First They Came For the Porn Stars…

So there’s no way to write a post involving porn without oodles of double entredes, so let’s just agree to try to ignore them. But this story about the collision between the porn industry and the banking industry–at least the porn industry admits they’re fucking people–is disturbing (boldface mine):

This past Monday, porn star Teagan Presley arrived home in Las Vegas from yet another whirlwind strip club appearance tour and found a letter from her bank.

Chase was closing her account, which was listed under her legal name, as well as the account of her husband.

When Presley went to the bank in person to ask why, she was told it’s because she’s considered “high risk.”

“And then they told me that they canceled my husband’s account too, because our social security numbers are linked,” Presley told VICE News. “They told him that it was because I’m a notorious adult star. Which is funny, because I’m kind of a goody-goody in the business, and I’m not even doing porn anymore.”

…In May 2013, CNBC wrote about actress Chanel Preston’s sudden account termination at Los Angeles’ City National Bank, and porn studio head Marc Greenberg’s lawsuit against JP Morgan Chase for violation of fair lending laws. Greenberg wanted to refinance his longstanding home loan, and said a JP Morgan vice president told him he was being declined for moral issues.

A Chase representative told VICE News they have no comment.

Now, news is slowly surfacing that shows the US Department of Justice may be strong-arming banks into banning porn stars.

It’s called Operation Choke Point….

…it’s a targeted effort to shut down as many as 30 separate industries by making it impossible for them to access banking services.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Thursday, American Bankers Association CEO Frank Keating wrote that the Justice Department is “telling bankers to behave like policemen and judges.”

“Operation Choke Point is asking banks to identify customers who may be breaking the law or simply doing something government officials don’t like,” Keating wrote. “Banks must then ‘choke off’ those customers’ access to financial services, shutting down their accounts.”

Keating said the highly secretive operation was launched in early 2013. That’s when porn stars started to complain to the media that their bank accounts were being shut down without explanation….

Fattorosi told VICE News that bank account closures for sex industry workers are unfair.

If I’m just a regular Joe that likes to purchase firearms or pornography, my account isn’t going to be closed,” he said. “What they’re basically doing is saying someone’s lifestyle choice is unacceptable. I don’t see where the account holders’ lifestyle choices have anything to do with banking policy.”

This is foolish for both policy and civil liberties reasons.

On the policy side, bankers have often made assessments about borrowers’ integrity (though it’s not clear that actually improves loan portfolios), but shutting down bank accounts will lead people in the porn industry to use riskier strategies, such as cash, offshore accounts and so on. This doesn’t seem to be a good thing. Like it or not, in a modern society, people need banks.

In terms of civil liberties, it’s really troubling. First, as Presley notes, she’s no longer in the pornography business, but she’s still shut out of the banking system, apparently forever. Second, I’m sure the list will never expand to include political dissidents. Third, here’s the list of businesses that are considered ‘high risk’:

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

Yes, a lot of these are pretty scummy, if not outright illegal (shouldn’t the Justice Department be prosecuting Ponzi schemes anyway?). While porn makes a lot of people uncomfortable (or giggle), ask yourself this: do you want ammo and gun merchants to figure out how to operate (further) in a shadow economy? I can’t see how that ends well.

In the larger context, it’s absurd that the DOJ is cracking down on porn while doing nothing concrete against the bankers who looted and pillaged our economy. Not unexpected mind you, but still absurd.

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6 Responses to First They Came For the Porn Stars…

  1. derored says:

    I don’t have the link with me anymore, but I read an analysis that this *is* an attempt to regulate the financial sector, particularly payday lending and other exploitative practices, and the banks chose to interpret it overly broadly, in such a way that they cause pain to pornographers and others they hoped to be noisy enough to shut down the putative lending reform legislation….

    Anyway. I don’t trust everything the banks say on the subject… I’ll have to read through the .gov site later when I have more time to see if it looks like it ever was intended to affect individuals.

  2. Ron Murray says:

    According to Mother Jones, not quite true:
    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/05/operation-chokepoint-banks-porn-stars

    I’ve also seen suggestions that closing porn stars’ accounts (and the like) are the banks going way beyond what the law says, in the hope that people will complain enough that the government will give up. (Sorry, can’t find the reference). Banks, of course, have an incentive to process payments made through (other?) fraudsters, due to the huge profits involved.

  3. asianquarterback says:

    Why is ‘Government Grants’ on that list? The NIH is just too shady, I guess.

  4. rijkswaanvijand says:

    Wolin already warned us about the role of religiosity in inverted autoritarianism. This ‘moralisation’ of personal issues is primarily a distractor for what should be our greatest moral concerns; indeed the big time social parasites themselves.

  5. rijkswaanvijand says:

    inverted totalitarianism. excuse me!

  6. ShortWoman says:

    Lottery sales *and* tobacco sales are both on that list? Then shouldn’t every convenience store be on the banned-from-banking list?

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