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Chase declares war on porn
April 30, 2014 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Various outlets are reporting that, over the past month, Chase Bank has sent out letters to American porn actors that their Chase accounts will be closed as of May 11. One actress describes discovering her account had been closed without notice. Chase Bank has remained quiet about their actions (other than to tell the customers that their accounts were considered "high risk"), leaving many to wonder why this has happened, seemingly out-of-the-blue. There are indications that the DOJ may be involved.
posted by Thorzdad (149 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Under "Operation Choke Point," the DOJ and its allies are going after legal but subjectively undesirable business ventures by pressuring banks to terminate their bank accounts or refuse their business.

Well, the porn industry deserves it after their shenanigans caused the recent disastrous economic crash. I'm glad the moral paragons at the banks are there to help out the government on this.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:12 PM on April 30 [204 favorites]


Do you see what happens, Larry?
posted by No Robots at 1:18 PM on April 30 [57 favorites]


So "reputationally" is a word?
posted by ChuckRamone at 1:20 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Here is the FDIC page on high risk merchants.

Thing is - they aren't wrong. There are lots of porn businesses that are shady as fuck and we as a society are better off without. And the aren't after just porn stars, either.


Ammunition Sales
Cable Box De-scramblers
Coin Dealers
Credit Card Schemes
Credit Repair Services
Dating Services
Debt Consolidation Scams
Drug Paraphernalia
Escort Services
Firearms Sales
Fireworks Sales
Get Rich Products
Government Grants
Home-Based Charities
Life-Time Guarantees
Life-Time Memberships
Lottery Sales
Mailing Lists/Personal Info
Money Transfer Networks
On-line Gambling
PayDay Loans
Pharmaceutical Sales
Ponzi Schemes
Pornography
Pyramid-Type Sales
Racist Materials
Surveillance Equipment
Telemarketing
Tobacco Sales
Travel Clubs

The above having been said, I do think that it would better to prosecute individual bad actors rather than just blanket banhammer them.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:20 PM on April 30 [10 favorites]


subjectively undesirable business ventures

And to think this is just days after PornHub started planting a tree for every 100 Big Dick videos watched (more good for the planet - to say nothing of humankind's lonely nights - than Chase ever did, arguably).
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:21 PM on April 30 [7 favorites]


Is this a different thing than the subject of this earlier post?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:21 PM on April 30 [6 favorites]


(sigh) And this is how the banks get good meaning people to do their dirty work.

In light of events like the HSBC drug cartel scandal, the DoJ has been pushing banks to be more aware of who they are doing business with, and imposing penalties for banks who do work with criminal organizations. The banks, who haven't met a regulation the didn't loathe, have decided to fight back by stealing a page from the labor playbook - enforcing the new regulations tightly, cancelling business with anyone who they can mark as somewhat questionable, then blame government regulations for the stringency. The idea is to make people blame the crackdown on the government, and force them to withdraw the regulations (which they earned with their prior conduct.)

So no, the DoJ is not "involved" in this crackdown, and it would be nice if the larger story of "banks hate regulations" was pushed to the front.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:22 PM on April 30 [143 favorites]


I'm glad this is finally starting to happen. I used to lay awake a night, sick at the thought of all my honest, hard-working blue-collar money rubbing up against their loose, perverted cum-splattered money. I mean, if you're going to open a bank account in your porno name, with sicko surnames like Dean and Gray and Paige and Benton, you can't expect somebody not to notice.
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:22 PM on April 30 [5 favorites]


Surveillance Equipment?

So where does the NSA keep its money then? Under an enormous mattress in a locked room at Fort Meade?
posted by Naberius at 1:22 PM on April 30


On preview, what NoxAeternum said.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:22 PM on April 30


Porn is hardly in the same category of bad as ponzi schemes and telemarketing. Telemarketing!
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:23 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


Coin dealers? Why?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:23 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


There are lots of porn businesses that are shady as fuck

Is that true of porn actors, though? Sure, the production companies might well be shady, but the actors are just people doing jobs and getting paid for them.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:24 PM on April 30 [15 favorites]


Rip-off merchants, that's why.
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:24 PM on April 30


Elementary Penguin: Nope, it's the exact same crap - it's just that the banks have gotten some people to bite on their line.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:25 PM on April 30


I'm very suspicious about this necessarily being the work of the DOJ. The crackdown on porn, ammunition sales, etc. could very easily be hostage-taking by the banks against the DOJ, in retaliation for the latter's regulatory pressure against shady business practices (which may or may not include payday lending, depending on who you ask).

I would completely not put it past the banks to start turning the screws on merchants based on which congressperson the bank thinks they're most likely to turn and scream to, in order to relieve regulatory pressure on activities that the banks are much more interested in pursuing.

The porn stars go to Democrats, the ammunition sellers go to Republicans, obviously.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:25 PM on April 30 [16 favorites]


Porn stars and big banks are natural enemies. When a bank's customer takes it up the arse, the bank can't enjoy it if it doesn't HURT.
posted by delfin at 1:26 PM on April 30 [5 favorites]


So no, the DoJ is not "involved" in this crackdown, and it would be nice if the larger story of "banks hate regulations" was pushed to the front.

Yeah, it's interesting that the only "indications" that the DOJ are involved come from the banking industry.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 1:26 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


How baffling and dumb. The porn stars should rally people in general to switch to credit unions.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:26 PM on April 30 [8 favorites]


If prohibition taught us anything it's that making it harder for legit businesses to offer a product will erase the desire for the product by the general public.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:27 PM on April 30 [15 favorites]


I don't understand how this could not be seen as a violation of human rights. Maybe I could understand if they were shutting down the accounts of distribution companies, etc. At least then they could say that it was okay under the "High Risk" label. But individual accounts? I used to work for Wells Fargo corporate office and routinely shut down accounts for all sorts of high risk activity, but none of it ever involved the persons occupation.
posted by mediocre at 1:27 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Is that true of porn actors, though?

Stoya alludes to this in the Vice article - they are contractors and so have business accounts for that reason. To a bank, a business account is a business account, so...
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:27 PM on April 30


The headline gives the wrong impression here - Chase is not the culprit here (Chase isn't even the only bank doing this),
this is a Department of Justice operation putting pressure on banks like Chase (I particularly disagree with the targeting of adult film performers, but I also think that the technique is wrong for targeting more objectionable industries too such as the payday loan industry. If the govt wants to bring down the porn industry or the the payday loan industry, then make laws to explicitly do so through the democratic process)
posted by Bwithh at 1:27 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I do think that it would better to prosecute individual bad actors

In the context of a post about actors having their bank accounts closed, this was a delightful phrase to briefly misunderstand.
posted by cjelli at 1:28 PM on April 30 [17 favorites]


Coin dealers - read up on places like Goldline and the scam they ran with Glenn Beck.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:28 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Coin dealers? Why?

