WASHINGTON (6/30/14)--Following up an amendment he made to Congress's Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill earlier this month, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) filed a bill Thursday to protect private industry and financial institutions from what he deemed "organized bureaucratic intimidation and regulation."
The bill, now known as H.R. 4986, would "ensure that existing laws are interpreted as intended, overzealous and inappropriate use of regulatory and enforcement tools is curbed, and financial institutions have the security and ability to return to the business of offering products and services," according to a release from Luetkemeyer's office.
Luetkemeyer said in a statement that federal banking regulators, with the Department of Justice, are placing regulatory pressure on financial institutions that eventually choke-off certain businesses from the financial services they need to survive. "That notion goes against the very nature of our free market system,"
The legislation aims to create a new safe harbor for financial institutions, including credit unions, to promote nondiscriminatory access to financial products and services provided the merchant is licensed, registered as a money services business, or have obtained a reasoned legal opinion demonstrating the legality of the merchant's business.
The safe harbor does not require a financial institution to do business with any merchant nor does it place the burden of determining the legality of business with the financial institution.
Luetkemeyer's amendment earlier this month cut off funding for Operation Choke Point, which was introduced by the Department of Justice in 2013 to allow its Financial Fraud Task Force to investigate financial institutions and payment processing companies were enabling fraudulent activity.
Opponents of Operation Choke Point have claimed it separates consumers from access to financial services. In March, 23 members of Congress signed a letter indicating they had heard numerous reports of Operation Choke Point enforcement was causing many financial institutions from processing lawful transactions.