal activities that are engaged in by 100% legitimate businesses.”

Is an escort service ever a legitimate business?

Just a thought ….. if your $500 “tip” results in sex, it’s illegal — if not, it’s a scam!

BernardoVerda says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Enough about PORN, please!

I’d say that the Payday Loan/Used Car Loan companies are far, far sketchier — they’re mostly just rip-off artists and scammers preying on the desperate and the ignorant.

At least everyone doing business through an “escort service” knows what they’re getting into, and how much money is going to change hands.

OrganizedThoughtCrime (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Enough about PORN, please!

“Is an escort service ever a legitimate business?”

Legitimate? Yes, absolutely.

“Just a thought ….. if your $500 “tip” results in sex, it’s illegal — if not, it’s a scam!”

Just a thought … if your $500 “tip” results in unrecorded sex, it’s illegal — if not, it’s porn!

art guerrilla (profile) says:

this is bad, this is really, Really BAD...

wow, they just aren’t bothering to hide the descent into a 1984-style police state, are they ? ? ?
NO DOUBT that similar tactics ARE being used against various activists, dissenters, etc…
this is very, VERY scary: it is ALREADY a joke that due process, etc are NOT being followed, even for gutted laws that are totally slanted for the state’s convenience…
but, now they simply extra-legally, extra-judicially smother someone by removing their ability to function at any level in society…
HOW do The They ™ think this turns out when you push desperate rats into a corner ? ? ?
again, like another poster opined the other day: are they TRYING to get us to revolt with this shit ? ? ?
’cause i have gotten to the point where there is NO ‘saving grace’ for this system: its shit through and through…

Violated (profile) says:

Crap Inc.

Now that final word of “un-American” is the core issue here.

The United States should be worried less about foreign Governments than those “un-American” people corrupting the very core of the Administration by endangering the very meaning of what it is to be a US Citizen.

Long ago the USA used be to the place where foreign refugees fled to in order to escape the persecution of their own country where the USA represented freedom & safety. Only recently has that table turned when now US Passport holders flee to others countries to escape clear US persecution.

Then how many times have we sat here reading about the US Administration or Congress running off on some mega-lo-manic plan with little regards to the law of the land. They only moan that following the law is too hard for them and they should not have to follow the US Constitution and Bill of Rights… the very core documents on what the American way of life was founded!

Then their arrogance is so high and the Administration so rusted that they protect their mega-lo-manic authority through running the Administration as one giant secret outside of public oversight and accountability. Secrets upon secrets upon secrets where they really do persecute anyone who exposes their filth.

Then most sad of all is that the average US citizen accepts failure in their leadership. Sure they feel helpless and only see it as natural for sewage to float to the top of the tank.

What is most needed is an empowered office filled with people with no political aspirations beyond simply wanting to make the United States a better place. Their only job is to hunt down such un-Americans in order to fire them from ever working in Government departments, or to punish them under the law. I don’t mean people making the odd mistake, or those a bit dumb at their job, but those supreme arrogant people who only care about punishing the unworthy along with a history of avoiding law accountability.

Only once heads start rolling, and people fear that their job is at stake, will they have reason to clean up their act.

zip says:

Re: Crap Inc.

“What is most needed is an empowered office filled with people with no political aspirations beyond simply wanting to make the United States a better place. Their only job is to hunt down such un-Americans in order to fire them from ever working in Government departments, or to punish them under the law.”

Washington, D.C. would be turned into a ghost town. It’s an appealing thought, though. Something like a modern-day version of the French Revolution — with the guillotine operators working in shifts.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Crap Inc.