Money laundering. Collectibles and appraised-value items are huge among people who want to clean their income up.
posted by Etrigan at 1:28 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Related to coin dealers and their ilk, check out the Cash 4 Gold episode of South Park.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:29 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


That plus selling gold coins to idiot goldbugs for multiples of their market value.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:30 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


The porn industry can fix this by closing the online accounts of bankers.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:32 PM on April 30 [80 favorites]


There are really two different things at play here: the FDIC's concerns about payment processors, linked to by Pogo_Fuzzybutt above, with various businesses pushing back against it, and Chase and maybe one other bank closing the accounts of a few porn stars for vague reasons. Only Vice is suggesting that there's a direct link between the two (based on a WSJ article that's behind their paywall), with Reason me-tooing on the back of the Vice article. Pretty thin gruel.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:33 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


No, the banks are very much to blame here. Part of the reason that many of these companies who are on the border of legal and illegal (or worse) can operate freely is because the banks have turned a blind eye to their conduct. The DoJ is nipping that in the bud by saying that the banks no longer can do so, and can be held accountable to a degree for criminal conduct through a merchant account they support. The idea is that they would make reasonable inquiries and thus make it harder for fraudsters to find traction. But because banks hate being regulated, they're enforcing the new regulations tightly, then blaming the pain on the government.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:37 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


how can capital rule us effectively if it cannot also judge us?

for a limited time only, free dick pic with every new credit union membership!
posted by bruce at 1:39 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Is that true of porn actors, though? Sure, the production companies might well be shady, but the actors are just people doing jobs and getting paid for them.

Many well-off Americans might think that sounds kind of shady; instead, couldn't these performers be doing unpaid internships until an IPO or something? The idea of "doing jobs and getting paid for them" is looking increasingly like socialism.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:40 PM on April 30 [18 favorites]


I'd rather just have a toaster, thanks?
posted by notyou at 1:40 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


A porn credit union would be awesome, but many would be disappointed that their ATM is just a cash machine.
posted by dr_dank at 1:42 PM on April 30 [31 favorites]


Something about this story isn't completely lining up for me. I'm not saying I don't think Presley had her account closed - I believe her about that - but "she's considered high risk" could mean a lot of different things and I'm kind of holding off on concluding that this was because she's a porn star until I know more. The article says Chase told her husband it was because she's a notorious porn star but...I don't know. Something isn't quite right about this. Thus far all we know is that Presley's joint account with her husband was closed because she was considered high risk, and some other performers (but we don't know how many) claimed the same thing happened to them and I don't know if they have the same kind of proof Presley did or what.

I know a lot of credit card companies have restrictions about what adult media companies they'll work with and certain standards of conduct those companies have to adhere to, but closing the personal accounts of performers out of the blue is another thing entirely. Especially the DOJ being involved - the government hasn't given nearly as much of a shit about porn since Ashcroft was gone.

Closing the accounts of porn stars for no other reason than that they're porn stars just doesn't seem like it has any upside for Chase - and since when has a bank given a shit about morality?

It may very well turn out that Chase is indeed targeting porn stars at random and closing their accounts, and that's some serious bullshit if so, but this is one of those things I'm waiting for a little more information on before coming to a conclusion.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:45 PM on April 30


Why does Chase Bank hate the Small Business Men and Women of America?
posted by Big_B at 1:45 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


In light of events like the HSBC drug cartel scandal, the DoJ has been pushing banks to be more aware of who they are doing business with, and imposing penalties for banks who do work with criminal organizations.

I feel like anti-money laundering efforts are kind of like the drug war in general, in that it's a problem that is fundamentally unsolvable. If there's a black market that generates billions of dollars in illegal revenue, those billions of dollars have to go somewhere. If the obvious ways of money laundering are prevented, the money is just going to get back into the system some other way, and it's not clear that the less obvious methods are better for everyone.

Part of the reason that many of these companies who are on the border of legal and illegal (or worse) can operate freely is because the banks have turned a blind eye to their conduct.

Why should we count on the banks to objectively make tough decisions about borderline illegal companies? If a business needs to be shut down because they are doing something illegal, shouldn't that be a decision made in court rather than by some random dude at a bank?
posted by burnmp3s at 1:46 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


i can see it now, a sex-positive retail financial institution. comely tellers in skimpy bikinis. hunky young loan officers wearing nothing but jockstraps. free checking indeed!
posted by bruce at 1:47 PM on April 30


Why does Chase Bank hate the Small Business Men and Women of America?

the men would like to take issue with this phrasing
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:52 PM on April 30 [9 favorites]


We won't have to deal with these kinds of issues after switching to an all bitcoin economy!
posted by ceribus peribus at 1:55 PM on April 30


this is a Department of Justice operation putting pressure on banks like Chase (I particularly disagree with the targeting of adult film performers, but I also think that the technique is wrong for targeting more objectionable industries too such as the payday loan industry. If the govt wants to bring down the porn industry or the the payday loan industry, then make laws to explicitly do so through the democratic process)

I'm with Kadin2048 on this one. The DOJ has a lot bigger fish to fry than going after porn stars, and AFAIK this administration and the DOJ in particular has not made any noise about regulating the porn industry from a moral standpoint (unlike Dubya's anti-obscenity nastiness by John "Statue Boobs Offend Me" Ashcroft). However, the administration and some (many?) of its allies in Congress actually have been attempting to regulate predatory lending, and killing off payday lending entirely, with opposition from the predictable corners resulting in little to nothing getting done in terms of making laws. It seems that, without the ability to regulate properly thanks to Congressional gridlock, the DOJ is resorting crude and wide-ranging tools that are catching up people like porn stars in their net. I seem to recall some people in the industry making noise about how predatory the producers are in terms of contracts and pay, so while I disagree with the result, I can see how it's happening.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:57 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Money laundering is only "fundamentally unsolvable" if you only consider full elimination to be the only true "solved" state. But if you accept that combating it can solve the issue partially (by making it harder and more dangerous to clean the money and make it usable outside of the underground), then it becomes solvable, if only partially.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:58 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


We won't have to deal with these kinds of issues after switching to an all bitcoin economy!

What switching to? The economies already co-exist side by side. Bank accounts with Chase for porn stars that are old enough to open a bank account, bitcoin accounts held by a trusted family member for porn stars that aren't.
posted by kafziel at 1:58 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


No, the DOJ is not involved in this.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:58 PM on April 30 [7 favorites]


The article says Chase told her husband it was because she's a notorious porn star but...I don't know. Something isn't quite right about this. Thus far all we know is that Presley's joint account with her husband was closed because she was considered high risk, and some other performers (but we don't know how many) claimed the same thing happened to them and I don't know if they have the same kind of proof Presley did or what.

Huh, that is indeed weird; I assumed that they only knew to close her account because they knew who was paying her and ascertained that whoever that was, was someone they didn't want to do business with.

But if they're closing individual accounts on the basis of the account holder's reputation, essentially, the ethical implications become much more sinister.
posted by clockzero at 2:04 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Closing the accounts of porn stars for no other reason than that they're porn stars just doesn't seem like it has any upside for Chase - and since when has a bank given a shit about morality?

It's not morality, it's visibility. People who will be up in arms about this might not be up in arms if it's coin dealers; people who might be up in arms over coin dealers might not be if it's tobacco; etc etc etc. The more people who click on "PORN STAR BANK ACCOUNT CLOSED," the more the banks get to say, "Hey, we're just doing our jobs. Talk to your Congressman about these onerous regulations."

It may very well turn out that Chase is indeed targeting porn stars at random and closing their accounts...

I'm imagining the meeting where this started.
"Okay, whose accounts should we close?"
"Um... I don't know any porn stars. Do you, Phil?"
"No. I don't know any porn stars. Do you, Stu?"
"Nope. Never heard of any porn stars. I guess I'll... do some research."
"Yes! Excellent idea! I'll do some research too!"
posted by Etrigan at 2:04 PM on April 30 [9 favorites]


I feel like anti-money laundering efforts are kind of like the drug war in general, in that it's a problem that is fundamentally unsolvable.

This article contains an actual example of a bank that the DOJ went after under Operation Choke Point. It was processing payments on behalf of Ponzi scheme operators and predatory payday lenders that were illegally siphoning more than $2.4 billion from customers' checking accounts.

