Group Launches Investigation into Trump DOJ’s Giveaway to Financial Scammers

Allied Progress Files FOIA Request to Uncover Industry’s Influence on DOJ’s Decision to End Successful ‘Operation Choke Point’ Program


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Allied Progress is launching an investigation to uncover whether special interests and their beneficiaries in Congress had undue influence on the Trump administration’s decision to end the successful Obama-era program Operation Choke Point (OCP). Allied Progress filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking the department’s communications with financial industry groups that opposed the initiative. The request also asks for Operation Choke Point-related communications between DOJ and members of Congress.

The investigation comes on the heels of the release of a letter in which a top DOJ official informed House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) that the Trump administration would end OCP, despite the program uncovering “criminal activity” by targeted groups.

The fingerprints of financial industry predators and its allies are all over the Trump administration’s decision to end Operation Choke Point. With this effective initiative out of the way, unscrupulous financial scammers can once again gain access to the cash they need to prey on America’s most vulnerable consumers,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress.

He continued, “This is a massive giveaway to predatory payday lenders and other financial scam-artists that comes at the expense of American families. We intend to expose the reason why Trump’s DOJ scrapped a program that it readily admits has been effective at uncovering criminal activity.”

Today’s announcement is not Allied Progress’ first foray into exposing undue influence of the financial industry into regulatory matters. In 2015, Allied Progress identified evidence of pay-to-play activities behind previous attempts to roll back Operation Choke Point. In 2014, payday lending industry ally Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced H.R. 4986, The End Operation Choke Point Act of 2014. The legislation’s introduction came on the heels of a June 5, 2014 lawsuit filed against the Obama administration regarding Operation Choke Point. The same day the lawsuit was filed, Luetkemeyer’s campaign received a $1,000 contribution from a pro-payday industry political action committee (PAC), and an additional $7,500 in contributions from payday lenders followed days later.

Background on Operation Choke Point

Operation Choke Point was implemented in 2013 to crack down on money laundering and other illegal activities by predatory payday lenders and others. The Obama administration branded the program as an effort to “choke off” the flow of money to fraudulent merchants with the purpose of combatting “mass-market consumer fraud schemes in which financial institutions were either direct or indirect participants.” The program’s demise was a high-profile goal of the predatory payday lending industry and its allies in Congress.

To speak with Karl Frisch about Operation Choke Point and the Allied Progress investigation, please contact Tucker Middleton at 202-644-8526 or tucker@alliedprogress.org.

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Allied Progress uses hard-hitting research and creative campaigns to stand up to Wall Street and powerful special interests and hold their allies in Congress and the White House accountable.

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