Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan said Tuesday that the bank is in talks with gunmakers who are its clients, the latest financial institution to disclose steps it’s taking after last month’s deadly attack on a Florida high school.
Wells Fargo, the No. 3 U.S. bank by assets, was the gun industry’s top financier, Bloomberg News reported this month.
Sloan did not say what Wells Fargo might do, and he declined to name the gunmakers, citing client confidentiality. But he said the bank is providing those clients with feedback it is hearing from Wells employees, investors and others.
“We think that’s the value that we can provide to them,” Sloan said. “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,” he said. “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. That’s consistent. How we go about that is more complicated.”
The bank, which has a significant presence in the Twin Cities, helped two of the biggest U.S. firearm and ammunition firms get $431.1 million in loans and bonds since December 2012, a time when gun control issues reignited after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Bloomberg reported. Wells has also provided a credit line to the National Rifle Association, the pro-Second Amendment rights group, according to Bloomberg.
This past weekend, students led more than 800 events worldwide calling for more gun control. Organizers 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, Fla.
New York-based Citigroup, the fourth-largest U.S. 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.
Bank of America, the No. 2 U.S. bank, said in February that it’s reaching out to clients that manufacture assault weapons for nonmilitary 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 gunmakers or preventing customers from purchasing guns as the solution. 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.