Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Louisiana bond commission removes JPMorgan Chase items from agenda

by BIZ Magazine

By William Patrick | The Center Square

The Louisiana State Bond Commission removed two JPMorgan Chase-related items from its agenda late last week, days after Attorney General Jeff Landry sought clarity from the banking giant on its Second Amendment policies.

Landry sent a letter to Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase’s chairman and CEO, before the commission’s monthly meeting, asking whether the firm had any policies that discriminated against gun rights or the legal exercise of such rights.

The bank indicated it did not during its financial underwriter approval process in 2019. Dimon may have contradicted the bond commission’s nondiscrimination feature, however, during congressional testimony earlier this year.

Landry, a bond commission committee member, was not in attendance during Thursday’s meeting at the Louisiana Capitol. Commission Chair John Schroder, who is also the state treasurer, opened the nearly three-hour-long meeting by striking two gas and fuels tax bond items from the 51-item agenda.

“Starting off with items 47 and 48, I’m removing them from the agenda today. Reason being, I was made aware of this issue late Tuesday, and Tuesday was the day we actually selected the bank that would be doing this refinancing,” Schroder said without naming JPMorgan Chase. “And then I was made aware of some issues that I have some concerns with.”

Item 47 on the commission’s agenda pertained to the fixed rate financing of $700 million in gasoline and fuels tax revenue refunding bonds. Item 48 was for $121 million in variable rate refinancing of gasoline and fuels tax second lien revenue refunding bonds.

“I notified the bank last night at 10:30 p.m., so we will regroup,” Schroder said. “We will have to look at our criteria and see what we need to do. Because, quite frankly, for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, we were issuing a refinance on $700 million of gas and fuels. We’re going to pull that and we’re going to give it a month and go back and look at our criteria and make sure we’re treating everyone equal. Because right now, we don’t know what that is.”

The issue did not resurface for the remainder of the meeting.

Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, a gun rights advocate, tweeted his disapproval less than two hours before the morning commission gathering while tagging the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“Bond Commission should reject JP Morgan’s proposal to refinance [$700 million] of state bonds due to their discriminatory policies towards the firearms industry. [Louisiana] citizens should not be forced to fund those who aim to extinguish their [Second Amendment] constitutional rights. #lalege @NRAILA @NSSF,” he wrote, adding, “See Agenda Item #47.”

Miguez sponsored legislation that would have barred state government from conducting business with companies that “discriminate against firearm and ammunition industries,” but Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed the measure after it was approved by the Legislature this year.

“This issue is most likely to come up in the area of government borrowing from national banks,” Edwards wrote in his July 1 veto message. “Thus, if this bill were to be signed into law, the State and local governments would be forced to accept financing at a higher interest rate than would otherwise be available in the market.”

Landry’s letter specifically referred to Dimon’s comments during a U.S. House Financial Services Committee hearing in May, when Dimon said, “We (JPMorgan Chase) do not finance the manufacture of military-style weapons for civilian use.”

The language appeared to contradict prior House testimony where Dimon defended JPMorgan Chase’s loans to “manufacturers of military-style firearms.”

The State Bond Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 18.

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