Statement on financial censorship provision in America COMPETES Act

January 26, 2022

This statement can be attributed to Lia Holland (she/they), Campaigns & Communications Director at Fight for the Future:

“An existential threat to our financial freedom has been slipped into the must-pass America COMPETES Act. This provision would give the Treasury Department a blank check to surveil, condition, or prohibit financial transactions they construe as related to money laundering without any public oversight.

The COMPETES Act “special measures” provision proposed by Rep. Jim Himes hands unelected officials at Treasury total power to decide that they want to block customers at banks or other financial institutions from making transactions. Apps like Venmo, banks, Western Union, cryptocurrencies, and any other “transmittal of funds” could soon be subject to secret and permanent bans Treasury can enforce with a phone call. This is unconstitutional, unfair, and totalitarian. We expect the blowback to this provision to be swift and have set up a page allowing our supporters to contact their representatives immediately.

Further, this bill would set Treasury up to immediately and permanently ban all financial institutions from touching cryptocurrencies, an entire class of technology—or any future technology for transmittal of funds that it deems concerning.

This provision could have disastrous consequences for marginalized people, from an activist who accepts donations from their neighbors, an immigrant sending remittances back home, someone sending donations to help with humanitarian disasters, or a developer working with blockchain technologies. This provision appears to allow Treasury to end their ability to access financial services forever. It seems to also allow Treasury to ban financial institutions from serving a whole class of people, like sex workers.

Congress must stop shoehorning important provisions into fast tracked legislation—we need careful and considered regulation of our financial lives that maintains our freedoms and rights. Provisions like this are exactly why we recently penned a letter with 26 other human rights and civil society organizations demanding that the needs of marginalized people be centered in any regulation of emerging technologies like blockchain.”