Under the Bank Secrecy Act, banks are responsible for making sure they're not facilitating fraudulent activity, but banks have been shirking their responsibilities. The Bank Secrecy Act is the same law that Chase was charged with violating for its role in facilitating the Madoff Ponzi scheme, and they eventually had to pay a $1.7 billion penalty for it. Chase knew that the Madoff scheme was fraudulent. They alerted UK authorities to it, but not American authorities because they were profiting from it.

Now that the government is actually enforcing the rule, banks are trying to shift the blame and make it seem like they're sticking up for small businesses, when they're really trying to hold on to the fees they make facilitating fraudulent activity. So money-laundering problems are indeed solvable, at least in this instance. It's just that the banks aren't cooperating because they're making money off of it.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 2:05 PM on April 30 [20 favorites]


What is the evidence that avoiding these potentially risky businesses is a Machiavellian plot to end the regulations and not just a business decision that they carry too much risk under the current enforcement?
posted by Drinky Die at 2:11 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


shouldn't that be a decision made in court rather than by some random dude at a bank?

It's not a random dude. It's a random graph-analysis package in a random computer.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:11 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


kafziel: "We won't have to deal with these kinds of issues after switching to an all bitcoin economy!

What switching to? The economies already co-exist side by side. Bank accounts with Chase for porn stars that are old enough to open a bank account, bitcoin accounts held by a trusted family member for porn stars that aren't."

If you're old enough to be a porn star, you're supposed to be old enough to open a bank account. You have to be an adult to do either of those things.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:11 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Pharmaceutical Sales

Erm, what?
posted by telstar at 2:14 PM on April 30


I'm wondering to what extent the Russian sanctions are possibly a cause...I'm not going to cry for the porn (sex trafficking) industry, or the telemarketing or the credit card or other scams.

I'm not sure whats happened. I used to hate the gubmint, now I hate the people who hate the gubmint.
posted by sfts2 at 2:16 PM on April 30


But isn't this socialism?
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:19 PM on April 30


Aha! How you like Bitcoins now?
posted by zscore at 2:33 PM on April 30


First they came for the "barely legal" 32-year-olds in skintight latex, and I said nothing.
posted by delfin at 2:33 PM on April 30 [6 favorites]


Well, the porn industry deserves it after their shenanigans caused the recent disastrous economic crash. I'm glad the moral paragons at the banks are there to help out the government on this.

Some parties are too big to jail.

Other parties are too big and people get jealous.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:37 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


The porn industry should totally switch over to Buttcoins. Because butts.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:37 PM on April 30


What is the evidence that avoiding these potentially risky businesses is a Machiavellian plot to end the regulations and not just a business decision that they carry too much risk under the current enforcement?

If they really are taking out individual people's personal accounts based on their industry of employment, that's way more than even the most zealous prosecutor would be able to hang on a bank. That's "Look what you're making us do!" far more than "Man, we hate to do this."
posted by Etrigan at 2:38 PM on April 30


What is the evidence that avoiding these potentially risky businesses is a Machiavellian plot to end the regulations and not just a business decision that they carry too much risk under the current enforcement?

There was a whole post and discussion about just that, earlier this month.

It references the same DOJ program, "Operation Chokepoint", and further cites a bank lobbying group (the "Third Party Payment Processors Association") who complained—idiotically—that detecting fraud was akin to making moral judgements, and that if the Feds made them start cracking down on fraud, they'd start hurting controversial businesses that particular political groups are friendly to. There is an alleged direct statement to that effect given to a Congressional aide.

Bluntly, the banks don't want to have any responsibility over what their customers are doing at all, and are attempting to resist any attempts to make them look for fraud (as opposed to just looking for profit; doubtless they're quite good about dropping unprofitable clients). And so they seem to be saying, "if you make us do this, we're going to take the most ridiculously expansive view of the regulation, and we're going to do it in a way that punishes people you and your constituents like first". This all seems geared towards making the Feds back off on KYC as it pertains to stuff like payday lenders and Ponzi schemes, which are apparently profitable.

I would be very, very suspicious of anyone who points the finger at Operation Chokepoint or Federal regulators, and I would further expect more stories like this to dribble out periodically as the banks build their case and continue their lobbying efforts against the regulations. They probably don't want to actually eliminate that many of their own customers, they just want to do it periodically and steadily enough to create a sort of low-level buzz that small businesses are being harmed.

Earlier in the month it was someone who ran a condom company who was turned down for a merchant account, now it's (allegedly, anyway) porn stars; going after ammunition dealers would be a good way to put pressure on Republicans particularly if they can get the NRA or other gun-rights groups involved.

My guess is that the banks themselves won't ever be stupid enough to have a spokesperson directly say "we're doing this because of Operation Chokepoint and we're going to keep shooting hostages until the Feds lay off"; they'll do it through lobbyists and intermediaries.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:44 PM on April 30 [18 favorites]


I read those articles but I don't find it convincing enough to state with certainty the banks aren't just making business decisions, alleged quotes aren't really enough here, not that they would just come out and say they are doing something wrong doing publicly of course.

This article notes that porn stars had been under harassment at times already:

Rising starlet Dakota Skye tweeted today, "#Chase has fucked with people before with other issues. Should not get away with shit like this," reiterating the ire expressed by many on the Twittersphere after the news broke.

Adult industry attorney Michael Fattorosi told XBIZ that Chase and other banks have “notoriously closed adult accounts or people in the industry’s accounts, but nothing like this.”

“Throughout my practice I’ve had clients that have had their bank accounts closed, once the bank recognizes or determines that they’re in the adult industry. I’ve seen that on numerous occasions,” he said. “What I’ve never seen is a bank taking a position and sending out mass letters.”


Doesn't seem totally implausible this is just a previous policy that was already in place being enforced as part of a process of evaluating who they are doing business with in greater detail.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:49 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


I don't know anything in particular about the porn stars in question who are having their accounts closed. But hasn't there been a fair amount of coverage lately that flagging porn star pay has brought on a dramatic rise in porn stars moonlighting as "escorts"?

Targeting the bank accounts of people ostensibly engaging in prostitution without charging or trying them is its own level of icky. But it would be much, much less mysterious than people having their accounts closed suddenly because of starring in adult films.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:50 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


It's not clear to me if these are business accounts being closed or personal accounts. I watched the video with Ms. Benton but she didn't clarify.

It's outrageous if these are personal, non-business accounts - if these are business accounts being used as personal accounts (very common but inadvisable) then it's a different issue. Still silly, but less outrageous.
posted by winna at 2:53 PM on April 30


This is obviously an attempt by the banks to eliminate competition; pornstars are much better at taking deposits than banks, and there's no interest penalty for early withdrawal.
posted by chavenet at 2:55 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


Less outrageous in the sense that it's probably some tweaked risk model causing the change due to high risk flags, not less outrageous in terms of persecuting people.
posted by winna at 2:55 PM on April 30


Guns and ammo bring in constitutional issues that porn and payday lending don't (as well as highly political active supporters) so it will be interesting to see if they take that next step.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:56 PM on April 30


Chavenet wins.

But yeah, why are they targeting porn stars when the porn industry is in decline due to youtube etc.?
posted by Melismata at 2:56 PM on April 30


In response to the comment that the courts, not banks, should deal with the bad actors, my counterpoint is an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By the time courts are involved, we're at the "picking the pieces up" stage, with fixing the damage done often difficult to impossible. It's much better for us as a society to nip things in the bud, which is why Congress made banks obligated to look into the people they did business with in the Bank Secrecy Act.

