A little-known government agency just delivered a big message to financial institutions in the United States: quit discriminating against companies and industries you don’t like. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency released the final language of the rule on Thursday, just a few months after the proposal was first made public.
“As Comptrollers and staff in previous administrations have made clear in speeches, guidance, and testimony, banks should not terminate services to entire categories of customers without conducting individual risk assessments,” said Acting Comptroller Brian Brooks, who announced Wednesday he will leave the agency on Thursday.
“It is inconsistent with basic principles of prudent risk management to make decisions based solely on conclusory or categorical assertions of risk without actual analysis. Moreover, elected officials should determine what is legal and illegal in our country,” he said.
The firearms industry has already been subjected to this kind of discrimination for several years, with Citibank and Bank of America among a number of large financial institutions that have declared they won’t provide certain services to companies within the industry. Under the new rule, these banks could still do so, but only if there are genuine financial concerns with the company’s bottom line instead of the company’s product or service.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents the firearms industry, applauded the finalizing of the new rule, which it says will end discrimination by these banks against any and all disfavored industries.
“NSSF has championed fair access to financial services for the firearm and ammunition industry and is pleased to witness the end of unfair and politically-motivated discriminatory practices by banking institutions that have a legal duty to service all legal businesses,” said Lawrence Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “This rule will ensure large financial institutions that are supported by taxpayer-funded resources like insurances must provide fair and equal access to services based on their objective financial creditworthiness, and not based on ‘woke’ political considerations.”
As you can imagine, anti-gun Democrats don’t like this one bit, and they’re already looking for ways to undo the measure.
The fair access rule is set to take effect April 1, but the Biden administration likely has several options to prevent that from happening.
Biden is expected to appoint a new acting comptroller on Jan. 20 while his nominee to lead the OCC awaits Senate confirmation. A new acting comptroller can likely delay when the rule takes effect so the OCC can revise it or scrap it altogether.
Biden and Congress can also try to revoke the rule through the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows both chambers to pass a bill repealing a new regulation and preventing the agency from releasing a similar rule.
It definitely would have been better had Brian Brooks, the acting Comptroller of the Currency, been confirmed to his position instead of allowing Biden to replace him with a pick of his own, but it’s still not a sure thing that Brooks’ replacement will be able to quickly undo the rule.
The Biden administration could propose a new rule to undo this rule, but that would require a new comment period and would take time and bureaucratic energy that they’ll probably want to use elsewhere.
The more likely route to try undo the rule, then, is via the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to undue regulations that have over $1 billion economic impact that were passed within 90 days of the end of the administration, and by a simple majority vote. On paper, Democrats have the numbers.
While I have to acknowledge that’s probably going to be the final outcome, I think would be a disastrous mistake for Democrats to do this. I hope (without any confidence whatsoever) that Biden, who claims to want to unify the country, will tell his colleagues in Congress to let the rule stand.
We’re currently in the middle of the Left’s attempt to cancel 75-million Trump voters, and the president-elect keeps talking about how he’s gonna bring us all together. Ending the practice of viewpoint discrimination in the financial industry would be a huge step in the right direction.
Conversely, immediately trying to prevent its implementation would give more weight to the idea that the Left has declared an ideological open season on anyone and everyone it disagrees with; inflaming tensions at a time when Biden’s stated goal is to alleviate them. Biden and Democrats in Congress know what the unifying option is here. It’s up to them as to whether or not they’ll choose it.