A Massachusetts gun store is the latest victim of Operation Choke Point, a Department of Justice and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation initiative that limits banking access for industries it deems “high risk,” the store’s owner claims.
“Recently I applied for a line of credit and was informed I was declined,” wrote Mark Cohen, the owner of Powderhorn Outfitters, based in Hyannis, Mass.
Cohen said he and his company, founded in 1978, were longtime customers of TD Bank.
“I was told my finances were fine and history was spotless, however they could not approve me because I sell guns.”
“Taken aback,” Cohen said he closed his accounts with the bank and then did some research. He discovered Operation Choke Point, an initiative that arose from the Financial Fraud Enforcement Taskforce, formed in 2009. With a stated goal of targeting fraudsters and scammers, the initiative created a list of industries that it deemed “high risk”.
The policy “groups gun manufacturers or dealers with Pot Dispensaries and the Porn Industry!” wrote Cohen.
By doing business with companies in “high risk” industries – which, according to a 2012 FDIC directive, include online tobacco, online gambling-related operations and payday lenders — banks invite further scrutiny from federal agencies. To avoid this, many banks merely drop customers in those industries.
Earlier this year, numerous adult film stars were notified that their banking accounts were suspended because of their line of work.
“In lieu of taking away our guns, they are placing these labels on us in an effort to remove funding for gun manufacturing,” wrote Cohen.
Earlier this month, the Washington Times, which has covered the issue in depth, listed a number of small gun retailers whose banks have “choked” their banking access.
“This letter in no way reflects any derogatory reasons for such action on your behalf. But rather one of industry. Unfortunately your company’s line of business is not commensurate with the industries we work with,” read a letter sent from BankUnited N.A. to the owner of the Miami-based Top Gun Firearms Training & Supply, according to the Washington Times.
Some in the banking industry are critical of the regulation as well.
“We’re being threatened with a regulatory regime that attempts to foist on us the obligation to monitor all types of transcations,” wrote Richard Riese, a senior vice president at the American Bankers Association, in an article last month, the Times noted.
“All of this is predicated on a notion that the banks are a choke point for all businesses,” wrote Riese.
TD Bank did not respond to a request for comment.
(h/t The Washington Times)