Citibank corporate gun control second amendment
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By Larry Keane

[ED: This column was published in The Federalist, Thursday, April 17, 2019, and is reprinted here with permission.]

Citigroup’s getting asked some hard questions about fiscal sanity of their decision to discriminate against firearms businesses and their answers aren’t likely to soothe investors.

Justin Danhof, General Counsel for the National Center Public Policy Research and Free Enterprise Project posed a simple question. “Can you tell us – your investors – exactly how much money we stand to lose because of this decision, and explain why you have this right while Warren Buffet has this wrong?”

Danhof was referencing Buffett’s 2018 refusal to impose his own political views on investors. The “Oracle of Omaha,” who runs Berkshire Hathaway, rebuffed antagonist Andrew Ross Sorkin when he read a shareholder question during a CNBC interview about doing business with gun manufacturers.

“I don’t believe in imposing my political opinions on the activities of our businesses,” he said. It was the second time he stated his position. Earlier in 2018, he stated it just as clearly. “I don’t believe in imposing my views on 370,000 employees and a million shareholders. I’m not their nanny on that.”

Invest in Business, Not Politics

It’s telling that one of America’s most successful investors sees injecting corporate virtue signaling into investment and banking issues as losing proposition. It’s not that Warren Buffett is a gun rights champion. He’s a board member of billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety which champions extreme gun control and supported Hillary Clinton for president when she campaigned on a platform of reinstating and expanding the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994.

Buffett sees it as bad business for unaccountable corporate C-Suites to dictate public policy.

Citi’s CEO Michael Corbat tried to field Danhof’s question but stumbled out of the gate. Instead of owning up to a purely political decision, he offered half-truths. Corbat said Citigroup’s policy to discriminate against firearms manufacturers and retailers who refuse to abide by their policy of instituting age-based gun bans – deny a right to keep and bear arms by a legal adult – wasn’t a Second Amendment threat, rather a “good practice.”

Corbat tried to couch it that they would only do business with retailers who conduct full background checks and no financing for companies who use loans to convert legal firearms into illegal firearms.

If it sounds confusing, it’s because Corbat purposefully was aiming to do so.

All federally licensed firearms retailers are required by federal law to conduct an FBI background check at the point-of-sale before they can transfer a firearm to a consumer. This is done each and every time. This is not a “best practice,” it’s the law which the industry supports. Also, no firearms manufacturers use any money – lent, invested or earned – to convert legal firearms into illegal ones. It’s a quick way lose a manufacturing license and head to prison.

Purposefully Misleading

Corbat is purposefully conflating the actions of individual criminals with that of an entire law-abiding industry that serves to provide the means for Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights. Citigroup’s actions, and Corbat’s answers, are a threat. Real solutions to the criminal misuse of guns looks a whole lot more like campaigns to make background checks work as intended by entering all disqualifying records, partnerships with the ATF to prevent “straw purchases” of guns and make firearms retailers less vulnerable to theft and robbery and using enhancing penalties for those who steal guns to commit further crimes in our communities.

You Broke It, We Bought It

The irony here, as Danhof pointed out to Corbat during the shareholder meeting, is Citigroup’s high-rise executives were claiming the gun policy moral high ground by using their financial might to influence public policy while it benefitted from public tax dollars – presumably including those paid by gun owners and firearms manufacturers – that ponied up the $45 billion Citigroup bailout.

“To be clear, the company is impinging on the constitutional rights of some of the very Americans who bailed Citi out after you all made a series of poor business decisions,” he toldCiti officials. “Maybe you should have just said ‘thank you,’ instead.”

What’s the Bottom Line?

To the original question, how much money do investors risk losing by this politically-driven decision? Corbat wouldn’t say.

He admitted, “We’ve had people take business from us around the policy,” adding the move hasn’t “cost us a meaningful amount of money.”

But it has. The State of Louisiana barred Citigroup for competing for a $600 million road improvement project for interfering the lawful commerce-in-arms. U.S. Sen Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and U.S. Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) introduced the Freedom Financing Act (S. 821/H.R. 2019) that would prevent certain big banks from accessing taxpayer-funded insurance if they institute discriminatory policies against the firearms industry.

