Bank of America Straddles Question of Financing Guns

The resistance contingent in last year’s LGBTQ Pride March, where it was given a forward spot by Heritage of Pride. | DONNA ACETO

With leading LGBTQ groups supporting gun control measures since the 2016 killings of 49 people in a Florida gay nightclub, a major US bank that was once strongly allied with the community is loaning tens of millions to Remington Outdoor as part of the gun manufacturer’s pre-packaged bankruptcy.

“Bank of America is trying to play both sides of the coin here,” said Cathy Marino-Thomas, a member of the steering committee of Gays Against Guns, which was founded in 2016 days after the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando. “It is very hypocritical of them to say, on the one hand, they are not going to support companies that produce assault weapons, but, on the other hand, they are looking to bail one out.”

Bank of America, along with six other banks, will loan Remington $193 million with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Regions Bank each lending $43.2 million and the remaining four kicking in smaller amounts. Remington’s bankruptcy filings show that Bank of America has been the gun company’s primary banker, with the bank operating 18 of Remington’s 24 active bank accounts. The bankruptcy was filed on March 25. Remington is asking the court to approve the loans and to keep Bank of America as its banker.

Once a leading LGBTQ ally, financial giant parts company on assault rifles, North Carolina discrimination

On April 10, Anne Finucane, the vice chair of Bank of America’s board, told Bloomberg TV that the company will no longer lend to gun manufacturers that produce assault rifles. Remington manufactures such weapons. A Bank of America spokesperson told Gay City News that the Remington loan was made before Finucane announced the bank’s new position.

Despite a statement this week by Anne Finucane, vice chair of Bank of America’s board, that the financial giant will no longer lend to gun manufacturers that make assault rifles, B of A is part of a bank syndicate providing Remington Outdoor with a $193 million loan in a structured bankruptcy. | BANKOFAMERICA.COM

Following the Pulse shooting, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which generally does not take positions on matters not explicitly linked to queer community objectives, and other LGBTQ groups announced their support for gun control measures.

Bank of America was once seen as an ally of the LGBTQ community. It has consistently scored 100, the highest score, on the Corporate Equality Index, an annual ranking produced by HRC that measures the extent to which companies have pro-LGBTQ policies and positions. It was among companies that opposed North Carolina’s HB2, a 2016 state law that overturned local laws that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and required transgender people to use public bathrooms that are consistent with the gender on their birth certificates, which could often mean that they end up using the wrong bathrooms.

While HRC never called for a boycott of North Carolina, its organizing in response to HB2 becoming law was effectively that. Companies pulled business from the state or canceled plans to open facilities there. Bank of America, which is headquartered in Charlotte, said the law should be repealed.

In 2017, Bank of America ran afoul of HRC when it supported state legislation in North Carolina that was advertised as a repeal of HB2, but had been rejected by HRC.

“Bank of America and [Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina] actively participated in brokering a law that will extend discrimination against countless LGBTQ people across the state of North Carolina with particularly significant and permanent harm to transgender people,” Deena Fidas, director of HRC’s Workplace Equality Program, told the Charlotte Observer last year.

HRC went on to reject $325,000 in financial support from Bank of America. HRC did not respond to a request for comment from Gay City News for this story.

Published reports on the bankruptcy suggest that Remington wants to avoid liabilities that may result from a class action lawsuit charging the company with selling an estimated 7.5 million faulty guns.

And gun manufacturers have seen a downturn in sales since Donald Trump was elected to the White House and Republicans maintained control of Congress, though sales have increased since the February mass shooting in a Florida high school.