Chase Bank has closed the accounts of three right-wing personalities, in what appears to have been arbitrary executive decisions that aren’t based on any official company policy.
Martina MarkotaThe first one known to have an account closed in this manner is Martina Markota. “After a recent review of your account, we have decided to end our relationship with you,” reads a Jan. 24 letter she received on behalf of her company, Magnum Opus Productions.
“I called and asked why,” she said in a Twitter message. “They said they have the right to end our relationship and not tell me why.”
Markota, a performance artist of Croatian origin, used to perform in New York City until her colleagues learned of her right-wing views, leaving her shunned by the industry. She then worked at the right-leaning Daily Caller as a video producer and reporter, before joining The Rebel, where she reports on arts, politics, and culture.
She said she didn’t want to assume her politics had anything to do with Chase’s move, but found it strange, since her crowdfunded graphic-novel project was just taking off and she had tens of thousands of dollars in the account.
Enrique TarrioEnrique Tarrio, the chairman of the Proud Boys organization, first received a notice on Feb. 1 that Chase decided to stop processing payments for his online store. Then, he received a letter dated Feb. 4. “After careful consideration, we have determined that we can no longer support your banking account(s) and will be closing it on April 1, 2019,” it said. “Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience.”
Tarrio went on to talk to multiple Chase representatives, but to no avail. They told him they couldn’t find out why his account was closed.
“[It’s] so mindboggling to me,” Chase Business Manager Marcel Smith Jr. told Tarrio. “I see nothing that indicates any reason why the account should be closed.”
Tarrio was a client of Chase for more than 10 years and “nothing looks out of whack as far as the order in which you’ve been doing your transactions or handing your business,” Smith said.
Finally, a person from the executive office who identified herself as “Nora” told Tarrio that the bank observed “inconsistent information” about his online shop. His website redirected to his online shop, 1776.shop, and “Chase has no relationship with the 1776.shop … and therefore couldn’t conduct required due diligence.”
Tarrio pushed back, saying the online shop went through a three-month certification process with Chase and the bank set up a checkout page for the online shop on its server. He even had emails with a Chase certification team that listed links to the 1776.shop website, he said.
Proud BoysTarrio, who’s of Afro-Cuban ancestry, was in November elected the chairman of Proud Boys, a somewhat satirical drinking club that describes its members as “Western chauvinists”—a term coined by its founder, comedian and former Fox host Gavin McInnes to mean “a proud and unabashed proponent of Western Civilization.”
From short online clips of some of the fights, it’s sometimes hard to discern who started them. Tarrio was adamant, though, that there’s not a single example of a Proud Boy breaking the group’s precept of not starting a fight.
“I had a New York Times reporter call me today. He was like, ‘Oh, but you guys are violent.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s always what you guys say. Can you give me one example of us starting something?’ And they could never give me a solid answer.”
He said that the Proud Boys “100 percent” support Antifa’s right to protest. “We’re actually there to defend their right to do that, also,” he said. “But what we’re not OK with ... is when they turn violent.”
The group contested that description, highlighting the plethora of ethnic and racial backgrounds of its members and repeated disavowals of white nationalism by its leaders.
Joe BiggsAnother one to lose his account was Joe Biggs, an Iraq War veteran who runs an online shop selling merchandise mostly emblazoned with anti-leftist slogans. “Register communists, not firearms,” says one T-shirt slogan. “Deportation saves lives,” says another.
As his Twitter post received traction with hundreds of retweets, his phone started ringing with calls from Chase’s executive office.
Then, on Feb. 18, he received a call from a Chase representative who told him the bank “got a lot of backlash from veteran groups out there.”
Biggs says the representative told him: “They’re threatening to close their accounts now. We’d like to make it up to you and give you your account back.”
He still wasn’t told why was his account was closed to begin with.
Chase ResponseThe Epoch Times spent nearly two months in regular correspondence with Chase spokespeople, but couldn’t get an explanation regarding the account terminations.
“We can’t share information about customers for privacy reasons, but we would never close an account due to political affiliation,” spokesman Tom Kelly said in an email.
When questioned about whether Chase takes a stand on the issue of hate speech and whether it would cut ties with a client who makes a public comment that could be perceived as hateful, Kelly said, “Every situation is different, so there is no point in talking about hypotheticals.”
When repeatedly asked whether the bank has a hate-speech policy, the spokespeople maintained silence for weeks.
Then, on April 16, Project Veritas released a report about Tarrio’s case. One of its reporters called the Chase media line and asked whether the bank has “standards in place that would preempt [business] relationship with anyone” such as Steve Bannon, former executive chairman of right-leaning Breitbart News and a former White House chief strategist to President Donald Trump.
“Oh, definitely,” said the representative, who identified himself only as Asran. “Definitely, definitely. ... Chase is not involved with any like, you know, alt-right people or anything. I really can’t name names but it’s basically like we don’t get involved with any of that. … No, just any business relationships, period.”
“Really?” the journalist responded. “Okay. So I mean on my end, I’m talking about people like Trump supporters for instance. The MAGA, whatever, ‘Make [America Great Again]’, whatever the hell they, those types of people, I mean individuals.”
“Right, right,” Asran responded. “I know what you mean, but like I said, the call is being recorded, monitored, so I can’t get too political. And say I don’t support these people, or this, but you know, any kind of business entity, people like that, no moral character or anything like that, the bank usually doesn’t get involved with that.”
Chase’s Kelly said there was no Asran working in the bank’s media relations operations.
“That number is the switchboard and the call apparently was routed to a call center,” he said. Asran was “apparently, a customer-service [representative],” he said.
Another spokesperson, Patricia Wexler, then stepped in:
“Just to be clear ... we don’t know he’s a customer service rep, right? I’ve actually not seen any evidence this is an employee. Meaning, we can’t confirm it based on what we are seeing.”
After being pressed again on the issue of hate speech, she replied that “there’s no hate-speech policy.”
Hate speech has been commonly cited as a reason for suppression or banning of right-wing users on social-media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.