By Katanga Johnson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. senator on Thursday criticized Citigroup Inc and Bank of America Corp's restrictions on lending to firearm makers and sellers, saying the new policies were wrongly politicizing banking services.
Speaking during a hearing on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Republican Senator John Kennedy said he planned to personally file complaints with the U.S. consumer watchdog regarding the firearm policies.
“Our friends at Citigroup and Bank of America apparently aren’t busy enough with their banking business; they have decided that they are going to set policy for the second amendment,” the Louisiana lawmaker said, referring to the component of the U.S. constitution that protects citizens' rights to bear arms.
On Tuesday, Bank of America said it planned to stop lending to companies that make military-style firearms for civilians, making it the second major U.S. lender to address gun sales after the Florida high school shooting that left 17 dead in February.
Last month, Citigroup added restrictions on firearm sales for new retail-sector clients, requiring them to sell firearms only to customers who passed a background check, restrict sales for buyers under 21, and not sell so-called bump stocks or high-capacity magazines.
"Do you think that’s appropriate?,” Kennedy asked Mick Mulvaney, the interim head of the CFPB who was testifying before the panel on Wednesday.
Kennedy said he believed it was wrong that the lenders, both of which received taxpayer-backed funds during the 2007-2009 financial crisis, seemed to be politicizing banking services.
Consumers are able to file complaints about banking and financial services providers via the CFPB’s public complaints database which can lead to formal investigations by the bureau.
Mulvaney said to the best of his knowledge the CFPB had not yet received a complaint regarding Citigroup and Bank of America’s stance on providing services to companies that sell firearms. Kennedy said he planned to file such a complaint against the banks and hoped the CFPB would consider it.
“As we have with other industries that have reputational implications, we created standards based not on ideology, but on established best sales practices, which most of the businesses we work with currently follow,” said a spokesman for Citigroup.
A spokesman for Bank of America said he did not have any additional comment beyond Tuesday's announcement.
Mulvaney said he found the banks' decision "troubling" but he was not inclined to wade into the issue.
(Reporting by Katanga Johnson; Editing by Michelle Price)