“Corbat’s admission that Citi has lost business due to its opposition to the Second Amendment is telling. But it’s concerning that he refused to say how much,” Danhof said in a statement. “This proves that Citi made a purely political decision.”

It’s time for banks to focus on banking and let voters weigh in on politics.

Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.

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  1. “Banks Not Shooting Straight With Truth in Lending to Firearms Industry”

    Hate to break it to you, but the banks haven’t been “shooting straight with the truth” in lending, period…And one of the biggest offenders has been citigroup, followed by wells fargo and many, many others…they continually buy and sell mortgages, preying on unsuspecting homebuyers with unrealistic interest rates, only to swoop in and steal(foreclose) when their plot is discovered…

    And no, I haven’t fallen victim to the scams perpetrated by the banking industry, I own my house and land outright, paid cash…

    • Got that right…

      Everyone said “they’re too big to fail”, and they got bailed out, but what about all the people that lost their homes in the mortgage scam(s)…??? The CC industry is another one that needs to be reeled in, they run rampant and unchecked…

    • Here here sir…right on!

      We should have never bailed them out and took ALL 100% of home mortgages from them!
      done some quick reorging of the debt, lowered some loans to WHERE they should be BEFORE the banks started that feeding frenzy, lower the interest rate to everyone, then maybe to spur the economy let those who have PAID for years, skip a few payments for FREE and that freed up money would have JUMP started the economy!

      but what do I know…I did not go to ‘Harvard’…I went to the school of hard knocks!

  2. “All federally licensed firearms retailers are required by federal law to conduct an FBI background check at the point-of-sale before they can transfer a firearm to a consumer. This is done each and every time. This is not a “best practice,” it’s the law which the industry supports. Also, no firearms manufacturers use any money – lent, invested or earned – to convert legal firearms into illegal ones. It’s a quick way lose a manufacturing license and head to prison.”

    And yet Charles Brown is still in business distributing for Hi-Point. Everyone here should look him up and what happened. He just claimed that multiple people he was selling 50+ guns to were opening a guns shop regardless of the fact the purchasers did not have FFLs, and yet he is still in business. (and about 75% of those guns were seized in crimes)

    The fact is that even when they know you running guns, you have to be flat out stupid to actually been busted. You have to “knowingly” facilitate a straw purchase, and unless someone actuality says something is is almost impossible to prove that you “knew”.

  3. Everybody jumped on your ass pretty good. You are lucky stockholders didn’t toss you out a window, arguing with Warren ” I turned many people into million and billionaires” Buffet. That’s almost like arguing with God.

  4. I had a Citibank Mastercard for more than 25 years. Shortly after this announcement I got a new card in the mail. I punched some holes in it and sent it to Corbat along with a nasty letter informing him that over the last 7 years I charged about $24k a year with his bank making a tidy commission on each purchase. 10 days later I got a call from a woman from his office.

  5. I’m a new FFL holder, and I’ve had a hell of a time finding a processing company that will allow my business to accept credit cards without arbitrary restrictions.
    One company required me to agree not to sell any firearm parts used for construction (80% lowers, jigs, etc) and another demanded that I take down the pictures of “semi automatics” on my website. I can sell them, and they’ll gladly take their cut of my profits, but I can’t have pictures of the “high risk products.” I told them both to take a hike. Looks like I’ll only be able to accept cash and cash equivalents.
    The financial folks are trying to choke us out – its almost like a pointed government operation. Hmm …

    • U S Bank, you bet. I have been doing business with them for several years and have not had even a hint of a problem. In this case a “F” is a good thing. I hope they will hold fast.

  6. Banks and bankers in this country should be held on a very tight leash, and when they get out of line or violate the laws/regulation, should be hammered within an inch of their lives.

    Every huge financial collapse in US history (and maybe world financial history) has, at its core, banking corruption and cupidity as the cause. The Long Depression, the Great Depression, the 2008 crisis, you name it – they were all caused by banks writing loans to people who should never have been loaned a bad idea, never mind money. Bankers love the idea of lending money to very risky borrowers, because then they can charge loan shark interest rates on those loans.

  7. Mr., Mrs., and Ms. Americans, these offending banks can be brought to heel, and you all, re the business you do with them, accounts, loans and such, have the power to bring them to heel, if you choose to exercise the power you have.

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