Business

Justice Department examines banks’ record as gatekeepers

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Federal prosecutors are trying to thwart the easy access that predatory lenders and dubious online merchants have to Americans’ bank accounts by going after banks that fail to meet their obligations as gatekeepers to the US financial system.

The Justice Department is weighing civil and criminal actions against dozens of banks, sending out subpoenas to more than 50 payment processors and the banks that do business with them, according to government officials.

In the new initiative, “Operation Choke Point,” the agency is scrutinizing banks big and small over whether they, in exchange for handsome fees, enable businesses to illegally siphon billions of dollars from consumers’ checking accounts, according to state and federal officials briefed on the investigation.

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