Letter to JP Morgan Chase
May 7, 2014
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Attention James Dimon, Chairman of the Board and CEO
Linda B. Bammann, Director, Public Responsibility Committee
Office of the Secretary
270 Park Avenue, 38th Floor
NY, NY 10017
Dear Mr. Dimon and Ms. Bammann:
Our organization is a customer of J P Morgan Chase, and advocates for the right to sexual freedom.
It has come to our attention that numerous performers in the Adult Entertainment Industry are being targeted by your bank and their accounts are being closed without explanation or prior notice. One actor contacted the bank to ask why and was apparently told “it’s a risk” but the bank refused to explain further. Numerous other similar incidents have been detailed in media reports. Recent revelations about the DOJ’s “Operation Choke Point” indicate that the banking industry may be cooperating with the U.S. government in an effort to snuff out certain targeted businesses by denying them fundamental access to the banking system.
Discrimination. It’s an ugly word and an ugly action. To target a group of individuals, an industry or a community and refuse them service is discrimination. Basing that discrimination on one’s involvement with constitutionally-protected, erotic speech takes the action to a whole new level.
Some time ago there was a practice known as red-lining where corporations would evaluate a neighborhood and decide if they would or wouldn’t deliver to that neighborhood based on demographics. That was ruled an illegal practice.
Some time ago real estate agents and home sellers could target or exclude specific demographics in their ads and their willingness to show or sell or allow the purchase of a home. That was ruled an illegal practice.
Some time ago children of color were excluded from “white” schools based only on the color of their skin. That was ruled an illegal practice.
Some time ago it was a practice to discriminate against persons in issuing credit cards, mortgages or business loans. That was ruled an illegal practice. Thereafter, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, FDIC, along with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”), the Office of Thrift Supervision (“OTS”), the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “Board”), the Federal Housing Finance Board (“FHFB”), the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), the National Credit Union Administration (“NCUA”), and the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (“OFHEO”) (collectively, “the Agencies”) joined in agreement against discrimination stating: “…Discrimination in lending on the basis of race or other prohibited factors is destructive, morally repugnant, and against the law. It prevents those who are discriminated against from enjoying the benefits of access to credit. The Agencies will not tolerate lending discrimination in any form.”
The performers in the Adult Entertainment Industry are engaged in a legal business, and to arbitrarily deny them basic banking services is unconscionable
And yet after receiving a notice from JPMorgan Chase, performer Teagan Presley called your bank and, according to industry publication, XBIZ, was told “that because I am, I guess, public and am recognizable in the adult business, they’re closing my account.” Perez Hilton shared a letter she received from Chase bank stating: ““We recently reviewed your account and determined that we will be closing it on May 11, 2014,” the letter reads. “Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience.” No reason was given.
I would urge you to reconsider this draconian activity and stop closing the accounts of adult industry performers and producers. They are honest workers in an industry that generates billions of dollars for the economy each year. To arbitrarily single out this one group of individuals and businesses based on their involvement with expression protected by the First Amendment, close their accounts, cancel their credit cards, and refuse to process their merchant accounts is pure and blatant discrimination on the part of JP Morgan Chase, undertaken in retaliation for the exersize of free speech rights. To the extent this action was taken at the request of, or in cooperation with, the Department of Justice, it constitutes a violation of Civil Rights Conspiracy laws; 42 U.S.C. §1985.
Affinity programs like Southwest Airlines and Amtrak have chosen Chase as their credit card providers. Attached and included in this letter are our letters to these companies urging them, should you not reverse your decisions and stop this abhorrent practice, to withdraw their business from you. Our organization will also be forced to withdraw our funds and cancel our credit cards should you not respond in an appropriate, non-discriminatory fashion to this situation.
We look forward to your prompt response to these requests.
Ricci Joy Levy, Executive Director
cc: Lawrence G. Walters, Esq., General Counsel
Hardy Haberman, Chairman of the Board