One of President Barack Obama’s former top Justice Department officials behind Operation Choke Point said Thursday the program had “unintended but collateral consequences” on banks and U.S. consumers.
“Unfortunately, as the investigations continue, so too have one of the unintended but collateral consequences of such vigilance: mass de-risking,” wrote Michael J. Bresnick, who previously served as executive director of Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, under which Operation Choke Point was created. “Members of the industry have raised their hands in frustration and simply avoided lines of business typically associated with higher risk. This reaction to [the Justice Department’s] enforcement initiative, and similar matters brought by the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is certainly understandable.”
Bresnick addressed the issue in an op-ed for American Banker.
According to government documents, Operation Choke Point was designed by the Justice Department in 2012 to “attack Internet, telemarketing, mail, and other mass market fraud against consumers, by choking fraudsters’ access to the banking system.”
Critics of the program say it was used to put the financial squeeze on entire industries the Obama administration doesn’t like, such as firearms sellers and payday lenders.
In addressing what he referred to as “consequences” of Operation Choke Point, Bresnick called for government officials to work “closely” with banks to solve problems he says the program created.
“Only when the government truly understands the consequences of its actions (especially the unintended consequences), acknowledges those concerns to those directly affected, and works closely with them to address the challenges they face, can we expect that the multitude of good actors who desperately want to avoid the last resort of de-risking will be able to do so with relative comfort,” he wrote.