BofA to cut ties with makers of military assault rifles for civlians

Finance


Bank of America is backing away from companies that make military-style assault rifles for civilian use.

The second-biggest U.S. bank is a lender to Vista Outdoor, Remington and Sturm Ruger. During an interview Tuesday on Bloomberg television, Bank of America Vice Chairman Anne Finucane said the bank has let its gun-maker clients know “it’s not our intent to underwrite or finance military-style firearms.”

In February, after 17 students and teachers died in a shooting at a Florida high school, Bank of America said it was “engaging” with its gun-maker clients “to understand what they can contribute” to stopping such violence.

On Tuesday, Finucane said, “We have had intense conversations over the last few months. And it’s our intention not to finance these military-style firearms for civilian use.” She said the reaction has been mixed.

“These are clients we have enjoyed a relationship with,” she said. “There are those I think will reduce their portfolios and we’ll work with them and others that will choose to do something else.”

The move is part of a renewed national groundswell of action to prevent further gun violence, inspired by the student activists who survived the Florida shooting. Finucane is Bank of America’s head of environmental, social and governance efforts and responsible for the bank’s strategic positioning, according to her company biography.

Last month, Citigroup said it would bar companies with which it does business from selling guns to people under 21 years old and ban clients from selling high-capacity magazines and accessories that make guns fire bullets more rapidly.

It isn’t always clear what “assault rifle” means. Many people have called for stricter limits and even outright bans on rifles such as the civilian version of the AR-15, the gun used in the Florida shooting and other mass killings. But firearms proponents say the civilian AR-15 is not defined as an assault rifle. Versions of the weapon are produced by several gun makers.

Major retailers that sell guns in some of their stores, including Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods, said they will restrict sales to those over 21 years old and make other changes to their policies. And several airlines, car rental companies and hotel chains have dropped rewards or discounts programs for National Rifle Association members.

BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, has said it could use its position as the biggest shareholder of some gun makers to vote against directors or support shareholder proposals. The fund company is the biggest holder of Sturm Ruger, with 16 percent, and American Outdoor Brands, with 10.5 percent.

This year, a group of nuns is leading a proposal on Sturm Ruger’s shareholder proxy asking the company to do a report on what efforts it is making to research and produce safer guns and also to assess gun violence-related risks to its reputation and financial position. The company is recommending shareholders vote no on the matter.

“Like many companies, we receive proposals from well-meaning stockholders. Many are commendable, and their objectives often are aligned with our values,” Sturm Ruger says in the proxy. “As evidenced by our track record of safety innovation, we believe that firearms safety is a laudable and appropriate goal. However, we also believe that adequate safety practices and procedures are available.”

Jeff Cox contributed reporting



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