The problem was that the banks made a lot of money on these bad actors, so they weren't looking too hard into their background. If something sketchy came up later, the bank pleaded ignorance, and said they weren't culpable. So the DoJ began cracking down, saying that the bank had due diligence obligations - and if they weren't met, then they were on the hook as well. Which leads us to the bank's response - to be hypervigilant, and put the blame on the government. (They first tried getting Congressman and all around ass Darrell Issa to force the DoJ to back down, but even he realized defending businesses that would lose a popularity contest to pond scum was not a winning proposition.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:57 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


FWIW, the porn star in the linked YouTube clip also advertises her services as an escort (link is to Google search result, not to an escort listing).

Again, I'm not saying it's okay to close a sex worker's account either. But it's much less mysterious and much more legally defensible to close an account receiving funds for illegal (or at best quasi-legal) prostitution than for legal adult film work.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:58 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Between this and the fees that have been tacked on just for inconveniencing the bank with our accounts, it seems that the bank does not need it's consumer customers to stay in business.

Honestly, it boggles my mind that anyone is still doing business with them.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 2:59 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Actually, the other adult film star listed by name in these links, Teagan Presley, also has listings online as an escort.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:05 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


There's an entirely reasonable argument to be made of course that escort services should not be illegal. But since they currently are illegal in most parts of the US, it's kind of playing on our sex positive/porn acceptance sympathies to refer to these actors as "adult film stars" and imply that this is why their accounts are being unjustly closed when actually many of the people in question seem to be adult film stars-slash-escorts and the second half of that, as long as it remains illegal, is a fairly solid justification for closing an account.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:09 PM on April 30


  1. When this tactic was used to shut down Insex in 2006 it was very definitely the Justice Department behind it. You have to wonder what sort of DoJ lawyer thought their chance of getting an obscenity conviction against Insex was so poor it was worth doing something this sketchy, but they contacted every single credit card processor Insex attempted to use and made gag-ordered Patriot Act noises, ultimately making it impossible for them to find anybody to process credit cards for them and shutting off their income.
  2. Some of the banks very much wanted Insex's business because they were bringing in several million dollars a month at their zenith and no, most banks don't give a rat's ass about morality. But one of the IIRC foreign bankers technically violated US law and showed Brent Scott the secret letter advising that "porn was funding terrorism" and advising them of all the bad shit that would happen if they did business.
  3. Some of us have been saying all along that, whatever you think of Insex, allowing this evil motherfuckery to stand will eventually result in more evil motherfuckery, eventually against someone you like. I'll lay out some hay so those chickens can roost comfortably.
  4. Chase is a noxious enterprise and nobody in their right mind should do business with them.
  5. Noxious as they are, it is equally believable to me that (a) Chase is trying to goad the government into letting them off the hook as the cops for this kind of regulatory end-run around the actual law, or that (b) Chase has simply decided to be extra cooperative on this because they've done so much other evil shit that they are very vulnerable if they don't cooperate.
  6. Either way, Chase is not the sort of business you want to do business with. However they may be a bellwether of shenanegans which can be expected throughout the industry if this evil motherfuckery on the part of the DoJ (whence I have no doubt it originates) is allowed to stand again.
posted by localroger at 3:13 PM on April 30 [11 favorites]


pretty much every pornstar has listings online as an escort - but many of them aren't the ones behind the listings - it's a pretty good way to get someone to click on your ad if it's along side the name and picture of the woman they jack off to. any amount of following the social media accounts of porn stars have the actresses complaining about this practice. big name porn stars who escort usually don't do it through internet ads, but rather setting things up behind the scenes while they're dancing or signing.
posted by nadawi at 3:18 PM on April 30 [5 favorites]


Oh another thing: The BDSM porn industry still exists today almost entirely because of the efforts of Peter Ackworth of Kink dot com, who negotiated an elaborate protocol of limits, stop conditions, and safe words which his processor agreed in advance they could argue was absolutely not terrorism in any sense. (Or, as my wife says, "by taking all the fun out of it.") As far as I know that is all still stable, but I'm not an actual customer so I don't know what's been going on in the last few years.

Most of the businesses on the list, including the entire vanilla porn industry, have had no reason to take such precuations though, so they are soft targets for this underhanded tactic. They will be starting from scratch to find the processors that will even negotiate with them, and the smaller ones will doubtless be unable to stay in business as they get terms straightened out.

Ironically in those industries that do survive it may lead to a situation such as what froze out in BDSM porn, where nearly all the old small providers are subcontractors for someone who did the hard work of pushing back on the DoJ and they are all putting out similar product under the guidelines which are acceptable to whatever bank would work with them.
posted by localroger at 3:25 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


I did not know that Nadawi. Interesting.

If porn stars really are being targeted, that is weird and unfair. But given the overlap between adult film stardom and various illegal activities, I remain skeptical that this is why they're being targeted.

I mean, if a cluster of pizza delivery guys gets arrested in my neighborhood this weekend, it need not necessarily be because cops hate takeout workers. It might be because some delivery guys also sell weed. You don't have to be against weed to think that would make more sense.

TL;DR: someone isn't telling us something critical here. I'm not ready to take this story at face value.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:51 PM on April 30


Banks. Making shit up as they go along. As usual. They still have too much power by a factor of about a zillion.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:52 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


localroger, Eric Holder, for all his faults, is neither John Ashcroft nor Alberto Gonzales, and thus trying to compare what is going on now to 2006 is a stretch.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:55 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


America is so enthralled with both sex and capitalism. I find it odd that combining the two is so frowned upon.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 4:01 PM on April 30


this evil motherfuckery on the part of the DoJ (whence I have no doubt it originates)

I'm still not buying it. On the one hand, you have a DoJ that has is at least been making noise about going after skeezy financial institutions, can win zero cred with a Moral Majority that is millions of times more afraid of The Uppity Negroes and Mexicans With Calves The Size Of Watermelons exercising their 14th and 15th Amendment rights, and hasn't seemed to have any beef with the adult industry whatsoever since the White House changed hands. On the other, you have an entire industry fighting tooth-and-nail to prevent what little regulation exists from being enacted, further regulation from being passed, and a habit of trying to blame their assholery on those who don't have multi-billion dollar lobbying arms. It seems far more likely that the banks are trying to blame their problems on those that have little in the ways of legislative or judicial defense than Holder suddenly finding his inner Falwell.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:03 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


I think the giving the banks the benefit of the doubt thought there is that we don't know if the next head of the DoJ might be another Ashcroft or Gonzalez and a banking industry that has to pay strict attention to who their customers are might be taking that into account ahead of time rather than getting into business with industries that might be under attack once again in the near future.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:08 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Interesting timing. Probably a coincidence, but {rummages in Twitter} ah here it is one of the UK banks (the TSB) checked with a writer who banked with them whether she wrote erotica or not.
posted by Wordshore at 4:12 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Mary Ellen Carter: “America is so enthralled with both sex and capitalism. I find it odd that combining the two is so frowned upon.”

Even those wholly taken in by evil have the sense that combining evil with something sacred might not be a great idea.
posted by koeselitz at 4:12 PM on April 30


> But it's much less mysterious and much more legally defensible to close an account receiving funds for illegal (or at best quasi-legal) prostitution than for legal adult film work.

Chase also won't open personal accounts for pro dommes, which is supposedly technically not prostitution nor illegal.
posted by morganw at 4:13 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


evil motherfuckery on the part of the DoJ (whence I have no doubt it originates)

I'm very confident in Chase's ability to be a bunch of evil motherfuckers all on their own.

