Justice and Equal Banking for All

The American battle for business banking equality.
Justice and equal Banking-1

July is the month when we honor our freedoms in America. Recently I visited our nation’s capital as part of a Free Speech Coalition (FSC) trip focusing on banking discrimination. For the past seven years, I’ve been on the board of the FSC and currently serve as its CFO. FSC members were invited to Washington, DC, in May after a successful December 2022 Capitol Hill visit. This time, we met with representatives of both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, hoping to encourage decisive action to combat banking discrimination. This experience was amazing, and to see democracy in action was inspiring. I wanted to take the time to share what happened in Washington, how banking discrimination impacts us all, and how groups like the FSC are champions for change.

Freedom is Calling

Every legal business should be able to have a bank account. It’s that simple—and an issue where multiple industries share a common goal in addressing. Merchants in many “high-risk” categories constantly fear losing their banking relationships. It’s always a struggle for some to fund their models, content creators, and affiliates. Many look to their payment processors for help. That’s where the FSC trip to Washington, DC, comes in. A total of ten FSC members traveled to Washington to meet with representatives from the House and Senate to highlight the challenges caused by banking discrimination.  

The meetings were led by Alison Boden, FSC Executive Director, and Mike Stabile, Director of Public Policy and Affairs. The FSC lobbying team, FSVector, and Clarity Consulting supported them. The timing coincided with legislation introduced in the Senate called the Fair Access to Banking Act. The bill restricts certain banks, credit unions, and payment card networks if they refuse to do business with someone who complies with the law. The bill also sets out to ensure financial services cannot be withheld to politically unpopular businesses. It establishes the right for a person to be able to bring a civil action for a violation of this bill. There is also bipartisan legislation moving forward that focuses on the Cannabis industry and addresses fair banking for other sectors.  

Wheels of Justice are Turning

Looking back at my professional career, this was one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences. It taught me that we can make change happen if we speak and hold firm as an industry. We had a full day, split into two groups meeting with five Congressional and nine Senate offices. The meetings were a mix of Democrats and Republicans. Although we didn’t meet with actual House and Senate members, the meetings were very productive with their staff members. Alison and Mike led each one and provided a laser focus on how banking discrimination impacts our industry. FSC members were able to share their personal experiences, and I was able to share the impact of bank closures and how they impact payment processors and their merchants. For example, members have their accounts shut down and money held without reason. One other member in attendance was able to share her personal experiences of how over the course of her career, she had 30 accounts closed.

United We Stand

What surprised me the most was that the staff members working diligently for our country were all young, mostly in their 20s and 30s, and most didn’t even know that banking discrimination was happening in our industry. They were genuinely surprised to learn about the challenges we face. Both sides of the aisle agreed that everyone should have access to banking if there is a legal business. It is a human right! Of course, each party had a different perspective on the issue, but there were several common grounds. What gave me hope was that all sides recognized that they needed to work together to get legislation approved. If you watch any cable news shows, it’s hard to believe that working together is something anyone ever considers these days.

Fighting for our Rights

The FSC has been helping to advance initiatives to improve the industry for more than 30 years. I wanted to highlight some of their considerable accomplishments. For example, legislative threats such as the EARN IT Act, which would impact free speech, or California’s SB435, a poorly written revenge law that would have threatened adult businesses across the web. The FSC also launched the Legal Action Center to track emerging threats. When it comes to child protection, the FSC is on top of it. They drafted and updated the record-keeping requirements for U.S. Code 2257 after a victory in the courts against unconstitutional provisions of the regulation. The FSC set out to rewrite the language to remove those parts and clarify precisely what producers and performers needed to do to comply. This year, these streamlined and simplified rules are headed to the Department of Justice. And when it comes to banking discrimination, the fight for merchants’ rights has been ongoing. Lastly, I wanted to point out how FSC works to help with age verification. The FSC has been tracking the many age verification laws currently going through state legislatures. They recently joined the suit to overturn Utah’s SB287, which requires visitors to adult sites to prove that they are over 18 years of age by providing digitized government identification to a service that interacts with a state database.

Standing Together

As an industry, we have a voice, and with a little bit of effort, we can effect change. I strongly encourage all of us to get involved with the FSC. The team is small but passionate and supported by membership dues. Even the smallest membership helps move the organization forward to champion change. It’s a way to give back to an organization supporting many of us. 

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