A hearing with top U.S. banks executives on Wednesday meant to examine the stability of the global financial system was partially eclipsed by a debate over varying gun policies instituted -- or not instituted -- by the firms.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, for example, defended the bank’s lending to firearm manufacturers and retailers amid criticism that the company failed to adopt a responsible loan policy for the industry following the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School.
After that tragedy, which left 17 students and staff dead, Citibank and Bank of America instituted new policies that potential firearm clients must meet, including prohibiting the sale of guns to anyone under the age of 21.
At the hearing at the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Carolyn Maloney pressed Dimon on whether Chase would institute a similar policy given the bank provides “$273 million of loans for manufacturers of military-style firearms.”
The New York Democrat also cited Chase’s partial ownership of Remington since the gunmaker filed for bankruptcy last year. Remington produced the gun used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
“Everything we do with clients goes through a severe process of review, reputational risk, etc. We have a very small relationship with gun manufacturers,” Dimon said in response. “There are over 100,000 retailers out there who sell guns. Every single one that we do business with we do a throughout review…and if we think they are doing something wrong our risk committee stops doing business with them.”
Dimon eventually said the bank would “consider” taking a more firm policy against the industry, akin to the one implemented by competitors.
Meanwhile, Republicans pressed Bank of America and others on the restrictions put on gun manufacturers.
"There’s a lot of Americans who you serve [that] would greatly disagree with that policy," Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., told CEO Brian Moynihan. "It might play well in the east coast, it might play well in California, [but] your bank is not the Bank of New York or California, it’s the Bank of America."
In response, Moynihan stressed that the policy was implemented after 100 of the bank's employees were involved in one of several recent mass shootings, including the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
"These are based on us taking a look at what the right thing [is] for our teammates and the communities we serve," he told the panel.
Alongside banks, retailers including Dick’s Sporting Goods also implemented new firearm policies after the Stoneman shooting.
Some gun manufacturers had expected the Democratic victory in the 2018 midterm elections to lead to increased sales, a phenomenon that did not occur.
But Sturm, Ruger & Co. CEO Christopher Killoy previously told investors that “a lot of things on the political front” could drive higher demand in the future.
Amid opposition from the National Rifle Association, the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month passed legislation to expand the authority of law enforcement to restrict convicted domestic abusers from purchasing guns.