Don't Look Now, but Did Biden's Postmaster General Set up an Illegal Bank?

Don't Look Now, but Did Biden's Postmaster General Set up an Illegal Bank?
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

There’s an awful lot of news that is more attention-grabbing than this, but it should really be pointed out that it looks like President Biden could have another scandal on his hands. Especially if Republicans retake Congress as expected next year.

It appears that the U.S. Postal Service, under Biden’s Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, violated federal law by trying to get the Postal Service into the check-cashing business. For years, it’s been something the postal workers union and progressive activists have long desired. House Republicans on the Financial Services Committee recently called DeJoy out for the scheme in an April 20 letter.

On or around April 1, 2022, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) extended an unsuccessful pilot program for check cashing services. The pilot program—which allows customers to cash payroll and business checks up to $500—was launched in September 2021 without approval from Congress or the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). The program violated long-standing prohibitions that prevent USPS from offering or developing new non-postal products, and over the course of four months, it proved extremely unpopular. It is therefore unclear why, and on what basis, the program has been extended.

As of its launch, the program violated a statutory restriction on offering or developing new products outside the scope of USPS’s traditional postal services. Moreover, the decision to extend the program puts USPS in direct contravention of language in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022, which was signed into law on April 6, 2022 and specifically prohibits taxpayer funds for pilot programs related to non-banking financial services.

It appears the program has been extended because the postal-workers union has been lobbying DeJoy personally – while also continuing to attack him on other issues – to create the program and expand it.

Far-left outlet the Daily Prospect reported on the postal banking plan and the union’s work in pushing DeJoy to create it.

Few would have named DeJoy as the official who would set in motion the most consequential executive action of President Biden’s first term. And even fewer would have correctly pegged that he would do it in cooperation with the APWU, one of his biggest antagonists. But the union has been laser-focused on getting postal leadership to embrace banking for many years, seeing it as an attractive product to bring in customers and promote financial inclusion.

In 2016, the APWU successfully negotiated postal banking pilots in its USPS collective-bargaining agreement. However, previous postmaster general Megan Brennan ignored this obligation and dragged her feet on the pilots. The APWU considered filing a grievance, but ultimately decided that, even if it won a pilot, postal leadership would not put in the energy and resources necessary for the project to succeed.

Instead, when DeJoy took over, the union engaged him personally in a series of meetings, pitching the postal banking idea again. In a sign that DeJoy was interested, those meetings soon became weekly events, involving technical staff.

Your new bank's safety deposit box? (AP/Reuters Feed Library)

DeJoy, by the way, seems to be guilty of more than just setting up an illegal bank in the post offices.

Louis DeJoy traded more than a million dollars in stocks and options in December—and as much as $2.5 million, according to a financial disclosure obtained by CREW. The trading include major companies including Coca Cola, Pepsi, Conagra, HP and Alibaba, and focused on pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Gilead and Bristol Myers Squibb.

The program involves turning Post Offices into check-cashing centers. In the beginning, only four post offices across the country (Washington, D.C., Falls Church Virginia, Baltimore, Maryland, and the Bronx) offered the new service, allowing people to cash their paychecks and put the money on single-use Visa gift cards. However, it appears that the program has been an abject failure, making DeJoy’s decision to renew it even stranger.

According to the House Republican letter, the program generated a whopping $35.70 in revenue for the struggling Postal Service – cashing only six paychecks. Lawmakers were puzzled as to why DeJoy would violate the law to install a program that cashed only six paychecks and generated less than $50 in total revenue.

Private firms, including Walmart, already offer low-fee check cashing services so it remains a mystery as to why – aside from a sop to the postal-workers union – the Postal Service would even try to get into this kind of business.

“The fact that only six people used the postal banking pilot,” House Republicans noted in their letter, “confirms that consumers remain supportive of the free market and look to private firms for technological solutions to meet their banking needs.”

DeJoy may be the sole remaining Trump loyalist in government and his failed union-backed scheme to turn Post Offices into banks appears to be right out of the Biden playbook – questionably legal and bankrupt.

When Republicans retake Congress this year, they should drive the final nail in its coffin.

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