WASHINGTON — Payday lenders are raising the stakes in their pushback on Operation Choke Point with a lawsuit against banking regulators, alleging that "back-room pressure of banks" to dissolve longstanding relationships with payday shops and others is unfairly harming the industry.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday, charges that regulators, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, have crafted informal guidance for financial institutions that pressures banks to end business with payday lenders and other industries over concerns about "reputational risk."

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