Gun Store Owners Claim Bank Discriminates Against Them
T.R. and Elizabeth Liberti have owned gun stores in New Jersey and New York. For the past seven years, the couple have been customers of BankUnited.
But that all changed when the Libertis decided to close their brick-and-mortar stores and open an online gun store.
On March 12, BankUnited sent them a letter that stated their checking account would be closed "pursuant to the terms and conditions listed in our Depositor's Agreement."
"I was very angry," Elizabeth told the Miami New Times. "They were very inconsiderate. We had all our credit cards going through that bank. All of a sudden, we had to run and find another bank to keep our business going. We shut down for two weeks, and they wouldn't even tell us why."
BankUnited eventually sent the couple an email to explain the account closing: "This letter in no way reflects any derogatory reasons for such action on your behalf, but rather one of industry. Unfortunately your company's line of business is not commensurate with the industries we work with."
T.R. blames BankUnited's anti-gun policies on New York investors who bought the bank in 2008.
"They have that [former New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg attitude of guns are bad and anyone who has a gun is bad. You know the lot," T.R. told Miami New Times. "That's cute, because Bloomberg has four bodyguards, and they all carry guns. You don't have that when you are broken down on Biscayne Boulevard at 3 in the morning."
The Libertis are considering a lawsuit because "our civil rights have been violated."
However, RawStory.com reported that banks can choose to exclude customers due to a 2012 FDIC memo that stated:
Examples of telemarketing, online businesses, and other merchants that may have a higher incidence of consumer fraud or potentially illegal activities or may otherwise pose elevated risk include credit repair services, debt consolidation and forgiveness programs, online gambling-related operations, government grant or will-writing kits, payday or subprime loans, pornography, online tobacco or firearms sales, pharmaceutical sales, sweepstakes, and magazine subscriptions. This list is not all-inclusive.
This policy is part of "Operation Checkpoint," reports The Hill: "Federal law enforcers are targeting merchant categories like payday lenders, ammunition and tobacco sales, and telemarketers – but not merely by pursuing those merchants directly. Rather, Operation Chokepoint is flooding payments companies that provide processing service to those industries with subpoenas, civil investigative demands, and other burdensome and costly legal demands."
Sources: The Hill, RawStory.com, Miami New Times