Although it might be in this case that someone actually did some due diligence and googled the customer's name, came up with an escort-service listing, and flagged the account. That's not grossly out of line, as the condom-sales case earlier this month, which was discussed in another thread, was.

It would be interesting to know if they're really going through their customer lists in any substantial way, or just cherry-picking a few here and there; the latter could still be indicative of arm-twisting for political reasons via selective enforcement. But if it occurred as part of a more general crackdown on escort services, and we just happened to hear about these two because they're also noted (to some extent, anyway) porn stars, that does paint a different picture.

JPMC gets absolutely no benefit of the doubt, though, their previous actions having led me to suspect that doing business with them couldn't be more shady if it involved signing contracts in blood and having meetings in rooms that were always unnaturally warm and smelling of sulfur.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:13 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


That is the misnamed Department of "Justice".
posted by SteveLaudig at 4:26 PM on April 30


The banks have no motive for doing this on their own. Zero. Chase in particular would process your credit cards for kitten drowning and genuine Canis Familiaris hot dogs if they thought there was a buck to make. They are ONLY doing this because of some external force. The only such force known to exist historically is Patriot Act letters from the DoJ.

Saying that Holder isn't Ashcroft or Gonzales is setting a very low bar. Lots of wheels set into motion under Bush are still rolling under Obama, not least of which including Gitmo. While there are a lot of things I like about Obama his cozy familiarity with entities like the intelligence and finance communities are not among them.

Although he is said to be finally waking up to it he has hardly used his pardon power at all. I find it entirely believable that sheer momentum at DoJ and lack of concern (having what he considers more immediately important fish to fry) on Obama's part has left an expansion of this program going on, just like the expansion of surveillance at the NSA.
posted by localroger at 4:34 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


The banks have no motive for doing this on their own. Zero. Chase in particular would process your credit cards for kitten drowning and genuine Canis Familiaris hot dogs if they thought there was a buck to make. They are ONLY doing this because of some external force. The only such force known to exist historically is Patriot Act letters from the DoJ.

So you're saying that the banks wouldn't be willing to sacrifice a few thousand dollars here and there in personal accounts if it means weakening the regulatory regime that keeps them from laundering billions for drug lords?
posted by Etrigan at 4:45 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


I'm confused. How is shutting down the personal accounts of private individuals who happen to appear in porn films going to "weaken the regulatory regime"?
posted by koeselitz at 4:50 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


The banks have no motive for doing this on their own. Zero. Chase in particular would process your credit cards for kitten drowning and genuine Canis Familiaris hot dogs if they thought there was a buck to make.

And I'd argue the only thing the banks love more than making a few million bucks is preventing regulations that deny them hundreds of billions more.

They are ONLY doing this because of some external force. The only such force known to exist historically is Patriot Act letters from the DoJ.

Okay, but why porn, and why now? What are the upsides for the DOJ here? This seems like a pretty myopic view of things given the cost-benefit analysis for the parties involved.

Saying that Holder isn't Ashcroft or Gonzales is setting a very low bar. Lots of wheels set into motion under Bush are still rolling under Obama, not least of which including Gitmo. While there are a lot of things I like about Obama his cozy familiarity with entities like the intelligence and finance communities are not among them.

Gitmo and the intelligence community have fuck-all to do with porn, and regardless of the fact that the administration is cozy with the financial community, there's no upside for them here. The administration has a vested interest in keeping enough Senate seats with compliant Blue Dogs that will keep a light cover on regulation while helping prevent his last half-term from being completely lame-duck.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:51 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


FFS.
posted by homunculus at 4:54 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


They are ONLY doing this because of some external force. The only such force known to exist historically is Patriot Act letters from the DoJ.

The only lawsuit the DOJ has pursued under Operation Choke Point has been against a payday lender. There is no evidence that they're going after porn stars, and the only people making statements to that effect are banking industry spokespeople.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 4:56 PM on April 30 [7 favorites]


Yeah, there's a whole lot of premature connecting of dots going on in the Vice and Reason pieces linked above. DOJ is surely capable of doing stupid things, but the connection between Choke Point and these cancellations is tenuous at best. Definitely something that should be investigated further, but I'd be stunned if DOJ had an active role in this.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:11 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


ultraviolet catastrophe:Chase knew that the Madoff scheme was fraudulent. They alerted UK authorities to it, but not American authorities because they were profiting from it.

Madoff had whistleblowers for years saying that it was technically impossible for him to make money with the strategy he was claiming to use. The trouble with a Ponzi scheme is that there is no identifiable victim when the scheme is in full motion with new money coming in and money coming out to pay off earlier "investors". When the money dries up, the scheme is quickly unmasked.
posted by dr_dank at 5:11 PM on April 30


I'm confused. How is shutting down the personal accounts of private individuals who happen to appear in porn films going to "weaken the regulatory regime"?

Banks are doing this and saying, "Oh, look at what the big bad government is making us do!" The next step is astroturfing "DEAR MR. HOLDER I AM A SMALL BUSINESSMAN AND I DEMAND THAT YOU RELAX REGULATIONS THAT KEEP THE BANKS FROM LETTING ME KEEP MY MONEY IN THEM YOURS TRULY JOE COINDEALER." And some asshole Congresscritter calls everyone in the DoJ before a committee to explain why Joe Coindealer can't open a checking account, and the next thing you know Operation Choke Point is right next to Operation Fast and Furious on the fundraising literature. Eventually, you either get enough outrage or enough legislators looking to make their bones by forcing the DoJ back.
posted by Etrigan at 5:13 PM on April 30 [5 favorites]


See? This is why we can't have nice nasty things.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:31 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Would this include the bank accounts of people who acted in Game of Thrones? Or even those who acted in the parody, namely Game of Bones (unsure if contains more or less porn)? Where on Earth/Westeros would the line be drawn?
posted by Wordshore at 6:05 PM on April 30


The only lawsuit the DOJ has pursued

What's this about lawsuits? This is about gag ordered secret letters sent to people telling them not to do business with you, so that you can't get paid.

Gitmo and the intelligence community have fuck-all to do with porn

Way to totally miss the point. There are large operations going on in Obama's executive branch of a sort those of us who voted for him kinda sort of hoped would not be ongoing. Compared to Gitmo and the NSA kerfluffle, DoJ harassing legit businesses by hassling their credit card providers is small beer. Obama might not have personally even known it was still, or even ever, going on.

What are the upsides for the DOJ here?

What was the upside in shutting down Insex? We KNOW that was DoJ, and I doubt Bush was much more concerned with BDSM porn than Obama is with NSA metadata tracking. Explain why DoJ did what we know they did in 2006 and you will know why they are doing what they are almost certainly doing now.
posted by localroger at 6:11 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


The banks going ahead and following through on their recent threats to shut down small businesses unless the new banking regulations were shut down - that seems to me to be the most likely explanation here, but the DOJ sure handed them plausible deniability on a silver platter and appearance of innocence with that Insex affair!
posted by anonymisc at 6:27 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Okay, why did they shut down Insex? Is there an anti-BDSM contingent within the DOJ that has spanned administrations?
posted by valkane at 6:33 PM on April 30


We KNOW that was DoJ, and I doubt Bush was much more concerned with BDSM porn than Obama is with NSA metadata tracking.

You're kidding me, right? The Attorney General and a not-insignificant number of his cohorts were very interested in polishing their morality crusade bonafides. And again, I fail to see what the NSA has to do with this. We know why Obama likes spying on his citizens, we don't know why he (or Holder or whoever) likes going after porn stars.

Explain why DoJ did what we know they did in 2006 and you will know why they are doing what they are almost certainly doing now.

