The Government's Secret War on Small Business

Operation Choke Point was meant to stop fraud. So why is the program going after legitimate business?


This story first appeared on on August 21, 2015. 

Banks are sending notices of account closure out to small businesses across the country, to clients they've done business with for years, even decades. The reason? They often don't provide one.

But a growing number of business owners believe they know why they're being cut off from the financial system. It's Operation Choke Point, ostensibly an attempt to crack down on fraudulent businesses, but in reality a dragnet that has ensnared innocent entrepreneurs unfairly classified as "high-risk" players.

Earlier this year, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) chairman Martin Gruenberg told Congress that Choke Point was over, but many business owners believe the FDIC and the Department of Justice have passed enforcement duties along to a newly created independent agency: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the brainchild of progressive senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The CFPB operates under the guidance of the Federal Reserve and doesn't rely on Congress for funding, which critics say allows it to operate without any meaningful checks on its power. 

Reason TV profiled two business owners who believe they've been targets of Choke Point and its legacy: a payday lender in Southern California and a hookah seller in North Carolina. Brian Wise of the U.S. Consumer Coalition, an organization that's been compiling Choke Point stories from across the nation, also appears in the video.

Watch the video above for a deeper look into the covert financial regulation affecting small businesses across the nation.

Approximately 10 minutes. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Alex Manning, Josh Swain, Todd Krainin, and Weissmueller. Music by Podington Bear and Chris Zabriskie.

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