Government agency trying to silence Townstone Financial for expressing concerns about rampant crime in Chicago where company is headquartered
By Ethan Huff // Apr 28, 2023

A little-known United States government agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is suing a nonbank mortgage firm for free speech statements its owner said publicly on a radio show.

In an appearance on the Townstone Financial Show, Chicago-based Townstone Financial head Barry Sturner discussed the city's rampant crime problem, which was worsened by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot following the George Floyd riots of 2020.

Sturner explained that Chicago's south side is overrun with "hoodlums" that, were it not for the police, would have turned the area into "a real war zone."

These and other statements Sturner made are all protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution, but the CFPB has taken it upon itself to sue Sturner and his company for supposedly making public statements that "would" result in discouraging black loan-seekers from applying for a mortgage.

"In the fullness of time, it looks like yet another 'canceling' attempt, and at the time the CFPB in its role of Goliath in this legal battle didn't even bother giving some examples of how Townstone's customers were mistreated / discriminated against," reports Reclaim the Net about the suit.

"The CFPB went instead for discrediting Sturner for his speech, specifically statements made over the previous years (2020 was also the year when trying to dig up real or perceived controversial and racially charged comments from the past was very much 'en vogue')."

(Related: Last fall, the CEO of McDonald's warned that many companies are planning to flee Chicago if crime problem is not addressed.)

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Do Americans have free speech rights or not?

The basic claim of the CFPB is that Sturner's statements had the goal of discouraging black applicants from seeking the company's services because they might be offended by his references to Chicago's bad areas, which are majority black.

Fortunately for Sturner, the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a public interest non-profit group, has come forward with concerns about the CFPB's legal arguments. The group says that the CFPB's apparent aim is to apply anti-discrimination rules "to speech made to a general audience in a mass-media venue rather than to individual customers or employees in a workplace."

The PLF is representing Townstone in this dispute, arguing that if the CFPB is allowed to carry out enforcement in this way, it will unjustifiably give the agency the legal right to censor free speech in violation of the First Amendment.

The CFPB's case was already thrown out back in February by federal Judge Franklin Valderrama of the Northern District of Illinois, who explained that there is a big difference between "discouraging" certain applicants from applying for services and actually discriminating against them in violation of the law.

Even so, the CFPB decided to appeal the case, even as Chicago's new Mayor Brandon Johnson has made similar statements to those of Sturner about the city's rampant crime problem.

Keep in mind that Johnson previously had ties with the "defund the police" movement from several years back, and yet still recognizes the fact that Chicago is becoming too dangerous of a place to do business.

Should the CFPB's case be taken seriously, and its argument using the Equal Credit Opportunity Act is accepted as valid, then "anyone employed by or associated with a consumer finance firm who makes a random comment on social media could be subject to punishment by the agency," the PLF warns.

"Policy makers interested in a real discussion about crime and public safety should arrest the CFPB's crude attempts at censorship," added John Berlau from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The latest news about America's crime-ridden inner cities can be found at

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