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Reason Suggests DoJ Closing Porn Stars' Bank Accounts 548

Posted by timothy
from the moral-crisis dept.
MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) writes "In a recent story on reason.com it was reported that the DoJ is closing down the bank accounts of porn stars. Not knowing the site I googled around and found another site, the Guardian. The story does not end there. It turns out that this is part of a larger scheme (ironically) called Operation Choke Point. Also reported in a Washington Post article that downplays the practice. According to Cryptocoin news. There are thirty industries the DoJ is now targeteting: 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; and Travel Clubs. But more can be added. (I notice alcohol sales is not on the list)." The Reason article stops short of saying that Choke Point is proven to be the reason for the account closures, but it seems very plausible.
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Reason Suggests DoJ Closing Porn Stars' Bank Accounts

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  • by bigmario (3487697) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:10PM (#46904545)
    Using DoJ resources to force the closure of accounts belonging to "legal but subjectively undesirable business ventures"? There's no way in hell that can be legal. This is a slippery slope situation and should get folks on both sides of the aisle riled up
  • Re:really??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gweihir (88907) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:12PM (#46904559)

    These are a threat to national purity, and if you disagree, you can go to one of the soon-to-be-opened concentration camps!

  • by IonOtter (629215) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:12PM (#46904563) Homepage

    Pepper the list with plenty of "industries" that the vast majority of people would dearly love to see destroyed, such as pyramid schemes, racist trash and payday loans, but shut down plenty of useful-but-intimidating-to-those-in-power businesses as well.

  • Legal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:13PM (#46904573)

    Not sure why merely doing business in the Ammunition Sales; Coin Dealers; Credit Repair Services; Dating Services; Firearms Sales; Fireworks Sales; Home-Based Charities; Life-Time Guarantees; Life-Time Memberships; Mailing Lists/Personal Info; Money Transfer Networks; On-line Gambling; PayDay Loans; Pharmaceutical Sales; Pornography; Racist Materials; Surveillance Equipment; Telemarketing; Tobacco Sales and Travel Clubs industries or combination thereof should automatically flag ones activies as "questionable". What happened to innocent until proven guilty??

  • by sideslash (1865434) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:14PM (#46904575)
    ...but I can't stand the thought of government deciding that some people (who aren't doing anything illegal) shouldn't be able to have a bank account.

    I reject the excuse that it's all optional on the part of the banks. Having Big Brother breathing down your neck and Strongly Suggesting that you do something is absolutely inappropriate, and I'd love to see Washington, DC held accountable for this in some way.
  • by gweihir (88907) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:16PM (#46904587)

    It is the way to fascism. Just look at historic precedents. Very, very alarming.

    It also means the DoJ is not concerned with "the law" anymore, but just does what those in power want. Not that "the law" was worth a lot before.

  • BTC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Z34107 (925136) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:18PM (#46904593)

    For all the Ponzi-this, tulips-that that gets posted every time Bitcoin makes the news, this is one of the problems they're trying to solve. A prude at Chase or the DoJ can't close your bank accounts if you have no need of a bank in the first place.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:24PM (#46904625)

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    Imagine your live without a bank account or the ability to drive or travel by air.

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:25PM (#46904631)

    It is the way to fascism. Just look at historic precedents. Very, very alarming.

    It also means the DoJ is not concerned with "the law" anymore, but just does what those in power want. Not that "the law" was worth a lot before.

    Time to leave.

  • by Kenja (541830) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:27PM (#46904645)
    Go read the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and get back to us with why you feel it doesn't apply to a bank account.
  • by joe_frisch (1366229) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:27PM (#46904659)

    Considering that investment firms cost the government HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS in bailouts, can they really argue that porn stars are "risky"?

  • Re:really??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cbiltcliffe (186293) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:34PM (#46904699) Homepage Journal

    Closing the bank accounts of gainfully employed citizens just because they're work in a perfectly legal field that the government doesn't like is justice?

    How the hell are you people still not realizing you're living in a situation worse than Nazi Germany? (Screw Godwin's law. This is a perfectly legitimate comparison.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:34PM (#46904701)

    The constitution is a whitelist of powers the government has, not a blacklist of powers it doesn't. Where in the constitution does it say that the government can arbitrarily seize bank accounts for little to no reason, or seize bank accounts because the person has an occupation that they simply don't like?

