Under Pressure From Congress, Agencies Agree to Investigate Operation Choke Point
Kelsey Harkness /
Two federal agencies have agreed to investigate the controversial government program known as Operation Choke Point, which critics say targets businesses that are out of favor with the Obama administration.
The Justice Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. agreed to the investigation after more than 30 members of Congress, led by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., raised questions about Operation Choke Point.
The government claims the initiative combats unlawful mass-market consumer fraud, although a congressional report revealed targets also include legal businesses such as short-term lenders, ammunition merchants, coin dealers, home-based charities and sellers of pharmaceutical drugs.
>>> Related: Lawmakers Demand Answers From Justice Department Into Operation Choke Point
In response to the government’s announcement, Luetkemeyer said:
The correspondence I received from the FDIC and DOJ is a great first step in ensuring that those responsible for Operation Choke Point are held accountable and that Congress and the American people receive details and answers they deserve.
The FDIC committed to conducting a review of the agency’s “supervisory activities related to Operation Choke Point” to ensure the actions taken were consistent with laws and regulations.
Responsible for regulating and auditing more than 4,500 banks, the FDIC also agreed to investigate what it calls a “serious allegation” by the congressmen that an FDIC senior official provided false testimony to Congress on the operation.
>>> Related: FDIC Blames ‘Confusion’ for Choking Business Owners’ Access to Banks
“Going forward, we will work through the committees and report the results of our work when and as it is appropriate to do so,” wrote Fred W. Gibson Jr., principal deputy inspector general for the FDIC.
Likewise, the Justice Department initiated its own “preliminary inquiry” to determine if a more substantive investigation is in order.
>>> Related: Meet Four Business Owners Squeezed by Operation Choke Point
“[The Office of Professional Responsibility] has initiated a preliminary inquiry into the matters you have raised to determine whether your allegations are within OPR’s jurisdiction and, if so, what further inquiry or investigation is warranted,” wrote Robin C. Ashton, counsel for the Office of Professional Responsibility.
Republican lawmakers told the Justice Department and the FDIC that Operation Choke Point “merits your full and immediate attention,” and requested that they “launch a comprehensive investigation on Operation Choke Point and the individuals charged with creating and carrying out this unprecedented initiative.”
Until more information is disclosed, Luetkemeyer says he will “continue to push for more transparency and information as to how this unprecedented program was implemented.”