The explanation was that a serious contingent within the Bush administration wanted to go after porn for obscenity violations to win another battle in the culture war. Since AFAIK there hasn't been any crackdowns for obscenity within the DOJ under Obama, there's no explanation for it here.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:38 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


The explanation was that a serious contingent within the Bush administration wanted to go after porn for obscenity violations to win another battle in the culture war.

Except that they didn't "go after porn." They went after one spectacular "worst of the worst" offender who was openly flouting all the unwritten rules, but they did it in a secret and politically useless way that generated no PR for the administration.

So what was the reason? Fuck if I know. I suspect a highly placed individual somewhere -- certainly not as high as the President, probably not even Cabinet level -- decided that this was a hill worth dying on. Since it's spanned administrations I'd guess that person might even be GSA or one of the holdovers Obama reappointed.

Anyway it was inexplicable then, a total overreach that threatened the very basis on which the Patriot Act had been passed by brazenly violating the promise that it would never, ever, ever under any circumstances, cross our hearts etc. be used against anyone but Really Bad Killer Terrorist Bad Guys. The fucking thing should have been insta-repealed the moment the news about Insex came out. It's an inch of positive utility floating on three miles of abuse potential.

I would guess that whoever thought that fucking the law to go after Insex was a good idea in 2006 is still around and feeling their oats, that exercise (and probably others I'm less aware of) having not blown up in their faces yet.
posted by localroger at 6:47 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Porn actors are blowjob creators.
posted by goethean at 6:51 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Since it's spanned administrations I'd guess that person might even be GSA or one of the holdovers Obama reappointed.

You don't know who initiated the crackdown or why, but you know that these people are still working in the government and have good reasons? This makes even less sense now than when you first mentioned it.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:55 PM on April 30


Well zombieflanders the thing is definitely happening and I certainly don't believe the bank got this bright idea all on its own, so yeah somebody working for the government initiated it and presumably has reasons.
posted by localroger at 6:56 PM on April 30


me: “I'm confused. How is shutting down the personal accounts of private individuals who happen to appear in porn films going to 'weaken the regulatory regime'?”

Etrigan: “Banks are doing this and saying, 'Oh, look at what the big bad government is making us do!' The next step is astroturfing 'DEAR MR. HOLDER I AM A SMALL BUSINESSMAN AND I DEMAND THAT YOU RELAX REGULATIONS THAT KEEP THE BANKS FROM LETTING ME KEEP MY MONEY IN THEM YOURS TRULY JOE COINDEALER.' And some asshole Congresscritter calls everyone in the DoJ before a committee to explain why Joe Coindealer can't open a checking account, and the next thing you know Operation Choke Point is right next to Operation Fast and Furious on the fundraising literature. Eventually, you either get enough outrage or enough legislators looking to make their bones by forcing the DoJ back.”

If this is a strategy aimed at discrediting regulation, it is terribly planned. For one thing, if you're aiming at discrediting regulation, it's a good idea to actually point explicitly and loudly to a regulation which is forcing you to do something, rather than attempting to quietly close the bank accounts of private individuals.

And, probably more importantly, if this is strategic, it's extraordinarily poorly calibrated, because it relies on the assumption that the administration's biggest opposition – fiscal conservatives and other Republicans in Congress – will rush immediately to the defense of porn stars who are losing their bank accounts. Which I'm sad to say seems quite far-fetched to me. If they wanted to do what you're saying they are trying to do, they'd be better off randomly closing the bank accounts of small businesses which the Right won't mind defending loudly.

It seems more likely that it's a mixture of things. I lean toward thinking that localroger's right, although I also think there could be banks which think it's good PR to do this kind of thing as a sop to the conservatives. Yes, Chase is happy to aid money-laundering of billions in drug money overseas, but that's overseas; and in this case as others have said it only costs them a few thousand dollars at most to close a bunch of people's accounts. Still, it seems more likely that this came from inside the DOJ.
posted by koeselitz at 6:58 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


while helping prevent his last half-term from being completely lame-duck.

Yeah right. It's never gonna happen. Then get ready for a Republican president to turn the screw that Obama threaded.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:58 PM on April 30


The deal here is not porn stars. The deal isn't even the atrocious behavior of the big banksters. The deal is whether or not the government of the United States, of which DOJ is merely a department, is, in fact, trying to effect prior restraint by clandestine extrajudicial (judicial, as in Justice Dept.) means. If they really aren't pressuring the banks, (directly, rather than by passing regulations that may or may not mean anything) then there is no big deal here. Morality in terms of porn, guns and ammo, coin shops or whatever else, is irrelevant. Simply irrelevant. But DOJ is always relevant.
posted by carping demon at 7:01 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Well, the stockroom is still there (I just checked). So I guess they've still got a bank account.
posted by valkane at 7:06 PM on April 30


it only costs them a few thousand dollars at most to close a bunch of people's accounts

Chase has a huge chunk of the processing market which is why this is affecting so many people. This is a billion dollar scale industry. If the ban becomes truly blanket, this will cost the banks involved tens, and possibly hundreds, of millions of dollars. Chase alone is almost certainly throwing away tens of millions of dollars in easy profit if it proceeds with this.

That is some awfully expensive PR or whatever. Considering that Chase would dig up your dead mother over $600 I don't believe they would walk away from that money without a damn good reason.
posted by localroger at 7:06 PM on April 30


It has only costed them a few thousand thus far, as far as I can tell. But it doesn't make much sense as a PR move. If it were a PR move, it would be done loudly. And they seem to just be doing it quietly.

It is possible Chase just got spooked by "Operation Choke Point" and decided to hedge their bets on the ground by haphazardly flagging personal accounts wherever they thought they could and closing them up. That too would be kind of stupid, but I'm trying to figure out how this fits the facts we have, and we don't really have any true confirmation that this is even an actual bank-wide policy yet. We only know that somebody somewhere in there has been doing weird things.
posted by koeselitz at 7:13 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I got home today and lo and behold, there was a letter from Chase waiting for me, trying to get me to open a line of credit with them.

In light of the behavior being discussed here, it was surprisingly satisfying to tear it in half and throw it away.
posted by anonymisc at 7:16 PM on April 30


In light of this behavior

Really, even if Chase turns out to be completely blameless in this particular matter, you are better off not doing business with them.
posted by localroger at 7:18 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


And we've been giving you that damn good reason, localroger - killing Chokepoint and restoring lax oversight of third party processing is worth billions, both in allowing them to continue to work with disreputable but profitable merchants, as well as from further establishing that banks are too big to touch.

And koeselitz, they actually tried that, pushing Issa to investigate Chokepoint. But even he's not stupid enough to go to the mat for an industry that makes used car salespeople look like paragons of integrity. So they need to create a narrative that these regulations are "forcing" them to hurt innocent people. Porn actors and other sex industry workers and businesses are ideal initial targets because they're socially vocal, yet at the same time there's enough plausible deniability thanks to popular misconceptions of their work that going after them isn't going to trip the public radar. If they can get the narrative going, phase 2 would be targeting conservative-oriented high risk businesses (gold sellers, coin sellers, gun shops) - and you can bet that they will go straight to GOP legislators.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:19 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


In light of this behavior, it was surprisingly satisfying to tear it half and throw it away.