  • So, uhh, DOJ guys (Score:5, Insightful)

    by russotto (537200) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:35PM (#46904713) Journal
    Do you WANT to create a shadow banking system? Because this is how you do it.
  • by Darinbob (1142669) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:36PM (#46904717)

    Chilling if true. I can't see evidence that this is happening except for this web site which merely asserts it is happening. Even the guardian article isn't saying accounts are being closed, only that they're sending regulators after businesses that are flagged by the banks. Maybe banks themselves are denying accounts to some people but the connection to DOJ is slippery.

  • by lpevey (115393) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:38PM (#46904727)

    Agreed, it is clearly not optional on the part of the banks. This has a very chilling effect on activities where the regs can't actually prosecute for wrongdoing. If they could, they would, and they wouldn't be going this route. This sort of tactic is contrary to the principles of a free society. Banks will "choose" to decline to do business with certain people and companies if they feel they will get sued or have to spend a fortune on a governmental investigation. If there is truly evidence of illegal activities, authorities should go after the people allegedly engaged in those activities, not the banks. But in these cases, often times the activities are not really illegal, even if they are activities not loved by everyone in society. Because the government can't prosecute, should it be allowed to strong-arm banks into doing the dirty work? What does that sort of logic lead to, especially when things like banking are akin to breathing in modern society.

    There are plenty of nefarious behaviors going on at banks that regulators would be wise to oversee, but this is a case of overstepping IMO. Regulators are forcing discrimination. Is it okay for banks to be choosy based on certain parameters (I don't like your business because it's porn and I think porn is ruining our society) and not others (I don't like your business because it supports, say, charter schools, and I the bank president happen to think charter schools are ruining our society)? That's discrimination. At the very same time, regulators would bring proceedings against these very same banks for refusing to do business with certain people/organizations just because they choose to.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/... [bloomberg.com]

    "PNC Financial Services Group Inc. (PNC) received a subpoena regarding the return rate for its payment-processor clients from the U.S. Department of Justice. The department’s consumer protection unit is seeking information “for certain merchant and payment processor customers with whom PNC has a depository relationship,” the Pittsburgh-based bank said today in a regulatory filing. “We believe that the subpoena is intended to determine whether, and to what extent, PNC may have facilitated fraud committed by third-parties against consumers.” "

  • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:42PM (#46904743)

    I'd believe you if you had just removed "Obama and company". The push towards greater fascism has been a bipartisan effort in our new millenium.

  • Re:Legal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:49PM (#46904781)

    What happened to innocent until proven guilty??

    Nothing. You're still innocent before the law. It's just that the law no longer rules.

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:56PM (#46904821)

    The question is "high risk of what?"

    The answer is credit card fraud. That's what the DOJ is trying to go after here. If you google online ammo suppliers, you get a bunch of sites that look like they haven't been updated since '98. I have no doubt that the companies are perfectly reputable. But they might not have the tightest security when it comes to detecting fraudulent transactions.

    No one is saying that they're engaged in anything illegal. No one is saying they're unstable, fly-by-night businesses. What the DOJ seems to think is that the payment processing companies they do business with might be turning a blind eye to fraud in order to make more money.

  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Friday May 02, 2014 @08:14PM (#46904915)

    Theyre not. The speculation is that banks are doing it voluntarily at the encouragement of the DoJ, but even that is a huge leap based on hysterical speculation by Reason based on hysterical speculation by vice which is based on a "maybe...?" article on WSJ.

    Noone knows, we only have a handful of pornstars who have lost bank accounts, and some guessing about what "operation chokepoint is".

    This is stupid trollbait, and everyone here is falling for it.

  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Friday May 02, 2014 @08:15PM (#46904925)

    What it means is that literally noone here read the article, so theyre getting their panties in a bunch over a summary which twists already highly spun nonsense.

  • Re:really??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mysidia (191772) on Friday May 02, 2014 @08:15PM (#46904931)

    they're work in a perfectly legal field that the government doesn't like is justice?

    No, it's tortious interference with business relationships.

  • High risk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by manu0601 (2221348) on Friday May 02, 2014 @08:21PM (#46904959)
    Removing high risk activities? They should close banks!
  • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOspAM.gmail.com> on Friday May 02, 2014 @08:21PM (#46904963) Homepage

    No shit. A majority of the second amendment nutters in the US are extremely pro-police state, pro-totalitarianism.

    Really? Odd that reality doesn't seem to fit with your narrative. From everything that I've seen in the US, police are generally disliked by both sides of the isle. But between the two sides, especially 2nd amendment folks you'll find them being the ones who don't actually take to the militarization of police. While many left wing people do, and left wing groups. Going as far as pushing police depts. to get surplus military vehicles. So you were saying?

  • by Amouth (879122) on Friday May 02, 2014 @08:24PM (#46904971)

    The question is "high risk of what?"

