Bank of America has sold its interest in gun manufacturer Remington Outdoor Co. and made peace with anti-gun activists in the Parkland community.
The bank on Thursday sent several key executives to Parkland to meet with a group of about 16 parents of victims killed in the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — and assure them it’s keeping its pledge not to financially back makers of military-style assault weapons sold for civilian use.
“We had a great meeting,” said Fred Guttenberg, the father of victim Jaime Guttenberg, 14. “The good news is that Remington is no longer part of their [investment] portfolio.”
The meeting, at the bank’s Parkland Isles Branch, was convened following criticism from Guttenberg and other Parkland families about Bank of America’s stake in a financing deal to help Remington emerge from bankruptcy. Other participants in the meeting included Mitchell and Annika Dworet, parents of victim Nicholas Dworet, 17; and Phil Schentrup, father of victim Carmen Schentrup, 16.
Reuters revealed in early May that Bank of America was among seven banks backing a $193 million financing package for Remington, maker of the Bushmaster rifle used in the Sandy Hook school massacre in 2012. Bank of America’s share of the deal was $43.2 million, Reuters reported.
That news surfaced several weeks after Bank of America’s vice chair Anne Finucane had told Bloomberg TV on April 10 that the bank would stop underwriting or financing businesses that sell military-grade weapons to civilians.
Guttenberg last month tweeted, “Bank of America lied…. Looks like I will stop doing business with them. I suggest you do the same.” Activist David Hogg also pledged on Twitter to boycott the company.
In the weeks that followed, Guttenberg met privately with bank officials, and on Thursday said he was satisfied with explanations to Parkland parents that Finucane’s original pledge wasn’t communicated properly. The Remington deal wasn’t a violation of the pledge, they were told, because Finucane had said it was in effect on a “go-forward” basis, meaning the bank would make no new commitments.
The bank’s contract with Remington was in the works for months and submitted to the bankruptcy court in March, predating the pledge, the bank said in a letter last month. The bank was contractually obligated to stay in the contract until Remington emerged from bankruptcy, the letter said. Remington exited bankruptcy in May, freeing Bank of America to sell its share of the loan to another investor, which the bank officials at the meeting told the parents it has done.
“I’m glad to have had the opportunity to hear that in person, to hear their core values as a bank,” Guttenberg said. “They want to be part of the solution.”
Guttenberg on Thursday said the Parkland community would support the company as it is supporting two other companies, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart, that changed its gun sales policies after the Stoneman Douglas shooting.
Remington isn’t the only assault weapons maker with financial relationships with Bank of America, Finucane has acknowledged.
Clarifying in the May letter her company’s policy after the Remington controversy erupted, she reiterated her April 10 statement on Bloomberg TV by saying, “at the time we said that we would be engaging those limited number of current clients that we have that do indeed manufacture these firearms for non-military use. Unless it was their intent to cease such manufacture, we would exit our relationship with them in an orderly and legal manner.”
The Bank of America officials who attended the meeting included four locally based executives and two from out-of-state corporate offices.
Jim Mahoney, a strategy and public policy executive with the bank, said by phone that he was moved by what he heard from the Parkland parents at the meeting.
“It was really apparent that the pain and anguish of the community and, in particular, the parents of students who were murdered was unimaginable,” he said. “It was an honor just to be in the room with them. It was very clear that a very strong spirit has emerged within the group that is tying them together and helping them get through this horrendous part of their lives.
“Hearing the stories of students who were murdered is something I’ll never forget. It was very, very moving.”
Bank of America contributed $50,000 to the Broward Education Foundation’s Stoneman Douglas Victims Fund “16 days ago,” according to a notation displayed Thursday on the fund’s page on the crowdfunding site, Gofundme.com. The contribution wasn’t in reaction to the Remington controversy, said bank spokesman Bill Halldin, adding that the company also contributed to funds set up following the Las Vegas and Orlando tragedies.