By William Patrick | The Center Square
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is requesting Second Amendment-related information from JPMorgan Chase that could jeopardize the banking giant’s standing with the State Bond Commission.
The bond commission considers applications from parishes, municipalities and other political subdivisions to incur debt or levy taxes, often to fund public construction projects.
JPMorgan Chase is one of eight banks selected by the bond commission to serve as a senior managing underwriter for major financial transactions. According to Landry, a bond commission member, the New York-based financial institution has participated in two transactions since February 2020, totaling as much as $1.1 billion.
As part of the selection process, a Solicitation for Offers (SFO) document includes a question asking banks about any policies that would restrict or infringe on constitutionally protected gun rights or discriminate against Louisianans who exercise such rights.
JPMorgan Chase said it had none.
In a letter sent last week to Jamie Dimon, the bank’s chair and CEO, Landry cited Dimon’s testimony before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee in May that could suggest otherwise.
“In this testimony, you stated the following in response to a question from Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.): ‘we do not finance the manufacture of military-style weapons for civilian use,’” Landry wrote.
Landry also said the response “called into question your ability to do business in several states, including Louisiana.”
The remark was a reference to a potential violation of Texas state law, where a newly enacted statute bars companies with more than 10 employees from discriminating against “a firearm entity or firearm trade association” if the companies seek to work with a governmental entity.
The bond commission SFO, dated December 2019, included a provision saying the state reserved the right to terminate a business relationship with any approved financial institution if the firm engaged in restrictive practices against law-abiding citizens, which included “the right to purchase and sell arms.”
The bond commission made national headlines in 2018 when committee members voted to disqualify Citibank and Bank of America as underwriters for a $600 million road financing plan, after the banks adopted restrictive gun-related policies.
The banks changed course after the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Florida that left 17 students and staff dead. JPMorgan Chase did not join Citibank and Bank of America, even as gun-control pressures mounted in Congress.
Months before the Louisiana SFO, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, pressed Dimon about JPMorgan Chase’s “$273 million of loans for manufacturers of military-style firearms.”
Dimon defended the bank, saying it was acting responsibly.
“We have a very small relationship with gun manufacturers,” he said. “There are over 100,000 retailers out there who sell guns. Every single one that we do business with, we do a thorough review … and if we think they are doing something wrong, our risk committee stops doing business with them.”
Landry’s recent request for “supplemental certification” of the SFO is aimed at determining whether the bank’s position on gun-related financial services has changed. The request also came days before the bond commission’s next meeting Thursday.
The commission meets once a month and is composed of 14 members. In addition to Landry, members include Gov. John Bel Edwards; state Senate President Cortez, R-Lafayette; state House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales; and state Treasurer John Schroder.
In his letter to Dimon, Landry said he does not believe the bond commission should engage in public business with any entity that “discriminates” against law-abiding citizens.
“While I respect the right, as a private company, to pick-and-choose who you do business with, I do not believe the State of Louisiana is best served by doing business with companies that attempt to profit from the State while denying its citizens the ability to exercise their constitutional rights,” he said.