- - Thursday, February 27, 2020

Discrimination is awful, the activist left is quick to remind us every time they riot — except, of course, when they think discrimination will help them achieve evil plans.

One particularly dreadful group leading the way on this is Real Money Moves, an activist coalition created to pressure banks to stop lending to companies in industries they don’t like. The campaign targets what they call “extractive industries” — fossil fuels, firearms and private corrections — and extorts big banks into cutting ties with them. Real Money Moves has already successfully blackmailed JPMorgan Chase into doing so with private prisons, and the group is only getting started. 

With hope, some new legislation in Congress will bring a stop to this.

But what’s so disturbing about this particular form of extortion is it wasn’t born from the mind of anarchists or hostile foreign powers, but the Obama administration. Its highly unethical “Operation Choke Point,” which pressured banks to withhold money from “unsavory” industries like gun stores, ammo shops and short-term lenders so they would die. Now, President Trump strangled Operation Choke Point in 2017, one of the many wonderful decisions the administration has made to fuel the unprecedented economic growth of the last three years.

But groups like Real Money Moves aren’t willing to let free enterprise declare victory.



They’ve adopted their rogue tactics of attacking the private sector directly as an unfortunate (but effective) end-run around traditional policymaking. Not only is this a threat to economic stability, but banking discrimination itself is expressly forbidden by the federal government.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) states as official policy as to how its regulators should oversee banks, that law-abiding businesses cannot be targeted for operating in an industry that some might disfavor. Congressional conservatives seized on this hypocrisy at a Jan. 29 House Committee on Financial Services hearing, where Democrats wanted to press the OCC for ostensibly undermining the effectiveness of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which requires that financial institutions insured by the FDIC meet the credit needs of the communities in which they operate.

At the January hearing, Comptroller Joseph Otting gave a tepid testimony at best, prompting Sens. Marco Rubio, Kevin Cramer, Tom Cotton, Marsha Blackburn and Ted Cruz to introduce legislation to combat domestic financial terrorism.

The Financial Defense for Industrial Contractors Act would remove Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance from large banks which refuse services to creditworthy and law-abiding firms with an active federal contract. Of particular interest here are six major U.S. banks operating — Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, Bank of America, BNP Paribas, Barclays and SunTrust — which have announced they will no longer provide depository services to contractors which operate facilities on behalf of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE).

Even the Obama administration, which deported 3 million people who’d come here illegally, wouldn’t have stooped to this.

So under the proposed legislation, if a bank is guilty of such discrimination, the FDIC Board of Directors would begin the insurance-termination process. By denying funds to federal contractors carrying out the public policy of the United States, these banks are exploiting their systemic importance and taxpayer-provided guarantees to contribute to law-breaking. If a bank wants the legal protection of our society, it must abide by the rules of said society.

The subject of this anti-discrimination legislation will doubtless come up in the upcoming the House Financial Services hearing, “Holding Wells Fargo Accountable: CEO Perspectives on Next Steps for the Bank that Broke America’s Trust.”

But banks should be wiser than to behave in ways that invite this kind of regulation.

If banks bow to activist pressure to sever their financial relationships with companies that so-called progressives don’t like, these banks are violating both the CRA and the official OCC policy. They are required by law to offer equal-lending opportunities. If they aren’t held accountable now, there’s no limit to the industries the left might target next.

Banks will regret getting in bed with woke mobs whose evil plan is to destroy them and replace American free enterprise with Marxism. Maybe it will never get that far, but it’s not in banks’ best interest to cede any ground to people who hate them. 

• Jared Whitley has worked in the U.S. Senate, the White House and the defense industry.

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