Gun violence in the US

Wells Fargo takes shooting concerns to its gun manufacturing clients

Wells Fargo is the US gun industry’s top financier, and has promised to pass on the fears of its employees, investors and others

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 March, 2018, 4:21am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 March, 2018, 5:58am

Wells Fargo is in talks with its gun-making clients to pass on feedback from its employees, investors and others, Wells CEO Timothy Sloan said on Tuesday.

Sloan did not say what Wells Fargo might do, and he declined to name the gun makers, citing client confidentiality. But Wells Fargo is now the latest financial institution to disclose steps it’s taking after last month’s deadly attack on a Florida high school.

“We think that’s the value that we can provide to them,” Sloan said in an interview. “Some of our team members are concerned about who can buy semi-automatic weapons in this country, and they’re concerned about various laws and the like.” 

Wells Fargo, the No 3 US bank by assets, is the gun industry’s top financier.

“What we find is absolutely consistent whether you are a gun owner or not. You want your children to be safe, they should be safe when they go to school, they should be safe when they’re walking down the street.

“I don’t know if banks or credit card companies or any other financial institution should be the arbiter of what an American can buy”
Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan

“That’s consistent. How we go about that is more complicated,” Sloan said.

The bank helped two of the biggest US firearm and ammunition firms get US$431.1 million in loans and bonds since December 2012, a time when gun control issues reignited after the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. 

Wells Fargo has also provided a credit line to the National Rifle Association, the pro-Second Amendment rights group.

This past weekend, students led more than 800 events worldwide calling for more gun control. Organisers in Charlotte said they were horrified by the February shooting, in which 17 students and faculty were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida.

New York-based Citigroup, the fourth-largest US bank by assets, announced last week a new policy for its retail clients, including a requirement that they not sell firearms to someone who hasn’t passed a background check.

In addition, they must not sell firearms to individuals under 21 or sell bump stocks or high-capacity magazines.

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The policy applies to clients of all sizes, as well as credit card partners. “It doesn’t impact the ability of consumers to use their Citi cards at merchants of their choice,” the bank said.

Bank of America, the No 2 US bank, said in February that it’s reaching out to clients that manufacture assault weapons for non-military use “to understand what they can contribute to this shared responsibility.”

Sloan said Wells Fargo is continuing to encourage elected officials to look at the issue not from a partisan perspective, “but in a way that they can really solve the problem.”

Banks’ role in the issue should involve encouraging customers to follow the law, Sloan said, “whatever the law might be.”

But he pushed back on the idea of banks cutting ties to gun makers or preventing customers from purchasing guns as the solution.

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Sloan noted that Wells can’t tell what a person is buying anyway at the time they are using a credit or debit card at a retailer.

“I don’t know if Americans, regardless of which side of the issue you might be on, on whether or not folks should own guns or which type they should purchase, do they really want their bank to be making that decision?” he said.

“I don’t know if banks or credit card companies or any other financial institution should be the arbiter of what an American can buy.”