Banks have recently come under fire from federal and state regulators and prosecutors.  In late 2013, the Justice Department launched “Operation Choke Point,” an initiative that is scrutinizing banks to crack down on lucrative relationships they have with predatory lenders and unscrupulous online merchants.  The Justice Department is investigating whether some banks, because of significant fees they receive, willingly look the other way instead of protecting their consumers’ assets.  For example, many states have enacted interest rate caps that effectively ban payday loans.  But, lenders, working with third-party payment processors that have accounts at the banks under scrutiny, can circumvent the state bans by having the payment processors automatically deduct payments from customers’ checking accounts, even in states where the loans are illegal.  The increased scrutiny comes not only from the federal level, but also from the State Attorneys General.  In December, 2012, for example, the Arkansas Attorney General sent a letter to Four Oaks Bank in North Carolina, and to a payday lender that was routing payments through Four Oaks, accusing the company of illegally making loans to residents in his state.  The Justice Department’s first action under Operation Choke Point was in January against Four Oaks, accusing the bank of being “deliberately ignorant” of the fact that it was processing payments on behalf of payday lenders.  The New York Times recently published a lengthy article detailing Operation Choke Point and the increased scrutiny of banks, payment processors and lenders.