WASHINGTON — The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. caught most everyone off guard Monday by abruptly withdrawing its list of potentially high-risk merchants that it said warranted extra attention by banks processing their transactions.

For the past year, the list, which includes payday lenders, debt collectors, coin dealers, pornography companies and others, has been at the focal point of a government effort to cut fraudulent merchants off from the payment system. The Justice Department had appeared to partly rely on it for its Operation Choke Point, which to date has subpoenaed at least 50 banks and payment processing firms.

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