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News and notes on guns in America

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[Bloomberg / Contributor]

Wells Fargo CEO Downplays Long Relationship With NRA

Once a top lender for the National Rifle Association, Wells Fargo is now highlighting its distance from the gun group.

During an annual shareholder’s meeting on April 28, CEO Charles Scharf said the bank’s relationship with the NRA was “declining.”

It’s not the first indication that the company has given of a souring relationship. Last August, in the aftermath of the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, a spokesperson from America’s fourth-largest bank told Yahoo Finance, “We have a declining relationship with the NRA.”

But as recently as 2018, Wells Fargo provided the NRA with a $28 million dollar line of credit and was the group’s chief banker, according to Bloomberg. Later that year, the NRA moved its line of credit from Wells Fargo to Access National Bank. On Tuesday’s call, Scharf said, “I don’t think we participate any longer in the organization’s line of credit and mortgage loan commitments.”

Wells Fargo has previously resisted calls to sever its ties to the NRA and the broader gun industry, to which it has given more than $400 million in credit and loans since 2012, according to a 2019 report released by the gun reform advocacy group Guns Down America.

“Wells Fargo wants schools and communities to be safe from gun violence, but changes to laws and regulations should be determined through a legislative process that gives the American public an opportunity to participate,” the bank said in a 2018 statement several weeks after the Parkland school shooting. “We remain firm in our belief that the American public does not want banks to decide which legal products consumers can and cannot buy.”

Wells Fargo’s unwillingness to walk away from the NRA after Parkland led the American Federation of Teachers to end its relationship with the bank, dropping it as a recommended mortgage lender for the union’s nearly two million members.

But in a sign of where Wells Fargo’s current and future priorities lie, the bank has recently started donating to gun violence research. Last year, a corporate philanthropy effort included nearly $3 million to the National Collaborative on Gun Violence, and a bank spokesperson said last year that Wells Fargo planned to give the collaborative $10 million over three years.

On the April 28 call, Scharf said it was an effort that “we’ll continue to support as we move forward.”