US moralist institutions, including the government, have found that a great way to censor people is to control their financial access.
The best example is Operation Chokepoint , a Department of Justice (DOJ) effort that put pressure on the
banking system to cut off financial access for politically disfavored industries, such as sex work or porn production.
Under the Obama administration, regulators such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and Office of the Comptroller
of the Currency (OCC) issued threatening letters to financial institutions that processed payments for industries such as payday lenders, gun and ammunition firms, and cryptocurrency companies. The message was clear: cut back on business with these
industries, or else. Banks got the hint, and affected firms found it harder and harder to find banking partners.
Bullying banks into doing the government's dirty work was a quick and easy way to get the job done. Even better: it was an extralegal
method to get rid of businesses the feds didn't like too much anyway. But of course, if something works, then why not extend it to ever more pet peeves.
For example, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed his Department of Financial Services to issue
Operation Chokepoint-style warning letters to financial institutions which provided services to the National Rifle Association. Climate change activists have turned similar tactics towards banks who process payments for oil and gas companies .
help may now be coming from some unexpected quarters: the OCC, which less than a decade ago had led the charge with Operation Chokepoint. Under the leadership of acting director Brian Brooks, the OCC has proposed a rule change that would make
government-supported financial suppression much harder legally.
The Dodd-Frank Act was a sweeping financial reform that, among many other things , authorized the OCC to ensure that nationally chartered banks provide fair access to financial
services, and fair treatment of customers. The intention was that minority customers be evaluated for creditworthiness on her or her own individual merits rather than the attributes of their broader group. In other words, a creditworthy individual
shouldn't be punished because they belong to some group that is considered high risk in the aggregate.
The OCC would like to apply this thinking to industries through the proposed Fair Access to Financial Services rule. The largest banks in the
country--those with more than $100 billion in assets--would be prohibited from red-lining politically disfavored industries just as they are prohibited from red-lining politically oppressed populations. Rather, a gun manufacturer or pornography company
or payday lender must be evaluated on the terms of their individual creditworthiness.
The rule does not require that all large banks must do business with all, say, fossil fuel companies, just like banks are not required to extend credit to every
single member of a protected class who applies for a loan. Rather, it is a nondiscrimination requirement. Large banks will not be allowed to cut off financial access for disfavored industries just because the government or some other powerful group leans
on them to do so.