Clearly there has been progress then. We now have robots for that task that don’t even take cigarette breaks. Work 24/7/365 with a 15 minute SLA if within the bounds of Washington DC, 5 minutes if you are located on Capital Hill. 99.999% up time (assuming you can carry the results away fast enough) guaranteed, or you get 10 free service calls.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This is a liberals list of things to stop

Yes, it is those damn liberals again. Why can’t they learn to keep their grubby paws off my rights? Next thing ya know those libtards will be repealing the 13th and the 14th amendments. What’s next, corporations will be declared to be people? It is good to know that the conservatives are out there fighting to maintain my rights and not screw me over like those librals – amirite?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This is a liberals list of things to stop

Truth hurts doesnt it. After all, the liberals are in charge. The liberals are for big government and feel like they can take care of you better than you can take care of you. You thought it was great when they said they were going after the rich, even though liberals are just as rich, but now you see their true intentions.

Turd says:

Re: Re: This is a liberals list of things to stop

Hey shitforbrains, a corporation IS a “legal person” and has been for hundreds of years. If not, you could not contract with one, sue one, etc.
Your smartass comments don’t address the relentless march of the state, especially the executive branch (regulatory state), into the hyperregulation of the minutae of our lives.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: This is a liberals list of things to stop

Ad Hominem, the pinnacle of discourse.

“a corporation IS a “legal person” and has been for hundreds of years.”

– and the SCOTUS was asked to rule because it has been so obvious for hundreds of years.

Why am I required to address only the issues which twist your panties?

ethorad (profile) says:

Martin Niemoller said it best

(at the risk of invoking Godwin…)

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.

ambrellite (profile) says:

The Practice Predates the Program

Isn’t this precisely what happened to Wikileaks? The DOJ started an investigation–finding nothing to this day–and Wikileaks was soon after choked off by financial institutions that before or since have had little compunction about doing shady business with suspicious organizations and individuals. There was never any cost to doing so, until they had to invent a reason to snub Wikileaks, and then suddenly “reputational risk” became a thing.

The DOJ can buy favors from the groups it blesses, and vice versa.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Oh how ironic

“So Timmy tried to pin this move on conservatives and religous people”

Er, no I didn’t. I only said they MIGHT not care much for the targets of these close downs. Try to get your facts right.

Also, idiot, our “liberal” government is still conservative on the global scale and there’s plenty of religious liberals, rendering even your fake point completely stupid.

BernardoVerda says:

Driving legal business out of the legitimate channels...

… has generally produced counter-productive results.

Which is worse — “Pay Day Loan” companies, or loan sharks?
Jenna Jameson producing her own “erotic” films, or the Mob controlling the porn business?

The predictable consequence of this kind of heavy-handed “moralistic” approach, is that otherwise legal activities and businesses become the purview of criminal “entrepreneurs”.

Anonymous Coward says:

This underhanded attack on free enterprise is simply un-American.

On the contrary, baseless attacks of the executive on anything it does not like, without any legal basis beyond ‘we say so’, is the essence of modern America. This is everything the US does in a nutshell. Sorry, folks, your government went off of any of those fabled high principles that once were so American years ago. And it will never go back to them.

GEMont (profile) says:

The President's New Clothes

And I’ll bet most of you are still wondering why the fed let the banks hi-jack the american economy and get off scott free.

Well, this should give you a clue as to what sort of “deal” was struck between the crooks running the fed and the crooks running the banks.

Its just another aspect of the good old federal extortion racket, albeit this time it was between two friendly gangs of crooks.

The Fed said to the banksters: “We’ll make it easy for you to steal billions from the US public and then let you off the hook legally, and you will thereafter help us destroy anyone we want to destroy financially.”

Just business as usual for the US Federal Cartel.

John Thacker (profile) says:

But remember, all the FDIC is supposed to do is make sure that banks are treating their customers fairly and equally, and people don’t lose their deposits. Yet even though these industries are legal, the Feds are doing this.

Certainly doesn’t make me feel good about the idea of the FCC enforcing net neutrality, now does it? Easy to imagine the FCC demanding that ISPs shutdown “high risk” websites that “aid terrorists” by having any of those 30 industries listed on the FDIC’s site, much less already clearly illegal things like pirated movies or music.

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