    The answer is credit card fraud.

    they might not have the tightest security when it comes to detecting fraudulent transactions

    If this was true, then it should be the industry that goes after the company not the DOJ.. PCI-DSS is extremely clear on what the company needs to do to be able to process credit cards. If they are getting ripped off or that company is by action enabling fraud to happen then that company is liable for the charges and fees.

    Trust me i've gone through PCI-DSS certification, and it isn't easy.. but it is extremely clear what the ramifications are for failure.

  • Re:really??? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 02, 2014 @08:28PM (#46904993)

    Godwin's law exists especially for morons like you. Has anyone here been forcibly removed from their home, their friends, and their family, stuffed into a boxcar, shipped to a concentration camp to starve for a while before being used for medical research or shot or gassed?

    "worse than Nazi Germany" you say? I say you are a moron. Godwin wins. Shut up now.

  • Porn? Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Friday May 02, 2014 @08:30PM (#46905003)

    As if our weekly fun news didn't have enough material for its "US SPECIAL" corner...

    What is it with the US and Porn? I've never seen a country so obsessed about it, and quite frankly any time some sort of report about some sort of sexual freak show or paraphilia, you may rest assured it's about the US.

    Kinda reinforces my theory that the road to sexual perversion is repressing it.

  • by visualight (468005) on Friday May 02, 2014 @08:34PM (#46905027) Homepage

    What I don't understand is why anyone needs to tell a bank what you do for a living. If it's a personal account and you're not doing business through the account why should it be any business of the banks?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 02, 2014 @08:40PM (#46905065)

    "If you like your pornstar, you can keep her, period"

    I think we have gotten to the point where the administration has lied so frequently and so blatently that I believe the wing nuts explaining their wrong doing long before I believe their excuses. There is no level of trust for the administration anymore and they brought it upon themselves.

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Friday May 02, 2014 @08:58PM (#46905161)

    "Nice bank you have there. Wouldn't it be a shame if we had to shut you down and audit you and your best customers for the next six months?"

    "Now, here is a list of people we think you better not do business with. Any questions?"

  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Friday May 02, 2014 @09:38PM (#46905403) Homepage

    Private gun ownership was fairly common in the Soviet Union, at about 10 guns per 100 people, and is still common in Russia today.

    Russia today may be better in this regard, but when I lived in USSR, I did not know a single person, who owned a weapon — even martial arts were frowned upon by the officials and what studios existed, were underground. Today in the US quite a few of my acquaintances have firearms — and my five year-old attends a karate class twice a week.

    So, as they say, Citation needed...

  • by Xebikr (591462) on Friday May 02, 2014 @09:42PM (#46905429)
    prosecutors are investigating whether third-party processors that route payments for merchants through banks are ignoring signs of fraud to rake in fees from transactions.

    There are legal ways to shutdown companies that are breaking the law. They involve judges and due process and an adversarial system, not extra-legal requests from the DOJ to the payment processors. An order to seize property or force a business closure can be appealed and overturned. What's their recourse here? Sue the payment provider? Sue the DOJ? Can't. No business, no money. This *is* horrible. If they are investigating, they should complete their investigation, and then ask a judge to do something, or have someone arrested.
  • by bananaquackmoo (1204116) on Friday May 02, 2014 @09:44PM (#46905447)
    Do you honestly think they DO tell the banks what they do for a living? No. The banks look at who the paychecks come from.
  • The Constitution is the supreme law of the land (Article VI), and federal judges have power to interpret law (Article III). This includes power to interpret laws limiting the power of Congress, or in other words, to declare that Congress broke the law when enacting a particular statute.
  • by misexistentialist (1537887) on Friday May 02, 2014 @10:01PM (#46905549)
    The banks can't use ignorance as an excuse, they have to find out so they can monitor and control all transactions as required by government.
  • Re:Hard to verify (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blackpaw (240313) on Friday May 02, 2014 @10:03PM (#46905561)

    Obama is far left in what world?

    USA World. Its another planet altogether.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 02, 2014 @10:04PM (#46905565)
    Woah, please cite an instance where left wing groups are pushing police depts. to get surplus military vehicles. It's generally the left that is always marching around protesting police brutality with things like the Oct. 22nd marches/rallies that have been going on. It's the left that protests US military interventions. The left that bitches about the police state. It's the left that the right calls peacenicks and makes fun of for not wanting to arm themselves in the name of pacifism. Police states don't fit into that equation.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 02, 2014 @11:46PM (#46905927)

    As a lifelong Democrat, I may just do that. Democrats obviously have gotten drunk with power and have been wrecking this country. Frankly, I care less and less about the stupidity of social conservatives in the Republican party, because it is harmless compared to the damage Obama and Congressional Democrats have been causing.