I'm seeing reverse bragging rights. Like: "Yeah, Chase bank closed my account, because..... Well, You know...."
posted by valkane at 7:20 PM on April 30


Really, the only precedent from Chase we have to go on is a history of erratic and frankly silly actions as regards "adult" things. The Lovability "reputational risk" nonsense was just a silly, stupid move, wasn't it? – it didn't get them anything, it only got them loud protests, and it doesn't even seem to have been a policy that was applied with any consistency, it was just a case where they singled out this one company to treat like shit for apparently no reason beyond the prudery of somebody, somewhere. I know banks generally want to take people's money and don't care who they are, but there does seem to be a person (or small group of people) at Chase who have a habit of randomly applying silly moral standards that make no sense.
posted by koeselitz at 7:21 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


That is a good point, koeselitz. Seems that somebody at Chase loves fucking with people, and not in a porny way.
posted by localroger at 7:24 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


NoxAeternum: “And koeselitz, they actually tried that, pushing Issa to investigate Chokepoint. But even he's not stupid enough to go to the mat for an industry that makes used car salespeople look like paragons of integrity. So they need to create a narrative that these regulations are 'forcing' them to hurt innocent people. Porn actors and other sex industry workers and businesses are ideal initial targets because they're socially vocal, yet at the same time there's enough plausible deniability thanks to popular misconceptions of their work that going after them isn't going to trip the public radar.”

I'm still not able to connect the dots between this and Chokepoint yet. I am well aware that banks hate Chokepoint, and that's a fair cop, and I can picture them trying to come up with strategies to fight it. This just really doesn't look like one to me.

Also, if going after porn people has "plausible deniability" because it is surrounded by public misconceptions and therefore doesn't trip the radar when questionable things happen, how in the world are the porn people going to help get a narrative going?

“If they can get the narrative going, phase 2 would be targeting conservative-oriented high risk businesses (gold sellers, coin sellers, gun shops) - and you can bet that they will go straight to GOP legislators.”

Wouldn't it make more sense for that to be phase 1 of this plan?
posted by koeselitz at 7:26 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Phase 1 is the trial balloon - see if you can cancel business accounts and blame Chokepoint for doing so. You don't want to target the people who you're counting on to get you the leverage to get the gears moving in Congress at this point, because if it backfires, they'll get those gears moving - against you. So you want to hit a group that:

*You have some credibility in hitting with these policies - you can't go after Aunt Tillie's B&B, because people are going to cotton on quick that something is rotten in the state of Delaware;

*Will be fairly socially vocal when you do it, because you're going to need that to push the narrative; and

*Have a relatively weak political voice, because you don't want this to come back on your head if your attempt to blame the government fails.

Porn stars meet all of those requirements, making them ideal targets for the trial balloon. Already, you've got the EFF giving credulity to the idea that this is due to the government, even if they're not fully on board with the idea.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:42 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


Well the thing is, even if this is some kind of elaborate ploy on Chase's part to try and discredit a chokepoint like scheme, the fact that the bank is throwing business away to apply such a ploy means that this powerful entity with much resources and access believes such a scheme is a real threat.
posted by localroger at 7:56 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Do people with a "relatively weak political voice" ever successfully "push the narrative"? Isn't that sort of contradictory?

NoxAeternum: “Phase 1 is the trial balloon - see if you can cancel business accounts and blame Chokepoint for doing so.”

I guess the way we verify this theory is by waiting and seeing if Chase actually blames the government for forcing them to do this. They haven't yet. And they haven't blamed the government the last few times they've hassled and harassed people in the adult industries. (Or were those false-flag operations, too?)
posted by koeselitz at 7:57 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Well, yes - Chokepoint is doing two things:

First, it's forcing liability on the banks for turning a blind eye, which is pretty much anathema to the banks, who want to socialize all risk.

Second, it's cutting off the lucrative payday lender market, what has become more and more in the gray area thanks to states passing anti-payday loan laws that limit loan APRs to something reasonable but unworkable for the payday loan model.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:00 PM on April 30


Chase directly? No. But here's a comment on the matter from banking industry trade group head Frank Keating:

Operation Choke Point is asking banks to identify customers who may be breaking the law or simply doing something government officials don’t like. Banks must then 'choke off' those customers’ access to financial services, shutting down their accounts....The government is compelling banks to deny service to unpopular but perfectly legal industries by threatening penalties. This puts them in a difficult business position.

So the push is on.

(By the way, anyone want to bet that Frank there is related to Charles "I Own John McCain" Keating of S&L infamy?)
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:04 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


This is going to make for some interesting lawsuits. It looks like the EFF and the ACLU are on the warpath on this one.

I hope to see a flurry of FOIAs soon. I wonder how the DOJ will try to wiggle out of them.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 8:08 PM on April 30


Yep, and they'll be doing the banks' work for them. Everything according to keikaku.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:12 PM on April 30


Well the thing is, even if this is some kind of elaborate ploy on Chase's part to try and discredit a chokepoint like scheme, the fact that the bank is throwing business away to apply such a ploy means that this powerful entity with much resources and access believes such a scheme is a real threat.

Well, no shit. They have an organization (the Third Party Payment Processors Association) up and running, and are apparently lobbying on the Hill, which isn't exactly cheap. A few hundred or thousand bucks from a few porn stars (and/or escorts) bank accounts is a rounding error.

I'm not entirely sure if these particular accounts were shut down as a purely calculated, political move, but the piddling amount of business Chase is giving up by closing them doesn't indicate anything.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:25 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


It's interesting; I've been following this story when it was firearms companies and ammunition manufacturers - which the DoJ apparently admits they're going after. I don't buy that it's because of "high chargebacks" because the firearm industry is super reputational in the immediate-dealer sense. A bad rep can ruin someone's sales completely and the company would still have to live with it.
posted by corb at 8:27 PM on April 30



Ammunition Sales
Cable Box De-scramblers
Coin Dealers
Credit Card Schemes
Credit Repair Services
Dating Services
Debt Consolidation Scams
Drug Paraphernalia
Escort Services
Firearms Sales
Fireworks Sales
Get Rich Products
Government Grants
Home-Based Charities
Life-Time Guarantees
Life-Time Memberships
Lottery Sales
Mailing Lists/Personal Info
Money Transfer Networks
On-line Gambling
PayDay Loans
Pharmaceutical Sales
Ponzi Schemes
Pornography
Pyramid-Type Sales
Racist Materials
Surveillance Equipment
Telemarketing
Tobacco Sales
Travel Clubs


That list has an uncanny overlap with my brower history.
posted by 445supermag at 8:29 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


NoxAeternum: “Chase directly? No. But here's a comment on the matter from banking industry trade group head Frank Keating...”

That isn't about "the matter" at all. It doesn't even mention porn or adult performers.
posted by koeselitz at 8:37 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


I've been following this story when it was firearms companies and ammunition manufacturers - which the DoJ apparently admits they're going after.

Is there a reliable source for this other than Breitbart, Reason and various survivalist/white supremacist sites?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:03 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Would the Porn Actor Credit Union use double-entry bookkeeping?
posted by zippy at 9:22 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


Surprising nobody's mentioned the Wikileaks banking blockade yet.
posted by anemone of the state at 9:54 PM on April 30 [6 favorites]


U.S. close to bringing criminal charges against big banks
posted by telstar at 11:49 PM on April 30


Suspicious Deaths of Bankers Are Now Classified as “Trade Secrets” by Federal Regulator
posted by telstar at 11:57 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]


I opened a credit union account a few weeks ago and have switched my paycheck direct deposit over to use it. Right now I still have a chase account - I'm going to be leaving it open for about a month to make sure that I've moved over everything that autopays out of that account - but I will keep this in mind when I go in to close the account next week. Targeting sex workers is vile, and any organization that treats sex workers as too dirty to associate with is too dirty for me to associate with.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:55 AM on May 1 [5 favorites]


It's not just Chase, but PayPal, too.
posted by anemone of the state at 12:27 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Isn't the government effectively threatening enforcement to extort companies into denying vital services to legal customers whom the government doesn't like?

