December 12, 2019
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) joined Ted Cruz (R-Texas) along with Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), John Kennedy (R-La.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.), to reintroduce the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act (S. 3003). This bill prohibits federal regulators from arbitrarily forcing banking institutions to terminate their relationships with legal businesses solely because the operations of the businesses are not in line with the views of the contemporaneous administration.
“As part of our rights put forth in the Constitution, every citizen has the right to keep and bear arms—plain and simple,” Sen. Inhofe said. “Under President Obama, his administration sought to penalize law-abiding small businesses through punitive financial regulations for the sole reason that their businesses didn’t align with the political views of the former president. I am proud to join Sen. Cruz today in introducing the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act to ensure that this constitutional right will not be abused again by a future administration.”
“Under the previous administration, government officials at agencies such as the Department of Justice and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation abused their power to become a partisan arm of the administration,” Sen. Cruz said. “This bill safeguards the American people and small businesses from being unconstitutionally cut off from their financial institutions for not falling in line with the political whims and leanings of whoever is in control of the executive branch.”
“Federal regulators are supposed to enforce the law, not act as partisan hacks trying to impose their own agenda on the businesses they oversee,” Sen. Kennedy said. “This legislation prevents federal banking agencies from discriminating against lawful businesses, large or small, just because their customers or practices don’t adhere to the same political views of whoever controls the administration.”
“The government shouldn’t have the ability to pressure financial institutions on which industries they are allowed to do business with based on the political beliefs of the administration, like what we saw during the Obama presidency,” Sen. Tillis said. “This legislation will protect America’s private sector and small businesses by ensuring federal regulators act based on the merits and not political ideology.”
“No bureaucrat should abuse the public trust by using their regulatory powers to impose their own personal preferences on the American people,” Sen. Lee said. “It is vital that government power be wielded transparently and accountably, and that those targeted by government be made aware of their penalization and its justification, and have the ability to challenge that action.”
“Obama-era policies, such as Operation Choke Point, represented a direct assault on Second Amendment rights. This strong legislation would act to protect those rights, as well as the spirit of free enterprise that makes the American economy so strong,” Sen. Hyde-Smith said. “This bill is needed to stop the federal government under any administration from abusing financial regulations to target businesses, large or small, that offer firearms or other lawful products.”
“We’re a nation of laws,” Sen. Sasse said, “and that means that Washington’s bureaucracy can’t put a wall between American businesses and their banks just because their private views aren’t popular with powerful politicians. Back in 2013, President Obama’s regulators went after law-abiding firearms businesses and we have to make sure that never happens again. That’s exactly what this common-sense legislation would do.”
“Operation Choke Point was a disturbing initiative from the previous administration. For years, regulators targeted and aimed to shut down law-abiding businesses just because they operated in an industry that some in the government didn’t like. This bill will ensure such bad practices never happen again while giving businesses the peace of mind to freely operate as they choose,” Sen. Braun said.
The full text of the bill may be viewed here. A summary is below:
Financial Institution Customer Protection Act Summary
This bill prohibits 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, unless:
- The agency has a material reason to do so, and
- The reason is not based solely on reputation risk to the institution.
The “material reason” criterion shall be satisfied if 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.
Unless the appropriate agency determines that the customer or group of customers has used due diligence to avoid doing business with any entity described below, the bill deems the criteria addressing "material reason" to be met if the agency believes a customer or group of customers is, or is acting as, a conduit for an entity which:
- 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 sponsor 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.
If an appropriate federal banking agency orders a depository institution to terminate a specific customer account or a group of customer accounts, the depository institution shall inform the customer or customers of the justification for the termination.
No notice may be given to the customer, however, if the agency requests or orders a depository institution to terminate a customer account (or a group of customer accounts) based upon a belief that customer or those customers pose a threat to national security or are otherwise described above.
The Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 is amended to revise requirements for summoning witnesses and requiring production of books or other records the Attorney General deems relevant or material to a civil investigation in contemplation of a civil proceeding which may result in civil penalties for specified violations.