Operation Choke Point, the Obama administration’s under-the-radar project involving the Department of Justice, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) whose goal is to shut down industries it does not like by “choking off” their banking relationships, is taking aim at another business.
Brian Lynn, CEO of a Jacksonville, Florida based payday lending company that operates 26 stores in Florida, Georgia and Alabama under the Speedy Cash and Lending Bear brands, has been in business for more than 20 years. He confirms to Breitbart News that two major banks closed his company’s accounts with no explanation in 2014.
Lynn, a former Marine Corps officer with an MBA from the University of Florida, took over the business from his father 13 years ago.
“We received a letter from our bank of more than ten years, the Bank of America, back in June, telling us they were closing down the accounts we had for nine of our stores in the Jacksonville area,” Lynn tells Breitbart News.
“We take a proactive approach to reviewing our customers’ accounts,” the letter from Bank of America to Speedy Cash dated June 30, 2014 read. “After careful consideration, we’ve decided to close your existing Small Business account(s) on August 25, 2014 based on the nature of your business and associated risks.”
Lynn thought the issue could be quickly resolved.
“I thought there was some sort of mistake, so I contacted our local branch officers, and they were as baffled as I was. We had been a very good customer throughout our long relationship with Bank of America,” Lynn said.
“They contacted their superiors in the corporate offices, but got no explanation. They were just told the decision was final,” Lynn added.
The former Marine Corps officer went into action.
“I tried to contact the corporate officers at Bank of America to understand their reasoning,” Lynn told Breitbart News. “But I got no response. They did not call me back.”
Lynn soon concluded that the Bank of America was reacting to regulatory pressure, either from the CFPB or the FDIC, and was not eager to share that information with him. There would be no reconsideration of the decision to close the Speedy Cash and Lending Bear accounts in Jacksonville.
“So we had only a few weeks to set up new accounts. We really had to scramble. In our business, cash is our inventory, and it’s very important for our stores to have proximity to the local branch of the bank,” Lynn said.
For a time, Lynn did not know if any bank would take his business.
“We talked to about 20 banks, and none of them would open up an account for us. Finally, the 21st we talked to, a local bank headquartered here in Jacksonville, said yes, and we were able to open up new accounts for those 9 stores in time. But we were sweating it.”
Later, in September of 2014, SunTrust followed suit and sent a letter closing down the Speedy Cash accounts in the Savannah, Georgia market:
SunTrust continuously reviews its products, markets, and client relationships to ensure that we are able to provide the best possible client service while also meeting our corporate business objectives. There are circumstances where we will identify a specific account relationship that no longer meets these criteria. In the best interest of our clients and SunTrust, we will request that those accounts be closed.
As a result of a recent account review, we regret to inform you that SunTrust is no longer able to provide some of the financial services you require. We respectfully request that you immediately begin closing all of your SunTrust deposit accounts, safe deposit boxes, and credit cards by 10/6/14. If you do not close these accounts by that date, we will need to close them for you, and either hold the proceeds until we hear from you or mail you a check for any collected balance.
As with Bank of America, Lynn tried to get an explanation from SunTrust executives, but received no details. Though he was able once again to open new bank accounts with another area bank, the entire process was once again very disruptive to his business.
Both letters can be seen in their entirety here:
While some optimistic members of Congress have recently claimed that Operation Choke Point is winding down, out in the real world small business owners like Brian Lynn know otherwise.