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Chase Bank is canceling sex workers' business accounts

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Mega-banks like JPMorgan Chase are not exactly known for their scrupulous business practices. When it comes to porn, however, Chase apparently takes a hard-line moral stance: For the past few weeks, it’s been sending letters to their customers in the adult industry, informing them that their accounts are being terminated.

The adult industry publication Xbiz reports that over the past few weeks, Chase has been shutting down adult performers’ accounts, without reason or prior warning. Although it’s unclear exactly how many performers have had their accounts terminated at this time, performers like Teagan Presley, Stormy Daniels, and Keiran Lee are taking to Twitter to speak out about Chase’s alleged discrimination against sex workers.

Earlier this week, Presley and her husband sent their termination letter to Perez Hilton, who posted the letter in full on his website. The letter read: “We recently reviewed your account and determined that we will be closing it on May 11, 2014. Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience. We want you to have enough time to complete pending transactions and open an account at another bank.”

In an email to the Daily Dot, Presley said she had no prior warning Chase was going to shut down her account: “We had read a couple of tweets from stars over the last few months they had been closed but we didn't suspect it would happen to us as we are very far removed from adult these days,” she says.

Unlike Lee, Presley’s account with Chase was not business-related: although she says she deposited checks from Fleshlight sales and strip club appearances, she primarily used it to pay her bills and for her children’s gymnastic lessons.

Yet when she contacted Chase, they told her she was “an infamous figure in the adult business and that’s reason [sic] why they closed it,” she tweeted.

“Because of the media attention, they immediately closed our accounts yesterday instead of the two weeks they gave us in the letters,” she wrote to the Daily Dot. “We called and they said we are too high risk.”

After being turned away from Bank of America, Presley and her husband have established new accounts at Wells Fargo. They are currently consulting with an attorney and are considering pursuing legal action against Chase.

Adult performers being turned down by financial institutions—or, in this case, having their accounts terminated without warning—has been something of an ongoing problem in the industry. Last year, Los Angeles’ City National Bank shut down adult performer Chanel Preston’s account, with Preston telling CNBC that the bank managers viewed her as a liability after looking at her website. Payment processors like PayPal have also refused to process funds from adult performers, with writer/performer Kitty Stryker blogging about PayPal blocking donations to her crowdfunding site Patreon earlier this month.

At face value, the reasoning behind banks and payment processors’ refusal to work with adult industry members makes some sense. Because adult industry vendors are considered at a high risk for “chargebacks,” or customers demanding their money returned on items they’ve purchased, financial institutions have traditionally classified the adult industry as a “high risk” business.

But it seems that JPMorgan Chase, which did not return requests for comment, is somewhat gung ho about cutting ties with its adult industry clients. Earlier this month, for instance, the bank made headlines when its payment processing system, Chase Paymentech, refused to process funds from Lovability, a safe sex education website that sells condoms. The bank’s reasoning for terminating the account was that Lovability posed a “reputational risk,” classifying the condoms on the site as “adult product[s].”

As ridiculous as that sounds, Chase’s latest move might be even more so, particularly in light of Presley's claim that she wasn’t even using her Chase account for business-related purposes. By terminating her account, Chase is essentially saying that Presley and her industry peers are less worthy of their services than their other, non-adult industry customers. Whatever your thoughts on porn, this seems less motivated by the bank’s concern about the adult industry being “high risk,” and more by a general moral stance against sex work. And when a bank starts making decisions based on moral or political reasons—well, that might have some not-so-great implications for the rest of us.

H/T Xbiz | Photo by Kimco Realty/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)