- The Washington Times - Monday, April 9, 2018

The American Federation of Teachers has threatened to pull its business from Wells Fargo unless it severs ties with the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers, but so far the bank is resisting.

“We’re issuing Wells Fargo an ultimatum,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a Saturday statement. “They can have a mortgage market that includes America’s teachers, or they can continue to do business with the NRA and gun manufacturers. They can’t do both.”

She released recent correspondence between the union and the bank showing that Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan offered to meet with her without acceding to her demand to stop offering loans and other services to the NRA and firearms companies.

“When dealing with the safety of our families, children, and other issues of this magnitude, there are no easy or satisfying solutions,” Mr. Sloan said in an April 3 letter. “In fact, as I have publicly stated, I do not believe that the American public wants banks to decide which legal products consumers can and cannot buy.”

He declined to confirm or discuss the bank’s relationship with firearms companies, citing customer confidentiality, but Wells Fargo was described as the “go-to bank for gun makers and the NRA” in a March 7 report by Bloomberg, owned by gun-control activist and billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

Wells Fargo has led the industry by arranging for $431.1 million in borrowing for gun manufacturers since 2012, followed by Morgan Stanley with $350 million, said the report.

Mr. Sloan said that Wells Fargo Home Lending helped provide mortgages to 1,600 AFT members in 2017, and offers special assistance to teachers struggling to make down-payments on homes through its Neighborhood LIFT program.

“What we can pledge is that Wells Fargo will be a thoughtful participant in the dialogue and listen carefully to all voices and all points of view, taking each of them seriously, including that of the AFT,” Mr. Sloan said.

Ms. Weingarten responded by vowing to remove Wells Fargo as a provider of AFT member benefits and encourage the “Union Privilege” mortgage program to do the same unless he capitulates.

“This is America — Wells Fargo has the right to be the NRA banker, but we have rights too,” Ms. Weingarten wrote in the statement. “That’s why if Tim doesn’t ditch his guns business, we’ll ditch Wells Fargo. We are glad Tim wants to meet; but no words will dissuade us from our view that our society must value people over profits.”

A number of companies have taken action following the deadly Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart and L.L. Bean, which have said they will no longer sell guns to customers under 21.

Eugene Volokh, the UCLA School of Law professor who runs the Volokh Conspiracy, applauded Wells Fargo for refusing to cave to political pressure.

“I’m not a Wells Fargo customer, but I’m considering switching from U.S. Bank (for practical reasons, not political ones), and this raised Wells Fargo’s standing in my mind. Indeed, I even called their customer service line to pass along my compliments,” Mr. Volokh said in a Sunday post.

The Volokh Conspiracy recently began running on Reason magazine after appearing on the Washington Post website from 2014-2017.

Mr. Volokh added that the “attempted demonization of the NRA and gun manufacturers also helps support, I think, many gun owners’ worry that many gun control proponents’ endgame isn’t just ‘reasonable regulation’ but outright bans.”

Companies cutting ties with the NRA last month include Delta Airlines, which pulled the plug on its travel discounts for NRA members, and retailer REI, which does not sell guns but said it would no longer place orders for hiking and camping gear with Vista Outdoor, which also makes firearms.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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