Serious question: If this is the case, how is this legal?
posted by anemone of the state at 10:29 AM on May 2


anemone, that's exactly what they are doing.

It's legal because of the Patriot Act.
posted by localroger at 11:34 AM on May 2


Isn't the government effectively threatening enforcement to extort companies into denying vital services to legal customers whom the government doesn't like?

If you assume that it's the mean ol' DoJ forcing the poor innocent banks to do this. Which is a story that starts and ends with the word of the CEO of the American Bankers Association, and doesn't make sense. This was explained.
posted by kafziel at 12:18 PM on May 2 [2 favorites]


It is entirely possible that neither the DoJ nor the banks are innocent. It is a known fact that DoJ used exactly this tactic against Insex, and as a general rule banks have no internal motivation to reject profits for ethical reasons. This was explained, too.
posted by localroger at 12:22 PM on May 2 [1 favorite]


Yes, they did do that. Eight years ago. While being led by a guy who covered up boobies on statues. The fact that you think this is strong evidence in favor of your theory shows how little you have to justify your definitive statements about what you insist the government must be doing.

It is very possible there has been malfeasance on the part of regulators, or that the legislative language is forcing regulators to act in such a way that puts pressure on institutions to scrutinize clients (dumping them if they're not profitable enough to justify the cost of the additional scrutiny) but the definitive language being used about the government "extorting companies into denying vital services to legal customers" is completely uncalled for. There may indeed be some bad shit going on, but what we have real evidence for is that there's a government effort to step up regulation on financial entities, and that the financial entities, who oppose any new regulation, are canceling accounts. No cause and effect has been established.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:30 PM on May 2 [3 favorites]


Isn't the government effectively threatening enforcement to extort companies into denying vital services to legal customers whom the government doesn't like?

Nope.

The government is threatening to take legal action against banks (a) whose customers commit money laundering, fraud, or other financial crimes and (b) who haven't done any due-diligence to notice, report, or prevent the crimes.

Banks are resisting this because they want the processing fees associated with criminal acts.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:34 PM on May 2 [3 favorites]


While being led by a guy who covered up boobies on statues.

You seem awfully sure that this had something to do with something. Yet so many other things that started rolling in the Bush years are still going strong, not least of which that little vacation resort for orange jumpsuit lovers in Cuba.

Also, while we don't have the solid evidence we did over Insex, we know that exactly the same thing happened to Wikileaks and again, it seems like an amazing case of coordinated common cause finding on the part of every bank in the world that froze them out of the credit processing system. You will have a very strong uphill battle against Occam's Razor convincing me that wasn't DoJ too.

The list of target businesses came from DoJ via Operation Choke Point, not from any bank. The kindest thing that can be believed is that this remains a "suggestion" from DoJ that was perhaps received too enthusiastically (perhaps even with the purpose of discrediting the whole idea, who knows?) by Chase. But the fact that it was ever done at all, even once, proves that an ominous overreach is thinkable by officials who have never been replaced notwithstanding the change in top administration.
posted by localroger at 3:03 PM on May 2


localroger: You seem awfully sure that this had something to do with something. Yet so many other things that started rolling in the Bush years are still going strong, not least of which that little vacation resort for orange jumpsuit lovers in Cuba.

Except that, while there's no law requiring DOJ to go after porn merchants, there is law stipulating that Gitmo detainees can't be transferred anywhere else. Comparing something DOJ may or may not be doing to something they're legally required to do (as doing anything else with the detainees housed there would violate the law) is not legitimate.

localroger: Also, while we don't have the solid evidence we did over Insex, we know that exactly the same thing happened to Wikileaks and again, it seems like an amazing case of coordinated common cause finding on the part of every bank in the world that froze them out of the credit processing system. You will have a very strong uphill battle against Occam's Razor convincing me that wasn't DoJ too.

The financial industry at that time had plenty of its own reasons to hate Wikileaks, so I think there are at multiple possibilities that satisfy the Occam criteria. Remember that Assange was promising a mega-leak against a U.S. bank at that time. Also, Amazon shut down Wikleaks' account based on a simple phone call from a Lieberman staffer. Why would DOJ ever feel the need to get their hands dirty when old-fashioned intimidation will do?

localroger: The list of target businesses came from DoJ via Operation Choke Point, not from any bank.

From the FDIC, actually. Choke Point is a joint operation of FDIC, DOJ, CFPB, etc. but the directives the banks need to follow come from FDIC.

localroger: The kindest thing that can be believed is that this remains a "suggestion" from DoJ that was perhaps received too enthusiastically (perhaps even with the purpose of discrediting the whole idea, who knows?) by Chase.

I don't see it as the "kindest" interpretation -- I find it at least as plausible as what you insisted without reservation was "exactly what they're doing." Neither of us has definitive proof, but you have no grounds for placing your favored explanation above other equally-plausible explanations.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:56 PM on May 2


Except that, while there's no law requiring DOJ to...

Oh FFS. So how about the lethal drone attacks, or the DOJ aggressively moving against medical marijuana providers in states where it's been legalized? Where's the law REQUIRING those things? And as you are well aware there are other examples of Obama continuing Bush policies that pissed off the Left.

The financial industry at that time had plenty of its own reasons to hate Wikileaks

"The financial industry" is not a thing that is poised to execute such a phenomenon. This effect required the simultaneous coordinated action of EVERY SINGLE BANK IN THE WORLD. The idea that this did not arise from a single point source is beyond ludicrous.

So, what was this point source? Oh wait...

actually. Choke Point is a joint operation of FDIC, DOJ, CFPB, etc.

Again, you want me to believe a committee is responsible for what very clearly looks like the idea of a single player. Who on that list calls the shots? Who has the motive to put a thing like this out, and the clout to get the rest to rubber-stamp it? It sure as fuck isn't the FDIC.

I don't see it as the "kindest" interpretation

You have a real problem with rhetoric. By "kindest" I meant "at least slightly believable and not totally evil on the part of the government." That doesn't mean I really consider it believable at all. But it does offer the fig leaf of a possibility that the government isn't doing something totally evil, which is a kindness of interpretation they probably don't deserve in light of the available evidence.

tonycpsu: By the way quoting me in small tags is a really slick, worthy of Edward Bernays himself propaganda trick. Looking you up it seems to be a habit, but I consider it rather underhanded. Italics and blockquotes are more standard here. I do not need to make your words physically smaller than mine to confront them.
posted by localroger at 4:36 PM on May 2


[Let's keep it cool in here, folks?]
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:05 PM on May 2


(Thanks to pb for fixing my link. Taking any further discussion with localroger to MeMail.)
posted by tonycpsu at 5:33 PM on May 2


Pharmaceutical Sales
Erm, what?
posted by telstar
Really late to this thread, but, this has real world implications on a lot of people I know. An online pharmacy that a significant number of trans women use has been affected by this crack down on 'subjectively undesirable business ventures'.

I don't really expect most to understand the reasons why some trans women order hormones/HRT off the internet, but, this is seriously affecting availability and access to hormones. This banking crackdown has real world implications that will hurt people and their access to vitally needed medication. And it pisses me right off.

Not to mention scores of people who order cheap (Indian?) generics from these online pharmacies because of the disgraceful state of medical coverage in this country. Bleh.
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 7:34 AM on May 3 [7 favorites]


Mother Jones has some more on this.
posted by uberchet at 12:03 PM on May 8


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