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @03:14AM (#46906507)
    at least not a material one. So it's not surprising people look on at the current administration doing a lot of the same things as the last one and conclude their all the same.

    To be fair, I think the current Administration (e.g. Obama's) is doing the best he can. I doubt I could do any better. But given the current state of America there's no chance in hell you'll see a real left...
  • Re:really??? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Saturday May 03, 2014 @04:10AM (#46906647) Journal

    The idea that a liberal administration would be for shutting down porn sites when not even conservative ones go there is absurd.

    As absurd as the DEA shutting down perfectly legal marijuana dispensaries?

    Deny it all you want, but it's happening, and you're a blithering idiot.

    -jcr

  • Re:+5 Insightful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @06:18AM (#46906941)
    So apparently you both agree that you're somewhere on the scale of Nazi Germany, and now you're just arguing over the exact point the United States falls?

    I'd say the problem is more the fact you're even on the scale, rather than where on the scale you are.
  • by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @06:25AM (#46906955)

    No, but pornography is a first amendment rights, and screw you if it is at the opposite of your morality.

    You don't have to support the actions in the story (and I don't) to argue with what you just wrote.

    Pornography isn't a first amendment right. The actual people who passed the first amendment didn't think it protected pornography. By contrast. they did think that the first amendment protected, say, the Koch brothers buying political ads, because that's exactly what the first amendment was for.

    Wallowing around naked in public (or some commercial version of public) isn't speech. Political communication is speech, the precise speech that those who enacted the first amendment were trying to protect.

    If you want to enact law that protects pornography, then go ahead ... but actually do that, don't try to hijack other law for your purpose.

  • Re:Porn? Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @07:14AM (#46907121)

    Umm... to be honest, no, I can't think of a country right now where it is so terribly easy to ruffle feathers. Seriously, some of the crap that gets people all fired up in the US would not even make people turn their head in any other country.

    Religion? Hell, even in ITALY you can't get people so worked up over it.

    Creationism? Please, anyone mentioning it anywhere outside the US would be looked at as if he's some kind of idiot for believing in that fairy tale.

    Guns? Yeah, have 'em or don't. Next... not so in the US, "from my dead, cold hands"... are you nuts? Who gives a shit about a gun?

    Clinton's blowjob. So he had a blowjob... "But he lied!" Erh... DUH, he's a politician! "But ... TO CONGRESS!" So he lied to a bunch of other politicians... "UNDER OATH!" Yeah, we got that part, again, HE IS A POLITICIAN. He lies. That what he does. Get over it. Fuck, he was still 10 times a better prez than anything we had or anything that came after.

    And let me not start about people pointedly pointing out that the US is a Republic and not a Democracy. That always gives me the giggles, considering that it's a cleptocratic plutocracy, at best.

  • by BlueStrat (756137) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @07:18AM (#46907129)

    The Nazis allowed Germans civilian to have long guns too.

    That should read "German civilians who were members in good standing in the Nazi Party, or the family member or friend of someone with authority in the Nazi Party. If that Party member happened to fall into political disfavor, or the citizen's personal enemy(s) reported him for some betrayal or politically-forbidden speech etc, those individuals were suddenly instantaneously prohibited from possessing a firearm.

    This status-change was often announced by way of a Luger or MP40 discharged into the unlucky formerly-legal-gun-owner for the offense of illegally possessing a firearm.

    Every single person ever born or who will ever be born has the natural right to self defense. How much any particular government recognizes this natural individual right varies greatly, however. Until basic human nature deeply and fundamentally changes, people will always need an effective means of self defense against other humans attempting to do them great harm, and therefor have the natural right to that defense.

    Every tyranny and authoritarian state down through history where individual freedom was severely restricted also severely restricted and onerously-regulated, or prohibited outright, common people from possessing effective personal weapons for self defense.

    Failing to learn such important lessons from history leads people into de-facto slavery if not actual, outright slavery. That is, if they are lucky enough that the powers-that-be haven't included good old genocide of "*those* people" (whoever is politically-inconvenient or convenient, as the case may be) as part of their goals.

    Strat

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @09:19AM (#46907709)

    How many accounts does it take? How is it legal to even close one?

    If the government can get away with this, where does it stop? Close the bank of accounts of political rivals? Close the bank accounts of those who write unflattering articles about Obama?

    Seems to me that this action sets a dangerous precedent.

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