Wells Fargo downplays NRA links after El Paso, Dayton shootings

Wells Fargo (WFC), one of the largest U.S. banks, has downplayed its relationship with the National Rifle Association, as big business’ ties to the gun industry come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of two mass shootings.

Amid a rash of gun violence, Wells Fargo and other financial institutions have been criticized for financing lines of credit for gun manufacturers — as well as for their links to the nation’s most prominent Second Amendment lobbying group.

Wells Fargo used to provide credit to the NRA, but the organization — facing growing public pressure and financial troubles — recently took their business elsewhere.

In a statement given to Yahoo Finance, the bank insisted its ties to the NRA were minimal, but declined to elaborate further.

“We have a declining relationship with the NRA,” Wells Fargo spokesman Stephanie Ahenkora.

“As has been reported publicly, the NRA last year moved their line of credit from Wells Fargo to Access National Bank,” she said. “Beyond that, it is not our practice to comment specifically on the nature or terms of customer relationships whether they are a consumer, a company or an organization.”

Access National Bank, which is now Atlantic Union Bank (AUB), did not respond to Yahoo Finance’s request for comment.

A Oregon District resident stands at a memorial for those killed during Sunday morning's a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, U.S. August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Over the weekend, deadly shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas stirred a new public debate about gun violence, and the industry’s business ties.

Walmart (WMT), the world's largest retailer and nation's biggest private employer, is facing pressure to end the sale of firearms altogether.

Despite growing backlash, gun manufacturers and the NRA maintain business relationships with some of the biggest banks. JPMorgan Chase recently opted to limit its exposure to the industry, but others have cultivated those ties.

For its part, Wells Fargo has strong ties to gun makers. In October of 2018, the bank announced a $40 million line of credit to Sturm, Ruger & Co, which makes assault rifles. WF has lent at least $471 million to gunmakers since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, according to a Bloomberg News report.

In response to an inquiry from Yahoo Finance earlier this week, a spokesperson said that the bank has “a strict due diligence process that monitors our customer’s adherence to all state and federal laws in order to be a customer of the bank."

Gun control advocacy organization Guns Down America created a system that grades big banks on their ties to the gun industry. Six — including Wells, J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM), PNC (PNC), TD Bank (TD), U.S. Bancorp (USB) and BB&T (BBT) — received failing grades. Citigroup (C) received the highest score—a B.

The NRA has been squeezed by a downturn in its finances, recently suspending its pension plan and ending 2018 $10.8 million in the red. At the same time, the organization paid its board members and top executive lavishly, according to a report from the Washington Post.

For the first time since 2016, the United States is on track to have more than one mass shooting a day according to data from nonprofit Gun Violence Archive.

—Yahoo Finance’s Brian Cheung contributed to this article.

Calder McHugh is an Associate Editor at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @Calder_McHugh.

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